Wednesday, October 06, 2004

TtwbC comes through

Our man in Canada comes up big (comment in previous post, on PSM).

This is the sort of thing that academics should be mad about. Where's the outrage?

The fact is that most academics are fiercely in favor of free speech for everyone that agrees with them.

Rick, You Blew It

Rick Martinez wrote in his Oct 6 N&O column that Duke was cowardly, caving in to "political correctness" by allowing the PSM conference.

Even a moment's thought reveals this is absurd. It would have been much easier for us not to host the conference. There would have been less debate, fewer heated discussions, and fewer unsettling disagreements. In fact, we could just not have any discordant ideas at all, and never argue with each other. Duke could look like this.

But debate, discussions, and even unsettling disagreements are the reasons we have universities. True, if Duke had denied PSM, we would not have violated the 1st Amendment. It is also true putting PSM off would have denied our students, our faculty, and the larger community an opportunity to learn, and to speak out in opposition if that is their desire.

As a fellow conservative, I generally enjoy and appreciate Mr. Martinez's commentaries. But as a conservative in the academy, I recognize just how important a universal commitment to real freedom of expression can be. You are dead wrong on this one, Rick.

When I was asked by PSM if my Department would co-sponsor, I readily agreed, and gave money. Nonetheless, if you come to Duke's campus, you will find me outside, joining those protesting PSM's message. I disagree with PSM vehemently. But I defend Duke's decision to sponsor the conference just as vehemently. Note to Rick: C'mon over! You'll get angry. And you might even learn something.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

University Administrators Make Loco Parents

Article on new nannyism in student affairs "administration."

Well I know it wasn’t you who held me down
Heaven knows it wasn’t you who set me free
So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key

(Nod to TtwbC)

Shujaat on the Presidential Debates

Wow. For those who think that the Arab world likes the U.S., and just doesn't trust GWB.

My man, Shujaat. The cartoon with the two "podiums".

And, bizarrely, Al Jazeera's own editoral columnist, Jude Wanniski. Yes, that Jude Wanniski, the one who beat up Reagan for not being supply side enough.

Monday, October 04, 2004

How?

[[uber update: i did put a warning below, but let me be clearer: NOT WORK SAFE. NOT RETINA SAFE. SAFE SEX, THOUGH, BECAUSE THIS WILL DESTROY YOUR LIBIDO FOR SEVERAL HOURS. A kind reader's suggestion for vision balm. ]]

How Berkeley Can They Be? Very, it turns out. Yikes.

(UPDATE: As has been suggested, quite rightly, two warnings should be issued. (1) this site is NOT WORK SAFE. (2) if you have any aesthetic sense of the beauty of the naked human form, looking at this site will rob you of it. These are truly remarkably unattractive people, in every way.)

(And, in spite of his protestations, I have to give the nod to JB. I suspect that these are really not his people)

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Two Random Things

1. Zogby on how the race is Kerry's to lose. Hard to dispute. But it is also hard to dispute that he is well on the way to losing it. Not irremediable, but how can Kerry possibly be trailing Bush in so many states where he should be ahead by 5-8%

2. You know who is really great? Chris Lawrence is really great. I've said it before, but there is no one more pissed off than a pissed off Libertarian. (In the post I've linked, note the comment that suggests the Libertarian solution be implemented by passing a law. That's why we are all so pissed off.)

Debated Rhymes With Overrated

Good lord. The people on the left are so happy they are touching themselves about the "results" of the Prez debate.

I have been trying this analogy for a while, and it seems more and more true to me.

I think we can all agree that the Cubs lost today. Braves beat 'em, 8-6.

But that doesn't mean that any Cub fans are going to become Braves fans. (If you have followed those pitiful losers this far, you are innured to pain and immune to reason).

The fact that Cubs lost certainly doesn't mean that people who pay no attention to baseball are suddenly going to say "I love the Braves!"

Here's the thing: in baseball, the games matter. We keep score of the scores, and if you win games you win the big prize. In politics, "winning a debate" only matters for the glasses-wearing nerds who wore pocket protectors and couldn't get dates in high school. These people, now Democratic wonksters and blog-roarers, only talk to other people as isolated from reality as they are. And they are calling each other up on their cell phones and saying, "Hey! What are you wearing?"

Most voters don't care at all about the debates. And for those who do care, they may be glad their guy won, or that their guy lost, but it won't change anything.

Sure, Bush may lose, but not because of the debate. Besides, Kerry still has that image problem.

Update: I agree with CJOB's Charles Adler (pointing to James Taranto of WSJ). He pounded Kerry for his wimpout answer to the question about being "the last man to die for a mistake." The question was, are men dying now in Iraq for a mistake. Kerry: "No, and they don't have to, providing we have the leadership that we put -- that I'm offering." Which is it? They won't die? It won't be a mistake, if Kerry does exactly the same things Bush has done? That answer, as Charles says, really does show that Kerry just can't stand the idea of taking a real position.

Update again: I do NOT agree with my friend (and PhD student) Tom Schaller, of Gadflyer. A perfect example of what I was talking about above. You can almost HEAR the self-gratification going on in between keystrokes.

Cutting That Baby in Half

Most interesting and strangest twist on the Electoral College:

Colorado's ballot measure (Actually a proposed Constitutional Amendment, #36) to change the allocation system in the Electoral College, will be voted on Nov. 2, the same day as the 2004 Prez election.

But, because the certification of electoral results, and "convening" of the EC, takes place weeks after the election, Amendment 36 would actually affect the outcome of THIS ELECTION. (Although...)

The bottom line is that under the current system, whoever wins Colorado on Nov. 2 gets all the EC votes, because in all the states except two (Maine and Nebraska) there is a "winner take all system." Colorado has 9 votes this year, based on the national reapportionment after the 2000 Census. IF the Amendment passes (and it may), in other words, the winner (right now, looks like Bush) would get 5 EC votes, and the other "loser" would get 4 EC votes.

Some observations:
1. Interesting strategic voting experiment: suppose you favor Bush (recent polls give Bush at least 3%, sometimes 8% or more, lead). Would you vote for the Amendment, knowing that the Amendment's passage would likely hurt Bush? Or would you vote strategically, voting "no" on the Amendment even though you favor a proportional system in principle? On the other hand, suppose you are a Democrat, but oppose the amendment. Given that the overall EC race may be close, would you vote for the Amendment, strategically, hoping that it would cost Bush 4 EC votes? Obviously, taking four EC votes for Bush and giving it to Gore would have made Gore President in 2000, with Gore receiving 270 and Bush 267.
2. I was on a radio show with Colorado's Gov the other night, and he made an excellent point. Even if the proportional system were a good thing, as a national system, Colorado is giving up all its leverage if it (to use Owens' words) "unilaterally disarms."
3. People seem to think that the Maine / Nebraska system (allocate the two Senate seat EC votes at large, and then split the rest of the votes based on who wins within each of the state's geographic Congressional Districts) is a compromise. But this is dead wrong. Our congressional districts are so gerrymandered that less than 10% of districts are competitive. In fact, only about 30 of the 435 districts are really and truly up for grabs. Why would we want a system that locks in the political cartoon drawing that redistricting has become? Maine / Nebraska is an absolute disaster.
4. Since there is no movement toward a national transformation, we are probably best off with the current system. Colorado may fall on its sword, but when other states see that Colorado has simply taken itself out of the game (if #36 passes) then that will be the end of it. No national movement, no big transformation at the state level. I had a long conversation on email with Betsy Newmark, and she convinced me this should just be a nonissue, no matter excited I am (was) in principle about the proportional system.

Background:
a story, and another, and another

Friends and Family

I was in papers (eg and eg) and on several live news shows this week (eg, and eg, and eg), and so was seen and heard by quite a number of people I know. In this situations, it is always useful to have friends and family remind you that media exposure is just balloon juice, and that you are still the same pinhead you have always been.

Two examples, of many such comments this week:

1. My son, responding when someone else asked me if appearing on TV is hard: "Um, if my dad can do it, how hard can it really be?"

2. My older son's baseball coach, a former football player at UNC, a man of few words and truly mammoth size: "I saw you on TV this week." Me: "Oh, thanks; how was it?" Him: "I thought it must be watching the sci-fi channel. Why don't you get a haircut?"

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Sleepy VP Race

Edwards and Kerry are being used in EXACTLY the same way: Send them out, and let them give some face-to-face love to the base. Small speeches, small crowds, red meat content, no big TV splashes to take attention from the main guy.

Both campaigns have settled into what now appears to be their true strategy: nurture the base. For months, Kerryistas went after undecided voters, but there weren't any (there are undecided people, but they decided not to vote!). Now, Kerry is going to try to turn out the faithful. This has been the strategy of Repubs/Rove since May or so.

Neither Edwards nor Cheney are effective headliner campaigners. (Edwards could be, perhaps, but he is no longer trying, and has accepted his good soldier role). Both are good at delivering ideological wet kisses to the hardcore supporters, though. People have been saying that Edwards, in particular, has disappeared. But that's not true. If Kerry can get 75% of the people who honestly prefer Kerry to Bush to vote, he can win easily.

Senate Fun--Repubs Maintain Control

I have it 50 for R's, 46 for D's, and 4 toss-ups that will take more discussion...

Toss ups:
1. Alaska. What a long, strange trip it's been. On one hand, AK is a strongly R state. On the other, Daddy Murkowski has really made voters angry, both because of the nepotistic appointment of his daughter to his seat and because the econonomy has tanked badly. BUT: Can't imagine that when it comes to be Nov. 2 the voters will really yank the "D" lever. If Babs Murkowski has Daddy to worry about, the D canidate (Knowles) has Kerry to worry about. The ANWR project, which Kerry opposes, is hugely popular as an employment creator in AK. And Bush is sure to win AK by 25 points or more. I can't imagine that people are going to split their ticket enough to toss Murkowski out. SO: AK GOES TO THE R's-- 51 R, 46 D
2. Colorado: R Pete Coors vs D Ken Salazar. This stays too close to call. CO is drifting toward Bush on the national race, going from tied in the polls to Bush leading by 3-5 points, or even more. Coors has big money, but Salazar is not fading. One of the most interesting races in the country. (This is an incumbent R seat, Campbell, so even more important).
STILL 51 R, 46 D
3. Oklahoma: Larry Sabato (UVA) has claimed that Republican Tom Coburn has severe foot-in-mouth disease, saying the race is a battle between good (Coburn) and evil (Carson). Just for kicks, Dr. Coburn is being sued by a a young lady who claims that years ago he sterilized her without her permission during an operation. Even though it seems impossible (there is really no state more Republican than OK), a Democrat might win here, unles Coburn can be fitted with a muzzle. I have to leave this as a toss up, though. STILL 51 R, 46 D
4. Louisiana: Bush, for reasons that are hard to explain, now has a significant polling lead in LA. This bodes ill for the Dems. However, because of LA's truly arcane electoral system, there will probably be a run-off, and coat-tails wouldn't count then. I am going out on a limb here: Neither Kennedy (D) nor Vitter (R) gets a majority on Nov. 2, and then Kennedy wins the run-off, keeping LA in the Dem column.
SO: LA GOES TO THE D's (after run-off)-- 51R, 47D


(NOTE: my original 46 in the D column include my assumptions that Daschle wins in SD, though not by much, and that Bowles wins in NC, maybe by 6-8 points).

(ON FLORIDA: Florida voters give Bush a 50 - 47 percent approval rating, up from a 54 - 44 percent disapproval August 12. Voters approve overwhelmingly (78 - 14 %) of the way President Bush has responded to recent hurricanes. So, Martinez beats Castor)

(SOUTH CAROLINA: Def'ly Republican win. Dems are dreaming if they think they can win here. Kerry at top of ballot hurts them, but Dem candidate Inez Tennenbaum probably could have lost all by herself. Campaign imploded). (On the other hand, maybe not: see this).

OVERALL: This is strange. Repubs are not very exposed this time, with fewer R-controlled seats up for reelection. But the Dems are running well. It is still hard to imagine the Dems retaking control, however. One scenario is to have either FL or SC go to the Dems, and then have both toss-up states (OK and CO) go to Dem side also. Then, it would be 50-50, and Vice President Edwards could cast the tie-breaking vote for Dem control. Not saying it will happen, but it sure could.