Monday, December 26, 2005

The 1% solution: Tullock wins!

A friend (I'll link to him if he gives permission) tells of a curious incident in voting.

I should give some background: In the 1997 Hinich-Munger book, Analytical Politics, we describe an incident in Florida where there was a special election with zero (yes, zero!) turnout. That incident had been pointed to me years ago by Gary Cox (who deserves credit for finding it in the first place....)

Well, something even cooler has happened: Apparently, a fellow noticed that there was a blank on a ballot, because no one was running. He thought, "I'll write in my own name!" And...he won, by one vote.

Here is his description of events:

(I'm going to leave this anonymous for now. I have not been able to check the election outcome officially, and I do not have permission to release the name, so I'll hold off)


I just wanted to let you know that I've been elected. As of January 1st 2006, I'll be the Judge of Elections in the 27th division of Philadelphia's 8th ward.

I never intended to run, but when I went to vote a month ago, I noticed that no one at all was running for one particular job I've never heard of. So I wrote myself in. Apparently I was the only one to do that, because I got a certificate in the mail today. I'm still trying to figure out what the job entails and what I get paid, but I suspect that the answers are "not much" and "even less". Nonetheless, it's kind of fun.

I'm still unemployed other than this, but I swear I've got the most interesting resume around.

Now, this may not be an entirely new thought. There is, for example, this perspective., here's the cool thing. This (write in your own name) has for decades been known as the "Tullock Solution" to the problem of voting. Tullock always claims the real paradox of voting is this: "Why doesn't everyone just vote for themselves?" Bless Gordon's heart.....

UPDATE: The author, and new election judge (maybe) is Josh ("Desh") Rosenberg. We are all checking to see if the election result went through. Potential problem (from personal email from Desh):

I haven't seen the official results. All I've received so far is that certificate in the mail, even though I've asked City Hall to mail me an official job description. I met a fellow Judge of Election recently, who told me that more information will be forthcoming within a couple months of the next primary election.
Aside from an optional training session, I apparently have no official responsibility outside of election days themselves.

This person also told me that my election may have been in error. To the best of his knowledge (which I haven't verified), the city policy is to only elect people in this situation who have received as many write-in votes as are required on a petition to get on the ballot in the first place, which he suspects is 15 for this particular position. Apparently this rule was ignored when sending my certificate (and, presumably, at least a handful of others within the city). But he doesn't think the city is about to renege and revoke my position. Which is a good thing, because if I'm the leading vote getter, I don't know who else would be appointed in my stead, but whoever it is, it would be a major travesty of democracy! Okay, not that major.

No, MAJOR! From the city that brought you "Free Mumia:" FREE DESH ROSENBERG'S JUDGESHIP!

Overheard on a field trip....

On our FOCUS: Power of Ideas field trip to DC, I tried to write down the best quotes overheard from the freshmen on the bus and walking around Washington.

Here is my "Top 5" list, in no particular order. All of these actually heard, and written down as close as I could come to verbatim.....And, though I was not trying to make it come out this way, all of these were said by young women. It wasn't that the guys didn't talk; it's just that (a) they talked a lot less, and (b) it was not nearly as...well, you'll see.

1. (Young woman to young man, sharing seat): "How can you not know what 'voluptuous' means? I thought that was what all guys wanted!"

2. (Young woman, extremely loudly, as we drove up Conn Ave): "Burberrys! Stop the bus! STOP THE BUS!"

3. (One young woman to another, conversationally): "Well, I just think that she had NO right to throw up there..."

4. (another young woman to another young woman, conversationally): "And when he woke up, he was totally unconscious."

5. (my favorite, and I am NOT making this up--young woman A to young woman B, both international students): "I was so disappointed to learn that there aren't any stores on the National Mall." (Young woman B): "You mean there aren't? Then why are we going there?"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Okay, fine....

I can't stand it.

To my loyal readers, both of you:

Jan 1, 2006: new format, same URL.

Relaunch. Right here.

Monday, June 13, 2005


More than a few people have accused me of trying to have it both ways.

1. Pretending to be some outrageous fictional character, writing in a voice that has no responsibilities for consequences.


2. Being in fact an indentifiable academic administrator at a major research university

For reasons I am not going to make specific, I am now convinced that the critics were right, all along. I can't have it both ways.

So...let's forget the whole thing. I will post here only those things that I am willing to stand behind, and believe, in my actual life as Mike Munger, Duke Professor. Since I don't think I have anything interesting to say, in a blog at least, in that voice I don't expect any further blogging on this URL.

And, I'll start an anonymous blog where I can rant with impunity.


Friday, June 03, 2005

Performance Art Saga

A retrospective, on the three Performance Art posts:

1. Grocery

2. Starbucks

3. Hinky Lube

Now, one of my loyal readers had this observation:

do you get off on getting people fired?

are you an elitist pig or something?

you work like four hours a day teaching one class...

how hard can that be?

Yes, if they suck.
Obviously, if by elitist you mean "believes in merit-based discrimination."
It's summer; I don't teach at all. I write things. Just finished a couple of papers, and am now working on revising one of my books with Mel Hinich.
Not very hard; thanks for asking.

More seriously: Professors, for the most part, are not primarily teachers. We are writers and researchers. I voluntarily teach a double overload most semesters. Because I like to teach. But the "work" that we do is by and large our research work. I love that. It is fun, and interesting, and I learn things. And, of course, it leaves lots of time where I can haul my big elitist butt out into the public and get idiots fired from jobs they can't do.

He must be one hell of a good cameraman

Consider the following excerpt, from Lenslinger's "Top Ten Things I learned covering Hurricane Isabel"

3) The Bigger the Market, the Cheesier the Anchor.
Like I said, we did satellite live shots for stations across the country, from L.A. to Tampa to Philly to Vegas and all points in between. Without fail, the bigger the city, the more over-affected and cartoon-like the anchor's voice on the other line. I heard enough booming voices and over-enunciation to last a lifetime - or at least until I do another self-serving piece on the local Top 40 radio station. Or a profile on the visiting tent evangelist. Like Sting says, they all sound like game show hosts to me.


Now...cameramen are by nature misanthropic, and with cause, since the slice of humanity on whom they focus their cameras are by and large (1) brain dead, (2) horribly guilty, (3) completely self-centered, or (4) all of the above (meaning news anchors).

But Lenslinger is taking this to a new level. Some news anchors can read things that are NOT in big letters and scrolling down a glass teleprompter, and if someone reads his blog...well, Lenslinger must be a really good cameraman.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Clove Hitch

Yobbo channels Hitchens.

As Patton said, "God help me, I do love it so!"

Hinky Lube Performance Art

Sometimes, cashiers do it to themselves.

I go to the Happy Lube, or whatever they call themselves. Quick lube and oil change, you pay big $$, but it's quick.

As I arrived, an employee came out to my car, eating spaghetti from a dirty bowl. He said, “What do you need?”

I told him I wanted an oil change. He curtly nodded, and pointed at Bay #2. No other words. This was rather odd, as this was NOT the way I usually get treated at Horny Lube. Formulaic courtesy is what I expect. Stepford employees. This guy was kind of cool. Like a Mickey Rooney character/mechanic in a World War II comedy about a motor pool. Cocky, crusty, but with a heart of gold. Or not, as it turned out.

Oil change is done; I go up to pay. The same Mickey Rooney guy starts to ring up the charges. I hand him my $10 coupon. He says, “just put it down there; I’ll get to it.” I did.

But he didn’t. Get to it, that is. He rang up the charge without the coupon. I didn’t notice, and gave him my credit card. After I signed, I noticed that there was no credit for the coupon.

When I pointed this out, he said, “Well, there’s really nothing I can do about it now. I already rang up the order. You should have said something.”

So, I turned and made a brief speech to the other customers: "What you have just seen would be a tragedy, in any other country. But in the U.S., it is okay. There many Puffy Lubes, and from now on we should all go to another one. Because this one is inhabited by thieves, and what you have witnessed here is theft." All the other customers tried to pretend they were watching Oprah. Which was hard, because the TV was tuned to local news.

Mickey became angry about my theft remark. He started saying in a loud voice that anyone could make mistakes, that I wasn’t perfect either…and so on. This was in front of other customers. By this time they weren't pretending to watch anything, except the worst employee in the history of the world. He was shouting at my back as I went out the door.

I wrote a letter to the manager, and sent it. He called two days later, laughing. "This is the best letter I've ever seen. What a story! Did he actually say, 'What do you need?'" Turns out he had fired Mickey as soon as he got the letter, since this was third or fourth major complaint he had gotten in THAT ONE DAY. This, mind you, had been his (the manager's) first day at the new job: Day one--Fire Mickey. One of the causes for firing was "Eating on the job." Who would eat while changing oil?

And, when the manager stopped laughing, he offered me a free oil change in compensation. I love Hippy Lube. And God bless America.

Kgrease, bringing equilibrium to employment markets everywhere.

Edwards: Plotting the Presidency

John Edwards couldn't be running harder if he were being chased by a pack of Plott hounds (that's the NC state dog, by the way!).

After the election, I said that he would go back to law practice, or not. If he did, that meant his political aspirations were ended.

But he has a think tank, and a political organization and is giving talks all over the place.

This is costing him $10million a year, at least, in lost legal fees. So, he is serious.

So, he is definitely running. In fact, I am a little surprised he is running so openly. There is nothing coy or shy about this. He is going for it full bore, all the time.

The talks, the picket lines, the appearances at conferences....these are all the work of someone trying to build a resume. His particular weakness is foreign policy, of course. He is trying to build a record of knowledge about foreign policy (see the task force with Kemp), but it is going to be hard.

He has no relevant experience, and his time in the Senate gave absolutely no indication of either knowledge of or aptitude for foreign policy questions. Right now, Edwards is a one trick pony: Two Americas, Two Americas, etc. That's why he has the "One America Committee," to emphasize the two Americas theme. IF there were a Dem administration in the White House, he could get appointed to some kind of committee, or task force. But Bush is not going to help, so all Edwards can do is this aggressive "offensive of caring", where he makes appearances and expresses the fact that he really cares about foreign policy. (I'm joking. Some more jokes on Edwards)

Hillary has no more foreign policy experience than Edwards does, but she lived in the White House. She visited foreign dignitaries, presidents. She has flown on Air Force One. And, unlike Edwards, Hillary did things in the Senate the right way: she acted like a senator. She served on committees, did reports, and kept a low profile building experience and respect. Edwards acted like his hair was on fire, and never participated in the Senate as a Senator in any important way.

Hillary cannot win the general election; her negatives are too high (more than 50%, in some polls). But she might defeat Edwards in enough key primaries (New York, Massachusetts, California) to deny him the nomination.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Constructing a Binary Beer Relation

If preferences are transitive (and how could they NOT be?), then the result of all pairwise comparisons of a set of alternatives should return a (possibly weak) preference order over those alternatives.

So....I bought the following four low carb beers:

1. Amstel Light
2. Aspen Edge
3. Michelob Ultra
4. Rolling Rock Green Light

First, the tale of the tape:
1. Amstel Light 5 g carbs, 95 calories, 3.5% alch
2. Aspen Edge 2.6 g carbs, 94 calories, 4.13% alch
3. Michelob Ultra 2.6 g carbs, 95 calories, 4.2% alch
4. Rolling Rock Green Light 2.6, 91.4 calories, 4% alch

Then, the results, from worst to first....

4. Green Light--Nearly undrinkable. This is awful. Reminds me of the joke: guy sent his beer to a chemist to be analyzed. Letter comes back from the chemist: "I'm sorry; your horse has a serious kidney infection."

3. Michelob Ultra--Okay. Qualitatively different from the Rock. If you want to drink a low carb beer, this works.

Tied 1-2. Aspen Edge--Better than okay. In fact, surprisingly good. Nice color, reminded me of beer.

Tied 1-2. Amstel Light--Again, tasted just fine. Amstel is what I often drink if I am having more than one. So I threw it in as a ringer. It is not really a low carb beer, of course. Further, the taste test was blind, and was conducted over a period of a week (there are six pairs in the "four choose two" combinations problem)

So, if you care about carbs....I would recommend Aspen Light. It has about half the carbs of Amstel, and nearly 20% more alchohol. Amstel and Aspen Light are NOT indistinguishable; they taste fairly different, in fact. I just could not say that I liked one better than the other.

I was surprised at the outcome. I thought I liked Mich Ultra. But the blind thing doesn't lie.

Finally: it is surprising how good a real beer tastes if you have been drinking this low carb stuff. So, conduct your own taste test on the low carb beers, and then have a pitcher of Anchor Steam and a deep dish pizza to celebrate your scientific contribution.

Bar None

Excellent time spent; this guy is on top of things.

His reason? "Why not?"

Nod to TtstbxC.

Tensions Fall as Chicken Incident Ends; Feathers Still Ruffled

The eagle-eyed JAR sends the link to the denouement of the chicken incident.

A chicken that got a ticket for crossing the road has clawed his way out of it. The $54 citation for impeding traffic was dismissed Friday after Linc and Helena Moore's attorney argued that the fowl was domesticated and could not be charged as livestock.

State law restricts livestock on highways, but not domestic animals.

In other words, the defense was that this was a pet chicken. It just gets better.


Food Porn

Danny D says pretty much all that needs to be said, and links what needs to be linked, on the "food porn" controversy.

As for me, not a big deal. I have given up sex for marriage. But the shots of the hamburger...those got me pretty hot. I hope she didn't get soap on the burger.

More On "Yoah papizz, pliss"

Libertarian extremist and firearm-totin' nutjob (those are compliments, by the way) NP sent me this link. (Following up this, which link he also sent to me, but which I didn't credit him for, because he owns a semi-automatic assault rifle, and a vintage Enfield, and I didn't want to out him without permission. An Enfield bullet will go right through even me; scroll down about halfway and you'll see life-size shells. Oi.).

Anyway, here's a quote from the article about world IDs:

Mr Chertoff said yesterday that it was vital to seek compatibility, holding up the example of the "video war" of 25 years ago, when VHS and Betamax were in fierce competition to win the status of industry standard for video recording systems.

"I certainly hope we have the same chip... It would be very bad if we all invested huge amounts of money in biometric systems and they didn't work with each other.Hopefully, we are not going to do VHS and Betamax with our chips. I was one of the ones who bought Betamax, and that's now in the garbage," he said.

Mr Chertoff also proposed that British citizens wishing to visit the US should consider entering a "Trusted Traveller" scheme. Under this, they would forward their details to the US embassy to be vetted. If successful, they would receive a document allowing "fast- tracking" through the US immigration system.


This reminds me of the old Public Choice criticism of "good government" types (we call them "goo-goos", when we have on our Adam Smith ties and are passing around the scotch). Given the concentration of coercive power in government, and its susceptibility to corrupt interest groups, the inefficiency and incompetence of government agencies is our last ditch defense. The LAST THING we want is an efficient government.

I have to give the nod to NP for something else, also. He suggested an old album ("Freedom is a State of Mind") by those really pissed off Indians, Corporate Avenger. I am going to use two of the tracks ("Fault the Police [I don't]" and "Christians Murdered Indians") this fall. (Lyrics of "Christians...": WARNING--EXPLICIT AND DISGUSTING).

That ought to shake things up a little. I'm not saying I agree with CA's views, but that is pretty powerful stuff. And, factually, they aren't entirely wrong by any means.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Some Vignettes from Northern Virginia

I have been in the DC area for nearly a week. Giving lectures and talks here and here. Very interesting.

Some vignettes, asides:

1. Cheesy Chinese restaurant, buffet, full of fat gringos stuffing themselves with fried meat in cheap sweet sauce. All the wait staff is Latino. Next door is Korean restaurant, no gringos anywhere, no one speaks English, menu printed in Korean with tiny, ungrammatical, and largely incomprehensible English descriptions. I ate at the Korean place, of course, and took two other entrees back for the next night (I had a fridge in the room). One was a stew, Tyler warned me not to, but...I got lucky, and it was fantastic. Amazing that those two restaurants can exist literally side by side in strip mall.

2. Vienna Metro stop: I try to use mass transit, and be a good worker bee. Come the Revolution, we'll all get to be shining, happy people and live in metal boxes and take trains to our environmentally friendly workplaces. But you can't take the Metro at Vienna if you get there at 10 am on a weeday. The reason is that....there is nowhere to park. Now, the parking problem is not that hard to solve: charge more. It costs just $3.50 to park ALL DAY. And all the spaces are filled by 9 a.m. Why not another lot, or parking deck, that charges $10, or whatever it takes? I asked one of the attendants why they didn't charge more. He said, "We want people to use the Metro!" I say, there is no where to park, that means I can't use the Metro, and I have to drive my car into the city. "Get here earlier", he said. No, the point is not ME, it is that you need to have some short-term parking, at a high enough price that there are open spaces. You need to have...."Just get here earlier!" he said. And, of course, he has a point: Vienna is zoned so that no private company could open a new parking garage, even though it would be profitable and socially useful to do so. So, as far as this employee of the nanny state was concerned, I should just go fuck myself. They were providing subsidized parking, and we taxpayers should be grateful.

3. Gordon Tullock was completely undone by seeing me. "You have long hair, which means you are a liberal. But you carry an umbrella, and a small black umbrella at that. You must be a conservative. Just what ARE you?" My hair really bugged him. It is odd looking. Grad students at Public Choice Outreach conference were tremendous. What a terrific program.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Okay, yes, I've been a little grouchy

Check this story.

It made MSNBC.

Dujuana, or "Toni" as I knew her, had three kids, two boys and a girl. Oldest was 8. They would come visit now and then, jump on our trampoline, play with our dogs.

Because Toni was our nanny for five years. Every day, she watched our boys. Wrestled with them. She had this idea that it was okay for boys to peepee in public, as long as they got behind a tree or something. They thought that was the coolest thing.

She held them on her lap and read to them. Worked to teach Brian to read. Wanted to be a teacher. She was good at getting together materials for teaching, crafts sort of stuff. Wonderful.

She was constantly trying to work things out with Michael, then her husband and now her killer. He was a good guy, to all appearances. Worked hard. Sometimes Toni would stay at our house, go out to dinner with us, when Michael was beating her and she needed to get away. He would call, and I would talk to him. He was always distantly polite, knowing that we were protecting her. But he never threatened any of us in any way.

Well, this time she didn't get away. He beat her to death with his fists, broad daylight, in someone else's yard, after he chased her.

She had a restraining order against him. But it didn't do much good, because she kept going back to him.

This may not be a good excuse for being grouchy. But it is a good reason to be ashamed of being male. You can't blame this on handguns, or illegal weapons in a moment of passion. He just chased her down and then beat her to death with his bare hands.

The news story said that Michael tried to grap a jailer's gun. I say put one bullet in a Glock, and then give it to him. Let him do the right thing.

Maybe if you had ever had an actual job...

My lord.

I have just gotten several emails from people outraged that I tried to steal money.

Of course, that means that they have never actually worked for a living in a retail job. Enjoy your trust funds, you bunch of spoiled rich kids.

Look: I gave the kid at Starbucks $5 for a $2.37 bill. He owed me $2.63.

But he rang it up as if I gave him $10.

Now, all he had to do was laugh and assume that the $5 was what I gave him (which I did), give me the $2.63 change, and the register was right.

Instead, he took another $5 from me, and THEN HAD TO GIVE IT RIGHT BACK.

Suppose he had made a mistake, and had rung up $1,000. Then, the register would read change of $997.63. Would I need to run find a $1k bill to save his job? Of course not. All he needed to do was give me change for the five, which is what I actually gave him. If you ever had had a job where you dealt with public, instead of just looking at your limo window at the po' folks, you would realize that all that mattered was that the cash in the register increased by the purchase price of $2.37. The payment/change thing is irrelevant.

Lordy pie. You might want to at least pretend you have had some contact with reality before you started whatever little rich kid isolation chamber you live in now.

Why I am (apparently) not a Conservative

Andrew Sullivan: on what has changed.

Conservatism, MY kind of conservatism, is dead. So, vote Libertarian.

(Nod to BER)

Starbucks Performance Art

Sometimes, the urban performance artist just has to take a chance, and stuff happens that you simply could not plan.

I walk into the Starbucks. It could be anywhere. Male employees all have hipster facial hair but no obvious nonear piercings.

Order a large coffee (I refuse to say, "Venti Grando Fat Marlon Brando, or whatever froufrou name they use for large). Also a paper, for my daily dose of WaPo disinfo.

Barristo rings up $2.63, I hand him a five spot. So far, so good.

But then I hear a sharp intake of breath. The kid has rung up $10.00, with change of $7.37. (Extra credit: is this actually a problem? Hint: no)

Without thinking, I go for it. "Oh, god, now you've done it. Do you need to call the manager?"

Barristo: "No, I can't, I've already screwed up today. He'll fire me."

Me (not believing my good luck, and going for broke): "How about I give you a ten. Then you can give me the change correctly?"

Barristo: (ridiculously relieved) "Oh, could you? That would be great!"

Me (ignoring the ten in my wallet): "Gosh, I don't have a ten. Can I give you another five?"

Barristo: "Yes, that's perfect." Takes the five, puts it in the register, gets ready to give me the SAME FIVE back as part of the ten that I never gave him. Sensing a problem, he does what any other moron would do, and totally freezes up, staring at the register drawer.

Me (working a hunch): "Can you make sure and give me back the same five? That bill has been in my family for generations, and we really like it."

Barristo: ( much information... HEAD....REALLY....HURTS ....finally, he whispers, I swear): "I'll have to ask the manager." Waves to manager.

Manager: "What's up?"

Me: "The bill was 2-something and I gave him a five but he rang up ten so he made me gave him another five but now I want that same five back and he won't give it to me."

Manager looks at Barristo, eyebrows raised.


Manager: Stares at register, then at money tray. Picks up five like it is a dead cockroach, gives it to me. (warmly) "Sorry for the wait, sir." (not so warmly) "(Barristo NAME), can we talk for a minute, in back?"

Kgrease..dedicated to bringing equilibrium to employment markets everywhere.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Satire...It's Satire. They can do that. Shut up.

These administrators need to calm down.

Students satirizing administrators, making fun of political groups? What's next....a food fight in the cafeteria? These people must be stopped. Call Dean Wurmer.

Look: If you want to photoshop public photos of public figures, you can do it, as long as it is clearly satire.

If you are interested, here is the blog in question. Frankly, I think that student journalism is going right down the toilet, and it needs to be stirred up a little. There are very few fringe publications. Blogs should take up the slack. It's fine to embarrass yourselves, as long as you totally humiliate those in power who deserve it.

An article. We are all going to hell, unless bloggers kick some fascist nutjob ass. You people can't stop us! We're going to write what we want, and use photos for effect! So you life-arranging speech-quashers can all bite me!

(Nod to TtstbxC) (Tommy the soon to be ex-Canuck)

Friday, May 20, 2005

In Pizza Veritas

Tex, from Whacking Day: If it's this easy, why do we all make it so hard?

I plan to use this essay when I teach. Markets are complex, but the reasons for preferring them are not.

Why Improve On Perfection?

I started to write a review of "...the Sith."

But Yobbo linked up to one that was better than I could have written.

What he said.

MWT liked it. A mystery. He seems otherwise sentient.

I laughed out loud at many inappropriate places. Most of them places where that android Hayden Christensen was on the screen. A different view, proving my point.

A Dukely Haiku-kely

This is a sad thing.

Revolution without me.

Can you start it now?

Google: A pathway to...

One of the things you can do in SITEMETER is to check on the referring sites that got people to your blog.

Lots of people get there from GOOGLE, of course.

Interesting to think that someone in Germany might look for reviews of Caesar and Cleopatra, and get this. Of course, they might want it IN GERMAN, and go after this.

I bet my German sucks. But funny to see that picture of Buchanan and Tullock up there on the top right, amid all those German words...

Flybottle: Word

Will has a nice post on income mobility.

He does plead some ignorance on the numbers thing (and perhaps with cause, since his list has THREE number 4's in it).

But very interesting and provocative claims. And the comments....better than most of my posts. Okay, better than all of my posts.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Myths and Myth-sters

I wrote about publishing, and the work of being an academic.

Some of the questions that came up were about whether I was just a typical old fogey, everything-was-harder-then, "we had to walk barefoot two miles through snow to get to the interet" guy.

Some reactions to my earlier post:

Stephen Karlson
Paul Brewer
Chris Lawrence
Michelle Dion

Here are five myths, or what are in my opinion myths. They really are empirical questions. I give answers, but I haven't researched them closely.

Myth 1: There is no relationship between work and publishing record. It is all luck, connections, and mystical "ability"; either you have it or you don't.

Garbage. Any moron can write stuff and get it published. Many do. It may not be good, but at most universities that doesn't matter at all. The old saying is that "Deans can count, but they can't read." There are quite a few "major" universities that have social science departments that just attach weights by journal quality and pages published to figure out raises. But the modal number of citations of articles in Web of Science? 0, bagel, bupkes, nada. Publishing stuff just takes patience and hard, focused work. You just have to face the terrors of the blinking cursor, instead of eating muffins and reading the NYTimes on the pretext you have to stay informed.

Myth 2: It has gotten harder to get published.

Oh, please. If anything, it has gotten easier. The number of journals has increased much faster than the number of professors in American universities in the past two decades. The number of papers published per year has gone up dramatically.

Myth 3: Okay, but then it has gotten harder to get published in "top" journals.

Gag me. Sure, the acceptance rates at top journals has gone down, but there are two things to consider. (a) the quality of the papers published by the top journals has not gone up. If anything, they publish more junky, narrow schlock than ever before. If you talk to journal editors, they say they would love to get more good papers, even the kind of papers they expected routinely 5 years ago. It is just as likely, or even more likely, for a GOOD paper to get published now as it was 20 years ago. (b) relatedly, the papers sent out for review by junior people today are shockingly, apocalyptically bad. No attempt at lit reviews, worthless narrow data sets, cases selected on the dependent variable, no model of any kind, the wrong method. As grad students, everyone gets patted on the head for the sake of building self-esteem, and then when you have to go out into the big bad world people are MEAN to you. Boo hoo. I get papers to review that wouldn't get a B in one of my undergrad classes. My reaction is not friendly.

Myth 4: Boy, a what big dickhead you are, Kgrease! Surely it is true that it has gotten harder to publish in the top journals. There are just so many more people trying to publish in the "big three", or whatever you mean by "top" journals.

Yeah, that may be right. Here's the thing. Suppose it's true that people are working hard, and well, but that it has gotten harder to publish in the three top journals. What would you expect to see? You would see LOTS of publications in lesser journals, field journals, that sort of thing. And some junior faculty do exactly that. I will listen to those people. I disagree with them that it is harder than before, for the reasons above. But at least they are clearly working. I have heard SO MANY other excuses, and I am sick of them. "Journals are biased against conservatives, so there is no use writing journal articles." No, journals are biased against lazy whining half-wits who write crap, so you should just go kill yourself. Usually when I ask for evidence of the supposed bias, the biasee has not one instance of rejection. They just failed to try. Another example: Political theorists say it is impossible to publish in the APSR. But theorists in my department have published several papers in APSR in the last few years. The key is just not to suck.

Myth 5: Kgrease, you know so much, teach us what to do!

(Notice this is listed as a myth, and is therefore false. Read on at your peril)
Here are my rules:
(a) If you have five papers you have presented at conferences, but have not yet sent to journals, you ought to just abandon pretence and buy an inflatable doll. All you are doing is pleasuring yourself. You ain't working. Finishing is work. Starting a paper and having dinner with friends at conferences is fun, but not work. I specifically look at the ratio of conference papers to published papers on c.v.s I receive for junior people when we have a position. If the ratio is >3/1, I put them in the reject pile. In academics, like in every sport, finishing is what matters, and finishing is what so many people, even smart people, cannot do.
(b) Junior people should have three (3) papers being considered at journals at all times. If one gets rejected, turn it around immediately and get it back out there. A paper on your desk is rotting. A paper on a referee's desk, or editor's desk, is germinating. If a paper gets accepted, you need to send out another new paper immediately. Don't sleep until you do. Spend the time between hearing about papers from journals in writing new papers. Don't spend all your time checking your mail and dreaming of what might be. Nobody cares about the labor pains. They just want to see the freakin' baby.
(c) Every idiot has ideas. Lots of them are good. Not all of them turn into good papers. You can't tell until you work on them a long time. If an idea turns out to be not that great, write it up and send it right away to a second-tier journal. Fairly often, a referee will see something you didn't. Several of my publications in "top" journals started as fairly sucky papers sent to lesser journals, and got TURNED DOWN EVEN THERE, with useful referee reports.
(d) If you are publishing less than two papers a year, you are not working enough. If you are NEVER sending papers to top journals, you are not working deeply enough. And if you are hoping your department will promote you because of your shiny personality, you are in the wrong business. This is a tough business.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Grocery Performance Art

I consider myself to have comic stylings. My wife considers me to be a narcissistic loudmouth.

You be the judge:

I'm in the grocery. I am buying lots of soda and beer, because it's on sale now and we are having a party next week for the Magellan baseball team.

I have in the cart 12 12-packs of soda (buy one get one free), and 7 12-packs of beer. I also have 5 big bags of chips. Finally, I picked up an onion, a big purple one, for the dinner I am cooking tomorrow.

Cashier (female, maybe 19, skinny and quiet): "You havin' a party?"

Me (loudly enough so people turn and look): "The onion! That's what gave it away! I KNEW I shouldn't have bought the onion. But now the word is out: A party. Now EVERYBODY knows! Darned stupid onion."


Me (going back to my "inside voice"): "I was just kidding. Yes, we're having a party for my son's baseball team."


Manager, walking up quickly: "Is there a problem?"

Me: "We're having a party."

Manager (looks at cashier, looks at me, looks at the sodas and beer and chips, and onion): "Well, can you keep it down?"

Me: "The party isn't until next week. Can you hear it already?"

Manager: "....hunhihhunhhh" (or something like that); walks back to cubby hole.

Cashier keeps head down, finishes ringing up, whispers "You saved $30.06 on your VIC card."

I go home, well satisfied that I have introduced unexpected surrealism into the lives of two people who clearly needed it.

Now, my wife and sons will not go shopping with me. This is MOST unfortunate. Because if there were actual other people to play along, the possibilities for grocery performance art are nearly limitless. But they won't go.

(By the way, on the Magellan team page, of the five pix, the one on the right, with the bat, is my son Brian. Check the hair).

Help Us, Please....

Could people possibly be any more confused about "good" investment strategies?

Here is an idiotic story in the LA Times "proving" that the government needs to manage peoples' investments.

An excerpt:

Douglass C. North, an economist at Washington University in St. Louis, won the Nobel Prize in 1993 for work on the importance of institutions in fostering growth. However, in deciding how to invest his prize money, he trusted his gut rather than institutions. He concluded that the stock market had peaked, and poured the money into low-interest municipal bonds. When stocks confounded his predictions by doubling in value, he said, "my wife spent years berating me."

Still, he hung onto the bonds, and stock prices eventually reversed course. Chief among the rewards he said he collected: "My wife quit berating me."

That's a fib. I know Elizabeth Case pretty well, and she just quit berating Doug North about that one subject. All the other subjects he deserves to be berated about...she is still after him on those.

Seriously, North didn't throw the money away, he chose a low risk, high after-tax yield investment instrument. Suppose that North had invested the entire amount on the winning number of the New Jersey Lottery, a dollar at a time, every day since 1993. He would have earned trillions of dollars. Now, North is a fine man, but he is as greedy as the rest of us. If he had known the winning lottery number, he would have invested in it.

Just like if he had known that stocks would rise so dramatically, he would have invested in it.

Comparing a solid investment strategy to the one high-risk strategy that happened to maximize returns, ex post, and then saying the sensible strategy is wrong....well, it shows that you don't understand anything about markets, and the efficient capitalization of information. Criticizing someone for not buying the winning lottery ticket....doesn't make sense. And one certainly can't conclude that lotteries are good investments from the fact that ONE person won big.

So, my proposal is this: the government should take over the investments, and all other aspects of the lives, of those who know least about markets: the reporters, editors, and staff of the LA Times. Leave the rest of us alone.

I am confident that North's investments, and those of the other Nobelists, outperformed the anemic return on Social Security, even with their inherently conservative investment strategies.

(Nod to Craig N, who also has a most excellent rant on this subject. Craig includes reporters for the Boston Globe among those who are too stupid to live on their own. I would restrict this service to actual bipeds. But to each his own.)


A story from INSIDEHIGHERED on the tenure process.


The scholar was well liked and well published, according to the e-mail that arrived last week, but he was denied tenure in April. And then he lost it.

One day on campus, he started shouting expletives about the university administration (some versions of the story have this taking place in a class; others do not). He then moved into a hallway, continuing to shout and removing his clothes, taking leaflets off the walls. At some point, he was subdued by campus security officers.

Many people at the university involved know about the incident (or versions of it they have heard, with the “facts” changing a bit), but there’s been no public discussion. Professors in the department where this happened have been told to refer anyone asking to the public relations office, where a senior official would confirm only that there was an incident last month involving a professor.

We’re not naming the university or department here because to do so would lead to identifying the professor, who is getting help, and who doesn’t need (or presumably want) to be known nationally. To provide some context, it’s a university you’ve heard of, but it’s not the kind of place that is on “top 10″ lists of public or private institutions.

It happens everywhere. People in the public have no idea what a tough, sometimes savage, business academics is. Well over half of those hired don't get tenure, and at Duke and other top research universities that proportion is even less. Fired, sacked, out the can happen for a lot of reasons.

I don't know if I was oblivious, arrogant, or just lucky, but it never occurred to me that I might not get tenure. I didn't even tell my wife when I got it; just seemed like one of those "sun rose in the east this morning" things. About five years ago, may 1999 or 2000, she came up to me at a party, obviously worried. "All these people are talking about tenure, and it sounds hard. Do YOU have tenure?"

We got married in 1986, so I was enough of a veteran husband not to laugh. I told her, as gently as I could, that yes, I had gotten tenure in 1992. "Really? Oh, good, that's good." She patted my arm.

Donna is an attorney. Even after being married to an academic for nearly 20 years, it is hard for her to put herself in the place of a professor. If I am sitting, staring at the wall, working on some equations, she asks, "What are you doing? Are you okay?" Later, when I come out to have a glass of wine with her before bed, she says, "Are you done? Did you finish?"

Well, no, I'll never finish. When I finish this, I have to do something else. The advantage of being an academic is that you can schedule the 70 hours you work anytime you want during the week. But that doesn't change the time commitment, and that is what so few people see.

I keep hearing from junior people that it has gotten harder to publish, and that it is now harder to get tenure. Maybe...but I doubt it. As far as I can tell, the work habits of junior faculty is what has changed. People watch TV, play with their kids, do almost anything except sit in their office and work. The first couple of jobs I had, nearly everyone (but certainly the junior people) were all in their offices by 9:30 am....on SATURDAY. Having a shared work ethic, and time together, made a difference. Now, lots of senior people rarely use their offices except for office hours. So junior people don't get the sense of how hard, long, and often you have to work.

Economic Determinism

Yikes. It has always been an article of faith for me that the "American Dream" is real.

The right-wing side of American culture is built on two "truths", neither of which is entirely true, but which need to have some merit for our system to make any sense.

1. Anyone who works hard, is thrifty, and saves and invests, will be wealthy, at least by world standards. Everyone CAN BE above average, just like in Lake Wobegon.

2. Wealth position is something one can control. Failure to succeed is simply a sign of lack of effort, or will. Anyone who is poor, dissolute, wretched deserves to be so.

Sure, this is a gross oversimplification, but much of our collective rhetoric and social policy are based on the truth of these two statements.

But, some evidence that #1 may not be true, not even true enough to serve as a myth for policy decisions. That left-wing rag the Wall Street Journal has some questions.


...the reality of mobility in America is more complicated than the myth. As the gap between rich and poor has widened since 1970, the odds that a child born in poverty will climb to wealth -- or a rich child will fall into the middle class -- remain stuck. Despite the spread of affirmative action, the expansion of community colleges and the other social change designed to give people of all classes a shot at success, Americans are no more or less likely to rise above, or fall below, their parents' economic class than they were 35 years ago.

Although Americans still think of their land as a place of exceptional opportunity -- in contrast to class-bound Europe -- the evidence suggests otherwise. And scholars have, over the past decade, come to see America as a less mobile society than they once believed.

As recently as the late 1980s, economists argued that not much advantage passed from parent to child, perhaps as little as 20%. By that measure, a rich man's grandchild would have barely any edge over a poor man's grandchild.

"Almost all the earnings advantages or disadvantages of ancestors are wiped out in three generations," wrote Gary Becker, the University of Chicago economist and Nobel laureate, in 1986. "Poverty would not seem to be a 'culture' that persists for several generations."

But over the last 10 years, better data and more number-crunching have led economists and sociologists to a new consensus: The escalators of mobility move much more slowly. A substantial body of research finds that at least 45% of parents' advantage in income is passed along to their children, and perhaps as much as 60%. With the higher estimate, it's not only how much money your parents have that matters -- even your great-great grandfather's wealth might give you a noticeable edge today.

Many Americans believe their country remains a land of unbounded opportunity. That perception explains why Americans, much more than Europeans, have tolerated the widening inequality in recent years. It is OK to have ever-greater differences between rich and poor, they seem to believe, as long as their children have a good chance of grasping the brass ring.

(Nod to JP)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Duke Graduation: A good time!

Actually had fun at Duke's graduation ceremony.

Speakers were good, day was neither too hot nor rainy, and there were some surprises.

1. Started with the Star Spangled Banner. I had been late getting into line, and so I was seated among the physical science faculty (bio, physics, chem, etc). They all SANG, loudly, to the national anthem. Quite a refreshing change from the social science faculty, where I usually sit. It would be even moreso a change from the Lit/English/Cult Anthro folks, who mutter to themselves about tyranny and jingoism if they even see a flag. Of course, the Lit/English/etc faculty would never actually show up to graduation. I was having a discussion with a famous member of our Lit facult two years ago, and talking about teaching. She snorted and said, "People in my department almost never teach; we are all much too famous." Of course, she is a big fan of "the people," but doesn't like individual people (like, for example, students) very much.

2. President Brodhead was introducing one of the honorary degree recipients, Roald Hoffman, and was reading from a prepared text that compared poetry and science. He quoted Hoffman, something like, "If poets can write about lumberjacks, then scientists can write poetry." Then Brodhead looked down and murmured, but into the microphone, "Hmmm...I wonder which poet he had in mind?" Maybe this one? Dick is a very funny guy, and much more low key than Nan. Nan had the whole regal thing down very well. She was smooth. Dick Brodhead appears to think of himself in a much more down-to-earth way. (To be fair, Nan was perfectly down-to-earth personally. When she thought her role called for it, she became queen. And that is a perfectly legit way to present oneself as President. Dick is more of the chief-jester-in-charge. I can't say one is better than the other, but boy are they different).

3. At the Poli Sci diploma presentation, I mispronounced a record number of names. We have way more grads than ever before, and there were 800 people at just the Poli Sci ceremony, with 150 grads and 650 proud papas and mamas and bored sibs. The University does not give us nearly enough money to pay for this shindig, so it is a big money loser. But it is darned fun, I have to say. Reminds you of why you became a professor. All of those grads take a little piece of you, your classes, and Duke, with them for the rest of their lives. 150 stories we don't know the end of yet.

(If you didn't click on the lumberjack song above, do it now. You'll be sorry else.)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Real (Bad) IDea


The whole "show meh yoh papazz, pliss" from East Germany....coming soon to a state near you. And me.

Bruce Schneier on why Real ID is a bad IDea. Plenty of links once you get in there.

Senate passed the thing unanimously, because it was tucked into a spending bill as a rider.

Now heads to Prez, for his signature. And, he signed it.

Ick. Maybe we can use the below as an example. It still has the original Nazi stamps.

Review of "Accidental Death of an Anarchist"

(Seen May 7, 2005)

Summer’s here, and the time is right for…visiting the theater.

I’m not talking about movies. I mean live people, acting. Get out of the house, away from the tube, and go see one of the many productions available in the next few months.

I have one for you: Burning Coal Theatre’s “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” is at Legget Theater at Peace College in Raleigh. (You can find a copy of the script here, though this is quite different from the adaptation used by BC)

“Accidental Death” is a farce. It’s funny; but at its core it is political. George Bush gets abused, but the play’s target is larger than any person or party. Dario Fo’s script is ANGRY. Hierarchy, convention, politicians, the media: This play spills acid on everything.

There are a few hooks to hang the plot on. The only sane and moral person is the crazy guy, “The Maniac.” Phillip Mutz, as the Maniac…well, he was born to play this. It is demanding acting, having to maintain that level of manic power, driving the play along, moving the exposition, creating our only focus for sympathy. Mutz is terrific, a wayward orb in a broken pinball machine, one only he can make flash and ring and pop.

The other characters are good, too, but the script makes them cartoons. There is so much coming at you at once that you start to laugh about something from ten seconds ago, but if you do laugh you’ll miss the next bit. Let me two examples. Both examples occur after the reporter, played by Lynne Marie Guglielmi, comes on stage in the second act.

I should note that her entrance sucks all the oxygen out of the room, as it is supposed to. She is dressed more like a prostitute than a reporter. The police chief looks at her closely, and demands, “Aren’t you the theater critic?” She answers with her own question, waving her arms, “Isn’t this a theater?” We all laugh. Look, they have crossed the proscenium barrier and included the audience; it IS a theater, so why shouldn’t the reporter be the theater critic?

But that is not what the line means, though it takes 10 seconds to sink in. The POLICE STATION is the theater. The characters write and rewrite the “facts” of the case, mocking the very idea of facts, or justice. Why shouldn’t the newspaper send the theater critic to write crime stories? Isn’t the police station a stage, and we citizens just an audience?

And, then, a few minutes later. The maniac adapts (misquotes might be better) Pope Gregory the Great, in this passage: "Like it or not, I will impose truth and justice; I will do everything humanly possible to make sure that scandals are clamorously exposed; and do not forget that, in the stench of scandal, all authority is submerged. Let scandal be welcomed, for upon it is based the most enduring power of the state!"

The play goes on, but I couldn’t hear anything for a while. This is the core message, Fo’s enraged indictment. Remember how, in the book 1984, the authorities would say that “We are at war with Oceania, and we have always been at war with Oceania!” Orwell thought wars and battles would be the distraction that kept citizens from focusing on problems at home.

But Fo’s Maniac says something else. Who needs Oceania when you have Michael Jackson, or Tom DeLay? Scandals, on TV, blogs, and newspapers….those are our new wars with Oceania. There is constant war between celebrities, politicians and the media, but they all peek at us out of the corner of their eye. It’s as real as professional wrestling, the outcomes no more meaningful than the OJ Simpson trial. But we are distracted, and that’s really the point.

Go see Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Then go see some other locally produced plays. The Triangle can have as active a theater scene as you want. But you have to go.

“Burning Coal’s ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ plays at the Legget Theater at Peace College through May 22” Tickets!!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mind/Body Duelists

Interesting exchange on THE EDGE.

Pinker v. Spelke

I think that Pinker gets rather the better of this, but it is a hard question.

Was playing pick-up basketball with some grad students a while back. Two of the players were female, both about 5'3" and 100 lbs. I am more than 6', and more than 240 lbs. Some of that is fat (okay, a lot), but I lift weights enough that I can remain in posession of most rebounds I can get two hands on. If you try to take the ball from me, expect to move around a little against your will.

One of the young women decided she would contest a rebound. Grabbed the ball; I didn't see who it was, and without thinking I swung my shoulders and elbows with the ball. She was lifted up in the air, lost her grip on the ball, and fell heavily.

She started shrieking at me, "You can't do that. That's too rough!" I didn't hit her with an elbow, or with anything else. I just took the ball from her. Hard, full speed.

The point? There are three.
1. She was right, in a way. We had a pretty strong norm of not treating the female players that way. That is why we usually needed two women, so they could guard each other. They were both pretty good shooters, and frankly it was a better game that way.
2. Coming down in the paint to contest a rebound with me, or any of the other widebodies, is a different thing altogether. There is a big difference between trying not to knock a woman down if she sets a pick, and just letting her take a rebound away from you.
3. Is there any reason to believe that mathematics and physics are like basketball? That is, the only way women can play basketball with men is to have special rules ("Don't be too rough; I'm a girl!"). I tend to think that is NOT true, and that women can compete straight up. But then why are there so few women in the physics and math fields? That is the most interesting part of the debate.

SPELKE: I'm glad you brought up the case of the basketball and baseball players. I think it's interesting to ask, what distinguishes these cases, where you remove the overt discrimination and within a very short period of time the differential disappears, from other cases, where you remove the overt discrimination and the covert discrimination continues? In the athletic cases where discrimination disappears quickly, there are clear, objective measures of success. Whatever people think about the capacities of a black player, if he is hitting the ball out of the park, he is going to get credit for a home run. That is not the case in science.

In science, the judgments are subjective, every step of the way. Who's really talented? Who deserves bigger lab space? Who should get the next fellowship? Who should get promoted to tenure? These decisions are not based on clear and objective criteria. These are the cases where you see discrimination persisting. You see it in academia. You see it in Claudia Goldin's studies of orchestra auditions, which also involve subtle judgments: Who's the more emotive, sensitive player? If you know that the players are male or female, you're going pick mostly men, but if the players are behind a screen, you'll start picking more women.

PINKER: But that makes the wrong prediction: the harder the science, the greater the participation of women! We find exactly the opposite: it's the most subjective fields within academia — the social sciences, the humanities, the helping professions — that have the greatest representation of women. This follows exactly from the choices that women express in what gives them satisfaction in life. But it goes in the opposite direction to the prediction you made about the role of objective criteria in bringing about gender equity. Surely it's physics, and not, say, sociology, that has the more objective criteria for success.


(Nod to JB)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

My Pyramid, My Pyramid

I want you to play with

My Pyramid.

Pretty cute site, spoofing the new food pyramid.

Nod to Fey. (Actually, to Joanna)

Okay, now this CAN'T be right

John Lott didn't really do this, did he?

Either someone set up a pretty elaborate hoax (possible), or else...well, it's sad, is what it is.

UPDATE: Nod to BN, who is well on his to becoming a politically moderate HL Mencken. He enjoys this kind of thing a little TOO much. If you ask me.

Mencken (and it could be Nyhan): "It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office."

UPDATE AGAIN: William Sjostrom has some words on Lott and Levitt, from a while back.

Cave Man HTML

I fixed my SiteMeter account, using cave man "programming": delete all the HTML around the faulty SiteMeter counter stuff in the template, and then reinstall from scratch using the old account info.

Has to be a better way, but that will certainly work.

I had tried getting SiteMeter to overwrite the code, or just change the account associated with the meter, but it wouldn't do it. It would SAY it was done, and that the changes were made, but they wouldn't show up.

Academic Freedom: Writing and Teaching Are Different

As I have argued several times, it seems to me there is a difference between what scholars can write (answer: anything, absolutely anything at all) and what they can "teach" (answer: stick to your subject, keep your political views out of the classroom except as a foil for discussion, never use political conformity as a grading criterion, and consider the impact of readings in terms of their pedagogical effect, not just your own "good" (meaning selfish) intentions).

So, I have read of the case of one Dr. Jonathan Bean. From the SIU-Carbondale student newspaper, and from some other sources, and another.

The gist:

Bean's History 110: 20th Century America class, an SIUC core curriculum course of roughly 270 students, studied the usual litany of readings by Rosa Parks, Malcom X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for its section on the Civil Rights era at the beginning of April.

Bean also distributed what he said were additional, optional reading handouts through his three graduate assistants assigned to the course. Among those papers was an abridged article from James Lubinskas of titled, "Remembering the Zebra Killings," which recounted a series of 71 murders perpetrated by a group of black men against white civilians in San Francisco between 1972

and 1974. also hosts writer David Horowitz, who visited SIUC last year on the subject of academic freedom at universities.

Bean had pulled the article from the Web site and thought it would be material students could possibly go over in the course discussion sections.

At that point, Bean said, the wheels began to turn.

"It sparked what I called "handout hysteria," he said. "I handed it out on Tuesday. On Friday afternoon I'm called into the department chair's office, with a hysterical department chair waving the handout at me."

Bean said at that point he wasn't sure what had caused the problem.

"What I took away from it, the concern was about sensitivity," he said.

I am trying to put myself in the positon of the department chair. And here is what I would have said to Bean, if it had been my meeting. "Jonathan, this really comes down to presentation. I don't think you can give equal historical credibility and factual status to the material in this handout, compared to the other historical events you teach about in class. I'll back you up on this, but in terms of pedagogy this is a very close call. Documenting black violence against whites is quite possibly useful, but allowing the perception of moral equivalence (There were white racists and black racists, and so both sides were racists) is a gross misrepresentation. And, to use THIS source...That's not good teaching. I think you made a mistake, but it was an honest one. In any case, you can count on my support publicly."

The point is that professors have an obligation to be careful, not just to hand out random internet tracts in an attempt to be provocative.

On the other hand, if Bean had written something, even something where he expressed approval of the Zebra killings, or the Ku Klux Klan, or anything else, then he would have my full support. I would argue with him, but I would try to protect him.

Write what you want, but teach what you should.

(Nod to OY)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Taverna Bora

Fun stuff at Tar Heel Tavern. You can get there from here. Most recent entry is here.

I also enjoyed reading Coturnix's entry on his boyhood fascination with horses in Belgrade. Coturnix doesn't do anything halfway. If I could only find the TV remote, I'd look for some horseracing. But, "Cops" is on, and I might see some of my family get arrested. Look! There's my cousin! I wish he'd wear a shirt...Yeeek. When he runs, he exemplifies heavily damped harmonic motion. Maybe he should just wear a bra.

The Chicken Thing Has Nothing To Do With the Motorcycle Thing

News from rural America, as reported here....

Linc and Helena Moore may have finally learned the answer to that age-old question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because the chicken doesn't know jaywalking is illegal.
Kern County Sheriff's Deputy J. Nicholson does know, however. The deputy issued a ticket March 26 because one of the couple's chickens allegedly impeded traffic in Johannesburg, a rural mining community near Ridgecrest, some 220 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
The Moores were in Superior Court on Friday to plead not guilty. A trial was scheduled for May 16.
Nicholson has declined to discuss the matter, but sheriff's Sgt. Francis Moore said chickens on the roadway have been a problem in the community of 50 residents. Officials didn't believe it could be resolved by simply issuing the couple a warning.
"Sometimes you have to let people talk to the judge," Moore said.
The chicken's owners say they believe they were cited because they were among several people who complained that sheriff's deputies haven't done enough to control off-road vehicle riders who create dust and noise in their neighborhood.
Sheriff's officials say that isn't so, adding they are doing what they can to keep off-roaders away from homes.
"The chicken thing has nothing to do with the motorcycle thing," Moore said.

(Insert your own joke here.)
My question is this: Is this just selective enforcement? Will others who jaywalk be cited? Or will such behavior be egg-scused?

(Nod to JAR, who is incredulous)

Gosh Darn It!

I was trying to change the meter type on SiteMeter, and I reset the goldarn thing.

All that useless info, tracking visits and sources, gone. All that is left is....this.

On the other hand, the new meter (bottom of blog) is very pretty, if you like blood. Or fake blood, the kind pro wrestlers use.

I probably shouldn't beat myself up about it....

Lemons: Creature from the Blog Lagoon

Steven Taylor writes an interesting piece combining quotes, and analysis, on blogging and credibility.

If a major blogger had circulated false documents to damage either the Kerry or Bush campaigns in a manner similar to Rather, there is no doubt that they would have suffered the same kind of scrutiny and criticism (had a minor blogger done it, no one would have noticed–maybe. Of course, had a cable access tv show in Austin, TX aired the fake TANG documents, I am guessing they wouldn’t have gotten much scrutiny, either).

The Eason Jordan situation is harder to analogize, because there is no one to “fire” a blogger who made such comments, except in terms of losing readership.

And in terms of corrections: on balance, bloggers’ corrections are easier to see than those of major papers. If I find an error I usually go back and correct it within the post in question, and mark said correction with bold “Updates” and strikthroughs. Does the NYT go back into ita archives and makes actual changes in the text that clearly show a corrected error? I think not.

Another blogger technique in issuing corrections is to post a new story–which is the same thing as the NYT placing their corrections on the front page–something that they aren’t prone to doing.

My own view is that Akerlof tells us much of what we need to know about the problem. The reason that CBS, and the NYTimes, have value as brand names is that they trade on their credibility. But they suffer from the problem that they sell ads, and therefore have reason to distort and embellish and sell more copies (however you want to define eyeballs looking at content, those are "copies"). (Interesting analysis by Steckbeck and Boettke)

Bloggers potentially suffer from the "lemons" problem: no monitoring mechanism, so no reason to be honest, fair, or accurate. But (and here's the thing) bloggers don't charge, and most don't sell many ads. More technically, most bloggers have no profit motive, and so the incentive link necessary for adverse selection to operate is severed. I think Taylor has it exactly right when he talks about the means for showing corrections and updates.

So, you heard it here first: Blogs are a better news source, as a group, than the NYTimes. But, if you are only going to read one thing and act on that first reading, read the Times, because they have the clearest financial incentive to get it right, fastest. Because that is how the market for information works.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I'm a Flappy Bird!

Okay, so the whining and begging....maybe not my finest moment.

But, I'm a flappy bird.

Flying is fun. I think I can see your house from here.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

This Explains a Lot, Actually

KGrease was never what you might call "handsome."

Fat, confused, hair-like-a-rat's-nest, that sort of thing. But not handsome.

And, when I was 18 months old, my mother had twin daughters. Dressed them alike. They were so freakin' CUTE! I couldn't stand it. No one wanted to play with me.

So, parental disdain for my Calabanity led DIRECTLY to my career as a professional wrestler, putting other big sweaty men into submission holds and throwing folding chairs at women whose bodies are composed mostly of silicone.

Now, there is proof that this is a general phenomenon: Parents don't like ugly kids!
At least, not as much.

Check this excerpt:
Researchers at the University of Alberta carefully observed how parents treated their children during trips to the supermarket. They found that physical attractiveness made a big difference.

The researchers noted if the parents belted their youngsters into the grocery cart seat, how often the parents' attention lapsed and the number of times the children were allowed to engage in potentially dangerous activities like standing up in the shopping cart. They also rated each child's physical attractiveness on a 10-point scale.

The findings, not yet published, were presented at the Warren E. Kalbach Population Conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

When it came to buckling up, pretty and ugly children were treated in starkly different ways, with seat belt use increasing in direct proportion to attractiveness. When a woman was in charge, 4 percent of the homeliest children were strapped in compared with 13.3 percent of the most attractive children. The difference was even more acute when fathers led the shopping expedition - in those cases, none of the least attractive children were secured with seat belts, while 12.5 percent of the prettiest children were.

Homely children were also more often out of sight of their parents, and they were more often allowed to wander more than 10 feet away.

Age - of parent and child - also played a role. Younger adults were more likely to buckle their children into the seat, and younger children were more often buckled in. Older adults, in contrast, were inclined to let children wander out of sight and more likely to allow them to engage in physically dangerous activities.

And, apparently Michael Jackson was a confounding factor in the experiments:
Although the researchers were unsure why, good-looking boys were usually kept in closer proximity to the adults taking care of them than were pretty girls.

Why might this be? (The difference in treatment, not the Michael Jackson thing).
Dr. W. Andrew Harrell, executive director of the Population Research Laboratory at the University of Alberta and the leader of the research team, sees an evolutionary reason for the findings: pretty children, he says, represent the best genetic legacy, and therefore they get more care.
...Dr. Harrell said the importance of physical attractiveness "cuts across social class, income and education."

"Like lots of animals, we tend to parcel out our resources on the basis of value," he said. "Maybe we can't always articulate that, but in fact we do it. There are a lot of things that make a person more valuable, and physical attractiveness may be one of them."

(Nod to JP, who is butter)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

PETA-baiting, Down Under

I had missed it, but Yobbo wrote a piece a while back on "Kill an animal and eat it!" day, March 15.

I had written a little thing, too.

But check the Yobbo post, and the comments. He has vegetarians volunteering to eat meat if it means the aliens from the planet PETA get roasted, too.

On a more serious note, here is (IMHO) an honest assessment of PETA's real danger as an organization of vicious terrorists. Specifically, for example, this post.

Thanks to Coturnix for that last link, some time ago. I should have said.

I can't believe I'm groveling like this

But...I need a couple of mercy links.

No, really, I'm not talking about a want.

A need. That's what this is.

See, I've been a slithering snake for months. (#4639) Okay, fair enough, an accurate description.

But I want to be a flabby bird. (sorry, flappy bird. The first description is more accurate, so I left it).

I only need two links, from some soul who pities broken down turnbuckle artists.

And, in terms of daily visits, I am way up the evolutionary ladder. (#1727!)

So...yes....I'm beggin' ya.

Blogroll me like my back ain't got no bones. I will provide the immediate reach-around. NO, no, I mean it.

(Lord, I feel so cheap)

Greenhouse gas

Oh, good lord.

The NYTimes now prints all the news that's fit to slant.

A Wall-Mart screed, by Steven Greenhouse.


Frances Browning, for example, once earned $15 a hour, but now at Wal-Mart, where she is a cashier in Roswell, Ga., she is paid $9.43. She says she is happy to have the job.

"I was unemployed for two and a half years before I found my job at Wal-Mart," Ms. Browning, 57, said. "Like everybody else I'd love to make a lot more, but I have to be realistic."

But Jason Mrkwa, 27, a high school graduate who stocks frozen food at a Wal-Mart in Independence, Kan., maintains that he is underpaid. "I make $8.53, even though every one of my evaluations has been above standard," Mr. Mrkwa (pronounced MARK-wah) said. "You can't really live on this."

Labor groups and their allies are focusing on Wal-Mart because they say that the campaign will not just benefit its workers but also reduce the existing pressure on unionized competitors to reduce their own wages and benefits.

"Wal-Mart should pay people at a minimum enough to go above the U.S. poverty line," said Andrew Grossman, executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, the coalition of community, environmental and labor groups running the series of ads criticizing Wal-Mart. "A company this big and this wealthy has the ability to pay higher wages."

Now, I disagree with the "rich should pay more" progressive taxes bit, but at least it is not illogical.

The claim that Wal-Mart should pay higher wages because it is "rich", however, violates even the standard of logic you would expect from the bed-wetters and hand-wringers that do their partying at Wal-Mart Watch. The company got big, and rich, paying lower costs and providing high quality, low-price goods to consumers. One of those costs is labor.

Sure, lots of college profs think Wal-Mart workers are exploited, because they think that anyone who has to work is exploited. When you went to a private school, have daddy's trust fund, and have never met a minority who wasn't carrying a mop, how could you think anything else.

Maybe Pol Pot had it right. We need to send the intellectuals out to work camps, so they know what it is like to work. Instead of making up fake causes about highly successful companies exploiting workers by paying them higher wages than they can obtain in any other activity.

(nod to JP)

Oh, Yeah? Well... rate THIS.

I check now and then.

This is new, at least since my last check:
it's like if the dud from family guy taught your class. but smarter. he's hilarious AND smart. great professor.

I've never seen Family Guy. Have to watch, now. I showed my 15 year old son the description above, and he hacked up a lung, laughing. He agreed, though, except for the smart part. "You are the dud guy, dad."

The others range from:
This was one of the best classes I've ever taken. The reading list was daunting - thousands and thousands of pages - but I learned an incredible amount. I always looked forward to class discussions. The homework assignments were mind-expanding. I came to college for classes like this.

Blush. Oh, please. Please don't stop.

To this:
Unprepared most of the time, the lectures are off the cuff. Not ever sure he's read the stuff he's lecturing on! TAs are all that counts in this class. Skip the lectures.

That last one has me mystified. Pompous ass, sure. Arrogant, obviously. But hasn't "read the stuff." Ahem. I use my own book in the case of this class. "Off the cuff"? I use detailed PPT slides and lecture from them verbatm. Then, I post the slides on Blackboard. There are 30-40 per lecture, all written out in advance with pictures and sound. One could say that they suck, but....My theory? The kid was actually taking another class, and was too drugged to notice the difference. Maybe this class?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Blogging at Duke

For those of you who came to this site because of the Duke Chronicle article this morning, three things.

1. This blog has nothing whatsoever to do with Duke, the Political Science Department at Duke, or for that matter with anything else. It is irrelevant and useless.
2. If you are easy to offend, don't read anything here. Nothing. Go away. We retired professional wrestlers don't need lame candy asses like you cluttering up the servers.
3. But, I would like to compose a list of blogs written by people at Duke. If you are interested in being on the list, please send me an email with the following info.
a. your blog name
b. the category of blog (academic, political, satirical, humorous, sports, informational, whatever)
c. your wish for anonymity. I will absolutely NOT out anyone. But if you want to be identified, or if your blog profile identifies you, I can put your name on the list.

For example, here are three blogs I know of, and this is how my list might look:

Name of Blog // Identity // Type // Brendan Nyhan // Serious Political
Anticlimacus // Nick Troester // Academic--Personal Journal
Constrained Vision // Anonymous-"Katie" // Academic--Personal

I will maintain this list for a while, as a resource for anyone who wants to look at the range of blogging activity at Duke. PLEASE SEND ME AN EMAIL IF YOU BLOG.

Though, if you just have a pussweiler blog like this, and never post, just go read your new copy of the THE NATION and leave me alone.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Bush v. Wang

A pitcher's duel: Wang goes against Bush. And when these two come together, I think no one loses.

Interesting match-up. Bush can just stay down and away, use soft stuff, and curves, but Wang has to bring the hard stuff. Also, Wang simply has to come inside if he is to be effective. Wang was throwing on the side by himself earlier in the season, and just went off. Frankly, he often beats himself, rather than waiting and letting the play come to him.

I just hope that Wang can do the complete game. Embarrassing to have to call in a reliever.

On the other hand, Bush is hard to read, You think Bush is all done, but then it turns out Bush is ready for more after all.

I do understand that Wang has a pretty good spitter, so he may have to go to his mouth in the late innings if he is going to finish Bush off.

(nod to MWT)

Jacqueline is my love child?

Whoa. I didn't even know I had a daughter (that often happens to men, but still...)

Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey is apparently my love child.

And, what a proud papa I am!

But...usually "lovechild" denotes an offspring produced out of wedlock, from some fertile (though perhaps furtive) union.

So, unless the lovechild was (re)produced by budding, there has to be a momma.

Any volunteers? Who wants to be Jacqueline's mom? And, yes, that would make that person also my (ahem) consort, if only briefly. (at my age, VERY briefly, maybe 7 or 8 seconds, not counting the cigarette afterwards).

I am going to ask Tyler Cowen. Of course, I always ask Tyler, but he won't put out. He is SUCH a tight ass white boy.

But maybe now he'll see the wisdom of our coming together for a night of love. You can't have a motherless lovechild. And, if Tyler wants, HE can be the dad.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Randi Rhodes--Hoax? Drudge Fantasy?

I have gotten two emails, and the comment below, on my previous post on the "kill the president" bit RR ran on her show.

Randi has not received any calls or visits from the secret service because it is a non issue. Just like when Man Coulter said about Clinton, "I don't know whether we should impeach him or assasinate him!" the Secret Service didn't see fit to waste thier time.

There was no direct threat.

Drudge, as usual, get it wrong. His name is now Dredge, as in digging up sewage.

So...I'm glad I was wrong. It sounded ridiculous, and it was. I should have waited.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Update on Randi Rhodes

More on gunfire and the Prez, from Err America (via Drudge):

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan called the clip "very inappropriate and over the line."

AIR AMERICA President of Programming and co-COO Jon Sinton said in a release: "We regret that a produced comedy bit that was in bad taste slipped through our normal vetting process. We do acknowledge that it was an internal error and internal discipline will be enforced."

Rhodes apologized for the skit on her show today. "It was a bit,” Rhodes said. “It was bad. I apologize a thousand times."

What If I Joke About Joking About Shooting the Prez?

Randi Rhodes is in a bit of hot water.

Since Drudge moves stuff, here is the post:

The red-hot rhetoric over Social Security on liberal talkradio network AIR AMERICA has caught the attention of the Secret Service, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

Government officials are reviewing a skit which aired on the network Monday evening -- a skit featuring an apparent gunshot warning to the president!

The announcer: "A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.] Just try it, you little bastard. [audio of gun being cocked]."

The audio production at the center of the controversy aired during opening minutes of The Randi Rhodes Show.

"What is with all the killing?" Rhodes said, laughing, after the clip aired.

"Even joking about shooting the president is a crime, let alone doing it on national radio... we are taking this very seriously," a government source explained.


If you are joking, and it is obviously a joke, then it can't be a crime. Let me try this:

"If you look at Randi Rhodes' picture, you'll see that she is actually quite attractive. Or would be if it were dark, you had had a lot of beer, and it was closing time. And if you were a het chubby-chaser."

(No, that wasn't funny; that's beside the point).

Now, I joked about someone who joked about killing the president (and I have used the phrase "killing the president" twice in this post). Does that mean I should listen for the heavy hand of the state to knock on my door?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Chopped Liver and "Conservatives First"ism

I'm sure you've seen references to this study. But here is the link, just to be sure.

Abstract of the paper:

This article first examines the ideological composition of American university faculty and then tests whether ideological homogeneity has become self-reinforcing. A randomly based national survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities finds that liberals and Democrats outnumber conservatives and Republicans by large margins, and the differences are not limited to elite universities or to the social sciences and humanities. A multivariate analysis finds that, even after taking into account the effects of professional accomplishment, along with many other individual characteristics, conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats. This suggests that complaints of ideologically-based discrimination in academic advancement deserve serious consideration and further study. The analysis finds similar effects based on gender and religiosity, i.e., women and practicing Christians teach at lower quality schools than their professional accomplishments would predict.

Now, here is my own thought: ANYONE who defines themselves by some irrelevant characteristic (lesbian, black, conservative, marxist, vegan) ought to be a failure as an academic. Example: Ward Churchill is actually a pretty important writer, according to some people I respect. But he primarily defined himself as a Native American, and when that lie was outed he was let go. He should never have been hired, because we don't need professional Indians, or Latinos, or conservatives.

We DO need, IMHO, good professionals who HAPPEN to be Indians, or Latinos, or conservatives, as a side matter.

So....people on the left are right to say that we shouldn't hire profs whose core identity is "conservative." But then they also should oppose hiring profs whose core identity is ANY OTHER kind of anti-intellectual activism.

I have a friend, very liberal, who happens to be a lesbian. Great person, terrific scholar. One of the lesbian organizations in Political Science was looking for "symbolic" representation, and complained that no lesbians had a voice on a certain committee. Since my friend was at that time chairing THAT committee, I immediately began referring to her loudly and gleefully as "Professor Chopped Liver."

She fumed that one of the things that holds back any movement is the need to make sure everyone's "papers are in order." And she was exactly right.

As long as conservatives define themselves as conservatives first, and scholars second, they will end up at second rate schools. And they will deserve it.

(nod to TtwbC)

UPDATE: Check out Alex Tabarrok, in a similar vein. It seems our views are pretty close. That almost certainly means we are both wrong, of course....

(Nod to JH)

Sunday, April 24, 2005


At first, I thought this must be a joke. Check out the SWOTT (actually, it should be "SWOT AT", like you would do to a fly, but...) web site.

They say:
We develop the Summer Workshop On Teaching Terrorism (SWOTT) to: 1) offer an intensive short-course on the fundamentals of terrorism; 2) introduce academics to new and innovative techniques utilized to teach terrorism; and 3) provide access to high-level officials working in the intelligence and counter-terrorism fields.

"Teach terrorism"? Maybe, teach ABOUT terrorism? Or will they have a theme dance, "Osama Enchanted Evening"? (Notice it does say "about" on this page)

Later, we are told:
A good teacher and an informed person can be quite different individuals. We wish to produce "informed teachers" from our workshop. A good teacher captures students attention, engages them in such a way that they want to learn, and often gets them to learn without them even realizing it. An individual with great information who does not know how to convey it in a way that is easy to consume is worthless. Academics, in particular, who take part in our program will leave with a better understanding of terrorism and its intricacies and armed with new teaching techniques and resources to relay their knowledge to their students.

So...they are ACTUALLY teaching teaching.

I think it worked; I am terrified by the fact that whoever wrote this announcement could take themselves this seriously.

(Nod to MWT, who is blameless, as he nearly never takes himself seriously).