Tuesday, 10 March 2009


I enjoy Nate Silver and Andrew Gelman’s writing most of the time… so why I am I so bored with FiveThirtyEight.com’s content these days—to the point of having dropped my feed subscription—even when I agree with the substance of the content, even if not the aggressively Obama-cheerleading tone? (Or, to be fair, a link to a Nate Silver post.)

Maybe I’m in the minority—hell, I probably am—but I guess I subscribe to the philosophy of “dance with whomever brung you.” Silver at least has a keen analytical mind that probably would be better spent on his comparative advantage of data sifting and presentation rather than armchair political analysis from a perspective that’s available from, and done more thoroughly and thoughtfully, by folks like Kevin Drum.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

QotD, Tversky found exceptions to the rule edition

A commenter at Kids Prefer Cheese demonstrates the application of heuristics to Internet dialogue:

You know how people use cognitive short-cuts to make sense of the world? For example, I could go read Ransom’s entire blog, probably do a bunch of background reading on Austrian business cycles, and then figure out whether he’s right about Cowen. Or I could use a simplifying heuristic which goes like this: people who post in all caps in blog comments are usually wingnuts. Sorry, Ransom, maybe you’re right, but in my book you’ve already lost on style points.

Friday, 4 April 2008

John Cole: Degenerating into a parody of a really bad Kos diarist

Surely this and its ilk are a really bad put-on. Or John took the same bad acid trip that Sully took a couple of years earlier after Bush broke his heart over gay marriage; it’s not exactly easy to see the difference.

Then again, I’m sure he makes more in a week from BlogAds than I’ve seen in five years from Google Ads, so who am I to argue with success?

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Can’t get enough junk to read from me here? FriendFeed is your new Chris Cyberstalking ally; sign up today.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

swift boat, v.t.

How exactly are Barack Obama’s problems with Jeremiah Wright a swift boating? I like Obama about as much as your average Republican-leaning academic blogger with libertarian leanings, but it’s hard to see that there’s much that’s unfair about attacking a political candidate who willingly associates himself on a weekly basis with a pastor who frequently crosses the line that separates legitimate critiques of American race relations and delusional paranoia.

James Joyner made much the same point Thursday, in reference to a YouTube video that’s been making the rounds and the basis for Sullivan’s defense of his favored candidate:

Does the video play on the fears that some whites have about angry black men? Sure. Mostly, though, it seeks to undermine Obama’s portrait of himself as mainstream. It’s more than a little unfair but that’s the nature of these mashups. It’s no different than the various ads of one candidate morphing into an unpopular politician that we’ve seen over the years. And it’s frankly much tamer than the infamous 1964 ad that implied Barry Goldwater would get us annihilated in a nuclear war or the 2000 NAACP ad featuring the daughter of James Byrd stating that “when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate-crime legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again.” Goodness, I’m not sure it’s even as insidious as the “3 a.m.” ad that the Clinton campaign ran to such good effect last month.

All that said, if the McCain campaign wants to shit-can some guy on their payroll who shared that video on Twitter, that’s their prerogative; any campaign that can’t keep their employees on-message is doomed to controversy—ask Amanda Marcotte, or for that matter John “Two Americas But Stuck In Third Place” Edwards.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Resistance is futile

Marvin King, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Mississippi, my graduate alma mater, has just launched a blog focusing on African-American politics and political science; as someone whose research and teaching interests in Southern politics overlap that area, it’s good to have another voice contributing to the blogosphere’s coverage of black politics from a scholarly perspective.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Delurkez-vous, maintenant

Amber points out that it is “National Delurking Week,” although I can’t find any official website designating this week as such.

Nonetheless, if you do read Signifying Nothing (if only for the comments), it’s time for you to post in the comments and come out of the closet or other badly-lit room where you read this fine blog.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Monkeying around with political science

GWU political science professors David Park, John Sides, and Lee Sigelman have joined the great unwashed masses of political science professors in the blogosphere, sensing a dearth of blogging on American and comparative public opinion and mass political behavior. Welcome to the party!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Observation of the day

Is it just me, or is it increasingly the case that Crooked Timber is simply a collection of daily rants, often unsupported by any meaningful evidence except links to Wikipedia articles, against libertarian bloggers (some of which‡ mysteriously disappear later into the ether) by whiny European leftists? You’d think that a bunch of left-leaning academics could come up with something better to offer their readers than content that could have been written by second-tier Daily Kos diarists.

Case in point: this John Quiggin screed that takes a shotgun approach to going after apostate libertarians who never much cared for the Libertarian Party and champions The Presidential Candidate Who Shall Not Be Named as some sort of paragon of libertarianism (well, except for the whole anti-free trade, anti-open borders, anti-gay marriage thing… basically he’s Pat Buchanan with an M.D. and more support from hot chicks). Quiggin also thinks Nixon destroyed an electoral movement that had its day in the sun twenty years before 1968,† but that’s neither here nor there.

Then again, what the hell do I know; I’m the only person in my precinct* who voted for the Libertarian gubernatorial candidate last month, so clearly I’m some sort of idiot to begin with.

Update: Quiggin’s screed also mischaracterizes Cato’s position on the War in Iraq. I’m beside myself with surprise as to how such a blunder could have made it into his post.

Observant readers will note that this is a post of the essential type that it complains about, absent the gratuitous Wikipedia links. Whether this is by accident or design is left to the reader to determine.

‡ The articles, not the libertarian bloggers.
† George Wallace was from Dixie, and was a Democrat, but that doesn’t make him a “Dixiecrat,” and contra Kevin Phillips—and Quiggin—Nixon didn’t win in 1968 by coopting segregationists, who by and large supported Wallace. Phillips’ “southern strategy” was, in point of fact, a failure when the GOP attempted to use it in 1970. Read and understand.
* Unless someone else voted absentee or during early voting for Horne too; all the stats available show is that nobody voted for Horne on election day (it’s a direct transcript of the voting machine tape), but all the early and absentee votes are aggregated separately.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Troester gets all the cool search queries

Nick’s blog is asked how one should go about fixing heteroskedasticity. By contrast, my Google hits fall into roughly two categories: people who Google on Friday or Saturday asking for “fun things to do on Saturday,” and people who want to know who the jackass applying for a job at their university is. I’m pretty sure I have a better—or at least less disappointing—answer to Nick’s question than either of those.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

The Stinsonian Blog

Matthew Stinson, who’s been through about half-a-dozen blog URLs since I’ve started blogging, is back again at yet another site. Welcome back!

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Interesting things I've seen but am too lazy to blog about...

… can now be seen to the right on the front page, or via this link.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Bad news blogger

Via Jonathan Rowe and Timothy Sandefur: one of my favorite writers and early blogging influences, Virginia Postrel, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer; the royal we here at Signifying Nothing will, like Mr. Sandefur, be keeping her in our thoughts.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Why anonymity?

Jason Kuznicki ponders why historians, and by extension other academics, blog anonymously or pseudonymously:

I am driven to wonder, though, about why anonymity would be needed in the first place. The short, ugly answer is that the history profession can often afford to be a fairly exclusive clique, and any deviation from orthodoxy, whether in ideology or in one’s extracurriculars, can be grounds for exclusion. Yes, there are exceptions. The rule, though, is that if as a graduate student you stick out in any way, you aren’t likely to find a job. The massive oversupply of grad students — driven by the academy’s desire to cut costs by using cheap grad student labor — is a breeding ground for a discreet, clubby form of discrimination.

In my little corner of academe, the costs of sticking out aren’t quite so bad, in part because of supply issues (the oversupply of quantitatively-oriented Americanist political scientists is much smaller than the oversupply of historians of any stripe), and in part because there is a tad more intellectual diversity among political scientists—that said, one would sooner admit membership in the Libertarian Party than the Republican Party in most circles.

Of course, an oft-posited theory for my lack of progress in finding a tenure-track job is this blog. That theory discounts my relatively short publication record, the relative lack of placements from my program, and the choice I’ve made to focus on finding positions at schools (primarily liberal arts colleges) that are least likely to hire someone who lacks a “name” undergraduate or graduate degree to put in their catalog. It also discounts the fact that much of my social network of fellow political scientists stems from blogging for the past 4 ½ years, and that there’s no way in hell that I’d have gotten my second job without the blog (and the second had a good deal to do with me getting my third and probably my fourth too).

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Blog reader survey

Something for you to do if you’re bored this afternoon: take this survey that allegedly will help me attract (better?) advertising to the blog, or something.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Reviewers wanted

Dan Drezner seeks eyeballs for a chapter on blogging in the upcoming “APSA Guide to Publication,” which is worthy of your input for reasons beyond the fact that my name appears sandwiched between those of Leslie Johns and Jacob T. Levy in the acknowledgments.

Friday, 26 January 2007

One collegiate blogger could win Big Money

Frequent Commenter Scott made me aware of this $2000 scholarship contest available to political bloggers of any stripe who are currently attending any postsecondary institution of higher learning. All you need is a political blog and the ability to write 300 words to have a shot.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Help the boss

Go vote for EconTalk, Econlib’s podcast, in the 2006 Weblog Awards. I’m told that it’s for a good cause: beating Slate.

Update: Alas, EconTalk came up short.

Brand Extension

Steven Taylor has launched three new, more narrowly-focused blogs focusing on sports, Columbian politics, and science fiction. So go forth and read them.

Thursday, 30 November 2006

OTB downtime

Those of you who visit Outside the Beltway to see my occasional posts should be advised that OTB is going through a bit of downtime at the moment due to a huge spike in search engine traffic to the OTB “Gone Hollywood” site. James Joyner currently has no ETA for when the site will be back up, but hopefully it will be soon.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Even people in South Carolina know what blogs are

Winthrop University professor Scott Huffmon (better known as “Frequent Commenter Scott” around these parts) recently investigated the South Carolina public’s acquaintance, or lack thereof, with the blogosphere as part of the first Winthrop Poll of state residents; the results, as reported at LaurinLine, were quite interesting, with over 2/3 of the state’s public claiming familiarity with the concept of a “blog.”

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Crescat displaced

Readers of longtime Signifying Nothing blogroll staple Crescat Sententia should be advised that the blog has moved to a new URL as the result of a domain name snafu. Update your feed readers and blogrolls accordingly.

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Le Retour

The Kitchen Cabinet is back up and running after a lengthy haïtus (albeit one punctuated by occasional movie reviews).

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Boobgate becomes Whiteygate

Never before has a single photograph been the subject of such debate.

First, we have a debate over whether or not the woman standing in front of Bill Clinton is posing to accentuate her chest. Then we have a debate about why whitey seems to have invaded Harlem.

I really don’t care, I just find this all incredibly amusing. And, for that matter, stupid.

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Fantasy Bud ads

Frequent Commenter Scott sent me a link to this blog post that answers the unasked question, “What if Bud made an ad celebrating bloggers?”