Full Category Index

Posts in “Politics”

Wed, May 20, 2015

Fake Science, Real Consequences

This morning, Social Science Twitter is consumed by the discovery of fraud in a very widely-circulated political science paper published last year in Science magazine. “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality”, by Michael LaCour and Donald Green, reported very strong and persistent changes in people’s opinion about same-sex marriage when voters were canvassed by a gay person. The paper appeared to have a strong experimental design and, importantly, really good follow-up data.
Fri, May 15, 2015

UK Election Miscellany

This UK Election data is really too much fun to play around with. Here’s a (probably final) collection of pictures. First, a map of the turnout (that is, the percentage of the electorate who actually voted) by constituency, with London highlighted for a bit more detail. Constituencies by Turnout. There’s a strong suggestion here that Labour areas have lower turnout. Here’s a scatterplot of all seats showing the winning candidate’s share of the electorate plotted against turnout.
Sun, May 10, 2015

Politics and the English Landscape

I’m still playing around with the UK Election data I mapped yesterday, which ended up at the Monkey Cage blog over at the Washington Post. On Twitter, Vaughn Roderick posted a nice comparison showing the proximity of many Labour seats to coalfields. That got me thinking about how much the landscape of England is embedded in its political life. In particular, what do the names of places tell you about their political leanings?
Sat, May 9, 2015

Who Came Second in the UK Election?

The United Kingdom’s election results are being digested by the chattering classes. So, yesterday afternoon I thought I’d see if I could grab the election data to make some pictures. Because the ever-civilized BBC has election web pages with a sane HTML structure, this proved a lot more straightforward than I feared. (Thanks also in no small part to statistician Hadley Wickham’s rvest scraping library, alongside many other tools he has contributed to the community of social scientists who use R to do data analysis.) Here are two maps.
Sun, Nov 30, 2014

The Godfather's End of Semester Meetings

FADE FROM BLACK: PROF. CORLEONE’S OFFICE. DAY. BONASENIOR: … But the Associate Dean said it was out of his hands. And then my Mom texted me and said, “For extra credit opportunities, we must go to Professor Corleone.” PROF. CORLEONE: Why did you go to the Associate Dean? Why didn’t you come to me first? BONASENIOR: What do you want of me? Tell me anything. But do what I beg you to do.
Thu, Nov 27, 2014

Fly Air Gini

The other day at OrgTheory, Beth Berman had a very nice discussion on “inequality in the skies” about how much of space on planes is given over to different classes of passenger. Using seating charts, she calculated some rough Gini coefficients of inequality on board. For example, on a transatlantic flight in a three-class configuration with fancy lie-flat beds up front, if we look again at how the space is distributed, we now have 21% of the people using about 40% of the plane, 27% using another 20%, and the final 52% using the last 40%.
Fri, Sep 19, 2014

Scottish Independence

So, Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. This morning on the bus (I should run a series called “Idle Data Analysis on the Bus”) I looked at how the high turnout compared to other Scottish elections. Data on turnout is easily available back to 1970. Here are two views of it. Voter turnout in Scotland in National elections and plebiscites since 1970. You can get a larger image or a PDF version of the figure if you want a closer look at it.
Wed, Mar 26, 2014

Silver vs Krugman

Nate Silver’s relaunched FiveThirtyEight has been getting some flak from critics—including many former fans—for failing to live up to expectations. Specifically, critics have argued that instead of foxily modeling data and working the numbers, Silver and his co-contributors are looking more like regular old opinion columnists with rather better chart software. Paul Krugman has been a prominent critic, arguing that “For all the big talk about data-driven analysis, what [the site] actually delivers is sloppy and casual opining with a bit of data used, as the old saying goes, the way a drunkard uses a lamppost — for support, not illumination.” Silver has put his tongue at least part way into his cheek and pushed back a little with an article titled, in true Times fashion, “For Columnist, a Change of Tone”.
Tue, Nov 26, 2013

Karl Marx or Pope Francis?

Pope Francis’s new Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, has been getting some attention today, mostly thanks to its reiteration of some long-standing Catholic doctrine on social justice and the market. So, here is a quiz to see whether you can distinguish statements by Pope Francis from statements by Karl Marx. I figured someone was likely to do this anyway, so why not be first to the market? It’s fair to say that the Pope and Karl Marx differ significantly on numerous points of theory as well as on what people asking questions at job talks refer to as the policy implications of their views.
Tue, Jun 11, 2013

Following up on Paul Revere

Yesterday’s post on Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere really caught fire. It’s still going, in fact, and it will probably break a hundred thousand unique pageviews some time this afternoon. It’s always exciting and a little anxiety-making when something like that happens. Overall, I’m delighted that the response has been so positive. By way of follow-up, I’d just say that it’s a single post that was meant to make a point in an accessible and hopefully entertaining way.
Sun, Jun 9, 2013

Using Metadata to find Paul Revere

London, 1772. I have been asked by my superiors to give a brief demonstration of the surprising effectiveness of even the simplest techniques of the new-fangled Social Networke Analysis in the pursuit of those who would seek to undermine the liberty enjoyed by His Majesty’s subjects. This is in connection with the discussion of the role of “metadata” in certain recent events and the assurances of various respectable parties that the government was merely “sifting through this so-called metadata” and that the “information acquired does not include the content of any communications”.
Fri, Jan 11, 2013

Invisible Men

Over the years I’ve written about the work of Bruce Western, Becky Pettit, Chris Uggen, and other scholars who study mass incarceration in the United States. By now, the basic outlines of the phenomenon are pretty well established and, I hope, widely known. Two features stand out: its sheer scale, and its disproportionate concentration amongst young, unskilled black men. It should be astonishing to say that more than one percent of all American adults are incarcerated, and that this rate is without equal in the country’s history and without peer internationally.
Tue, Nov 13, 2012

The Long Shadow of the X-Case

The Irish Times reports the death of a 31 year-old woman last month in Galway, as a result of being denied an abortion: Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later. Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated.
Wed, Sep 5, 2012

Health Care is iTunes

On Build and Analyze this week Marco Arment talked about the U.S. healthcare system, the gradual expansion of forms of state-sponsored coverage, and his general support for Obamacare. Not a topic you might expect to hear covered on a show that is ostensibly about software development and rather involved ways to produce a cup of coffee. But Marco runs his own business and thus needs to face the question of buying health insurance for himself and his family, together with the expense of offering benefits to any employees he might consider taking on.
Fri, Aug 24, 2012

Bottom Feeders

Honestly, this sort of thing is best ignored: But I like $100 as much as the next guy, so here is my video.
Wed, Jun 20, 2012

The Declaration of Independence

Charlottesville, June 19th, 2012 The More or Less Unanimous Declaration of the Board of Visitors When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for a Board to dissolve the administrative bands which have connected a President with a University, and to assume for themselves the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and the Bond Market entitle them, it is best to do it secretly, quickly, and in the middle of the night.
Wed, Nov 30, 2011

Is Carrier IQ a keylogger installed on 145 million phones?

While you have to ask carefully if you want family-planning advice from Siri, owners of Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones may be facing other problems. According to this report in Wired, Trevor Eckhart, a security researcher in Connecticut, has found that third-party performance- and usage-monitoring software installed by default on millions of Android-based handsets sees every user action and—possibly, because I’m not sure based on the video whether this part has been demonstrated—logs and transmits it to the software maker, Carrier IQ.
Sun, Jul 17, 2011

"What I mean is that I have Marx in my bones and you have him in your mouth"

Via Chris, on Twitter (I hope I’m not preempting him here), an Open Letter from a Keynesian to a Marxist by Joan Robinson, and “Zombie Marx”, an essay by Mike Beggs. Here is Robinson, writing in 1953: I was a student at a time when vulgar economics was in a particularly vulgar state. … There was Great Britain with never less than a million workers unemployed, and there was I with my supervisor teaching me that it is logically impossible to have unemployment because of Say’s Law.
Mon, May 23, 2011

Humpgate, or, Presidential Super-Limo meets Irish Road

President Obama is in Ireland and thus so also is the presidential superlimo. The heavily-armored vehicle is an unholy hybrid of a Cadillac, a medium truck, and a small tank. According to the gearheads on Wikipedia, the vehicle is fitted with military grade armor at least five inches thick, and the wheels are fitted with run flat tires … The doors weigh as much as a Boeing 757 airplane cabin door.
Sun, May 15, 2011

Going Viral

In case you were wondering who the go-to sources on l’affaire Strauss-Kahn are, at least according to Twitter: The consequences of getting retweeted all over the place mostly involve being introduced to the range and sophistication of twitter spam and followbots.
Wed, Apr 27, 2011

Not Good Enough

No-one will be fooled. I demand the White House release video of Obama being born on home plate during the 1961 World Series, with Roger Maris attending the delivery and being heard to remark “That’s a fine-looking future President you have there, Ann”. Oh wait, is the White House REFUSING to release this video? Or maybe—just maybe—are they in fact UNABLE TO? And why do you think that would be? Because the so-called President was IN AFRICA at the time?
Fri, Apr 15, 2011

The Statistical Abstract of the United States

I saw this report go by on the Twitter saying that, in the wake of the latest budget deal, the Census Bureau is planning on eliminating the Statistical Abstract of the United States, pretty much the single most useful informational document the Government produces. The report says, When readying the FY2011 budget, the Census Bureau tapped teams to do thorough, systematic program reviews looking for efficiencies and cost savings. Priorities for programs were set according to mission criticality, and some cuts were made to the economic statistics program.
Sat, Apr 2, 2011

Connick v. Thompson

J.K. Galbraith remarked that conservatism was engaged in a long search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. But that quest may sometimes become boring, or perhaps too difficult. Not to worry, because occasions to be straightforwardly vicious are more easily found, if you have the taste for it. Its spiteful tone aside, in substance Connick v. Thompson seems to be a Lord Denning Moment for the U.S. Supreme Court. The conservative majority preferred to affirm an obvious wrong rather than face the appalling vista of a brutal and corrupt justice system.
Mon, Mar 21, 2011

The Vertiginous Regressivity of Choice

G.A. Cohen on the German Ideal of Freedom: If logic is more your thing, there is also a lecture by Alfred Tarski, a tutorial with Gilbert Ryle, or a boxing match between John Roemer and Jurgen Habermas.
Thu, Mar 3, 2011

Sic Semper Pecuniae

One of the sideshows that has accompanied the continuing collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya has been the parade of Western intellectuals and chattering-class heroes who, it turns out, were happy to take a nicely-reimbursed trip to Tripoli over the past few years, meet the Great Man, and then, in almost all cases, write a fawning article about the experience afterwards. Often these pieces appeared in quite high-profile locations such as The Guardian, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and so on.
Tue, Feb 22, 2011

The Political Theory of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

Via Shehzad Nadeem at OrgTheory comes this report on Muammar el-Gaddafi’s son and the Ph.D in Political Theory he wrote at the LSE in 2008, who as it happens also accepted a pledge of £1.5m from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, which Saif ran. Gaddafi the Younger’s thesis, which you can read in its entirety if you like is titled “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions: From ‘Soft Power’ to Collective Decision-making?” In it, he argues that, inclusion of elected representatives of non- governmental organisations (NGOs) in tripartite decision-making structures could potentially create a more democratic global governing system.
Tue, Jan 11, 2011

Emacs Starter Kit for the Social Sciences: Now Easier to Install

New in nerdery this week, it’s now a bit easier to install the Emacs Starter Kit for the Social Sciences that I put together (based on lots of great work by Phil Hagelberg and, more recently, Eric Schulte). In the past, the fact that AucTeX was both necessary and had to be compiled locally made for some awkward steps in the installation. But AucTeX is now part of the new Emacs Package Manager, so it’s possible to install it automatically.
Thu, Jan 28, 2010

Not your Father's Communicative Action

Here is Jürgen Habermas’ Twitter feed. No, really. One can’t quite be sure, of course (maybe a German speaker can point to some coverage of this in the German press?), but it seems on the level. If so (even if it’s him via an assistant), that is pretty outstanding, because my ASA Publications Committee slogan can now be “Jürgen Habermas is on Twitter but ASR still requires paper submissions”. Update: Looks like I need a new slogan.
Wed, Nov 25, 2009

The Visual Display of Stupid

I’d almost be happier if this turned out to be some kind of fake. But in the meantime, while you may think of it as a badly flawed and unfair pie chart, I prefer to see it as actually just an extreme version of a genuine pie chart.
Sat, Oct 17, 2009

Pissing off the other crowd

Andrew Gelman discusses Superfreakonomics saying, The interesting question to me is why is it that “pissing off liberals” is delightfully transgressive and oh-so-fun, whereas “pissing off conservatives” is boring and earnest? Several years ago bumper stickers appeared that read “Annoy a Liberal. Work hard. Succeed. Be happy.” I was living in Arizona at the time, so they became a routine part of my commute. Possessing neither the blunt empirical thesis of “Guns Bought Your Freedom” nor the slow fuse of “Body Piercing Saved My Life”, the barefaced cheek of the non sequitur made the sticker absurd and irritating at the same time.
Sat, Sep 26, 2009

Rotten Borough

Via a FB friend: As of April 1, 2006, out of a 2004 Census estimated population of 18 in Teterboro, there were 39 registered voters (216.7% of the population, vs. 55.4% in all of Bergen County). Sadly, the answer may be prosaic. From earlier in the same Wikipedia entry: The 2000 census failed to count any of the residents of the Vincent Place housing units who had moved into the newly built homes in 1999.
Tue, May 26, 2009


I’ve only seen the headlines, but I expect all the clowns put on their clown suits this morning and are presently climbing out of their clown car at the studio. I’m thinking liberal, activist, Puerto Rico isn’t even a state and the Bronx isn’t either, law-into-her-own-hands, affirmative action, closeted lesbian, the guy in front of me at Dunkin D’s said she wasn’t too bright. On that last point, it’s well known amongst alums that whereas the Princeton Sam Alito graduated from in 1972 was a bastion of civilized learning, the Princeton Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from four or five years later was a hippie “learning cooperative” where minorities got a coupon book of “A” grades upon admission to use up as needed, were all given the Pyne Prize automatically, and the concept of truth was rigorously suppressed by the leftist faculty.
Tue, Jan 20, 2009

Like a Tiny Omen

Chief Justice Roberts misplaces an adverb; Obama realizes this, pauses to give him the opportunity to correct the error; Roberts realizes what he has said, corrects himself; Obama nods to acknowledge the correction, smiles, and repeats what Roberts originally said rather than drag things out further. The text in the Constitution is, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United
Sun, Nov 30, 2008

Last Gasps

This article is mostly about the Bush Administration’s rush to put a new workplace unsafety rule in place: The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job. The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives.
Wed, Nov 5, 2008

Gelman brings the R

Andrew Gelman with a first pass at analyzing the election data. This figure illustrates point 5 below—the election was more of a partisan swing than a redrawing of the electoral map. Andrew’s impressions: 1. The election was pretty close. Obama won by about 5% of the vote, consistent with the latest polls and consistent with his forecast vote based on forecasts based on the economy. … 3. The gap between young and old has increased–a lot: But there was no massive turnout among young voters.
Fri, Aug 22, 2008

Making a House a Whole

At present I’m in a part of Ireland where internet access is about as common as sunshine and clear skies. This means I have only belatedly come across Matt Yglesias’s call for technical assistance from my wife, in her capacity as a trained professional mereologist, to help resolve the thorny question of whether John McCain’s luxury double-condo in Phoenix counts as one house or two. My understanding is that mereological relations are somewhat flexible, and it’s quite acceptable for the same material object to be two condos and one home.
Tue, Jul 1, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

Consider the following piece in the Daily Telegraph, which may begin making the rounds: Scientists find ‘law of war’ that predicts attacks: Scientists believe they may have glimpsed a “law of war” that can be used to predict the likelihood of attacks in modern conflicts, from conventional battles to global terrorism. … The European Consortium For Mathematics in Industry was told today that an international team has developed a physics-based theory describing the dynamics of insurgent group formation and attacks, which neatly explains the universal patterns observed in all modern wars and terrorism.
Wed, Jun 18, 2008

Kenworthy on Nixonland

My colleague Lane Kenworthy reviews Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland, proving in the process that he is a faster reader (and writer) than me. Is Perlstein right about what happened during these years? Did America harden into two warring camps? I think an argument can be made that something very different occurred: the developments of the 1960s coupled with (and accentuated by) Nixon’s political tactics opened up new fissures that left the political landscape not more crystallized, but more clouded.
Fri, Jun 6, 2008

"Terrorist Fist Jab"

Via Unfogged. I see an emerging trend: Terrorist Fist Jab. Black Power crypto blink. Tendency to say “A glass of water, appease.” Cracks knuckles-under. “Whitey’s-on-the” moon.
Tue, Apr 1, 2008

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

John Gruber twittered the following: Suggestion for Gallup: how many Americans both (a) are offended by sermons of Obama’s Christian pastor and (b) think Obama is a Muslim? Which led me to check out this Pew Center Report: The recent controversy surrounding sermons by Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Wright, and Obama’s March 18 speech on race and politics have attracted more public attention than other recent campaign events, according to Pew’s weekly News Interest Index.
Thu, Mar 13, 2008


Matt Yglesias’s book Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats is nearing publication, providing further evidence that very long subtitles beginning with “How …” or “Why …”, and which explain the main thesis of the book, are now completely entrenched in the U.S. publishing industry. It’s the 21st century equivalent of the 19th century “Being a …” subtitle. Anyway, the blurbs are up and the best one is from Ezra Klein, who wins the inaugural CT American Blurbonomics: How to Praise your Friends while Surreptitiously Taking the Piss out of your Enemies award.
Sun, Jan 20, 2008

Limousine Libertarians

I was driving home from the office this evening (yeah, yeah, I know—I prefer to think of it as Arizona taxpayers getting good value for money) and I saw this enormous Ron Paul Revolution limousine thing go by. It was as long as a semi. Arizona is McCain country, but there are also plenty of libertarians out here, and many of them are even opposed to state-sponsored torture. So it makes sense that Paul is doing a bit of campaigning in the vicinity.
Sat, Dec 1, 2007

Choice and Social Structure

A rich post over at Scatterplot. I spent a lot of those years exhausted and angry. We continued to have only part-time child care. Some nights I put the children to bed crying because I knew they were better off crying alone in bed than interacting with an angry sleep-deprived mother. I was furious that I had to make constrained choices and could not have the life I wanted. When he was home, my spouse was “superdad,” who did a lot of the work and played a lot with the children, so there was a big hole when he was gone.
Sat, Oct 27, 2007

Dept of Truthiness

Your clown show dollars at work: The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s No. 2 official apologized Friday for leading a staged news conference Tuesday in which FEMA employees posed as reporters while real reporters listened on a telephone conference line and were barred from asking questions. … FEMA announced the news conference at its headquarters here about 15 minutes before it was to begin Tuesday afternoon, making it unlikely that reporters could attend.
Tue, Oct 23, 2007

It's Islamo-Fascism Week!

Oh the Feminists hate Republicans And Republicans hate the Feminists To mock all Feminazis Is an old G.O.P. rule But during Islamo-Fascism Week Islamo-Fascism Week You’ll see Ann Coulter On Our Backs at USC She’s helping Muslims seek Their Feminine Mystique Simone De Beauvoir’s really very cool Oh FrontPage hates the atheists The liberals and the Darwinists The godless and the secular In the groves of Academe But during Islamo-Fascism Week Islamo-Fascism Week The Origin of Species is beyond critique Mr Horowitz, he has a plan To carpet-bomb Tehran With hardback copies of The Selfish Gene Oh Conservatives hate the sodomites And the lesbians and degenerates Repressing deviant urges Is a vital party test But during Islamo-Fascism Week Islamo-Fascism Week See Rick Santorum weep for every closeted Sheikh Defend the freedom of the West And the freaks who represent it best It’s only for a week so have no fear Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!
Tue, Jul 10, 2007

The Age of Independence

The other day David Brooks wrote a column which appeared to be a stock piece of standard conservative anxiety about what he called “hard-boiled, foul-mouthed, fedup, emotionally self-sufficient and unforgiving” young women. Matt Yglesias picks up on on the piece today, salvaging the key insight of Brooks’ piece from the muddled pop-culture framing. As Brooks says, Now young people face a social frontier of their own. They hit puberty around 13 and many don’t get married until they’re past 30.
Wed, Jul 4, 2007

Smooth Operations

Via Matt Yglesias comes the latest family full-court press from the Kagans, who get to author policy and neutrally report on it at the same time: The new strategy for Iraq has entered its second phase. Now that all of the additional combat forces have arrived in theater, Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno have begun Operation Phantom Thunder, a vast and complex effort to disrupt al Qaeda and Shiite militia bases all around Baghdad in advance of the major clear-and-hold operations that will follow.
Sat, Apr 28, 2007

Maybe where the Hidden Imam lives?

Via 3QD, Ernest Lefever writes about Africa and irritates my inner copyeditor: BECAUSE OF AND in spite of Hollywood films like The African Queen and television shows like Tarzan, tropical Africa south of the Sahara and north of the Zambezi is terra incognito for most Americans. I imagine a giant moustache on top of the Central African Republic. The CIA engages in the war on terra incognito. Others accept the opposing myth promulgated by Thomas Hobbs that in a “State of Nature,” there are “no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worse of all, persistent fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Maybe he’s confusing him with Russell Hobbs.
Sun, Apr 22, 2007

Welcome ... to Fantasy Ireland

Fantasy Ireland is a long-running cultural trope in America and a few other places (including, at times, Ireland itself). In the old days, it was a bucolic paradise, with a surfeit of pigs in the parlor and an absence of indoor plumbing, which Irish-Americans imagined they could visit in search of their roots. But its content has changed in recent years and it has popped up in various places this past week.
Tue, Mar 27, 2007


John McCain’s MySpace page “borrows” Mike D.’s page template and also hotlinks to images on his server. So he makes a few changes to them. Via John “You’re having a membership drive but you still haven’t mailed me my t-shirt, it’ll be three months on Friday” Gruber.
Wed, Mar 21, 2007

Romney and the Land Beyond the Sea

Two examples from what I hope will be an ongoing series: 1. At the annual Miami-Dade Lincoln Day Dinner (for our overseas readers, that translates as “South Florida, right-wing Republicans”), he ended his speech with the stirring phrase, “¡Patria o muerte, venceremos!” Somehow, Romney missed out on knowing that that phrase—*“Fatherland or death, we shall overcome!”*—has for decades been the closing line of almost every one of Castro’s speeches. It’s 100% associated with the Castro regime.
Tue, Feb 13, 2007

Be Vewy Qwiet

Via Matt Yglesias, a vintage bit of Glenn Reynolds. I don’t understand why the Bush Administration has been so slow to respond. Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy, or an invasion, is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists, supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran, putting the mullahs’ expat business interests out of business, etc. The whole 24 outlook on life is really catching on.
Tue, Feb 13, 2007

Ready.gov or Not

Oddly, 3quarksdaily links to a parody of ready.gov as though it had only recently appeared. Here’s a post of mine from almost exactly four years ago about this. (Four years! Jaysus.) It was one of the earliest bits of blogging I did that got a some circulation. Rereading it now, I think the narrative it presented holds up rather well in the light of recent history. Certainly better than the official version.
Sat, Dec 30, 2006

Let me get this straight

So Nouri al-Maliki pardoned Saddam Hussein to promote national healing and move on, Gerald Ford is making one last appearance at the Apollo theater, and James Brown will shortly be buried at Arlington cemetery, his long reign of terror having come to an end at last. No, that’s not right. I’ll try again. While I puzzle it out, go read Josh Marshall pre-emptively cutting through the bullshit that will pile up around the gallows this weekend: Convention dictates that we precede any discussion of this execution with the obligatory nod to Saddam’s treachery, bloodthirsty rule and tyranny.
Thu, Nov 16, 2006

Goodbye, Uncle Miltie

Milton Friedman has died at the ripe old age of ninety four. Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution writes a brief appreciation from the point of view of a fan. As Harry said around here only the other day, everyone should read Capitalism and Freedom at least once.
Thu, Nov 9, 2006


I think this is called a “market correction.” Looks like the last days of Long Term Capital Management. I finally finished MacKenzie’s book, and now I promise to write something about it.
Wed, Oct 18, 2006

Floating the Fraud Balloon

Daniel wrote a piece for the Guardian’s blog saying that critics who wanted to reject the findings of Burnham et al.’s Lancet paper and believe the Iraq Body Count estimate (or similar-sized numbers) were going to have to come out and claim that the paper was fraudulent, “and presumably to accept the legal consequences of doing so.” Well, now David Kane has floated that balloon. Update: Kane’s accusations have been removed from the front page of the SSS blog.
Thu, Oct 12, 2006

Statistics and the Scale of Societies

How many people are murdered in the U.S. every day? How many people die in car accidents every day? How many people die of heart disease in the U.S. in a year? What about the number who die for any reason at all? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, do you have immediate, confident intuitions about what the answers must be? The Lancet paper by Burnham et al.
Thu, Sep 28, 2006

demoralize, v

1. trans. To corrupt the morals or moral principles of; to deprave or pervert morally. The Senate approved legislation this evening governing the interrogation and trials of terror suspects, establishing far-reaching new rules in the definition of who may be held and how they should be treated. … The legislation … strips detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court and broadly defines what kind of treatment of detainees is prosecutable as a war crime.
Tue, Sep 19, 2006

Attractive Models

Via Jeremy Freese, a paper by Alan Gerber and Neil Malhotra called “Can political science literatures be believed? A study of publication bias in the APSR and the AJPS.” Here’s the main finding. When you run a bog-standard regression, you typically want to know how much a change in some variable x*—usually a number of such *x variables—is associated with a change in y, some outcome variable of interest. When you run the regression, you get a coefficient for each x telling you how much a one-unit change in that x changes the value of y according to your data.
Sun, Aug 27, 2006

Death Rates Again

It’s depressing to see a professor of demography pull this sort of stunt in the Washington Post: Between March 21, 2003, when the first military death was recorded in Iraq, and March 31, 2006, there were 2,321 deaths among American troops in Iraq. Seventy-nine percent were a result of action by hostile forces. Troops spent a total of 592,002 “person-years” in Iraq during this period. The ratio of deaths to person-years, .00392, or 3.92 deaths per 1,000 person-years, is the death rate of military personnel in Iraq.
Tue, Jul 18, 2006

Balko on SWAT raids

Radley Balko’s study of the increase in paramilitary police raids by SWAT teams is now available from Cato. They’ve also produced a map of botched raids, using Google Maps, to show the distribution of raids that involved some kind of serious error. I’d like to see a table of that data as well (or, because I’m greedy, the whose dataset). There are a lot of things one could do with the data beyond just plotting the incidents on a map, though this is certainly an effective way to draw attention to the issue.
Sat, Jun 24, 2006

A Confederacy of Dunces?

Listening to the reports about the Miami “Seas of David” alleged terrorist cell, I couldn’t help returning to the thought: what did these jackasses really think they were doing? The fact that they were seeking to establish contact with Al Qaeda (rather than being part of that organization from the beginning) was one red flag. The rather mixed bag of plans was another. The odd cultish overtones yet another. Jim Henley’s reading of the indictment suggests further grounds for suspecting that these guys were less evil terrorist geniuses and more greedy idiots.
Tue, Jun 20, 2006

The kind of thing you wish were false

What a disaster: One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind’s gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war’s major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda’s chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad.
Tue, Jun 13, 2006

The Boss

Charles Haughey has died at his home in Dublin at the age of 80. The Irish Times today calls him “the dominant and most divisive figure of the past 40 years” in Ireland. If you’ve never heard of Charlie, think of him as something like a triple cross between Charles DeGaulle, Richard Nixon and Huey Long. The Times’ obituary gives an overview of his life. Essays by Dick Walsh, Geraldine Kennedy and Fintan O’Toole span his career from its brilliant beginnings to its scandal-ridden end.
Wed, May 31, 2006

Gore and CO2

Tim Lambert finds Iain Murray engaged in a contemptible bit of smearing. Previously, the CEI falsely claimed that Al Gore was producing 4,000,000 times as much CO2 as the average person in the course of his daily activities, given his heavy use of air travel. Now it turns out that Gore is trying to make his promotional tour carbon neutral by purchasing carbon offsets, presumably from organizations like TerraPass. Murray’s response?
Wed, May 31, 2006

Speaking of Hackery

Jesus wept. This nonsense again. Despite media coverage purporting to show that escalating violence in Iraq has the country spiraling out of control, civilian death statistics complied by Rep. Steve King, R-IA, indicate that Iraq actually has a lower civilian violent death rate than Washington, D.C. … Using Pentagon statistics cross-checked with independent research, King said he came up with an annualized Iraqi civilian death rate of 27.51 per 100,000. While that number sounds high – astonishingly, the Iowa Republican discovered that it’s significantly lower than a number of major American cities, including the nation’s capital.
Thu, May 18, 2006

ACTA Report

Tim Burke reads through the ACTA report, ‘How Many Ward Churchills’, which—so far as I can see from skimming it—makes very strong claims (“professors like Churchill are systematically promoted by colleges and universities across the country at the expense of academic standards and integrity”; “Ward Churchill is Everywhere”; “professors are using their classrooms to push political agendas in the name of teaching students to think critically”) mainly on the basis of inferences from course descriptions that they’ve found on the web.
Fri, May 12, 2006

Election Fraud? In America? Shurely Not

Yet another flaw has been discovered in Diebold’s electronic voting machines. Company spokesman David Bear presents the watertight case for the defence: “For there to be a problem here, you’re basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software,” he said. “I don’t believe these evil elections people exist.” This guy should get some kind of prize.
Thu, May 11, 2006

Wanting to Know Everything

The NSA has assembled a gigantic database of telephone calls in the United States, with the help of all of the major telecommunications providers (except Qwest). The database is not of voice recordings, but of calls made. It constitutes data on a huge network of ties between people who call each other. In recent years, sociology and related fields have seen a lot of development in the areas of dynamic modeling of social networks, and in fast algorithms for analyzing large, sparse graphs.
Tue, May 2, 2006

Sociology and Political Philosophy

I mentioned in posts or a comment a while ago that I was writing a survey piece on sociology and political philosophy, and several people expressed an interest in seeing it. Well, here’s a draft. I was invited to write it for the second edition of A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, which is being edited by Bob Goodin, Philip Pettit and Thomas Pogge. Like the first edition, there will be chapters on the relationship between political philosophy and disciplines like political science, economics, law, and so on, together with essays on problems, ideologies and debates in the field itself.
Sun, Apr 16, 2006


People speaking in some official capacity should always take care what they say, because they aren’t just speaking for themselves. The higher up the ladder you go, the more care you have to take. Most of the time inappropriate comments don’t even raise a laugh. So it’s hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy when someone is—rightly—made to apologize for having said something that’s actually funny. In this case it’s Police Chief Constable John Vine who, when speaking to the Perth Bar Association in Scotland, told a joke about Al Qaeda fathers chatting about their suicide-bomber sons.
Fri, Mar 31, 2006

Varieties of Civil War

Jim Henley: The NOT A CIVIL WAR OH NO marked by Shiite death squad attacks on Sunnis, some of whom are surely guilty of guerrilla activity and some of whom are surely not, is really Insurgency Plus. This reminds me of something I meant to say the other week. In much the same way as we’re not supposed to call Iraq a quagmire, we’re also not supposed to say it’s on the brink of—or already stuck in to—civil war.
Fri, Mar 24, 2006

Ben Domenech

The Ben Domenech plagiarism trainwreck is summarized nicely by hilzoy at Obsidian Wings. (The discovery of an entire column ripped out of a PJ O’Rourke book is the icing on the cake.) The two most entertaining things written about it so far are, first, the in-the-bunker defences being rolled out at RedState, and second, this comment at Sadly No! No matter how brief Ben’s Post gig was, it’s still going to look good on his (Ctrl)C (Ctrl)V … A couple of years ago I wrote a post about kinds of plagiarism by college students: Like hepatitis, plagiarism comes in several varieties.
Thu, Mar 23, 2006

Locked Out

Several good books dealing with the American penal system and its effects on other aspects of American society are slated to appear this year. The first of them has just been published. Locked Out, by Jeff Manza and Chris Uggen examines the consequences of felon disenfranchisement laws for political participation and electoral outcomes. As might be expected, the United States puts much stronger restrictions than most Western countries on the voting rights of those currently imprisoned, on parole or probation, as well as on those who have served their sentences.
Tue, Mar 21, 2006

SWAT Teams and Cory Maye Again

The BBC are running a story about SWAT raids. The hook is the case of Dr Salvatore Culosoi, a Virginia doctor who was under investigation for illegal gambling. Culosi was unarmed, had no history of violent behavior, and threatened no-one during the raid. He was shot dead by a police officer. A striking statistic from the article is that the number of SWAT raids per year has increased from 3,000 in the 1980s to “at least 40,000 per year” now.
Tue, Mar 7, 2006

Official Secrets

I’ve been rereading some Weber for an article I’m writing, and while taking a break from it came across this story about the administration going after journalists: The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources. The efforts include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.
Mon, Mar 6, 2006

Evangelicals and Democrats

Amy Sullivan writes about the prospect of the Democratic party recruiting evangelical or conservative Christians. Kevin Drum comments I have to confess that I’ve always been skeptical of the notion that liberals should spend much time trying to get the Christian evangelical community on our side. When push comes to shove, they just care way more about sex and “moral degeneracy” than they do about helping the poor or taking care of the environment, and that means that outreach efforts are ultimately doomed to failure.
Sun, Feb 19, 2006

How a Stupid Bill becomes a Law

A bill presently working its way through the state legislature here in Arizona proposes that universities and colleges be required to “provide a student with alternative coursework if the student deems regular coursework to be personally offensive,” that is, where “a course, coursework, learning material or activity is personally offensive if it conflicts with the student’s beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.” The Arizona Daily Star and Inside Higher Ed have more.
Thu, Feb 16, 2006

Oh Yeah, Except for Them, Obviously

Alan Schussman reads the letters to our school newspaper, the Daily Wildcat, so I don’t have to. The context is an effort by Republican state legislators to require that a U.S. flag be displayed in every public school and university classroom. Tucson Democrat Ted Downing responded that “This is not the proper way to bestow patriotism. If we want we should spend more on teaching American history.” Today in the letters to the editor a number of University of Arizona students provide evidence that he might be right.
Tue, Feb 14, 2006

Turnabout is Fair Play II

Accidents happen. But the various responses (official and unofficial) being put forth on Cheney’s behalf get ever more weird. They include: (1) Whittington didn’t get a shotgun blast in the face, he was merely peppered with a pellet gun. (2) Cheney has paid his seven bucks. (This seems to be the only official response from the Vice President’s office so far.) (3) No need for a statement from Cheney saying he feels terrible about what happened, because Whittington has already accepted responsibility for the accident.
Sun, Feb 12, 2006

Veep Fiction

CNN reports: Cheney accidentally shoots fellow hunter. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion [Harry Whittington, a millionaire attorney from Austin] during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, spraying the fellow hunter in the face and chest with shotgun pellets. I have an image in my mind of what the standoff was like. Cheney is grimacing. Whittington is staring down the barrel of a pellet-loaded shotgun. Cheney: Wanna know what I’m buyin’ Ringo?
Sat, Feb 11, 2006

The Papers Continue Fatuous

Matt Yglesias and the Poorman have already pointed out what a staggeringly stupid contribution Andrew Sullivan recently made in the wake of the Great Cartoon Debacle. But something that boneheaded may need more than one or two blows of the mallet in order to crack. Sullivan is appalled to see the head of Hezbollah threatening to “defend our prophet with our blood, not our voices,” as if threats of violence like this were anything new from that department.
Tue, Feb 7, 2006

Good Old John Lott

Don Luskin may be the stupidest man alive, but this is small beer compared to John Lott, whose career strives to maximize a three-variable function defined by stupidity, error and sheer bad faith. Whenever you think there are regions of this space that he could not possibly explore further, he proves you wrong.
Wed, Feb 1, 2006

Human-Animal Hybrids

Catching up with the talk about the State of the Union address, I noticed the President’s complaints about “human-animal hybrids” have attracted some commentary. P.Z. Myers pointed out that scientists are working toward producing a model system for Down Syndrome (i.e. a genetically-engineered mouse with human genes), and that this might further understanding of the condition in people—a worthwhile goal. But we should bear in mind that there’s already a real, live human-animal hybrid creature in widespread use today.
Thu, Jan 19, 2006

Radical Professors Exposed, Woo

Eugene Volokh is already on this, but I caught a segment on the radio about the UCLAProfs.com, the site founded by some recent political science grad “dedicated to exposing UCLA’s most radical professors,” people who are engaged in “brainwashing” their students, an activity described as “about as hard as shooting fish in a barrel.” The idea that professors exert a vise-like grip on the pliable minds of their students is a dubious one at best.
Tue, Jan 3, 2006

Mark Schmitt on abuse of executive power

Mark Schmitt provides some historical context for the current wiretapping scandal, and reminds us of the main practical reasons why allowing the President to circumvent the law is a bad idea: Roughly speaking, there have been four great showdowns over abuse of executive power in modern U.S. history. … These episodes have certain themes in common. Yes, one of them is that they were all hatched in the first term of Republican presidencies and revealed only after reelection, but that’s not the answer I’m looking for.
Wed, Dec 21, 2005

Posner forgets himself

Earlier this month, Judge Richard Posner wrote a brutal opinion (accompanied by some entertaining oral argument) savaging the Bureau of Immigration Appeals for its capricious decision-making process, its inability to keep track of paperwork, and its willingness to dump the consequences of its ineptitude onto the people it passes judgement on—in this case by deporting them for no good reason. “We are not required to permit [the unlucky victim] Benslimane to be ground to bits in the bureaucratic mill against the will of Congress,” he said.
Wed, Dec 21, 2005

Posner forgets himself again

A commenter in our previous post points to this chat session with Posner, hosted by the Washington Post. Besides forgetting everything he ever learned about public choice theory, Posner also seems to have abandoned the cost-benefit methods which made him famous. He is now convinced that radical uncertainty is not amenable to probabilistic analysis: Question: … Nothing in the Constitution does (or could) provide a guarantee of safety. I suspect that I am statistically much more at risk of being run over by a car than of being killed by a terrorist (even though I live within five miles of the White House).
Mon, Dec 19, 2005

Spying at Home

End-of-semester stuff has been piling up—Who knew that there was a well known social theorist named Marx Weber? Or that he developed the idea of the Protastic Ethic?—which means that I haven’t had enough time to digest the NYT report that President Bush secretly authorized the NSA to spy on Americans without any legal oversight, or reactions to it. But from a quick perusal, it seems like both the Administration’s rationale and the response from supporters online is essentially the same as the effort to justify the arbitrary detention and torture of people (including U.S.
Thu, Dec 15, 2005

Iraq Votes

Iraqis vote for their first post-Saddam, full-term parliament today. As I write this it’s just before 7am in Arizona, but I’m sure some warbloggers are already up and about, compiling evidence of indifference to freedom and democracy amongst anti-war types. My own view on the long-term prospects hasn’t changed much since last January’s elections. If the goal is a viable multi-party democracy, then in the short-term the election should be free and fair with a clear winning coalition, which ideally would then lose the next election and peacefully hand over power.
Thu, Nov 17, 2005

John Murtha Tells it Straight

John Murtha says get out of Iraq now. C&L has the video, which has a lot more powerful commentary in addition to the content of the statement. Personally, I’d like to see Dick Cheney tell Murtha (who spent 37 years of his career in the Marine Corps) to his face that he’s losing his memory, or his backbone.
Wed, Nov 9, 2005


The Kansas Board of Education has approved new standards that mandate the teaching of “Intelligent Design” (which I’ve always thought should be called Paleyontology) in science classrooms. According to CNN, in addition to mandating that students be told that some basic Darwinian ideas “have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology,” the board also decided to help themselves to a bit more, too: In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.
Sun, Nov 6, 2005

Libertarian Litmus Test

Over at Volokh, the puppy blood is flying again. This time, it’s Juan Non-Volokh who defends America’s network of secret, overseas torture centers against the vicious charge that they resemble Soviet gulags: I would like to underline my ultimate position: Not every mass murder is comparable to the Holocaust. By the same token, not every secret detention is comparable to the Gulag. In my view, the overuse of such comparisons undermines our ability to recognize the varying magnitudes of various evils.
Mon, Oct 24, 2005

My Kind of Gamble

I’ll leave it to John Q to comment on the upcoming Bernanke era at the Fed. But the New York Times article about his appointment is funny: White House Gamble Pays for a Princeton Professor Even before President Bush named Ben S. Bernanke as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers this spring, Mr. Bernanke decided to gamble. He sold his home in New Jersey last year and told friends that, instead of returning to a tenured professorship at Princeton University, he was taking a chance that President Bush would elevate him from obscurity as a Federal Reserve governor to a top political appointment.
Wed, Oct 19, 2005

Same Sex Marriage Breakdown

Since my earlier post about it, Maggie Gallagher’s guest appearance at the Volokh Conspiracy has taken a rapid turn for the worse. She keeps putting up scattershot posts that resolutely fail to engage with any of the reasonable questions and criticisms an increasingly exasperated group of commenters have repeatedly offered her. It irritates the commenters no end that she begins posts with phrases like “Let me clarify” and then doesn’t clear anything up.
Thu, Oct 6, 2005


Last week I said I didn’t know anything about Harriet Miers, but figured that while she would certainly be a staunch Bush loyalist, she would likely not be incompetent or a pushover. I think now I was being a bit optimistic, or at least not precise enough. I still think Miers isn’t an incompetent pushover, in the narrow sense that she’s probably pretty good at the job she currently occupies. It’s just that she has no real qualifications at all for a position on the Supreme Court, and there’s no getting around that.
Wed, Sep 28, 2005

Left vs Right Pt CCLXI

Via Volokh we come across the latest in a long line of nonsense about whether the left or the right has a monopoly on virtue x or vice y. (Surely that should be vice x. Never mind.) This time it’s Ann Althouse chancing her arm: To be a great artist is inherently right wing. A great artist like Dylan or Picasso may have some superficial, naive, lefty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.
Wed, Sep 21, 2005

Selecting Future Moms

David Goldenberg at Gelf Magazine has a copy of the survey that Louise Story conducted as the basis for her irritating article about Ivy League women and their plans for motherhood. Doing a reliable survey is hard, and by far the two biggest difficulties are sample selectivity (when the probability of participation is related to the outcome you want to measure: this a very tricky problem) and poor design of questions (where you look for what you want to find).
Mon, Sep 19, 2005

Moondoggle Returns

In passing the other day, I mentioned the Moondoggle. This is the idea floated early last year that NASA might return to the moon and build a base there, for no particular reason. At the time I thought it was just a failed trial balloon that rose out of Karl Rove’s head. But several commenters said that in fact it was alive and well, and now I see the BBC reports that 2020 has been set as the date NASA will triumphantly return to 1969—er, I mean, the moon.
Fri, Sep 16, 2005

Tax and Spend. Or Just Spend

About a year and a half ago, the White House floated the moondoggle. Remember that? Casting about for some legacy or other, Karl Rove came up with the idea of a permanent base on the moon. (And a pony.) At the time I wondered whether the initiative would be funded by a series of aggressive tax cuts. After the President’s speech yesterday, it’s clear that while the moon is no more (so to speak), the payment plan for Katrina-cleanup is the same.
Sat, Sep 3, 2005

"This is all the perspective you need!"

Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera resist Sean Hannity’s efforts to spin the scale of the disaster and, in particular, the suffering caused by clear, continuing failures of organization. Smith, especially, was working hard to stay calm and focused on relaying the conditions in front of him—he seemed like he wanted to reach through his camera, throttle Hannity and shout “Can’t you see what’s happening here?”
Sat, Sep 3, 2005

DHS selling Bullshit; CNN not Buying

CNN reports, in uncharacteristically blunt terms on Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff’s efforts to exonerate his agency. Defending the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur. But in fact, government officials, scientists and journalists have warned of such a scenario for years. … He called the disaster “breathtaking in its surprise.” But engineers say the levees preventing this below-sea-level city from being turned into a swamp were built to withstand only Category 3 hurricanes.
Fri, Sep 2, 2005

The Drowned and the Saved

Alan Schussman takes a first look at the social ecology of the flooded areas of New Orleans: The flood area has a population of about 380,000. Here’s how it compares to national numbers [from the 2000 census]: median HH income % black % poverty % owns home % private trans. % public trans. US $ 41,994 12.1 12.3 66.2 87.9 4.7 Flood area $ 29,854 66.8 26.9 50.6 79.0 13.0 These real numbers should be part of the discussion of why so many people didn’t get out of town.
Thu, Sep 1, 2005

Social Disasters

I’ve written before about the sociological dimension of disasters—the fact that natural disasters are never wholly natural, because some kinds of people will be more likely to suffer and die than others, depending on how life is organized when the disaster hits. As everyone knows, social order is under severe pressure in New Orleans at the moment, and the media coverage is slowly coming around to analyzing the differential impact of the disaster.
Thu, Sep 1, 2005

Social Disasters II

According to AP, this photo shows a man covering the body of a man who died—apparently in a chair—on Thursday outside the convention center in New Orleans. The baby in his arms looks to be about three or four months old. I wonder whether she has any milk to drink. Plenty of people are saying this already, but the situation in New Orleans and the surrounding areas is just unbelievable, and the official response thus far is pretty appalling.
Mon, Aug 22, 2005

Why does Chuck Hagel hate America?

Chuck Hagel, the Republican U.S. Senator from Nebraska, this morning: Hagel scoffed at the idea that U.S. troops could be in Iraq four years from now at levels above 100,000, a contingency for which the Pentagon is preparing. “We should start figuring out how we get out of there,” Hagel said on “This Week” on ABC. “But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East.
Fri, Aug 19, 2005

Kinds of Quagmires II

Orin Kerr, Ted and Kevin Drum think about options for the future in Iraq and the likelihood of various outcomes. Kevin says, I happen to think a timed withdrawal is probably the best bet left to us, although I admit that I suspect Iraq is going to end up in chaos no matter what we do. That would be a disaster, but if we can’t stop it anyway there’s no point in making things worse by staying.
Thu, Jul 28, 2005

IRA says its armed campaign is over

The IRA has announced that its armed campaign is over. Slugger O’Toole is a good place to go to get a roundup of reactions and analysis. The second-guessing and tealeaf-reading is well underway already. Here’s the first part of the statement: The leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign. This will take effect from 4pm this afternoon.â¨â¨All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms.
Wed, Jul 20, 2005

The Moor by a Length

Via Gillian Russell I see that the results of the BBC’s “Greatest Philosopher” poll are in. The winner—with 28 percent of the vote, more than twice the share of the philosopher in second-place—was Karl Marx. David Hume is next (just over 12 percent) and Wittgenstein third (6.8 percent). If you are upset that your favorite philosopher didn’t win, why not listen to Randy Newman’s The World isn’t Fair, which also has a lot of useful information about Marx.
Thu, Jul 14, 2005

One Week On

London and many other places will observe two minutes of silence at noon GMT today for the victims of last week’s bombings. The debate has already begun (see below) about the right political and legal response to the attacks. Besides policy and law, though, Britain and Ireland have suffered long enough from terrorism to have produced literature about it. Below I reproduce a powerful poem from the late James Simmons. It commemorates one of the earliest, and worst, atrocities of the Northern Ireland conflict, the IRA bombing of Claudy town in July of 1972.
Fri, Jun 24, 2005

Early Draft of the Kelo opinion surfaces

An anonymous correspondent (signing himself only as “The Moor”) sends me a snippet from what he assures me is a section of the majority opinion in Kelo vs New London that was cut at the last minute: You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths.
Thu, Apr 21, 2005

Perpetual is as Perpetual Does

From a WP story about the conclave: Although the cardinals swore an oath of perpetual secrecy about what occurred in the conclave, many began to talk about it on Wednesday. I know it’s impossible to properly conceive of eternity within the finitute of the human mind, but you’d think the Cardinals might have done better than “about 24 hours after the Conclave.” Still, the article is worth a read for its glimpse of the politics of the Church at its highest levels.
Wed, Apr 13, 2005

My Health-Care Co-Pay

Everyone else is talking about health care this week, so here’s a reprise of an old post of mine. Below is a figure showing the relationship between the “Publicness” of the health system and the amount spent on health care per person per year. Data points are each country’s mean score on these measures for the years 1990 to 2001. You can also get a nicer PDF version of this figure.
Sun, Apr 10, 2005

Confidential Business Proposal

Dear Sir, I know this letter will come as a surprise to you, but suffice to say I got your email from a contact at the Department of the Treasury, who assured me that you are capable and reliable to assist me in this transaction. Before I go into details, I will first introduce myself to you. I am Mr. Joseph Abudulkarim Adisa, associate to TOM NOE, who is a prominent figure in the governing party of OHIO and Chairman of the U.S.
Mon, Apr 4, 2005

Berkeley's Idealism

Brad DeLong gets a mild case of pundit’s fallacy as he reacts to the news that Ben Bernanke will head the CEA: … the first thing that Ben should do is to make a stand on a technical-but-vital issue where the CEA should have made its stand: get the Bush administration to reduce the clawback real interest rate on its proposed private accounts from 3% plus inflation to a floating rate equal to the U.S.
Fri, Apr 1, 2005

The Minuteman Project

Here in Tucson, people are watching with interest—and some trepidation—as volunteers for the Minuteman Project roll in to Tombstone (yes, it really exists—and it’s even cheesier than you imagine), about seventy miles southeast of town. I’m not sure why they’re rallying there rather than in Sierra Vista or Bisbee, which are a lot closer to the border. There’s a lot of very open land down there, and of course plenty of border-crossing going on—and a lot of other legitimate activity besides.
Sun, Mar 27, 2005

At this Point I am Beyond Surprise

“The patient then was a 65-year-old drilling contractor, badly injured in a freak accident at his home. … In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus to let his father die. … Doctors advised that he would ‘basically be a vegetable,’ said the congressman’s aunt, JoAnne DeLay.” The product liability lawsuit that followed, a class of tort which DeLay later described as “frivolous [and] parasitic,” and sponsored a bill to outlaw, would be like an added bonus if this whole thing wasn’t so sad and wrong.
Thu, Mar 24, 2005

Storming the Hospice

Bloggers with more patience than me have been dealing with the tragic story of Terri Schiavo. Lindsay Beyerstein has been especially good. It’s clear that the Republican position on Schiavo is sheer grandstanding and hypocritical to boot. There’s plenty of evidence for this, what with President Bush’s signature on the Texas Futile Care Law and Bill Frist’s statements about Christopher Reeve and his support for harvesting organs from anencephalic children. And never mind the broader policy context where the fiscal means whereby people might support patients in persistent vegetative states—via Medicare and bankruptcy protection—are being hacked away.
Sun, Mar 20, 2005

The Schiavo Case

A must-read from Digby. She says, in part: By now most people who read liberal blogs are aware that George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient’s family’s wishes. It is called the Texas Futile Care Law. Under this law, a baby was removed from life support against his mother’s wishes in Texas just this week.
Fri, Mar 18, 2005

George Kennan

Via Dan Drezner, news that George Kennan has died. The last time I came across him intervening in public life was in March of 2003 in a letter to the Washington Post. Here it is: I am extremely concerned about the shameful, almost total passivity of Congress during the period of preparations for our military attack on Iraq. (I recognize as exceptions Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s noble statement in the Senate [In Brief, March 20] and the belated but vigorous statements of Sen.
Tue, Mar 15, 2005

Needles Under the Nails

The effort to normalize torture proceeds on two fronts. The first comes up with scenarios where torture seems justified—the ticking bomb case that we know and love. As we know, real torture never meets the criteria that even seemingly reasonable ticking-bomb hypos demand. The scenario depends on the prospective torturer knowing everything relevant about the circumstances except one thing (viz, the location of the bomb and the time it will explode), which the suspect knows, and we know they know.
Mon, Mar 14, 2005


Two good posts on the continuing slide towards routinized and euphemized torture by the U.S., one at Body and Soul and one at Respectful of Otters. Jim Henley notes a couple of recent domestic crime cases where the obvious suspects turned out not to have done it, asking “Couldnât we have tortured the “right” people into confessing to both these crimes?” (That real-estate arson last year in Maryland was in that category, too.) Meanwhile, Juan Non-Volokh tries to talk himself into it through the latest version of the ticking bomb objection.
Mon, Feb 28, 2005

Life Imitating Art

Rep Sam Johnson, the other day: Speaking at a veterans’ celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas….Johnson said he told the president that night, “Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on ‘em and I’ll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore.” Randy Newman, some years ago: No one likes us I don’t know why We may not be perfect But heaven knows we try But all around even our old friends put us down Let’s drop the big one and see what happens We give them money But are they grateful?
Mon, Feb 21, 2005

Followup on Tal Afar

More correspondence, this time from a soldier stationed in Iraq who saw my recent post about the terrible shooting in Tal Afar. I should say that I can’t verify the identify of my correspondent, but I have no reason to doubt what he says about himself. Before I even start to explain my motives for writing I must say that I am very left leaning, and completely opposed to the war in Iraq.
Thu, Feb 10, 2005

Me and Christopher Hitchens

Michael Totten recounts his night out with Christopher Hitchens and a couple of Iraqis that they talked to. Some of the latter weren’t too happy. Totten reflects: Maybe there was no way to avoid the tension wrought by invasion and occupation, and the air just had to be cleared. Perhaps our Iraqi guests … really didn’t (and don’t) completely understand how we differ from the colonialists and imperialists of the past.
Thu, Feb 3, 2005

Roosevelt and Bush

In the conclusion to his state of the union address last night, President Bush invoked Franklin Roosevelt’s words from his second inaugural: “each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth.” Here’s a bit more from that speech by FDR: Instinctively we recognized a deeper need-the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization.
Sun, Jan 30, 2005

Prospects for Iraqi Democracy

The Iraqi elections have gone off successfully, in the sense that the turnout was good and the violence relatively contained. That’s very good news. Now comes the hard business of establishing a real government. I’m sympathetic with John’s view that it might not be such a bad thing if the U.S. took a “Declare Victory and Go Home” attitude, even though that’s one of the scenarios people were most worried by before the invasion.
Fri, Jan 14, 2005

Don't Mention the War

I’m in Ireland at the moment, where the much-needed light relief in the news is being provided by Prince Harry and his Nazi Uniform. I’m less familiar with the ecology of royal commentary than I used to be, so it’s harder to sort out the toadies from the critics from the critics who are really toadies and vice versa. Happily, Sarah Ferguson has intervened today to clarify thing, saying that “It is time for the press to back off.
Wed, Dec 15, 2004

Identity Politics for All

Two posts sit side-by-side at the Volokh conspiracy at the moment. In one, Eugene Volokh updates a post making fun of some women protesting about not being picked for parts in a production of The Vagina Monologues: Auditions Are So Patriarchal: Early this year, I blogged about a controversy related to The Vagina Monologues, in a post titled “Life Imitates The Onion.” An excerpt: … In flyers handed out to audience members at the show, University graduate Nicole Sangsuree Barrett wrote that while there was “diversity” in the show, it was minimal.
Tue, Dec 7, 2004

Invading the Moon

Continuing the debate about preventive war begun by Judge Richard Posner (the discussion was begun by him, I mean, not the war) the Medium Lobster presents a competing analysis: [T]the probability of an attack from the moon is less than one – indeed, it is miniscule. However, the potential offensive capabilities of a possible moon man invasion could be theoretically staggering. … The Medium Lobster has calculated this probability to be 5×10^9^.
Sat, Dec 4, 2004

Draft Contribution to Tech Central Station

So, there appear to be no explicit arguments in the peer-reviewed scientific literature against the consensus position that, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it, “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.” The Tech Central Station Op-Eds rebutting this finding must be in the hopper even now.
Fri, Dec 3, 2004

Freedom on the March

The news services report the latest effort by legal officials of the U.S. Government to get Americans to agree that the use of torture by the military is no big deal: WASHINGTON —U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of foreigners as enemy combatants are allowed to use evidence gained by torture in deciding whether to keep them imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the government conceded in court Thursday. The acknowledgment by Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle came during a U.S.
Tue, Nov 23, 2004


Kevin Drum writes: LAKOFF FRAMING…. it’s finally time for me to get a copy of George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant, which appears to be something of a Bible among despairing liberals who can’t believe that half the country likes George Bush and apparently doesn’t like us. Basically, Lakoff says we need to get our act together and “frame” our arguments in more positive ways … Although I know (and like) his work on Metaphor, I’ve only seen Lakoff’s stuff on this at one remove or more—snippets on TV shows here and there, and talk in newspapers and blogs.
Fri, Nov 19, 2004

Further Analysis of Electronic Voting Patterns

Mike Hout and some colleagues at Berkeley have a working paper called “The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections”. A summary is also available as well as the data itself. They try to estimate whether the presence of touch-screen electronic voting made a difference to the number of votes cast for Bush, controlling for various demographic characteristics of the counties as well as the proportion of votes cast for the Republican Presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000.
Sat, Nov 6, 2004

Religion and Social Justice

Mark Schmitt asks a good question: The right question, I think, is not whether religion has an undue influence, but why it is that the current flourishing of religious faith has, for the first time ever, virtually no element of social justice? Why is its public phase so exclusively focused on issues of private and personal behavior? Is this caused by trends in the nature of religious worship itself? Is it a displacement of economic or social pressures?
Fri, Nov 5, 2004

Moral Values Again

Jim Henley expresses some skepticism about the post election analysis saying that the Democrats need to do more about moral values if they want to win the next election: [I’m] calling qualified bullshit on the suddenly popular notion that liberals need to come up with “a plausible spiel on morality,” essentially dressing their existing beliefs in the language of religion so as to reach Christians who currently vote Republican … Among other things, this will raise conservative-Christian comfort levels with liberal politicians and make liberal policies attractive in the terms with which said voters view the world.
Thu, Nov 4, 2004

Red Counties, Blue Counties and Occupied Counties

Via Pandagon I see that Michelle Malkin smugly presents us with a map (from USA Today) showing the apparently overwhelming predominance of Bush-supporting counties in the United States. That’s the top panel in the figure below. Looks like the GOP is overwhelmingly dominant, eh? Well, no, of course. It takes about ten seconds on Google to find the bottom panel of the figure, which shows you about how many people live in each county.
Wed, Nov 3, 2004

Moral Values

What were the most important issues for voters in the election? If you were reading the polls, and listening to the media chatter before the election, the answer would have seemed clear: Iraq or the War on Terror and the state of the economy. In news coverage of the campaign, in the Presidential debates and in the blogosphere blather, the election was fought on these issues. But from about 10pm last night onwards, and increasingly so this morning, commentators suddenly started talking about the importance of moral values in the campaign.
Sun, Oct 31, 2004

Redskins Lose!

In every Presidential election-year since 1936, if the Washington Redskins lost their last game before the election, the incumbent lost as well. In today’s game, the Packers beat Washington 28 – 14. A late rally by the Redskins in the 4th Quarter couldn’t save them. This is the strongest spurious evidence yet that Kerry’s going to win on Tuesday.
Thu, Oct 21, 2004

In Cambodia, I imagine

David Post complains that John Kerry was not at the game to see the Red Sox beat the Yankees: AND WHERE WAS JOHN? … I’m surprised that there hasn’t been much talk about why we didn’t see Kerry at any of the games. He’s the junior senator from Massachusetts; he’s got a bona fide reason to snap his fingers, get the front row seats, put on his sox cap and jacket, and root like an ordinary human being.
Fri, Oct 15, 2004

Oh, the Humanity

Ted beat me to this, mostly. But I wanted to say this: I’m sure if we trawl through our 1990s archives we’ll find that the high-minded and their lofty correspondents Reader Keith Rempel gets at the heart of what’s wrong here, and articulates what I couldn’t: “Kerry was using Cheney’s daughter to harm her father. … ANOTHER UPDATE: “More thoughts here: ‘thou shall NOT speak of another’s kid in any way that could POSSIBLY be construed as negative’ … MORE: … James Somers emails: “Kerry crassly exploited Cheney’s daughter for use against Bush and thus, by extension, Cheney.
Thu, Oct 14, 2004

Marrying Up

Over at Volokh, recent addition Jim Lindgren is making me regret once more their loss of Jacob Levy. Here he is complaining about the supposedly appalling moderator bias that caused Bush to lose last night’s debate (again): Given Theresa (“no blood for oil”) Heinz Kerry, the only hard question John Kerry got all night was “I’d like to ask each of you, what is the most important thing you’ve learned from these strong women?“—and Kerry got to listen to Bush’s answer first.
Tue, Oct 5, 2004

My First is in Quick, but not in Thick

David Brooks today: Every few weeks I hear about a new twist in American strategy or tactics. It always seems promising, but conditions don’t improve. On the other hand, officials in this administration don’t have a thought in their heads about not sticking this out. I know there’s a word for this. Just give me a minute and it’ll come to me. Alternatively, the CT time machine can bring us back to last September: The U.S.’s day-to-day problems in Iraq may end up resembling Northern Ireland rather than Vietnam: car bombings, political assassinations, a general effort by terrorists to violently undermine civil society and resist the occupying power.
Sat, Oct 2, 2004

He's Baaack! And He's Shrillllll!

Tom Friedman returns in his new guise as Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief Sassanian Senmurv’s Sub-Deaconry Baldachin Polisher in the Noble, Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill: Sorry, I’ve been away writing a book. I’m back, so let’s get right down to business: We’re in trouble in Iraq. I don’t know what is salvageable there anymore. … This war has been hugely mismanaged by this administration, in the face of clear advice to the contrary at every stage, and as a result the range of decent outcomes in Iraq has been narrowed and the tools we have to bring even those about are more limited than ever.
Wed, Sep 29, 2004

Education and Terror

Belle below and Edward at Obsidian Wings have already said most of what needs saying about Prof. Martin Kozloff’s fear- and hate-filled letter. I knew people like Prof. Kozloff in Ireland, where terrorist groups in the North spent twenty-five years or so plumbing the depths of pointless, evil violence. But frustration is not a strategy. It’s easy to give in to blind anger, but if you don’t follow it up with any tangible action it’s just political onanism, and if, God help you, you do follow through then you just find yourself in the same boat as the people you despise.
Fri, Sep 24, 2004

Lead on, David Brooks

On CNN’s Newsnight last night, David Brooks took his favorite rhetorical trope—that there are two kinds of people in the world—to its realpolitik conclusions: You’ve got to have a political strategy and you’ve got to have a military strategy. … You’ve got to use our Iraqis, the Iraqis who want a democratic Iraq to give them something concrete, win them over. But then you’ve got to have a military strategy too and those are the people who, like Zarqawi, who just want to spread death and destruction.
Tue, Sep 21, 2004

The Condition of the Working Class in Manchester (and New England)

Snippet of a conversation with a student from my Sources of Social Theory class: Student: I just wanted to be sure I understood the Engels reading. Me: OK. Student: I mean, I think I got it—like, he went to Manchester and it was totally gross and everything, right? Me: That’s about right, I suppose. And speaking of class warfare, consider the headlines from these two stories, nestled next to each other in the Times right now: U.S.
Fri, Sep 10, 2004

Dick Cheney on Employment

By now you’ve probably read this story about what Dick Cheney said yesterday: Indicators measure the nation’s unemployment rate, consumer spending and other economic milestones, but Vice President Dick Cheney says it misses the hundreds of thousands who make money selling on eBay. “That’s a source that didn’t even exist 10 years ago,” Cheney told an audience in Ohio. “Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay.” John Edwards said this morning that “If we only included bake sales and how much money kids make at lemonade stands, this economy would really be cooking.” I see three possible responses from Cheney.
Wed, Sep 8, 2004

Secrets of the Bush Presidency

As Kitty Kelly’s hatchet-job on the Bush family nears publication, lots of people are linking to these additional revelations about George W. Bush by the Poorman. And you know what? So am I, because they’re great. Go read, especially if you are a staff writer for the Kerry campaign.
Tue, Sep 7, 2004

Your Alan Keyes Moment of the Day

Alan Keyes said today that “Christ would not vote for Barack Obama,” apparently because Obama is pro-choice. But clearly the reason that Jesus would not vote for Obama is that there is just no way He would move from California to Illinois in the first place.
Mon, Sep 6, 2004

Afflicting the Comfortable

A number of journalists have gotten upset this week over the fact that my uncle Seán was invited to address the parliamentary meeting of Fianna Fáil, the main coalition partner in the Irish government. Together with a small group of like-minded people, Seán’s been responsible for building an organization devoted to social policy analysis in Ireland. He started twenty-odd years ago, when the country’s financial management was on the verge of being handed over to the IMF, unemployment was running at about fifteen percent and pretty much no-one outside the civil service was doing much in the way of policy analysis.
Wed, Sep 1, 2004

Wibbly Wobbly

Zell ‘I am a Democrat because we are the party of hope’ Miller says John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure. Except maybe that guy who delivered Clinton’s keynote a decade or so ago and is delivering Bush’s now. What’s his name again? Miller could have used some bits of the Bush Twins Speech to better effect than they did. “And as to my fifty year career in the Democratic Party … Well, when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible!” Would’ve played much better.
Mon, Aug 23, 2004

Pleasant Surprise

This morning I cut myself while shaving. It was just a superficial wound, but as I was coming out of the bathroom the doorbell rang and there was this army officer in full dress uniform at the door. He presented me with a Purple Heart. I expressed some surprise but he just said “Standard medal-issuing procedure, Sir,” adding that his job had been made much easier by “the new Homeland Security Surveillance Cameras.” I asked him did he want to come in for a cup of coffee, but he said he had to run down to Number 27 to award a Silver Star to a woman who’d just caught the pancake-batter bowl before it went all over the kitchen floor.
Sat, Aug 21, 2004

Swift Boat Bloggers for Denying the Bleedin' Obvious

David Adesnik posts here and here about the whole Swift Boat Veterans thing. The posts are funny: I still haven’t gotten to the heart of the matter, which is who is telling the truth, the Vets or the Times. … While it is hard to trust anyone’s memories of events that happened thirty-five years ago, it is extremely hard to trust such memories when they’re coming form individuals who had different memories of the same events quite recently … contemporary records confirm Kerry’s account and Louis Letson, the army doctor who says Kerry lied, admits that “I guess you’ll have to take my word for it” … According to Larry Thurlow, one of the Swift Vets who witnessed the events in question, there was no enemy fire.
Wed, Jun 30, 2004

In Order to Destroy the Village, We had to Sue it

Eugene Volokh gravely considers the danger that a number of people designated by the government as enemy combatants—or rather, a number of Al Qaeda agents, or rather, 50,000 alleged enemy soliders of some foreign power—might avail of Rasul v Bush and file an avalanche of habeas corpus writs claiming they aren’t really enemy soldiers.[1] Thus, he fears, one of the fundamental tenets of the rule of law, affirmed this week by the Supreme Court, becomes a deadly weapon in the hands of our litigious enemies.
Wed, Jun 23, 2004

Big Dog bites Man

You should watch David Dimbleby’s interview with Bill Clinton. After a bunch of Monica questions, Clinton ticks Dimbleby off for being just like every other journalist who were—how to put it?—so obsessed with Lewinsky’s blowjobs that they didn’t realize how they were helping Ken Starr to screw people. (Jump to 28:25 or so in the interview to see this). Dimbo looks a bit shocked: Clinton: Let me just say this. One of the reasons he [Kenneth Starr] got away with it is because people like you only ask me the questions.
Sat, Jun 12, 2004

Eugene Volokh hits the Eject Button

Eugene Volokh says he’s not going to comment about the torture memo, which has already been discussed in detail by a number of well-known law bloggers. Eugene says he doesn’t want to talk about it partly because it’s outside his main areas of legal expertise, but mostly because he finds the topic not just difficult but also sickening. Torture is disgusting. … Does the need to save people’s lives justify torturing suspects?
Sat, Jun 12, 2004


I know I’m way late with this, but I must have missed it on my travels last month. The Gadflyer brings me the story that the Rev Sun Myung Moon had himself crowned Emporer of the United States and declared the Messiah at a ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in the presence and with the enthusiastic participation of a bipartisan contingent of Members of Congress. No, really. Did this even make the newspapers?
Mon, Jun 7, 2004


For a few years in graduate school I wrote a regular column for the Daily Princetonian, Princeton’s main student newspaper. I got into a bit of trouble once or twice over it, notably for a piece I wrote out of irritation with the local chapter of the Campus Crusade for Christ. I was reminded of this when I learned, via Billmon, of the strong Christian beliefs of General Counsel Mary Walker.
Thu, May 27, 2004

Rumsfeld Speaks

The incomparable Fafblog interviews Donald Rumsfeld: FAFBLOG: Great to have you here Donald Rumsfeld! Lets get right to it an start by askin: what is with this torture thing, and how long have you known about it? DONALD RUMSFELD: Good gosh, that’s a tricky one there. Was it torture? Were detainees indefinitely held for days with bags over their heads? Yes. Were testicles electrocuted? You bet. Were orifices molested, flesh ripped by dogs, and nostils raped?
Mon, May 24, 2004

Compare and Contrast

The front page summary of the lead story on CNN’s US edition reads: In a speech outlining the future for Iraq, President Bush warned Americans there would be “difficult days ahead and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic,” but added: “No power of the enemy will stop Iraq’s progress.” Bush outlined five steps to Iraqi self-government in the first in a series of addresses in the weeks before the handover of power to Iraqis.
Tue, Apr 20, 2004

Botching the Job

Bouncing off of a column by David Brooks, Matt Yglesias and Patrick Nielsen Hayden make the point that supporters of the war can’t run away from the problems of its aftermath just because they personally might have done things differently, because frankly anyone who knew anything about both the Bush administration and the complexities of a war in Iraq could have predicted that it was going to be a mess. That means that post-hoc bellyaching that they didn’t do it my way is a bit beside the point: David Brooks offers the first of what I think will be many retrospective I was wrong but I was right anyway articles.
Thu, Mar 18, 2004

2 Bed, 1 Bath, Appalling Vista, £3,000/year

Can someone in the UK confirm the accuracy of this report? (Via Jim Henley.) WHAT do you give someone who’s been proved innocent after spending the best part of their life behind bars, wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit? An apology, maybe? Counselling? Champagne? Compensation? Well, if you’re David Blunkett, the Labour Home Secretary, the choice is simple: you give them a big, fat bill for the cost of board and lodgings for the time they spent freeloading at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in British prisons.
Wed, Mar 17, 2004

From the Irish

It’s St Patrick’s Day, and I’m thinking about terrorism. So here is a poem from James Simmons. From the Irish Most terrible was our hero in battle blows: hands without fingers, shorn heads and toes were scattered. That day there flew and fell from astonished victims eyebrow, bone and entrail, like stars in the sky, like snowflakes, like nuts in May, like a meadow of daisies, like butts from an ashtray.
Mon, Mar 8, 2004

The Gay Divorcee

Divorce was declared illegal in Ireland by the Constitution of 1937. A referendum to repeal the ban was proposed in 1986 and soundly defeated. Almost two-thirds of the electorate voted against it. In November 1995 a second divorce referendum was put to the country. That one passed, by a margin of just over nine thousand votes in a total valid poll of 1.62 million. I had just started graduate school at Princeton that Autumn and remember the slightly frozen expressions of fellow grad students when I told them about the constitutional debate raging at home.
Sat, Feb 28, 2004

Visible Libertarians

I’m trying to remember the source of a quote, and the quote itself—roughly, it says “Individualism is a transitional stage between two kinds of social structure.” It sounds like something Simmel would say, or maybe Amos Hawley. Libertarianism has always seemed to me to depend for its realization on features of the social structure that it officially repuditates. It wouldn’t be the first ideology of which that was true. But I’m not going to defend that idea here.
Wed, Feb 18, 2004

Don't Be Afraid

“Barbara Chamberlain, 79, also of Milwaukee, backed Edwards for the same reason,” the Associated Press reports from Wisconsin, “‘I have hope for him beating you-know-who,’ she said.” Oh come, Barbara, you’ll just have stop living in fear and come out and say it—”Voldemort.” Now, doesn’t that make you feel better?
Tue, Feb 17, 2004

Left-Wing Conspirators

Via Atrios and RMPN I found a beta version of FollowTheNetwork.Org. Apparently the brainchild of David Horowitz, it purports to be “a guide to the political left” and takes the form of a big database of people, funders, media, government and so on. The design of the site suggests that the left is a huge, interconnected web of shadowy figures and money flows. The database entries make for interesting reading. Trawling around in it (note that the site is in beta, so these links may stop working soon) I find that you can “follow the network” for people like these: Troy Duster.
Thu, Feb 5, 2004

The Five Standard Excuses

If I were less tired, I would write a post exploring the applicability, in our post-WMD world, of The Five Standard Excuses for any Failed Government Project described by Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister. I conjecture that some varietal of each of them will be found in talk about Iraq as prior certainties about Saddam’s monstrous armaments evaporate. The excuses are as follows: There is a perfectly satisfactory explanation for everything but security prevents its disclosure.
Wed, Jan 21, 2004

Democracy in America

Tina Fetner waxes Toquevillian about her participation in the Iowa Caucuses: Well, I did it. I participated in the glorious process that is the Iowa Caucus. It was my first time, and I was so excited about this down-home version of participatory democracy. What a pile of crap it turned out to be.
Fri, Jan 9, 2004


An interplanetary trial balloon is floated as the AP reports President Bush “will announce plans next week to send Americans to Mars and establish a permanent human presence on the moon”. “Bush won’t propose sending Americans to Mars anytime soon;” the report says, “rather, he envisions preparing for the mission more than a decade from now.” So it’s not clear whether there will be an explicit JFKlike commitment with a deadline (“The goal, before this decade is out…”) or just increased funding with Mars as the longrange but indefinite target.
Wed, Jan 7, 2004

Coffee Time

A bit late to the David Brooks party, Josh Chafetz of OxBlog seems to be suffering from a clear case of jetlag. Daniel, Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman, Matt Yglesias and Josh Marshall have more on this.
Sat, Jan 3, 2004

Mob Rule at the BBC

The results are in from the “Listeners’ Law” feature on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, where the show’s audience chose between five bills, with Labour MP Stephen Pound agreeing to propose the winner in Parliament. More than 25,000 people voted. The winner was a “proposal to authorise homeowners to use any means to defend their home from intruders.” It won with 37% of the vote. Pound clearly had been bargaining for something a bit more enlightened.
Sun, Dec 21, 2003

Cry me a River

An article in the New York Times reports that the (white) relatives of Strom Thurmond are all upset since (black) Essie Mae Washington-Williams told the world last week that Thurmond was her father. Her mother had been a teenage maid in Thurmond’s household when Strom was in his early twenties. The article doesn’t have much in the way of commentary, but it doesn’t have to because you just have to listen to them damn themselves out of their own mouths.
Tue, Dec 9, 2003

Gore and Dean

According to William Saletan, Al Gore’s influence over people’s hearts and minds is so strong that his endorsement of Howard Dean threatens to undermine the entire democratic process. Because Gore has asked that Democrats fall in behind Dean, victory is assured—at the cost of voters’ rights to express themselves at the polls. With that sort of power at his command, it’s a pity that Gore didn’t think to endorse himself during the 2000 election campaign.
Wed, Dec 3, 2003

Plame Kerfuffle

Although it’s great that Ted and Henry get to point out what’s wrong with the likes of Instapundit’s take on the Plame Vanity Fair story, I’d be much more entertained in a world where Wilson was on the side of the Bushies. Because then all this would have to be part of a cunning plan of appalling subtlety, and I expect we’d be hearing—in hushed but confident tones, delivered via anonymous email correspondents—that the woman in the car was not Valerie Plame at all.
Sat, Nov 22, 2003

In Black and White and Red

What must it be like to see the world from inside David Bernstein’s head? QUOTE OF THE DAY: A London attorney:“You will never change the hearts and minds of terrorists by bombing them.” That’s OK, I’ll settle for their death. I don’t think we changed the hearts and minds of too many Nazis during World War II, either. It must be like living in a Mondrian painting. Seeing as Godwin’s law has already been violated here, let me just point, first, to the famously demoralizing effects of the Blitz on Londoners; and, second, to the fact that the likes of Al Qaeda would happily settle for our deaths, too.
Wed, Nov 19, 2003

Democracy by Example

Like Tim Dunlop I am a little disgusted but not at all surprised to hear that President Bush will not be addressing Parliament on his visit to Britain. According to ABC News, “such a speech could invite the kind of heckling the president received when he spoke to the Australian Parliament last month.” One might have thought that a leader with thicker skin might have told the begrudgers to “Bring it on.” Bush’s aversion to explaining himself to people who might talk back is well known, of course, but it seems insulting to treat the representative body of your staunchest ally in this way.
Sat, Nov 15, 2003

Hypocritical? Moi?

Evidence of a new irregular verb courtesy of an interview with Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America, full-time Washington lobbyist and mother: Would you like to see American products like television shows flourish in Baghdad as well? Oh, no. I hope they don’t show “The Osbournes” over there … Shows like that wouldn’t exist if mothers stayed home with their kids and supervised what they watched. But you yourself are a working mother.
Wed, Nov 12, 2003

Rhetorical Moderation for Thee...

But not for me. David Bernstein today: EGREGIOUS MISUSE OF THE LEGACY OF NAZISM: Soros believes that a “supremacist ideology” guides this White House. He hears echoes in its rhetoric of his childhood in occupied Hungary. … Yes, the Nazis were at war, and the United States is now at war. … What all this has to do with a “supremacist ideology” in today’s U.S. is beyond me, and I’m sure beyond Soros as well.
Wed, Nov 5, 2003

Annals of Premature Accusations

Kevin Drum updates the score in the ongoingdebate between Mann, Bradley and Hughes (climate scientists) and McIntyre and McKitrick (a couple of economists). The latter claim to have re-analyzed data from a famous paper of the former’s on global warming and found numerous errors that, when corrected, make the results go away. The climatologists have responded vigorously, saying that their critics have botched the job. Both sides are preparing further responses at the moment, so the issue is on hold.
Mon, Nov 3, 2003

Janice R. Brown Speaks

While reading Eric Muller’s defence of David Bernstein, I came across another of his posts: Is it just me, or does this speech by Janice R. Brown seem a little, well, unhinged? (Allen Brill has a chronology if you want to know who Janice Brown is.) Several of Muller’s commenters assure him that it’s just him and the speech is “entertaining and thought-provoking.” Clayton Cramer comments that it’s “splendid and thoughtful.” Well, that clinches it for me.
Wed, Oct 22, 2003

Bush Capital Hosts Bush President

Dubya joined me in Canberra last night (in a manner of speaking), but I have yet to see this obvious headline used in any newspapers. Security is tight. F-18s are buzzing overhead. I’m used to that from living in the flight path of Davis-Monthan AFB back in Tucson. There, sorties go out several times a day to further harrass the prickly pears on the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range out in the southwestern part of the state, flying over my department on the way.
Sun, Oct 19, 2003

The Micropolitics of Melbourne Cafe Society

We go into Trotters on Lygon St (highly recommended, by the way). It’s busy, there’s only one free table, and the middle-aged guy next to it has to tidy up the paper he’s annotating so we can sit down. I’m chatting away to my (American) other half, possibly about the talk she gave at Melbourne Uni yesterday. Messy paper guy gets slightly agitated. He takes a few more notes, rummages in his bag and produces a copy of Why Do People Hate America?, apparently on general principle.
Wed, Oct 8, 2003

Big Changes in California

As you’ve probably seen on the news, Mark Kleiman’s blog has moved. Update your blogroll. It just struck me that if all your information about America came from political blogs, you’d think the country was composed mainly of libertarians together with a bloc of right-wing populist-imperialists and a few liberals here and there. But if all your information about California came from political blogs, you’d think the state’s politics must be a model of thoughtful right- and left-leaning commentary, marked by a care for civility, a tendency to moderation and a close attention to detail.
Mon, Oct 6, 2003

Israel Bombs Syria

For the first time since 1973, Israel has attacked targets in Syria. The attacks were in response to the most recent suicide bomb attack in Haifa. According to CNN, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. described the attack as a “measured defensive operation” aimed at destroying a training camp run by Islamic Jihad. Syria denies the camp was a terrorist base. It was certainly inside Syria, though—about 14 miles from Damascus. I don’t have much to say about this, other than to ask whether better-informed people than me think this is going to escalate Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside of Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Thu, Sep 18, 2003

Irregular Verbs

Commenting on the whole Erik Rasmusen thing at Indiana, Dan Drezner and the voice in his head write: … the cure for promulgated ideas that are believed to be offensive or wrong is more speech, not less. … What need there is for a review beyond that is truly beyond me. … [Wait, wait, you forgot the ritual denunciation of Rasmusen’s views on homosexuality.—ed. That’s completely irrelevant to this question. … however, it’s worth highlighting a fact that Louis Menand pointed out in The Metaphysical Club: One of the triggering events for the emergence of academic freedom was when a Stanford University professor was fired for making a speech that contradicted co-founder Jane Stanford’s views on the matter.
Wed, Sep 17, 2003

Rubber Duckies

Jacob Levy revives the debate about the tax system and the poor—or, as the Wall Street Journal called them when it kicked off the argument, those lucky duckies who make up the “non-taxpaying class”. Jacob wants to argue that the underlying form of the WSJ’s argument is very common—indeed, is almost inescapable—in political philosophy. He says it goes as follows: If we subject everyone to the same rules, institutions, or conditions, then there will be political demand to make them fair or otherwise tolerable.
Fri, Sep 12, 2003

Yes, Prime Minister

I’ve just discovered that complete versions of both Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister are available on DVD. On to the wish list they go. And I recommend you follow those links and buy them yourself, too. Question for discussion: Compare and contrast the political culture that gave us this series to the one that produced The West Wing. The Yes Minister website throws up a classic dialog from the show on the value of opinion polls.
Sun, Sep 7, 2003

Right-Wing Postmodernism Again

While we’re over at John Quiggin’s blog, we can add another example to his discussion of right-wing postmodernism. (Thanks to Kevin Drum for having the fortitude to read the Corner.)
Mon, Sep 1, 2003

Kinds of Quagmires

In some quarters, using the word “quagmire” to describe the emerging position of the U.S. in Iraq provokes yells of rage, snarklets of glibness, or even reasoned objections. It’s fair to say that optimists like the OxBloggers have convincingly rebutted the main comparisons that have been made to Vietnam. The United States isn’t going to be losing about a hundred troops a week in an ongoing war of attrition against a dug-in enemy with strong local support.
Thu, Aug 28, 2003

Real and Unreal

David Adesnik doesn’t believe there’s much in the way of Iraqi resistance outside the “Sunni Triangle.” Tacitus disagrees and gives a list of U.S. fatalities. David rebuts him, saying Tacitus most definitely has a good eye for detail, but are ten or so fatalities supposed to persuade me that there is real resistance outside the Sunni Triangle? Well, it’d probably convince the hell out of me if I’d been one of the soldiers killed.
Fri, Aug 8, 2003

Deliberative Democracy and Social Choice

If you’re interested in the relation between deliberative democracy and social choice theory, which Henry has just written about, then you might want to read an interesting and constructive paper by two of my new colleagues here at the RSSS, John Dryzek and Christian List. The paper, “Social Choice Theory and Deliberative Democracy: A Reconciliation” [pdf] just appeared in the British Journal of Political Science. Here’s the abstract: The two most influential traditions of contemporary theorizing about democracy, social choice theory and deliberative democracy, are generally thought to be at loggerheads, in that the former demonstrates the impossibility, instability or meaninglessness of the rational collective outcomes sought by the latter.
Tue, Jul 29, 2003

Frustration is not a Strategy

Kevin Drum reports an exchange he had with Michael Totten. In a TechCentralStation column Michael says “The Palestinian Authority should be given one last chance to eliminate terror.” If they “fail,” the U.S. must classify the PA as a terrorist organization, “Declare ‘regime change’ in the West Bank and Gaza the official United States policy” and basically get rid of everybody: The first phase would not be complete until the enemies of peace are defeated, deported, imprisoned, or killed.
Sat, Jul 26, 2003

Reason, Truth and History

Dan Drezner weighs in about the reasons for the war in Iraq and, in particular, whether a President might be justified in lying to the country in order to invade. Steven Den Beste believes that the nation wasn’t told the real reason for invading, but that the ends justify the means. Josh Marshall thinks that this is unjustifiable. Dan argues as follows: 1) They’re both wrong on the ethical question. Marshall and Den Beste assert deception because they both assume a monocausal argument for why the U.S.
Sat, Jul 19, 2003

Rhetorical Equivalence

Slowly recovering from jetlag here in Canberra, I’ve been catching up with some of the blogchatter about Yellowcake and the infamous sixteen words. I’m struck by a peripheral aspect of the debate. Before the invasion, many anti-war protestors used the slogan “Not In My Name” or something similar. That line was derided by pro-war commentators as epitomising the supposedly self-indulgent or solipsistic attitiude of the anti-war movement. So it’s interesting that, in the wake of the controversy over the State of the Union speech, hawks like Daniel Drezner respond like this: I understand why Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and others are so exercised about the “sixteen little words” meme.
Mon, Jul 7, 2003


Both Armed Liberal and Kevin Drum are bemused and I think a little disgusted by Adam Bellow’s article “In Praise of Nepotism,” which appears in the current issue of The Atlantic. (It isn’t available online.) The Marxist daemon who lives on my left shoulder says with enthusiasm that it would be great if the national myth of meritocracy were replaced by a shameless defence of jobs-for-the-boys. At least it’s more empirically accurate.
Mon, Jun 30, 2003

Watch Closely

Watch closely to see an interesting bit of rhetorical misdirection from Stanley Fish, in his Op-Ed piece in today’s Times. He appears to be rebutting those who think Clarence Thomas acted in bad faith by voting to strike down the kind of Affirmative Action policies Thomas may himself have benefitted from: In fact the opinion is a repudiation of the personal in favor of the principles of justice … [Thomas finds] that the clause forbids discrimination on the basis of race, whether that discrimination is benign or malign in intention … Justice Thomas [is] squarely in a philosophical tradition that begins with Kant’s insistence that questions of justice turn only on abstract considerations of what is right rather than on the calculation of (someone’s) preferred outcomes.
Thu, Jun 26, 2003

Surgical Strike

Bill Frist is damned out of his own mouth, courtesy of some research from Billmon. I guess this is a good example of that “revisionist history” that the president was talking about. This process is what Ben Hyde calls the “internet acid bath.”
Tue, Jun 24, 2003

False Necessity

The normally sensible Michael Kinsley gives this analysis of the Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action: Admission to a prestige institution like the University of Michigan or its law school is what computer types call a “binary” decision. It’s yes or no. You’re in, or you’re out. There is no partial or halfway admission. The effect of any factor in that decision is also binary. It either changes the result or it doesn’t.
Sun, Jun 22, 2003


The ongoing search for WMDs has yielded a few things in the general vicinity of the acronym, such as Paperwork of Mass Destruction, Weapons of Mass Disappearance, Whitehouses of Major Dubiousness and the like. But no Weapons of Mass Destruction. In fact, there are signs that the category itself might be coming apart at the seams, and rightly so. For instance, Josh Marshall comments that There were really two WMD debates.
Wed, Jun 18, 2003

What's Happening in Iran?

There’s a good deal of talk about the student protests in Iran. It ranges from informative lists of sources to empty point-scoring. I want to know more about the state of the ruling political classes in Iran. This is because, reflexive cheap shots against the social sciences notwithstanding, the political sociology of revolutions is a pretty well-developed field with some good theory. It was revived in the late sixties by Barrington Moore’s classic Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy.
Tue, Jun 17, 2003

Moral Clarity

Via OxBlog, some snippets from Larry Summers’ Harvard Commencement Speech, including this one: .. it is not clear to me that we do enough to make sure that our students graduate with the ability to speak cogently, to persuade others, and to reason to an important decision with moral and ethical implications. “I mean, let’s look at a good example of the kind of problem I’m talking about,” he did not add.
Fri, Jun 13, 2003

You might be a liberal if...

Michael Kinsley has a piece that mentions Richard Nixon’s policy of price controls in the early seventies. Eugene Volokh says Of course, the notion of economic liberty—the right not to have the government dictate your wages and prices, the right to enter and run your business on your own terms, the right to hire, be hired, fire, or quit with little government supervision, and so on—has not been terribly popular with liberals for many decades.
Wed, Jun 4, 2003

Your New Weekly Lineup

Dan Drezner sez: Op-ed space on the New York Times is a scarce commodity. Even if it has a liberal bias, I want to read smart liberals—Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Kieran Healy, Brad DeLong, Henry Farrell—not pompous windbags like Rosenthal. Sounds like a great Monday-to-Friday line up to me, Dan. You can have Safire’s spot, and the sooner the better. My credentials as a columnist stretch back beyond this blog to happy days at the Daily Princetonian writing pieces designed to irritate the undergrads.
Tue, May 20, 2003

By Any Other Name

David Adesnik runs across a quote from Marx describing Marx’s own efforts to speculate on the stock market and comments You know, if Marx had just written a book called “The Working Man’s Guide to the Stock Market” everyone would’ve turned out rich and happy and we all could’ve avoided that whole unpleasant business with Lenin and Stalin. Two things jump to mind. The first, of course, is that Marx did write “The Working Man’s Guide to the Stock Market,” it’s just better known by another name.
Sun, May 18, 2003

Left vs Right; Godzilla vs Mothra, etc

Behind the curve but gathering momentum, Patrick Ruffini joins Michael Totten in some absurd hand-waving about left- vs right-leaning bloggers. Patrick believes that Glenn Reynolds, Steven Den Beste and the troglodytes over at Little Green Footballs “are all beautiful prose stylists.” I think Patrick needs to broaden his range of reading so that he has a more solid basis for stylistic comparisons. He also presents us with a pure example the kind of empty “Oh why is the left not more like the right?” pettifoggery that’s been on the rise lately: it’s probably true that, advocacy-wise, lefty bloggers make the most of their limited traffic by being very party line on Bush and most domestic issues.
Thu, May 15, 2003

My thoughts exactly

Kevin Drum is exactly right about this piece of crap from David Skinner. Kevin’s post reminded me of this Keith Knight cartoon which makes the same point about reaction to Halle Berry and Denzel Washington at the Oscars.
Wed, May 14, 2003

Out of the Blue

One sentence of mine, correctly described by Mark Kleiman as a bad pun, has, uh, triggered nearly five thousand words of attack from Dipnut at Isntapundit. He ranges freely over the question of guns and gun-ownership, my views about guns, my alleged insults towards gun owners and a (wholly imagined) history of my personal experience with guns. Along with the throwaway line, Dipnut attacks two posts of mine, this one, and this one written after Eugene Volokh suggested that the prospect of a breakdown in social order in the next 50 years was a reason that “smart” guns should be banned.
Mon, May 12, 2003

Builders, Defenders, etc

David Adesnik posts a long response to the debate surrounding the Michael Totten piece about the alleged lack of interest shown by liberals in both the outside world and the study of history. I’ve already had my say about the poor quality of this piece, but apparently it had little effect as it’s just been published in the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal. David notes that The most forceful response to Totten’s post is from Kieran Healy, who argues that Totten depends far too much on vague generalizations and circular logic.
Sat, May 10, 2003

Hard, Red, Throbbing America

Even the cleverest amongst us can be pandered to, and this column by Michael Barone”) smacks right into the ideological blindspots of both Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds. Matt is right not to buy it, because there is nothing to Barone’s distinction between Hard and Soft America but vague stereotypes. “A sensible society wants to keep some part of itself Soft” says Barone. On the strength of the evidence, it looks like America has chosen its brain.
Wed, May 7, 2003

Law vs Economics...

… UCLA vs Berkeley, Conservative vs Liberal, Eugene Volokh vs Brad DeLong. They go head-to-head over Bill Bennett. Brad thinks it absurd, as a matter of simple probability, that Bennett might have broken about even over the years. Eugene says the sources for the evidence might be untrustworthy: Some casinos are estimating the total losses at over $8 million, but Bennett explicitly says otherwise; instead, he’s saying that he’s come out pretty close to even (whatever exactly that means), and thus … that the supposed casino estimates are mistaken or highly incomplete.
Tue, May 6, 2003

Oh Not Again

We all have our vices, I suppose. Dan Drezner has a weakness for empty arguments of the form “Why are liberals less x than conservatives?” where x is any virtue you choose. “Fun,” for instance, or “incisive” or “tall” or, in the present instance, “cosmopolitan.” As vices go, it’s a small one. I mean, it’s not as if Dan is giving lectures about the need to curb our appetites, pocketing his $50,000 speaker fee, and then sneaking off to Atlantic City.
Mon, May 5, 2003

Take a Chance on Me

I’ve been wanting to write something about the William Bennett, Slot King story, but there are too many angles. Reaction runs the gamut. Some see it as a “pathetic hit job” on “one of America’s most influential moral conservatives”, while others just can’t resist the schadenfreude that comes from seeing a sanctimonious old bluenose turn out to have a vice of his own. I’m on the side of schadenfreude, myself. Public shame, as I’m sure Bill must have pointed out in a book somewhere already, can provide a strong impulse to live a more virtuous life.
Wed, Apr 23, 2003

Newt and Such

Kevin Drum succinctly describes the arc of Newt Gingrich’s career. Very oddly, I can remember the first time I read his name, because I didn’t understand that it was a name. It was during the summer holidays in 1986 and I had just bought a copy of Check your Egos at the Door, a Doonesbury book made up mainly of strips from 1984 and ‘85. I didn’t understand a lot of the references.
Wed, Apr 23, 2003


It’s been interesting to watch the fallout from Senator Rick Santorum’s priceless interview about homosexuality, the “right-to-privacy lifestyle” and, um, sex with dogs. Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias pick up on some of the important bits. The Volokhs have made some interesting contributions. Head conspirator Eugene Volokh went to some lengths to dismiss the outrage over Santorum’s comments as ‘a faux scandal’. In the course of his argument he made it clear that, on his view, even something like incest should not be illegal if both parties consent.
Sat, Apr 19, 2003

Freedom Markets

Matthew Yglesias notices a FOX news item on the poor domestic economy titled “The Price of Freedom”. He asks: Does Fox honestly want us to believe that the economy’s poor performance under the Bush administration is some kind of price that we must pay in order to remain free? Well, yes. I’d say that’s exactly what they want their viewers to think—the price we must pay for the Iraqis to remain free, anyway.
Tue, Apr 15, 2003

Voting Systems

You don’t have to be a psephologist to share Matt Yglesias’s dislike of first past the post voting systems. The sole virtue of such systems is that they are easy to understand: the person who gets the most votes in a straight count wins the election. Most everything else about them is problematic. In particular, a small edge in the percentage of votes cast usually translates into a huge advantage in terms of seats in parliament or congress.
Mon, Apr 14, 2003

History Lesson

While you’re waiting for him to finish his monster post on political theory and political philosophy (see my short version—two extra disciplines provided for free!) you can see Jacob Levy deliver a much-needed smacking around to an article by an NRO-nothing. Very satisfying.
Mon, Apr 14, 2003

Lott Again

It seems that John Lott may be quoting himself at one remove in his new book. The natural next step is for Lott to falsely quote himself, and after that to lose the source of the false quotation, but use it anyway. (If you don’t know what all this is about, read this.)
Mon, Apr 7, 2003


I’m sorry, but this post from Glenn Reynolds just made me laugh out loud. All the strengths and weaknesses of the InstaMindset are captured in the space of the first three sentences. He has to shift from fourth to reverse so fast the engine practically jumps out on the road in front of him.
Mon, Apr 7, 2003


Jacob Levy points out that the NYT only one a single Pulitzer price this year. But he also sensibly notes that this isn’t such a big deal: there were no NYT winners in 2000, for example. Empirical Task: Visit bloggers who (unlike Jacob) suffer from acute Timesophobia and see whether any of them suggest the dearth of Pulitzers is a judgment on the malign influence of Howell Raines. Thought Experiment: Assume the Times had won many Pulitzers, and ask whether Timesophobes would view this as a further indictment of a corrupt, backscratching liberal media establishment.
Sun, Apr 6, 2003

What a Shower of ...

I you’ve ever wondered what sort of story would appall both The Eugene Volokh and Atrios then here’s your answer. And they’re right to be appalled, too. Freedom for all, but with an astringent sidedish of evangelical blackmail.
Mon, Mar 31, 2003

Remind Me

What’s so great about living in Arizona? Oh yeah, I remember now. Heh.
Sat, Mar 29, 2003

Clean Hands, Dirty Hands

David Adesnik of OxBlog has responded to my criticism of OxDem and my view of the likely post-war experience in Iraq. Thanks to David for taking the time. Here is some reaction from me. David’s post makes a couple of things clearer to me but still, I think, leaves a lot open for argument. He says According to the first sentence in our statement of principles, “The Forum’s mission is to promote democracy worldwide.
Fri, Mar 28, 2003

A = Argh!

Go read Jim Henley’s response to this inane argument from Onkar Ghate. Ghate, an Objectivist writing for the Ayn Rand Institute, thinks “mass civilian casualties in terrorist countries” [sic!] are the fault of said innocent civilians. If nothing else, it’s worth seeing how a devoted follower of Ayn Rand manages not only to justify the state-sponsored killing of civilians, but to actually blame the civilians for this. Ayn, you’ve come a long way, baby.
Fri, Mar 28, 2003

Aaron Brown Transcript Fun, II

Following up on the one from the other day, here’s another great transcript of Aaron Brown interviewing someone, trying to push his own view via his questions, and then discovering he is losing the argument in a really embarrassing way. Hint to Aaron: if you want to strongarm interviewees, you need to have a strong arm.
Wed, Mar 26, 2003

The Persistence of the Old Regime

Robert Fisk, comparing Saddam Hussein to Joseph Stalin, was dismissed with contempt by David Adesnik, who said “Just when you thought he couldn’t be any stupider, he outdoes himself again.” Kevin Drum has already made a relevant comment here. But it turns out that Fisk is not the first to draw the comparison. In a separate discussion, Daniel Drezner notes in passing that “the Baath Party has ruled Iraq for about thirty-five years.
Tue, Mar 25, 2003

A Short Telegram

George Kennan has a brief letter”) in the Washington Post today: I am extremely concerned about the shameful, almost total passivity of Congress during the period of preparations for our military attack on Iraq. (I recognize as exceptions Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s noble statement in the Senate [In Brief, March 20] and the belated but vigorous statements of Sen. Thomas A. Daschle [news story, March 18].) Congress’s inaction is a dangerous precedent in executive-legislative relations.
Tue, Mar 25, 2003

Between Facts and Norms

David Adesnik at OxBlog reports that his neighbors across the street have seen the Union Jack displayed in his window and responded with a big “Stop the War” sign. He comments: While bigger is often better, I think the folks in no. 32 have embarrassed themselves and their cause by putting up a sign distributed by the Socialist Workers Party. David thus reveals himself as a bit of a McLuhanite. The medium of the card and its origins trump the message written on it.
Tue, Mar 25, 2003

Food for Cynics

A subsidiary of Halliburton has won one of the first contracts to be awarded by the Government for rebuilding work in Iraq. Update: For dessert, cynics may note that it was a no-bid contract. Update 2: Actually, these appear to be two different contracts, both to Halliburton subsidiaries, one bid and one no-bid.
Thu, Mar 20, 2003

San Francisco Protests

Though Glenn Reynolds has a strong desire to believe the anti-war movement is dying (as evidence he cites the small size of the anti-war protest in that traditional protest-flashpoint of Knoxville today), your typical San Francisco resident is likely to tell you that anti-war sentiment is alive and well and blocking his commute. This morning, Laurie and I took the bus as far downtown as we could, then walked to one of the main protest points at 5th and Market.
Thu, Mar 20, 2003


William Saletan’s brief observation about self-defense and aggression is worth reading.
Wed, Mar 19, 2003

War Begins

I was just reading the first chapter of Albert Hirschman’s Shifting Involvements, which I picked up this morning, when I heard President Bush’s short announcement. As it happens, Hirschman has this to say about war: Modern wars are such overpowering events that they make greater attention to public affairs virtually compulsory, but their outbreak is usually explained by reference to diplomatic rivalry, economic competition, or ideological conflict, rather than to any desire on the part of citizens to be more involved in public affairs.
Tue, Mar 11, 2003

Strategic Analysis

While you munch on your freedom fries, consider what is going on inside the mind of Steven DenBeste. Here he is wondering about the French: De facto they’re allied with Saddam even if there’s no publicly-declared treaty or agreement; so will they be willing to intervene militarily? Will they smuggle some sort of weaponry in? Or ship it in openly? If 20 cargo jets take off from French territory and head towards the middle east, what will we do?
Mon, Mar 10, 2003

Consultant for Evil?

A number of bloggers have commented on the Simpsons’ parody of Fox News this weekend (Your voice for evil). Almost unbelievably, this morning I got an email from Fox News (it was also distributed to many of my colleagues). It read: Hello - The O'Reilly Factor is looking for a sociologist with a conservative view regarding media and sexuality. This would be for a television interview this Friday (3/14). If there is someone within the university who might be available, please contact me at 212.301.[xxxx].
Mon, Mar 10, 2003

More Traitors

Someone should tell William Sjostrom that George H.W. Bush seems to have joined “Saddam’s fifth column.” Update: Kevin Drum adds some context to this story (particularly the information that the Bush Sr speech was given a fortnight ago) which makes it clear that there’s more spin than substance to the Times of London piece.
Thu, Mar 6, 2003

A Few Quick Ones

Seen while blogging around: Sean-Paul Kelley has a post on the risks and rewards of invading or not invading. It’s a bit hard to parse—sometimes he’s writing about probable risks and payoffs, other times he’s writing about definite costs and benefits. One of his risks of Invading is “Possible US use of nuclear weapons.” Ack. That these are even on the agenda is a sign that the new category of WMDs has successfully permeated public discourse.
Thu, Mar 6, 2003

Chaos at Home and Abroad

Go to Digby’s blog for a point-by-point commentary on President Bush’s latest talk with the press. It’s pretty depressing. Meanwhile, though the Oxbloggers prepare for the task of building stable democratic regimes throughout the Middle East, Eugene Volokh digs in against the prospect of civil war and the breakdown of law and order at home. I can’t bring myself to think that the conjuring up the prospect of regional or national anarchy at some point in the next 50 years is a sensible rationale for assessing gun-control policy choices today.
Thu, Mar 6, 2003

On Pious Hypocrisy

Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Mark Kleiman are both outraged at the free pass Saudi Arabia is getting from the U.S. government for both religious persecution and human rights abuses more generally. Meanwhile, President Bush tells reporters ‘I’m reading the Bible every day’. Mark nails the issue, noting that “Foreign workers get tossed into stinking prisons for practicing the faith our President so ostentatiously claims to share—I think the technical term for his behavior is ‘praying in the streetcorners, to be seen of men’”.
Thu, Mar 6, 2003

The Press Conference

Jesus wept. That was appalling. Glenn Reynolds is making the best of it—”He made some very simple points”, “the questioners, as always, looked smug and irritating and superficial, making Bush look better by contrast”. (Yeah, it’s all about the damn liberal media—they gave him such a hard time.) The crowd at The Corner are spinning as fast as ever they can—‘I think his ‘tiredness’ will read as ‘seriousness,’ i.e., non-cowboyness, to the public’, ‘There’s a method to his somber somnolence.
Sat, Mar 1, 2003

Liberal Hawk Nightmares

projection n. (Psychiatry) A defense mechanism by which your own traits and emotions are attributed to someone else. Exhibit A. Tom Friedman. Friedman asserts that President Bush’s plan for Iraq is “the greatest shake of the dice any president has voluntarily engaged in since Harry Truman dropped the bomb on Japan.” What he calls “Mr Bush’s audacious shake of the dice” appeals to him. This is the idea that an invasion of Iraq, followed by the installation of a democratic regime is a geopolitical game-changer.
Sat, Mar 1, 2003

Strategy and Realism

The administration’s declared long-term strategy on Iraq is that “A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.” Once Iraq falls, the monarchies and theocratic autocracies surrounding it will topple as well, and a new age of democracy and freedom will be ushered in for the people of the Middle-East. Cue trumpets and Tom Friedmanisms. There is a name for this line of thinking.
Tue, Feb 25, 2003

Ain't ism

I’m “ain’t ism”. I ain’t any ism. If there’s any formal political persuasion you can put a name on, it’s virtually certain that I disagree with it in some way, on at least one substantial issue – almost always because of practical evaluation of outcomes, given that I’m not particularly impressed by ideology … The whole point of my article was that I don’t think I fit into any boxes—Steven Den Beste The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood.
Tue, Feb 25, 2003

Sauce for the Kettle

Or possibly the pot is calling the goose a gander. Or something. Anyway, Tacitus says One of the truly annoying things about so much of the leftist internet commentariat is their assumption that anyone on the right is ipso facto a die hard supporter of the President. This is ridiculous on its face … Obviously there are many different flavors of conservatives … Well obviously there are. Not like so much of the leftist internet commentariat.
Thu, Feb 20, 2003

Public Service Announcement

The Dept of Homeland Security would like to take this opportunity to explain the current political situation to you all. Reports about North Korea are disturbing. We don’t want to act as though the sky is falling on our heads… But North Korea’s Nuclear capability is quite frightening. The CIA says their ballistic missiles could hit the west coast. Their leader is a bit loony, too. That might mean no more San Francisco.
Sat, Feb 15, 2003

Collective Action

Terry Pratchett, the novelist and acute political sociologist, recently noted (in his book Night Watch) a pattern often displayed by successful revolutionaries. Before the revolution, they are convinced the problem is that the good and pure and true people are living in a corrupt and stupid and worthless society. After the revolution, though, they begin to think that their good and pure and true society is populated by corrupt and stupid and worthless people.
Thu, Feb 13, 2003

In Other News, II

What’s a few miles between friends? asks David Adesnik over at OxBlog, complaining about the discovery that Iraq has missiles with a range of 114 miles, rather than the permitted 90 miles. He might also ask, what’s a few miles between enemies? As we found out yesterday, North Korea has a ballistic missile capable of hitting the West Coast, which means it can travel approximately 5,900 nautical miles by my rough reckoning.
Thu, Feb 13, 2003

War Talk

Some good stuff over at The Agonist about the likelihood of messy urban warfare. Sean-Paul Kelly is skeptical of those who take the General Melchett “barren featureless desert” view of combat in Iraq. Read the comments, too.
Wed, Feb 12, 2003


Chris Bertram provides some useful context on French foreign policy by recalling their (and the American’s) behavior during the Falklands War. It’s a good antidote to the “cheese-eating surrender monkey” thing. My own rather less geopolitical view on this is—- where do Americans, of all people, get off with calling another country “cheese-eating”?
Wed, Feb 12, 2003

In other news

The CIA believes North Korea has a ballistic missile capable of hitting the West Coast of the United States. Stay tuned for analysis and comment showing this further proves that Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are in an unholy alliance together and that an attack on Iraq is therefore fully justifed as a top priority. I’m hoping Tucson is still just out of range.
Tue, Feb 11, 2003

The Hermeneutics of Terror

So, how to parse this statement, allegedly from Osama Bin Laden? On the one hand, it says “All those who co-operate with the Americans against Iraq are hostile to Islam” and that “The United States is seeking, by occupying Iraw, to achieve the Zionist dream of establishing a Greater Israel.” On the other hand, it dismisses “the ignorant governments that rule all Arab states, including Iraq” because they do not fight “in the name of God.” (CNN is also translating this as “We need your intention to be to fight for the sake of God, not for nationalism or any infidel regime, including Iraq.”) The voice on the tape claims “We stress the importance of martyrdom operations against the enemy, these attacks that have spited Americans and Israelis like never before.” But it dimisses regimes like Saddam’s as “infidels… For the socialists and the rulers have lost their legitimacy a long time ago, and the socialists are infidels regardless of where they are, whether in Baghdad or in Aden.” Reactions have ranged from the skeptical to the impenetrable.
Fri, Feb 7, 2003

Democracy in Action

President Bush made a short speech that contained some of his toughest rhetoric on Iraq. “Saddam Hussein will be stopped,” he said at the end. And in words that reporters must now be used to writing, the Times tells us that “The president then left the room, without taking questions.” It’s quite difficult to find a record of all of the times President Bush has gotten up in front of an audience—of reporters or regular people—and taken unscripted questions.
Fri, Feb 7, 2003


Does Saddam Hussein think George Bush is deterrable? If he doesn’t, what effect would it have on his preferences? Game theory needs at least two players, after all.
Thu, Feb 6, 2003

The Dead Pool

Josh Chaftez over at OxBlog has a pool going on when the bombing will start in Iraq: Michael says Sunday, Feb. 16. I say Monday, March 3. David? Dan? Winner gets a round on the losers at the first Beer & Bush after the bombing starts. We now know that the real losers in this war will be grad students who fail to accurately predict the date of its outbreak. Those beers can really cut into your stipend check.
Wed, Feb 5, 2003


Here’s another weird column from Tom Friedman. I think he’s trying to see what happens when you mix wishful thinking and realpolitik in equal measure. What you get, it seems, is an argument held together by repeated use of the words “audacious” or “audacity.” Friedman knows what the long-term goal of the Administration’s foreign policy is, and he also knows that most Americans don’t have any stomach for it: This war has two purposes … The stated purpose is to disarm Iraq.
Thu, Jan 30, 2003

Costs and Claims

Recently, Chris Bertram evaluated the case for war and found it wanting. He noted that there were no easy answers, but “The burden of justification, though, lies with those who would make war” and that the case as made was very weak. How weak? Via Drapetomaniac comes a link to a site that brings together inormation about likely costs of a war and the reliability of the claims made in favor of it.
Fri, Jan 24, 2003

More on DGUs

Kevin, Ted and the ArchPundit (whom I’ve put on my links list) continue to question the infamous missing Lott survey.
Mon, Jan 20, 2003

Talking points

Brad DeLong gives Eugene Volokh some advice on how not to get quoted saying something awkward or embarrassing in print about, say, your former boss Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Eugene is quoted as calling her rulings on race-conscious policies “contradictory,” which is not quite what he meant. Brad says the solution is to “Have two different kinds of conversations with reporters. First, have normal conversations on background that they agree not to quote… Second, have abnormal conversations designed to produce quotes in newspaper articles.” The benefits of this strategy are that “You are happier.
Sun, Jan 19, 2003

Funny Ha Ha

For someone who runs a weblog magazine for terribly with-it New Yorkers, Nick Denton is just so six months ago with his approving link to a Tucker Carlson piece about why Democrats need to be funnier. Didn’t someone already come up with this lame idea? Honestly, when Knoxville leads Tribeca by the nose, there can be little solace in the usual high points of Manhattanite life, such as wearily spotting Gabriel Byrne at a restaurant, having pizza with pig fat topping, voyeuring Harrison Ford or conversing with a self-absorbed cokehead so appallingly irritating that you want to have her arrested on general principle, never mind about the dope.
Sat, Jan 18, 2003

Anti-War Protests

Glenn Reynolds (safely at one remove, via a correspondent, for purposes of plausible deniability) gives a patronising account of the impressively large anti-war protests around the country today. (Impressive both for their absolute size and for their size given that there’s not actually a war on yet.) Reporting live from the Department of Inadvertent Self-Revelation, his informant writes: Finally, I was struck by the attitude of the protestors. “Whiny” and “smug” come to mind, as does “entitled.” I know that doesn’t cover the territory, but I’m having a hard time finding the right words to describe it.
Sat, Jan 18, 2003

Chancellor Clinton

A second post on the theme “People in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones.” Tim Dunlop cites some snotty commentary from the Dean of Oriel College, Oxford, about the possible effects of a Chancellor Bill Clinton on the female student body. (Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Say no more.) And then, quite correctly, he reminds us what the English education system is really famous for.
Wed, Jan 15, 2003


Matthew Yglesias writes about how everyone loves Orwell because everyone imagines themelves on the side of the angels. He also mentions Karl Popper, who has suffered much the same fate (insert smug exposition of how scientific theories must be falsifiable here). Matt suggests that politics needs more recognition of human fallibility than it does thundering moral clarity, though I’m told that Sir Karl was not fond of practicing what he preached on this score.
Thu, Jan 9, 2003

Preemptive Policing

Via TalkLeft again (great site, that), the laugh-or-you’d-cry story of Virginia police who, presumably inspired by their Government’s foreign policy, were preemptively arresting people for being drunk in a bar, on the principle that they might be about to go out and be disorderly, drive home, or gas their own people in an alcohol-fueled rage. (Take your pick.) Former Congreeman Bob Barr said This actually is a frightening scenario that one hopes is nipped in the bud.
Wed, Jan 8, 2003

Marketing the Tax Cut

Kevin Drum has some astute observations about the marketing of the Bush Administration’s Economic Plan (read them here), and about the difficulties the opposition is having rebutting them (read them here). The Administration is doing a good job of passing off a large tax break to the very wealthy as something that benefits seniors—- because a lot of rich people are old. How to respond? Kevin’s reaction—- “You mean seniors like Martha Stewart and Ken Lay?“—- is an excellent start.
Wed, Jan 8, 2003

Trent Lotte

Via TalkLeft, a little late but I laughed out loud. Coming soon: the Fristaccino.
Tue, Jan 7, 2003

Anglosphere III (and final)

Iain Murray got a bit annoyed at my previous post on the Anglosphere question. (Incidentally, I think this is a data point for Daniel Drezner.) I didn’t mean to unfairly needle him, and it looks like we were talking past each other in that last exchange. In any event, we’ve all calmed down a bit (though perhaps not embraced nominalism, as Matt Yglesias advised). As I say in my comments to Iain’s final post on the topic, there’s not much to object to in Jim Bennett’s notes on the concept.
Mon, Jan 6, 2003


Chris Bertram gives Iain Murray a bit of a poke: Iain Murray is quite an enthusiast for the concept of the “anglosphere”, the idea that there is a set of institutional and cultural characteristics that set the English-speaking countries of the world apart and which explain their unique good fortune. No doubt there’s something in the idea, although if I were being mischievous – which I am! – I would gesture in the direction of Mr Podsnap from Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend … Of course, Iain isn’t a little Englander like Mr Podsnap, but there is something about the “Anglosphere” which has, if I may put things somewhat paradoxically, a whiff of Little England writ large.
Mon, Jan 6, 2003

Anglosphere II

The Edge of England’s Sword swings in my direction: Kieran Healey [sic] laughs at the above post, but not in a nice way. He seems to think that because a nation has some unique characteristics, it cannot be part of a general set of nations. Presumably the same objections mean that Austria cannot be counted part of Catholic Europe. This is a pretty absolutist line to take and I don’t think it’s a reasonable criticism.
Thu, Jan 2, 2003

Political State Report

Kos’s brainchild, the Political State Report is up and running. They have two contributors from Arizona, Dustin Nolte (D) and David Dodenhoff®. Expect plenty of material on the appalling budget crisis that Arizona has dug its way into.
Fri, Dec 27, 2002

D-Squared on Race in America

D-Squared has a provocative post about the politics of race in the U.S. (Matthew Yglesias has some thoughts on it, and a post by Kevin Drum is also relevant.) It’s worth reading carefully. It makes three points. The first is the most arresting but also the least substantial. The second is basically right. The third is very interesting. Here they are in order. First, he says In the opinion of D-Squared Digest, the epithet “nigger” is a much less offensive term when used to refer to an American of African descent, than the more popular word “minority”.
Fri, Dec 27, 2002

Precautionary Principles and Smallpox

Mark Kleiman responded to my post about smallpox vaccination, where I raised the question of our uncertainty about the probability of a smallpox attack from Iraq. The key point was that it’s really hard to confidently put a probability on that event, and so while we can figure out what we should do if we knew the risk, we don’t know it and so the decision is harder. (I also said that makes the Administration’s position look a little odd.) Mark responded by outlining the concept of a “critical value” for the risk of an attack—- it’s the value that would make the expected costs [of vaccinating vs not vaccinating] equal … If the actual probability [of an attack] is higher than the critical value, vaccination will have the lower expected cost and is therefore the preferred option; else, not… So now, instead of moping around, saying “What do you think the probability of a smallpox attack is?” “I dunno, Marny, what do you think the probability of a smallpox attack is?” we have something to concentrate on: is the probability as high as 1%, or not?
Thu, Dec 26, 2002

Smallpox Uncertainties

Mark Kleiman has been following the smallpox vaccination story pretty closely, and argues that the administration has wimped out by not getting everybody vaccinated. He points to a recent RAND study in the NEJM which calculates the expected number of deaths under several scenarios of vaccination policy and subsequent attack. Mark makes some effective criticisms of the study’s assumptions and then comments: The estimated death toll from mass national vaccination is about 500: about 3 per million vaccinated.
Tue, Dec 17, 2002

Cuts both ways

Instapundit cites Will Warren “fact-checking Trent Lott” on legacy admissions at elite schools (emphasis added below): The Lott quote: “Again, you can get into arguments about timetables and quotas. Here’s what I think, though: I think you’ve got to have an aggressive effort in America to make everybody have a chance. Harvard has a program where one in three of their students are alumni children. That, you know, we need to balance this out more, and I think that we should encourage minorities to have an opportunity across the board.” … Problem: not true.
Tue, Dec 17, 2002

Open Wide

Hit and Run, the new blog by the people at Reason magazine, comment on George Packer’s skewering of Dinesh D’Souza’s Letters to a Young Conservative: Packer’s critique is mostly successful, though some of his arguments would be more credible coming from a conservative than from a liberal. I think this means “It would make me feel better if Packer’s criticisms had come from someone on my side of the ideological fence because, you know, he’s basically right.” Just close your eyes and swallow the cod liver oil, guys.
Sun, Dec 15, 2002

The Right Remark

I did a lot of debating as an undergrad. (Though I don’t talk about it now that I live in the U.S., because American college debating has, um, a slightly different vibe from the kind found in Ireland, the UK and Australia.) A lesson from all that public arguing is that, sometimes, the best way to cut the knees out from under your opponent is to say almost, but not quite, exactly what he said himself.
Sat, Dec 14, 2002

Sign Me Up

To paraphrase Nathan Glazer, I guess we are all cultural marxists now. (See Atrios for some context.)
Fri, Dec 13, 2002


Ignatz couldn’t believe that he heard Pat Buchanan really say that Trent Lott was getting lynched. But Atrios has the quote, and a reminder of what a lynching really looks like. I read somewhere yesterday that phase 3 of the spin cycle on Lott’s remarks would be to argue that the Liberals were the real bigots. And here you have it—- just appalling.
Thu, Dec 12, 2002

Argumentum ad...

Glenn Reynolds says THE SADDAM / AL QAEDA LINK: Why are so many anxious to deny it? Perhaps because having missed it for so long would be embarrassing: Someone teaching a rhetoric class could probably mine Instapundit for examples of logical fallacies. He seems especially prone to begging the question, ambiguity and (as in this case) attacking the motive. Incidentally, the reason (rather than the motive) for denying a Saddam/Al Qaeda link till now was lack of evidence.
Wed, Nov 20, 2002


Matthew Yglesias is right to point out that the American media “when presenting “European” opinion, [has] a tendency to ignore the fact that there are a whole bunch of different countries in Europe.” This happens all the time. Conservatives love to bash Europe as decadent, weak and helpless without U.S. protection. Liberals sigh and pine for “socialized medicine” and other bits of the welfare state. My favorite example of this comes from the blurb on the back of packets of Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies, which begins “Imagine strolling down the cobbled streets to your favorite European bake shop…” Indeed.
Tue, Nov 12, 2002

Never Mind the Volokhs

Eugene Volokh criticizes the history professor who insulted a cadet by quoting some Kipling: Probably old hat to most of you, but some at least have forgotten it: Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap. The last clause is thankfully no longer quite true, but the rest is still right. All very well, except that yesterday he was agreeing with Christopher Hitchens that it’s wrong to criticize “armchair generals” who advocate military action, but haven’t served themselves.
Mon, Nov 11, 2002

Political Philosophy

Matthew Yglesias gives a reading list in political philosophy, inspired by a longer one from Josh Chafetz. The lists are pretty good, though both commentators have their eccentricities. Matthew says “First read Hobbes’ Leviathan then check out the literature on evolutionary psychology.” Josh claims Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, Democracy is “an early work in rational choice theory.” Here we have two good examples of ayering. (According to the highly reliable Philosophical Lexicon, to ayer is “To oversimplify elegantly in the direction of a past generation.” Viz, “Russell, in the Analysis of Mind, ayers a behaviorist account of belief.”) To ayer is human, of course, but we should strive against it all the same.
Mon, Nov 11, 2002

The Chickenhawk That Didn't Bark

Matthew Yglesias (for the second time) does sterling service in reminding the world that people like Christopher Hitchens are busily attacking a version of the Chickenhawk argument that is being aggressively propagated by, um, nobody. Eugene Volokh endorses Hitchens, so it’s probably only a matter of time before it moves along the blogger food chain (up? down?) to Instapundit and becomes established as a Conservative Talking Point: “Anti-war bloggers challenge principle of civil authority over the military!
Thu, Oct 31, 2002

Strawman Chickenhawk

Instapundit in his wisdom links approvingly to a piece by Michael Kelly that effectively dismantles a form of the “chickenhawk” argument that, alas, no-one is making. Matthew Yglesias presents the chickenhawk argument in its correct and, at present, wholly unrefuted form.
Wed, Oct 30, 2002

Stand Down vs Gear Up

Stand Down is an important new blog from Max Sawicky and Julian Sanchez, bringing together writers from the left and right who think that under the present circumstances, invading Iraq is a bad idea. Read their mission statement here. Here’s an example of why I think this blog is a good idea. The Lincoln Plawg recently took a few well-aimed swipes at an article by John Lewis Gaddis in Foreign Policy called “A Grand Strategy”, where Gaddis gets excited about the new National Security Strategy document.
Mon, Oct 28, 2002

Playing with the Wrong Team

Very interesting article on Slate about recent moves by Donald Rumsfeld to rejig who’s analyzing intelligence data—- and historical evidence that this is a bad idea.
Fri, Oct 25, 2002

Two Posters

One of these posters is a real advertisment produced by a state agency. One is not. But which one? (Thanks to Samizdata.net and Freepie for links to the posters. See more of the non-real kind here.)
Thu, Oct 24, 2002

The Blame of those ye Better

There’s a fascinating foreign policy rhetoric that I’ve seen with increasing frequency recently. It’s used to justify the scope of U.S. intervention by conservatives who ought otherwise be opposed to that sort of global policeman role. The tone is Cecil Rhodes meets Your Angry Mother: “Don’t make me come over there—- All right, I warned you…” For instance, Instapundit points to an article titled Confessions Of An Isolationist Wannabe, where John Hawkins wonders how the U.S.
Sat, Oct 19, 2002

I Like Your Manifesto, Put it to the Testo

Matthew Yglesias serendipitously points towards another manifesto. Compare and contrast with the one I was talking about this morning. Your answer should discuss the literary style, analytical power, political substance and likely staying power of each piece. Turn it in before 5:00pm on Friday. Late papers will not be accepted. Extra credit if you can identify the source of the song lyric that’s the title of this post.
Wed, Oct 16, 2002

War Games

Two interesting posts, one from William Burton and one from the Daily Kos about the lack of communication between civilian war hawks (with no military experience) and military and intelligence experts who know how to plan a combat operation. Burton digs up a fascinating old item from Suck about Norman Schwartzkopf’s autobiography. I remember “Stormin’ Norman” had a public image as a just-do-it kind of guy. Turns out that was mostly PR, and he was very careful about what he was doing with his forces.
Tue, Oct 8, 2002

More on the North

It’s hard not to have a little bit of sympathy for Mark Kleiman’s proposed solution to the Northern Ireland problem. But Gerry Adams and Ian Paisely would probably find plenty of common ground in their locked room when it came to their long-term shared enemies, the British and Irish governments. Meanwhile, events continue to unfold, as they say. The DUP (Paisley’s party) will resign their ministerial posts on riday. First minister David Trimble wants Sinn Fein out of the executive.
Mon, Oct 7, 2002

Dept of Soup and Forks

Pay a visit to Slugger O’Toole for the latest on the current political crisis in Northern Ireland. Short version: Details are still emerging, but it looks as though the IRA successfully infiltrated the Stormont administration (the Northern Ireland parliament) and, over a period of months, collected secret information about senior political, police and military figures. It looks as though they did this with the knowledge and help of Sinn Fein party members who work at Stormont as part of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Sun, Oct 6, 2002

News from the Domestic Front

As always, the Daily Kos has up to date information on Senate and gubernatorial races around the country. Recent gems include a summary of Jeb Bush’s latest bit of self-revelation, a post about a new DNC-sponsored cartoon about privatizing social security (and there I was thinking liberals are supposed to be no fun), and of course all the latest from As Jersey Turns.
Sun, Oct 6, 2002

Pining for Jersey

Mark Kleiman summarizes the latest twist in the New Jersey Senate race better than I could. Josh Marshall also has a good comment on this. Prediction: Coverage of Forrester’s embarrassing memo by the right-wing bloggers will be eschewed in favor of more hype about Iraq and unfounded speculation about the terrorist underpinnings of the Montgomery County shootings. And anyone who says that’s just a distraction will be haughtily dismissed as a cynic.
Fri, Sep 20, 2002

Tweaking William Morris

Chris Bertram gives us a very nice quote from William Morris on the characteristics of true socialism, and the dangers of complacency about it. I wondered what would happen if one were to replace “Socialism” with “Capitalism” and tweak the quotation appropriately. How would it sound? Here’s the result: this book, having produced a great impression on people who are really enquiring into Capitalism, will be sure to be quoted as an authority for what Capitalists believe, and that, therefore, it is necessary to point out that there are some Capitalists who do not think that the problem of the organisation of life and necessary labour can be dealt with by a huge individual decentralisation, working by a kind of magic for which no one feels himself responsible; that on the contrary it will be necessary for the unit of allocation to be small enough for every citizen to feel himself responsible for its details, and be interested in them; that individual men cannot shuffle off the business of life on to the shoulders of an abstraction called the Market, but must deal with it in conscious association with each other.
Thu, Sep 12, 2002

Ideology and Policy in One Easy Lesson

The 2×2 table is the argumentative tool of choice for political scientists rather than sociologists, but I couldn’t resist this one. My colleague Al Bergesen pitched it to me yesterday (though he may have gotten it from somewhere else). Political ideology classified by outlook on life and policy domain. Domestic Foreign Romantic Right Left Realist Left Right Let’s confine ourselves to the U.S. case. We have two outlooks on life, Romantic and Realist, and we have two policy arenas, Domestic and Foreign.
Tue, Sep 10, 2002

The Language of Influence

The National Republican Congressional Committee has been trying to rewrite a little history. Once they found out the phrase “social security privatization” was not playing well with voters, they decided it was not their own policy label after all, but rather a piece of inaccurate Democrat spin. Joshua Marshall has the relevant background. If you needed an excuse to reread “Politics and the English Language”, here it is. As Orwell says in that essay: In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.
Fri, Aug 30, 2002

FISA and John Ashcroft

Here’s an absolutely fascinating piece by Dahlia Lithwick on Attorney General John Ashcroft’s efforts to become the J. Edgar Hoover of our time, and the difficulties that even rubber-stamp secret surveillance courts are having with this. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 allows the executive branch to ignore constitutional protections against warrantless searches for national security reasons. Requests to wiretap someone in such cases are rubber-stamped by a secret court.
Tue, Aug 27, 2002

Comparison Cases for Iraq, the U.S. and Terrorism

It’s the first week of the semester, so things are probably going to be a little too hectic for extended weblog entries. But here are three comparative questions I’d pursue if I had more time. First, what cases can we look to if we want to ask should the U.S invade Iraq? In the last few days, the Bush administration, via Dick Cheney, has ratcheted up their rhetoric on this question, and claimed that containment was no longer an option.
Thu, Aug 22, 2002

Just Plain Folks at Waco

Via Brad DeLong, a story about the regular everyday folks invited to the President Bush’s economic summit in Waco. In response to criticism that the hand-picked attendees were unrepresentative, Treasury secretary Paul O’Neill cited attendee Marilyn Carlson, ‘who owns a travel business. She should be able to give us perspective about what it means to be on the front lines.’ Well, Marilyn Carlson’s ‘travel business’ is the Carlson Companies, the privately-held conglomerate that owns the Radisson hotel chain, TGI Friday’s, and a dozen other entities.
Tue, Jul 16, 2002

IRA apology to 'noncombatants'

The IRA issued a statement today apologizing to civilian victims of those killed on Bloody Friday, one of the earliest, and worst, atrocities of the Northern Ireland conflict. It happened on July 21st 1972. Ten days later, the IRA bombed Claudy, a quiet border town. The poet James Simmons wrote the “Ballad of Claudy” about that event. It is one of the best pieces of literature to come out of the Troubles.
Mon, Jul 15, 2002

Bet They Don't Have a Word for 'Gaffe,' either

From a story in the Washington Post (seen on Brad DeLong’s weblog): ‘According to Timesman Jack Malvern, liberal politician Shirley Williams—also known as the Baroness Williams of Crosby—recently recounted to an audience in Brighton that “my good friend Tony Blair” told her the following anecdote: “Blair, Bush and [French President] Jacques Chirac were discussing economics and, in particular, the decline of the French economy. ‘The problem with the French,’ Bush