Friday, 30 October 2009

Yeah, that will fix the problem

The SEC is going to fix its officiating problems by… blaming the messenger:

Commissioner Mike Slive told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday that coaches who violate the conferences’ ethics rules against criticizing officials in public will face a fine or suspension instead of receiving public reprimands when they first act up.

“It became clear to me after last week that I was no longer interested in reprimands and the conference athletic directors and university presidents unanimously agreed,” said Slive, in his eighth season as the head of the SEC.

Well, I’m not an SEC coach and, frankly, Bobby Petrino, Lane Kiffin, and Dan Mullen are my least favorite coaches in the league, but when a quarter of your league’s coaches think your referees are incompetent or worse—with commentators on television openly suggesting the refs are making calls to help Bama and Florida keep their national rankings—the problem isn’t the coaches’ airing of grievances, however whiny they may sound.

Instead Slive needs to get together with the other BCS-conference commissioners and assemble a new plan for refereeing big-time college football. With the BCS and regular-season television money that the conferences are raking in, the least the conferences could do is work together to produce a competent, national pool of refs to assign to regular season and bowl games, rather than the motley hodge-podge of officials that are used now.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Things I will believe are true when they happen

Agence France-Presse reports that the sorta-kinda-coup leader in Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, has accepted a deal that will return sorta-kinda-ex president Manuel Zelaya to the presidency, although the deal still has to be approved by the Honduran Congress; however, the BBC‘s reporting suggests things are not quite so definite as AFP would have us believe.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Your spring 2010 textbook lists

I don’t have syllabi yet—the plan is to make a few changes to the spring 2009 syllabi but nothing radical—but here’s the list:

For PSCI 2306, Texas government (aka American State Government): Government and Politics in the Lone Star State, 6th ed. We had to pick the same book for all our sections due to Early College High School… and then they put all the kids from ECHS in the same section, defeating the purpose of picking a common book. I was using CQ’s Lone Star Politics before, which I liked and tried to sell my colleagues on using, but the lack of a test bank was the deal-breaker.

For PSCI 3320, Congress and the Presidency: The American Congress, 6th ed.; The American Congress Reader; and The Politics of the Presidency. I’ve been using the CQ Congress books for years but felt like trying something different for Congress, hence the switch to Smith, Roberts, and Vander Wielen’s books. New edition of Pika and Maltese, but otherwise no change on the presidency end, where I only spend a few weeks anyway—really I teach the class more focused on “Congress and Interbranch Relations.”

For PSCI 4320, Political System of the U.S. (which I basically treat as a political behavior class, since we don’t have anything on the books at the undergrad level that covers that stuff): Polling and the Public, 7th ed.; Public Opinion: Democratic Ideals, Democratic Practice; Citizen Politics, 5th ed., and Party Politics in America, 13th ed. I’ve decided to try to cut back on the voting behavior and interest groups material I was including before and focus more on parties and public opinion. This class was the least successful one last time around, in part because I was too ambitious in what I planned to cover. I’m also going to replace the research paper requirement with a couple of shorter papers, which hopefully will work better.

And that’s it; thankfully I’ll be doing my 3-class semester in the spring so I might actually be a bit saner and more prolific here and elsewhere (e.g. OTB) then.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

I question the timing

Your bad juxtaposition of the day, courtesy of Pro 8 News, home of Richard “Heatwave” Berler:

Nuevo Laredo debuts a new tourism promotion campaign.

Shootout in Nuevo Laredo between Mexican Army and drug traffickers near the American consulate and Crowne Plaza hotel.

Nuevo Laredo: ¡Ciudad con valor violencia!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Pedigree bias in academe

Tyler Cowen considers the question of ‘pedigree bias’ in economics and other fields; while he follows up with an article that suggests pedigree bias may not be as pronounced as he initially suspected, nonetheless there is a clear relationship. I would imagine the relationship found in the Klein article would be even stronger if it measured initial hiring decisions, though.

My thoughts on such matter, at least as they pertain to political science, have been blogged previously and repeatedly, so I won’t belabor those points here.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Google search of the day

A literal transcription: “is dr, christopher n. lawrence a good proffesor.”

More surprisingly, Google doesn’t seem to have an answer to that question. So much for its omniscience.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Your well-deserved-Nobel roundup

Congratulations to political scientist Lin Ostrom and economist Oliver Williamson on sharing this year’s Bank of Sweden prize in economics in memory of Alfred Nobel for their work on understanding non-governmental and non-market mechanisms for overcoming collective action problems; Ostrom has garnered the greater attention in my circles, due to her being a political scientist by training (the second to win the Nobel, following Herbert Simon), being one of the pioneering female scholars in the social sciences, and being associated with Indiana University (with which I have what Mark Granovetter might call “weak ties”).

Those with further praise and discussion of Ostrom and her work include Steven Taylor, James Hanley, Mike Munger (who also links a lecture by Ostrom on sustainable development), Ilya Somin, Dan Drezner, Virginia Postrel, Lynne Kiesling, Margaret Soltan, Julian Sanchez, and Alex Tabarrok. Not to neglect the economists, Tabarrok also discusses Williamson’s equally valuable contributions.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

NSF: Non-Sufficient Funds for Political Science

I find myself in total agreement with Dan Drezner’s thoughts on Sen. Tom Coburn’s deeply asinine proposal to save less than $10 million per year by eliminating the National Science Foundation’s funding for political science research.

Of course, you can probably take this as self-interested pleading since I have been the direct beneficiary of approximately $1500 in (taxable) NSF-funded stipend money and an indirect beneficiary of its funding by having access to the American National Election Studies. And I’ll freely concede that in my ideal universe, the federal government wouldn’t spend $10 million/year on political science research, but in that same universe the government wouldn’t spend hundreds of times that amount on Medicare prescription drug benefits, enforcing about 90% of the regulations of OSHA, building “infrastructure to nowhere,” bailing out every dying domestic industry, and subsidizing the activities of the world’s best-paid farmers.

And, I’d be rather more impressed if Coburn (or his staff) actually understood what the ANES did in the first place; the funding (all of about $1 million per fielded survey, which includes several thousand face-to-face interviews with voters across the United States) doesn’t fund data analysis but the collection of original data that nobody else collects because pollsters—unlike social scientists—don’t really care why people hold the opinions they have. If the ANES simply duplicated the work of Gallup, Harris Interactive, Zogby, Research 2000, and the dozens of other polling houses doing work for political candidates and the media I’d gladly agree that the spending was misplaced. And if the Census Bureau weren’t legally prohibited from collecting much of this information (for good reason, I might add) a case could be made that using their resources would be less costly.

But the reality is that the “basic science” that Coburn thinks is having resources diverted away from it for frivolous research on understanding our political system is the type of research with practical applications that has the least necessity for governmental subsidy. Materials science research on “bone that blends into tendons,” “next-generation biofuels,” and “microchip-sized fans” are examples of applied research that can be easily commercialized where the private sector is essentially freeloading on the taxpayer—I see no obvious reason why medical implants companies, major energy concerns, and Intel or IBM or Texas Instruments (respectively) couldn’t fund these research projects themselves since there are fairly obvious financial benefits to them in the short-to-medium term. Certainly there’s a better case to be made for “market failure” in providing most social scientific research than there is for “hard” science research—which still receives the lion’s share of funding and is often supported not just by NSF, but also the Department of Energy and other federal research funds that dwarf the $10 million/year spent on the study of political phenomena.*

If there is a valid critique to be made here, it is that the NSF has strayed from being focused on grants for “basic” science into the applied and pedagogical realms that are beyond the NSF‘s core mission and are best left to private industry and other government agencies such as the Department of Education, respectively.

More on this theme from Henry Farrell, Andrew Gelman, and Joshua Tucker.

Update: There are further thoughts in this vein from Steven Taylor and Charli Carpenter. Farrell points out that this isn't the first time the NSF political science program has been a target. And "Miss Self-Important" takes an ambivalent view.