31.1.04

LINK: your friendly Sunday morning thought, from Le Sabot Post-Moderne:

"This doctrine also brings the many verses in the Bible about the necessity of good works into focus, while preserving the Bible's teaching on justification by faith. Those whom God has justified, He also sanctifies, as Romans 8 teaches us. If you are saved, you WILL do good works, and God WILL sanctify you."

I find this to be enormously reassuring, somehow.
LINK: If Josh Chafetz says it's okay for me to like it, I will. I especially like the second half.
LINK: Sometimes I run across someone's opinions, not on politics, but on the structural features of democracy, and I'm a little confused. But not everyone has swallowed Downsian models and the concept of single-peaked preferences whole.

So, briefly, controversially, let me throw out the following thesis as if it's established fact: there will never be significant, long-lasting third parties in American politics. Never never never.
ADDENDUM: OGIW points out that the below theory fails to explain the higher than normal involvement in Dem primaries in Iowa, NH, and various Feb. 3 states (she cited New Mexico). Two answers:

1. Those are all swing states*, where higher than average turnout is expected in the model.

2. For Iowa and New Hampshire, there was the impression that there was an interesting race for the nomination going on, a perception that has by and large gone away. The key turnout numbers will not be those that have already happened, nor the Feb. 3 primaries, but the ones after that: this will indicate whether higher turnout was a function of the perception of their being a race, or genuine interest in electing Kerry/beating Bush.

*the general definition of a swing state I use is small margins of victory in Presidential, Gubenatorial, and Senate races (split Senate delegations are also a good sign).
THE DYNAMICS OF THE GENERAL ELECTION: or, Why Turnout Might Be Really, Really Low:

Go here, flip West Virginia back into the Democratic column, and you have my prediction for the Presidential election. It's been my more-or-less expressed theory for the last week or so that turnout, surprisingly, might be lower than everyone's expecting. Here's why:

1. ceteris paribus, no one is going to become more enamored of Bush or (I'm being presumptuous, I know) Kerry as time goes on. Bush will shed off partisan support so long as he keeps expanding the size of the federal government (I think this year might be a sign of whether or not libertarianism constitutes a serious political movement), and, far more importantly, the intensity of his non-partisan support is likely to shrink because even if you're not rabidly Republican, he's still doing some things you don't like, and those tend to be the things voters remember.

Kerry's not going to do any better because we saw last year how well he handled the scrutiny of being the presumptive front-runner when it was only super-wonks like myself who were following these things. He's going to get bloodied. He suffers the Al Gore disease: it's nigh-impossible to be passionate about him (Upper Left will probably disagree with me on that one). It's also not clear exactly how deep his support is (OGIW sent me a conversation with a friend of hers where this point was discussed; hat tip to them), and the speed with which people went from Dean/Clark to Kerry should raise some questions about the depth of that support.

Further, there's the not inconsiderable splinter-group of metropoliticals (Michael Totten, Jeff Jarvis, etc etc), who would be inclined to vote for Bush on the War on Terror but are trying to break the habits of lifetime Democratic voting. It's not clear how they're going to go, and I won't discount the possibility they'll sit the election out (as I am considering doing).

2. In swing states (my latest list is: Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and maybe New York), turnout is probably going to be very high. But given 1., people who live in states with large populations where the end conclusion is pretty certain (Texas, California, Illinois, and possibly New York as well) are not likely to come out to vote--at least not in the same numbers they would if they were really fired up.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: or, ridiculously florid thought for the day:

"From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

-Ps. 61:2. Bonus points if you know where this appears in 90s musical history.
JOY OF JOYS! My replacement copy of The Captive Mind came today. I might have to re-read it tonight.

30.1.04

OH: And Our Girl In Washington (my source for all these sorts of things) has some poll numbers which I'll pass along to you:

Generic Matchup
Bush 47%
Dem 46%
Undecided 7%

Kerry Matchup:
Bush 46%
Kerry 47%
Undecided 7%

I have more crosstabs, if anyone's interested. Anyway, I think this is the first time I've seen a specific candidate polling above the generic Dem.
LINK: So there's this Katha Pollitt column, and I read it, and I have very conflicting feelings about it. On one hand, it's almost certainly the case that there's a misogynistic subtext to a male candidate bringing out the little wife to campaign with him, where she's expected to fufill a certain role which is almost laughable. On the other hand, I'm not too cool with Ms. Pollitt's condescenion towards women who want to stay home and raise a family. I mean, if a woman wants to go out and have a career, that's fine, but does it make her any less of a woman (or any less 'equal' to her husband) if she doesn't?

Anyway, it's a welcome change from reading articles in The Nation that make me want to laugh and/or vomit.
WILL COUNTRY MUSIC EVER MAKE IT BIG IN BLUE-STATE AMERICA?

No.

That being said, it's hipper in some places than others (slightly more fashionable in Ann Arbor, as you might be surprised to hear--this weekend's highlight is Emmylou Harris coming to town, and my boss, latte-sipping, NYT-home-delivery-receiving, fire-branded liberal that he is, loves her before all else musically), though that's generally true of any kind of music. It was big a few years ago as part of the O Brother Where Art Thou? 'old-timey' music craze, but I'd brake out Hank or, say, The Anthology of American Folk Music ("John Hardy" by the Carter Family being my favorite), and they couldn't ever really take it.

But I think the bigger explanation is the good country music is about life experiences--loss of love, depression, and existential grappling with the toughness of life--and the willingness to hear about them correlates nicely, I'd imagine, with age and the time to be pensive enough to really think about these things. When we talk about Blue-Staters, we generally mean 20- and 30-somethings in major metropolitan areas, right? They're generally the people with lifestyles least disposed to being able to get country music.

Which is better, because I kind of like the feeling of having Hank and Patsy to myself.
HELL FREEZES OVER: or, Will Baude posts something I almost entirely agree with. Especially:

"This is especially the case given that much of the official curriculum taught in high school classes will either be re-learned in college (and it will often turn out to have been wrong the first time around) or else never used again."

I've occasionally advocated the theory recently that pre-college education serves absolutely no purpose other than a placeholder of time before students get to college and study things that actually interest them. To some extent high school might help you find what you want to study more of (not me--I had to read philosophy and Greek classics on my own time, and I hadn't even thought of political science at that time (consider this a warning, Kevin, that you might make it to Chicago only to major in biochemisty and interpretive dance)), as well as some valuable experiences which may or may not be class-related (mine included toilet coffee (I didn't drink it), shed-jumping, and a trip through Indiana, about which the less said, the better).

Other than explanations of the structure and function of juxtamedullary and cortical nephrons, I never use anything I learned in high school. But maybe that's just me.
LINK: Sometimes I'm embarrassed by my gender. Sara Butler has the current-most example.
LINK: Dan Drezner on whether or not bloggers should declare their votes. Nick's bold prediction: he's gonna vote Republican. I say this because I'm a sucker for realist democratic theory. Most of us talk a good game about being independents, but we really aren't.
LINK: Norman Geras on the Paul Berman article I linked to a couple of days ago. His thoughts are tantalizingly unfinished, and I for one am looking forward to the rest.
QUOTE: A good point in the latest by The Hitch:

"(German intelligence reported to Gerhard Schröder that Saddam was within measurable distance of getting a nuke: That didn't deter the chancellor in the least from adopting an utterly complacent approach.)"

So presumably Bush was somehow supposed to know that the information given to him was false, even though the CIA and whomever else swore up and down by it (or equivocated on it in a reasonably consistent pattern over time). But let's say that you knew what Gerhard Schroder new, and what's more, you had your intelligence agencies swearing up and down (or at least equivocating in a reasonably consistent pattern over time) that Saddam was going to use it on (pick your helpless group: Kurds, Israelis, Palestinians). What do you do then?

I think the key to moral and political seriousness, here as everywhere, lies in getting the extreme cases right.
WELL: I find it very masculating that I singlehandedly got the boiler for my apartment building up and running again.

I find it less than amusing that I'm the one who has to do this.
WELL: As usual, Joe links to me when I'm at work and can't post as much. Some of my plans for the weekend:

*Is the Evil Demon (or the argument from dreams) a defeater for epistemology?
*Dynamics of the General Election, or, Why Turnout Might Be Really, Really Low
*Thoughts on something or other in my political theory reading
*Plus much, much more...

Please note: this is not a 'sorry for not posting' post... it's a... uh... 'coming attractions' reel... yeah...
LINK: Breaking Ann Arbor news... I wouldnt have believed it, but...

oh, and check the byline, too.

29.1.04

ANSWERS: to questions of Discoshaman's:

When I got bored over the summer, I used to go to the Grad Library and read from the bound volumes of PR and Dissent from the 30s-50s. I sometimes think I was born 70 years too late to be happy with the political world I'm in.

Also, my grandparents are from Winchester, so nary a trip goes by that doesn't include paying homage to Patsy Cline.
REASONS I LIKE ME: I'm writing a paper on Homer and Greek political thought, and I did little post-its throughout my book for passages I wanted to discuss. My post-it for the beginning of Book IX, where Agamemnon decides that the cause of sacking Troy is hopeless and that they ought to give up is labelled "A's freakout."

ALSO: when I play "Roadrunner" by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, I tend to sing it as "I'm in love with Taxachusetts," though I don't really know why.
UM: from The Nation, proving that maybe they need to rethink the quality of their examples:

"For a variety of reasons--opposition to the war, Bush's assault on the Constitution, his crony capitalism, frustration with the overcautious and indentured approach of inside-the-Beltway Democrats--there is a level of passionate volunteerism at the grassroots of the Democratic Party not seen since 1968." [emphasis mine]

because 1968 worked out so well for the Democrats.
LINK: This number on GWB's liberalism puts me in mind of what I didn't put in my comment to this TruePravda post:

"It's true that there are huge difference between the parties on social issues, but it's also something of a truism in American Politics that people, by and large, don't vote on social issues: they vote on economic ones. And the parties are a lot closer on those. After all, should I vote for the big-spending, entitlement-creating, nation-building, deficit-raising candidate, or should I vote for the Democrat?"
WAIT: So conservatives like the NEA now? I'm confused.
QUOTE: Iraqi blogger takes on HoDo:

"By statements like these you deny any honourable motives for the great job your people are doing here. How in your opinion will this affect the morale of your soldiers? Feeling that their people back at home don’t support them and that they’re abandoned to fight alone in the battlefield.

And all of this for what? For staying in the white house for 4 or 8 years? Is it worth it?

And this is not directed only to Mr. Dean, it’s for all the Americans who support such allegations without being aware of their consequences. What’s it that you fight so hard for, showing your soldiers as s occupiers and murderers, the soldiers who I had the honour of meeting many, and when talking to some of them, I didn’t see anything other than gentleness, honesty and good will and faith in what they’re doing."
LINK: Tacitus has an interesting view on the Christian/Muslim God kerfuffle. I chuckled:

"As a Christian, I'm not inclined to view the Islamic god as the same God that I worship -- too many behavioral differences."
QUOTE: Moby:

" ok, so in the interest of further alienating my fans, etc, i have to express my true thoughts regarding the next election...
and that is that al sharpton is the democratic candidate who would, in many ways, be the best nominee....
have you heard him speak?
he's bright and personable and aware and informed and all of the things that we want all of the other candidates to be."

Sometimes you just can't do a parody of reality.
LINK: Joementum may be a useful bit of terminology after all.
LINK: See what happens when you pay someone what he's worth? That's an extra 10 wins for Detroit next year, easy.
QUOTE: this may be the most redundant sentence I've read in awhile:

"there was a time when [switching managers in midseason] was a common strategy two decades ago."

-from ESPN.com

28.1.04

LINK: Can There Be a Decent Left?, one of my five favorite political essays ever.

The others: "My Confession," by Mary McCarthy; "New Styles in Leftism," by Irving Howe; "Of Sin, the Left and Islamic Fascism," by Christopher Hitchens; and "Why the Christian Church is Not Pacifist," by Reinhold Niebuhr.
SIX THUMPS FOR RIGHT: Dissent has been the intellectual front lines for my kind of leftism for quite awhile (ever since Michael Walzer's "Can There Be a Decent Left?" at least), and Paul Berman rails away effectively:

"The old-fashioned left used to be universalist-used to think that everyone, all over the world, would some day want to live according to the same fundamental values, and ought to be helped to do so. They thought this was especially true for people in reasonably modern societies with universities, industries, and a sophisticated bureaucracy-societies like the one in Iraq. But no more! Today, people say, out of a spirit of egalitarian tolerance: Social democracy for Swedes! Tyranny for Arabs! And this is supposed to be a left-wing attitude? By the way, you don't hear much from the left about the non-Arabs in countries like Iraq, do you? The left, the real left, used to be the champion of minority populations-of people like the Kurds. No more! The left, my friend, has abandoned the values of the left-except for a few of us, of course."

"What a tragedy for the left-the worldwide left, this left of ours which, in failing to play much of a role in the antifascism of our own era, is right now committing a gigantic historic error. Not for the first time, my friend! And yet, if the left all over the world took up this particular struggle as its own, the whole nature of events in Iraq and throughout the region could be influenced in a very useful way, and Bush's many blunders could be rectified, and the struggle could be advanced."

"You haven't the foggiest idea what fascism is," I said. "I always figured that a keen awareness of extreme oppression was the deepest trait of a left-wing heart. Mass graves, three hundred thousand missing Iraqis, a population crushed by thirty-five years of Baathist boots stomping on their faces-that is what fascism means! And you think that a few corrupt insider contracts with Bush's cronies at Halliburton and a bit of retrograde Bible-thumping and Bush's ridiculous tax cuts and his bonanzas for the super-rich are indistinguishable from that?-indistinguishable from fascism? From a politics of slaughter? Leftism is supposed to be a reality principle. Leftism is supposed to embody an ability to take in the big picture. The traitor to the left is you, my friend . . ."
LINK: Jacob Levy has enough thoughts on NH for all of us. If you can imagine a two-sided version of this post, that's what conversations with OGIW are like (though we're obviously slightly less well-informed).
YEAH, THAT'S WHAT WORRIES ME: Josh Marshall:

"Yet for all Democrats I think there are some very promising signs coming out of these two contests. There was a lot of talk for months about the divisions in the Democratic party. And certainly there was something to that. But that wasn't what was happening on the ground here. I heard most of the candidates repeatedly. And the differences between them are matters of mild shading. The important differences are retrospective rather than prospective."
OUCH: Wonkette:

"The Nation: How have they survived 100+ years? Lottery winnings."

Certainly not with the writing.
WELL: How's this for a good test of a democracy: the ability to have only one candidate on the ballot and not have them get anywhere close to 100%:

"George W. Bush, who had no major opposition, managed to seize 85.5% of the vote in the Republican primary. That's right. 14.5% of New Hampshire Republicans voted for somebody else, including 6.5% who wrote in Kerry, Dean, Clark, or Edwards. By comparison, Bill Clinton got 95% of the vote in the 1996 New Hampshire Democratic primary."
LINK: Le Sabot Post-Moderne has an interesting post on the correlation between country music fandom and living in a Red State.

I, of course, am an effete Blue State northern liberal who swears by Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline. You have my grandfather (liberal democratic wage laborer from Virginia, so pretty much the opposite of me in everything but politics) to thank for that, as he taught me the following iron law:

Real Men Love Hank Williams.
QUOTE: Michael Totten:

"Andrew Sullivan says Bush is in trouble. And that is probably true. He’s earned every bit of that trouble. But the Democrats aren’t gearing up to replace him. They winding themselves up to flail."

I wouldn't be at all surprised if voter turnout were really, really low this year. We're set up for a Patriots-Panthers-type election season: the die-hards will turn out, as well as the freaks who enjoy it no matter who's involved, and everyone else is going to be lackadaisical. I'm not finding any of my options to be particularly appealing at the moment (I'm even contemplating not voting for a President if that doesn't change), and I think that's a fairly common feeling, left and right.
QUOTE: Roger Simon shares my pain:

"[a two man race between Kerry and Dean] is bad because a two-man race of this sort will push the Democratic Party to the left, particularly on the war. With Dean surging like this, and pushing on Kerry, the contest will become about which candidate more despises the War in Iraq. Intelligent discussion of the most important subject of our day will be minimized. Nuances on the subject will disappear. Edwards at least had a relatively clean slate on the issue--and occasionally he made sense on it."

Sigh. I've told OGIW on a couple of occasions that Edwards is a Hubert Humphrey for our generation: enormously talented, good (in a moral and political sense), and forever doomed to do less well than he should, in a perfect world.
LINK: I'm aware of the Kerry-botox rumors. Yale Diva has a before-and-after. I hate to disagree with her on this one, but it looks like the big differences between the two are attributable to 1. lighting and 2. the difference between smiling and frowning. Botox is supposed to get rid of forehead wrinkles? They're still there in the after picture, so obviously he didn't get it done very well.
WORDS OF WISDOM: Joe Carter:

"I mean, really, one post a day does not a blogger make."

Oh yeah, there's also a good post on the trouble surrounding Mel Gibson's movie The Passion as well.

More of the insightfulness working itself out here. Imagine if it were just a period history movie, and he had people speaking Latin or whathaveyou: everyone would be aflutter with the "authenticity" it conveyed. It never ceases to amaze me how some people get bent out of shape as soon as the subject of Jesus comes up.
LINK: I had time to kill before class this morning, and found this, which will hopefully brighten up your day like it did mine.
WELL: I'm not sure if anyone else has had this experience before, but I'm rereading Hobbes' Leviathan for my Modern Political Thought class. The version we use is the one my Political Philosophy professor edited. I've been getting a certain amount of joy out of reading the marginal notes and supplimentary things this time around, because I now realize that he writes in exactly the same way he talks, which makes for some comedic mental narration.
OKAY: So last night wasn't such a good night for my budding interesting in political methodology.

Or was it?

Follow me here. One of my big theses was that Kerry, Clark and Dean were fighting for the same supporters. Look at my Clark, Kerry and Dean predictions again:

Kerry: 41%
Clark: 19% (actually 20% on my model, but was changed for reasons I explained here)
Dean: 16%

which is, by my math, 76%.

The actual vote percentages for the three:

Kerry: 38%
Dean: 26%
Clark: 12%

which is, by my math, 76%.

So yes, my predictions were wrong (I did rob myself of an extra day by declaring on Friday (easier in Iowa as the caucus was on a Monday)), but I feel some vindication that I was right on the only thing I explicitly modeled.

27.1.04

ABOUT MY PREDICTION:

"Well, folks, when you're right 52% of the time, you're wrong 48% of the time."

-Smooth Jimmy Apollo, from The Simpsons

More thoughts on why I was wrong a little bit later in the evening (after I'm done with tomorrow's Hobbes)
QUOTE OF THE DAY OF THE MOMENT: from today's Philosophy 477 reading:

"The traditional theist, on the other hand, has no corresponding reason for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce true beliefs, nor any reason for thinking the probability of a belief's being true, given that it is a product of her cognitive faculties, is low or inscrutable. She may indeed endorse some form of evolution; but if she does, it will be a form of evolution guided and orchestrated by God. And qua traditional theist -- qua Jewish, Moslem, or Christian theist - she believes that God is the premier knower and has created us human beings in his image, an important part of which involves his giving them what is needed to have knowledge, just as he does.

The conclusion to be drawn, therefore, is that the conjunction of naturalism with evolutionary theory is self-defeating: it provides for itself an undefeated defeater. It is therfore unacceptable and irrational."
THIS ONE IS MUCH MORE ENTERTAINING, THOUGH:





I think this makes sense along with the one that had me as John Calvin.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Matthew Yglesias:

"If one thing's become clear over the past two weeks it's that no one has any business trying to predict stuff..."

having heard some of the exit polling from NH, I'm thinking I might need to get out of the prediction business myself.
LINK: um, yeah...
INTERESTING: One more reason to vote Democratic, as provided by Jayson Stark:

"Here's the perfect note for this joyous election season. Loyal reader Christopher J. Fried reports that it shouldn't have surprised anyone that the Yankees lost the World Series last October. It's all George W. Bush's fault.

Since 1958, the Yankees have played 20 seasons with a Democrat in the White House -- and won eight World Series. But in their 25 seasons after a Republican gave the State of the Union, the Yankees are 0-for-25. They've now lost five straight World Series under Republican administrations. Think George Steinbrenner will vote Democratic this fall after he reads this note?"
Just a note: there'll be no blog posting until my heat goes back on, because I'm finding it hard to concentrate on anything else in the interim. Should be back to normal by this afternoon.

UPDATE: not only is my heat back on, but I got a crash course in basic repair and maintainance of a boiler. Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he won't have to crash on his friends' couches to avoid hypothermia.

26.1.04

THE VALUE OF ART: in re this Benjamin Alan post, I tend to find works of art instrinsically valuable because they ultimately say something from one occasionally gloomy intellectual type (Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Caravaggio, The Smiths) to another occasionally gloomy intellectual type (me). It's a nice way to remind yourself that you're not alone in the world, and that your difficulties have been shared by many others who have found ways to live through them.
WELL: [puts on philosopher hat]:

"If more people are resisting marriage, or fleeing the ones they're in, or inventing new permutations like cohabitation and serial monogamy, here's one reason: for a significant percentage of the population, marriage just doesn't turn out to be as gratifying as it promises."

Premises do not entail conclusion. I don't think (unlike what I took to be Sara Butler's main argument) that this is necessarily a problem with people's expectations of what the institution of marriage entails (though that's certainly a factor) so much as it's a matter of people getting married at the wrong time, or for the wrong reasons, or to the wrong person. Go read the comments section here, and you'll find some people for whom the old-fashioned approach is working just fine (even if parts of their approach are too old-fashioned for my tastes).

The more I think about it, the more I believe Aristotle was right: it's all about being habituated into the right actions and thought patterns that determine future romantic success. I think.
HINT: Do not click on this if you have to, say, read The Old Oligarch's thoughts on the Athenian Constitution. You will not get your work done.
LINK: I love Wonkette, and this post made me think of OGIW (who is now going to start reading Wonkette herself, by the way)
LINK: I read David Frum's diary like normal, and came across this:

"Finally, isn’t there a very real possibility that the centrist-seeming Edwards might actually be the Democrat most vulnerable to an opportunistic campaign by Ralph Nader?"

David Frum offering electoral advice to Democrats? Clearly something is up--and I think that something is the very real fear of facing John Edwards in November. Sucks when there's a guy who can pull of the President's shtick better than he can, huh?

And anyway, as Ralph Nader pointed out after Florida in 2000, Democrats lose a lot more moderate votes to Republicans than they do fringe votes to the Green Party, so they ought to be following the votes...
QUOTE: One of the more amusing things about being at a school like Michigan is that you get a large number of professors who have bounced around all your basic high-powered universities, and don't hesitate to resort to the crudest stereotypes of the students at various institutions... it's guaranteed hilarity.

Today's example: my political modeling professor (who taught at CalTech and Northwestern before coming here) was discussing an example involving a large sum of money that some people wanted to give to the University of Chicago to build a fancy gym-type-thing. They refused, naturally (Northwestern ended up getting it), which prompeted the following set of observations:

"People at the University of Chicago don't work out... they all wear black and walk around with their hands behind their backs [does impression of mild-mannered but serious student]...

[after discussing the role selection bias plays in picking academic institutions] People who go to the University of Chicago don't want to work out: that's why they went to the University of Chicago."

Lest you think I'm horribly biased, as a potential Chicago grad student, it's exactly that sort of reputation that makes me want to go there. But then again, I'm also wearing black...
ESSENTIAL NON-OBVIOUS ALBUMS OF THE 80s

The Queen is Dead and Hatful of Hollow, The Smiths: impossibly Baroque pop creations, where the first is Ruebens and then second is Caravaggio. You probably have to have been a 16-year old boy who'd been dumped by his first girlfriend to really get them, but if you did, they were a world unto themselves.

(I'm also not sure whether I should be offended at Joe's insistence that The Smiths is the "soundtrack of future metrosexuals," or embarrassed because he pretty much got that one right)

Closer, Joy Division: not the happiest album you'll ever own (Ian Curtis killed himself a few weeks after finishing it), but the most complete cataloging of human faults you'll ever find. Breathtakingly heartbreaking.

Chronic Town, Murmur, Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, Lifes Rich Pageant, Document, R.E.M.: there is nothing on this earth so wonderful to listen to as a good R.E.M. album. Too bad they've decided they don't need to make good ones anymore. (Does this qualify as obvious? I'm not so sure it does)

Let It Be, The Replacements: listen to "Favorite Thing" to see where Kurt Cobain stole half of his ideas.

3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul: The most welcome trend of the late-80s/early-90s (flower-power hip-hop) reaches its apotheosis here.

The Stone Roses, Stone Roses: singlehandedly keeping alive the flame of British Popular Music ('Britpop,' if you will) with ridiculously good guitar work and just the right hint of mystery (the US version, with "Fools Gold" on the end, is even better)

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy: pioneered the "Bomb Squad" style of production (on "Prophets of Rage") and contained the best prison-related song since "Jailhouse Rock" ("Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"). Sure, Chuck D and Flava Flav had a lot of... ummmmm... 'controversial' opinions on various topics, but mostly worth the listen.
OH, SURE: It was cold and horribly depressing this morning (though I'm not the only one with heat problems, apparently), but so long as there are things like this headline, I can rest assured the world is a fair and wonderful place.
WELL: I'm surely not the only person who noticed this (though I am possibly the only person who noticed it because his apartment's heat went off AGAIN), but if you look at the ARG tracking numbers for the 22nd-24th, they definitely only add up to 93%. Talk about a flawed methodology.

That'll also (ahem) make it a little harder to try and predict what will happen.
QUOTE: Political haiku is the new terminology waiting to happen. To wit:

"In this latest speech, the two sentences in this paragraph qualify as political haiku. That is, they do a lot of work in a relatively small number of syllables."
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE: I found something useful on InstaPundit

25.1.04

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:

"But may it not be objected that if the prince forbids a sin, such as homicide, on pain of death, he is in this case bound to keep his own law. The answer is that this is not properly the prince's own law, but a law of God and nature, to which he is more strictly bound than any of his subjects. Neither his council, nor the whole body of the people, can exempt him from his perpetual responsibility before the judgement-seat of God, as Solomon said in unequivocal terms. Marcus Aurelius also observed that the magistrate is the judge of persons, the prince of the magistrates, and God of the prince. Such was the opinion of the two wisest rulers the world has ever known. Those who say without qualification that the prince is bound neither by any law whatsoever, nor by his own express engagements, insult the majesty of God, unless they intend to except the laws of God and of nature, and all just covenants and solemn agreements. Even Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, said to his mother that he could exempt her from the laws and customs of Syracuse, but not from the laws of God and of nature. For just as contracts and deeds of gift of private individuals must not derogate from the ordinances of the magistrate, nor his ordinances from the law of the land, nor the law of the land from the enactments of a sovereign prince, so the laws of a sovereign prince cannot override or modify the laws of God and of nature."

-Jean Bodin, Book I, Six Books of the Commonwealth
NOTE: I am not at all worried about my NH predictions. Despite the plethora of polls I've seen with different numbers. And I'm certainly not worried because I ended up first on the list at California Yankee.

Note also: I'm lying about the above.
LINK: New Covenant does a pretty darn good job of elucidating the view I hold about how the Bible should be read (or can be read)...

"The conclusion of this approach is that we are tasked with the responsibility to research into the aspects of the text that will give us an indication of the author's intent.

Author's intent. There's a concept we need to make sure we understand... that authors have intentions whenever they write something. It may seem obvious, but in our "post modern" age how many times have you heard the phrase: "What does this verse mean to you?" Or if you read up at all on issues before the Supreme Court you have surely run into the term "Living Constitution."

This tendency to ignore author's intentions permeates our culture. Hence it is no surprise that many people are unaware of the proper way to study a book such as the Bible. And although it is not surprising, it is disheartening to see many people write off the proper study methods as ultimately unimportant."
FOLLOWING THE BELOW:

Then there's this part:

"After all we could use a verdict: Are we really two nations, rich and poor, where elections can function as national jury awards, redistributing wealth from the Big Guys to the Little People? Or are we a middle-class country where--beyond a few glaring instances--most people must take responsibility for themselves?"

Consider this an inversion of TruePravda's taxes question: do Republicans/conservatives really believe that whenever a Democrat talks about social responsibility for people who fall behind/are poor (Bill Clinton's people who "work hard and play by the rules" but never seem to get ahead), that they're really using this as code for a socialist redistribution scheme run by the government?

Or, to take the possibly stronger tack, let's assume that it's true that we're mostly a middle-class country where everyone mostly does fine, except for a few people, and let's assume further that it's the case that the private sector has not (through charities, foundations, or what have you) done a sufficiently good job helping people who need it: why is it unacceptable for the government to step in at that point?

I'm a Third Way Democrat, so I have a lot of sympathy for people who believe that government should not reflexively be our answer to every social and economic problem, but what's wrong with the government stepping in when no one else will?
QUOTE: The Weekly Standard points out that attacking Edwards as a trial lawyer is a bad:

"REPUBLICANS who dream of attacking John Edwards for making his fortune as a trial lawyer should know that his most famous lawsuit--the one he talks about most on the campaign trail--involved a little girl condemned to a lifetime of feeding tubes when she became caught in a powerful drain in a wading pool. Sitting in only a foot of water, the 5-year-old became trapped by a horrendous vacuum when someone accidentally left the cover off the drain. Four adults couldn't pull her off and she lost 80 percent of her intestines. The pool owners quickly settled but the manufacturing company insisted it was without fault.

Diligently pursuing the case, Edwards uncovered a dozen other instances where children and adults had suffered death or injury from the same type of drain. He also found correspondence indicating company officials had known of the problem but brushed it off. "Doesn't he know this kind of thing should never be put in writing?" warned one memo. The jury awarded damages of $25 million."
LINK: Upper Left makes predictions on NH, and suggests the wisdom in scrapping following polls altogether.
LINK: Josh Marshall provides a little anecdotal evidence to support my theory that Clark is still very much in the NH race.
DO: note that I've stolen Kevin Yaroch's phrasing for my kind-of endorsement of John Edwards (left-hand red cell).

23.1.04

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:

"Far from diminishing the amount of needless cruelty and suffering in the world, I am firmly convinced that the belief that no one is ever morally responsible, in addition to being false, is quite certain to have a mischievous effect and to increase the amount of needless cruelty and suffering. For it justifies Smerdyakov's formula in The Brothers Karamazov: "All things are permissible." One of the commonest experience is to meet someone whose belief that he can't help doing what he is doing (or failing to do) is often an excuse for not doing as well as he can or at least better than he is at present doing. What often passes as irremediable evil in this world, or inevitable suffering, is a consequence of our failure to act in time. We are responsible, whether we admit it or not, for what it is in our power to do; and most of the time we can't be sure what is in our power to do until we attempt it. In spite of the alleged inevitabilities in personal life and human history can redetermine the direction of events, even though it cannot determine the conditions that make human effort possible. It is time enough to reconcile oneself to a secret shame or a public tyranny after one has done one's best to overcome it, and even then it isn't necessary."

-Sydney Hook, reply to Edwards and Hospers
LINK: makes sense to me. The real question is who's more unreadable: Husserl or Merleau-Ponty?
BREAKING NEWS: OGIW tells me something political that I'm not allowed to tell you until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Oh, heck, it's on their front page. I'm told that this should be considered a signal that environmental groups are going to come out swinging this year. This will prompt some later musings on interest groups, the ordering of preferences in the electorate, and the benefits of having the status quo on your side (as evangelical outpost pointed out). This does signal bad news for Bush in Michigan, though.
I reserve the right to change my prediction by Saturday if the numbers shift dramatically.
WELL: I decided not to be a wuss and wait for the latest ARG tracking poll to make my prediction on Hew Hampshire. Here goes nothing:

Kerry: 41%
Clark: 19%
Edwards: 17%*
Dean: 16%
Lieberman: 6%
Kucinich: 1%

1. Methodology: look at the polls and guess what people are gonna do. Note that Clark has held strong at 18-20%, and Kerry's rise can be explained without recourse to his attracting undecideds, so there's no reason to give him an undue advantage there.

I feel reasonably enough confident in my model to suggest that the margin of error is +/-3% for all the candidates.

2. Assumptions: Dean's slid a lot lately, but he also hasn't done anything to damage himself since Monday night, so I'm assuming his floor is 15%. I don't think he's set to collapse entirely (he's going to finish ahead of Lieberman), but he could drop down as low as 11-12%. Those votes would mostly go to Kerry.

Edwards is going to end up with a reasonable portion of the currently undecideds. They're obviously not swayed by anything they've seen thusfar. Kerry will get about half because he's the frontrunner and they'll pile on, but most of the rest will go to Edwards because he's optimistic, and people like optimism.

Clark, Dean and Edwards are all within the margin of error of each other, so the potential for chaos abounds.

3. Big winner: Kerry. Not because he'll win going away (he will) but because Dean, Edwards and Clark will finish so close to each other that there'll be no clear second-placer, and none of them will drop out.

*my model predicted Edwards and Dean at 16%, but as ties are ways of wimping out of saying who'll win, I went with my gut and thought that Edwards would probably win the undecideds I gave to Clark and gave him an extra point.
OH: My NH prediction will be up tomorrow night, after I have time to digest the polls and write up a little model.
WELL: Will Baude produces a post on capital punishment which I happen to pretty much agree with:

'If the problem is that innocent people languish for 24 years at a time in "a ghastly place," well then that's a problem. But the marginal harm of also inflicting the death penalty on such people isn't what gets my blood going.

As of yet, we haven't executed anybody we now know to be innocent since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. Of course, once people are dead, we often stop looking. Still, Delma Banks' story will be almost as tragic to me if he "merely" spends 24 years wrongfully imprisoned and uncompensated than if wrongful killing is added to the state's list of wrongdoing.

So replacing a bunch of wrongful death penalties with a bunch of wrongful life sentences does little, to my mind, (especially given the small fraction of people on death row who eventually meet execution) to solve the actual evil of wrongful conviction. Sure it's an improvement, but is it enough of an improvement?"

And then he loses me:

"[Incidentally, why, other than the possibility of bad press, do we stop long-term prisoners from killing themselves?]"

Presumably, we undertake a great and serious bit of moral responsibility when we decide someone should be executed for a crime. We don't kill to make the person dead, but because there's a certain moral quality to the death that we find to be valuable. Being indifferent to prisoner suicide is only possible if you consider the death alone to be the important thing. But if death alone is important, why not just take them out behind the courthouse after their sentence and get it over with? Sure, a lot of the features around capital punishment can be ridiculed (especially if you look at it from a purely utilitarian perspective*), but they're there for a reason.

*Incidentally, if you are taking it from a purely utilitarian perspective, I have an argument I was introduced to recently that I'd like to test out, if any of my utilitarian friends or readers would like to take me up on it.
WELL: So what is interesting about the ARG tracking poll, anyway?

1. Clark + Kerry + Dean vote Jan 16-18: 67%

Clark + Kerry + Dean vote Jan 20-22: 69%

So... there's no reason to assume that any of those candidates are appealing to new voters... they're just reapportioning their bloc amongst themselves.

Note also that Clark's support has remained in the 18-20% range, which suggests that the bottom might not be dropping out from under him.

2. Undecideds hover around 15%, which suggests they're not being won over on the basis of Dean's organization, Clark's pre-Iowa surge, or Kerry's post-Iowa surge.
LINK: A very fine example of a limitation on marriage that I generally support.

HILARITY OF THE DAY: evangelical outpost:

"But the most egregious slam is the statement that “Dobson is a lay Ph.D, not an ordained minister.” A “lay Ph.D”? I’ve heard of a lay minister but not a “lay” Doctor of Philosophy. I suppose it can be expected, though, when you get yoru doctorate from that most fundamentalist of seminaries, the University of Southern California."

22.1.04

LINK: I was looking at ARG's latest tracking poll, and I wonder if anyone notices the two interesting things I found there
BIG STORY OF THE DAY: Senate Republicans spy on Democrats. Nick Confessore has more details.
LINK: Interesting piece on the importance of religion for the Democrats. Consider:

"A study from the Pew Forum on Religion found that 50 percent of polled African-Americans said Bush uses too little religious rhetoric compared to 8 percent who said he uses too much and 28 percent who said he used the right amount. Two-thirds of blacks said churches "should express their views" about politics—about the same percentage as white evangelicals—and 61 percent said they wanted more religious leaders advising the candidates. Asked the same question, only 19 percent of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics agreed.

On many of the issues over which liberals mock "the religious right," African-Americans are closer to the evangelicals than the rest of the Democratic Party. Fifty-one percent believe that God gave Israel to the Jews and that its existence fulfills the prophesy about the second coming of Jesus. The U.S. population as a whole disagrees, 46 percent to 36 percent; in fact, the only group that sees eye to eye with African-Americans on this question is white evangelicals."
WELL: The Midland friends (Claire and Camille) made me watch The Ring with them a few months ago, and unlike tacitus and most of his posters, I didn't find it particularly scary. Actually, I'm pretty sure Camille had to tell me not to laugh on more than one occasion.
LINK: Taking philosophy courses again has reintroduced me to the delight of a really well-reasoned argument, and norman geras has a really fine example up.
QUOTE: Terry Teachout discusses reverence for books:

"Never in a million years could I do such a thing. Just to read about it makes my skin prickle. I can’t even underline or highlight passages in the books I own—even though I approve in theory of underlining, and I love reading other people’s marginalia in used books and library copies."

I have very, very similar feelings on the topic. I was once urged in junior high, by a Sunday School teacher to underline parts of whatever (non-Bible) book we were reading for discussion, and the thought of writing in a book just horrified me. Pretty much every passage I like in pretty much every book I've read I can find without needing outside reference (as with Ivan Karamazov's declaration of hating individual people but loving humanity in The Brothers Karamazov, or Stephen's "I'll tell you what I do not fear" conversation in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man--or I just memorize the relevant passage). Moreover, I subscribe to the believe that intelligent people ought to have lots of books--I have maybe 400+, which is a decent start. Then again, I grew up in a house where there were shelves of books everywhere, piles of books on the floor, and various and sundry books elsewhere in the house, so maybe my norms are just way, way off.

Sasha Volokh also has good words on this topic:

"I, too, grew up believing (1) that owning books is good and noble and that you should own a lot if you're an educated person, and (2) that books are sacred and that you shouldn't deface them in any way..."
LINK: of purely personal interest: Amy Gutmann, the Princeton political theorist, is going to become the President of Penn. It sort of depends on who they replace her with, but I think this might be a good thing for the direction of the Politics department there...
WELL: It's not really a picnic waking up and being a liberal, either.

21.1.04

TWO TRENDS: which I've seen some evidence of for quite some time, but seem to be oddly contradictory:

1. An increasing number of college-agers self-identify as libertarians.

2. College-agers who attend church or affiliate with a particular group within the Judeo-Christian tradition are becoming increasingly orthodox.
LINK: I can't believe I'm posting poll numbers before either Upper Left or TPM, but I am: the latest poll I've found, which confirms my tentative New Hampshire thesis, though I'll wait to formally make a prediction until I've seen the numbers through Friday.

UPDATE: Kevin Yaroch beat me to the punch.
ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT REALIST THEORIES OF DEMOCRACY:

evangelical outpost notes that most people don't support major policy changes on any contentious social issue.

Diotima points out that even politically savvy people don't necessarily know that much about what makes politics go:

"I went to the College Republican National Convention this summer and was appalled by how the whole thing seemed to center around W-worship rather than any sort of coherent set of conservative principles."
LINK: Jeff Jarvis finds a category for political moderates to which I don't belong.

Then again, I'd argue that Jeff is wrong, and he's actually more dogmatic than he assumes (you can't be a non-indifferent moderate and not be dogmatic).
WELL: TruePravda asks, I attempt an answer:

"Do the Democrats actually think that there are a large number of Americans who would willingly pay more taxes?"

Short answer no, with a but; long answer yes, with an if.

No, most people are not willing to pay more in taxes, but they do enjoy the benefits of government programs and largesse.

Yes, many people would be willing to pay more taxes if they believe that money is going to some worthwhile cause. No one would object, presumably, to paying an extra dollar in taxes to raise the wage of a member of the military. No one (I hope) would object to paying a little more in taxes to make sure that all children can get the immunizations they need for free if they aren't covered by insurance. Presumably no one minds the money they pay to their state to pave the roads, and no one would mind a increase that would make the roads better (especially if you live in Michigan), so long as the average amount each person would have to pay marginally were reasonable.

The big problem Democrats often have is that they get stuck arguing on raising taxes in a vacuum. Ted Kennedy might think the world would be a better place if marginal income over $300,000 a year got taxed at 90%, but it's not because he thinks that rich, successful people should be screwed over just because they're rich and successful. It seems like a basic point of economics to me that the coercive taxation ability that government has allows for economies of scale that make certain things much, much more affordable (education being a fine example).

The counterargument is the Rosemary Nagle Game argument, which says basically that if you take it as a true psychological fact that people will always prefer a marginal tax cut to a marginal tax increase (in a circumstance where that tax increase doesn't go to one of the above-listed things), there will be a race to the bottom in terms of who can cut taxes the most. This is a fine pragmatic argument, and certainly it's dangerous on a pragmatic level for Democrats to oppose tax cuts, but taking this view also requires ignoring the normative element in the policy debate.
QUOTE: Dan Drezner asks the same question OGIW asked me this morning:

"Oh, and one last thing -- what the hell are steroids in professional sports doing in the friggin' State of the Union?"
QUOTE: Matthew Yglesias points out something I puzzled a bit over during last night's SOTU:

"I'm already seeing the president's thingy about how terrorism can't be fought with indictments alone praised on all the conservative sites. The president is right about this, of course, but he's so right that no one disagrees with him. In the wake of 9/11, virtually everyone felt we had to demand that the Taliban hand Osama over and shut down the camps. When they refused, everyone agreed that we had to go to war. Indicting people is a wonderful thing, but as we all learned on 9/11 it doesn't work very well when the guy you indicted just gets to hang out in another country."
LINK: best use of "smoking crack" in a humorous post on conservatism ever.
LINK: Upper Left gives you all the baseline numbers you'll need for your New Hampshire predictions.
WELL: In re Kevin Yaroch's open pondering:

"I'm still trying to figure out what happened to Kerry and Edwards in Iowa, and whether it will happen in other states..."

The answer is fairly simple, I think: no one who voted in the caucus paid much attention to what had been happening before about a week ago. They knew a few things: Gep seemed a little bit desperate, Dean was the angry guy with th annoying volunteers, Kerry had experience and Edwards was the optimist. Voters like experience and optimism, so they voted for Edwards and Kerry.

As to whether this will continue: look to who Dean and Clark go after, if anyone. Kerry probably needs (and can get) another win, and Edwards probably needs to get about 15% (which should be no worse than a fourth place finish). But the basic structural fact doesn't change: most people who are going to vote aren't paying much attention to what's going on, so momentum and perception count for everything.
LINK: This strikes me as a really good exposition of the problem that some within the evangelical community have from time to time:

"These people [anti-dating advocates] wish to create such a a fear of dating in young people that they will wait to date until they are mature enough to do so with proper respect and self-control. Unfortunately, this fear does not magically disappear when the people mature, but rather lingers on. In addition, the resulting lack of any substantial personal interaction with people of the opposite sex makes it nearly impossible for these people to begin venturing out. Dating suddenly becomes a major life event that is greatly magnified out of proportion. Rather than just being a time to "hang out" and have fun, a date becomes greatly magnified in their minds, such that considering asking someone out on a date requires the careful thought and consideration of asking the person to marry them."

I'm not unsympathetic to the argument that God puts the right person in front of you at the right time (I mostly think that's true in most cases), but the extreme view seems to lead to total passivity: part of what my dating experience, but moreover, my experience having a large number of close friendships with women has taught me is that there are a lot of wonderful character traits that I have a lot of respect for, but absolutely no desire for in the theoretical girl I wish to marry. More importantly, dating experience has taught me that what you're actually looking for is not what you think you're looking for. And I think you miss out on all of that if you go the Courtship route instead.

20.1.04

LINK: I would've never figured Dave Mustaine for one of us, but it's always good to have more people on the team, especially IF THEY ROCK!!!*

*I actually don't like Megadeth at all, but that's just me.
LINK: this is HILARIOUS. I'm making a mix CD for Our Girl In Washington that begins with this.
YEAH, HE JUST LOST ME: the tax thing. I mean, it's one thing to think lower taxes are good. It's another to try and make the other guy look slimy for disagreeing with you. And it's another thing altogether to do it when you're the President.

I thought the foreign policy stuff was good, but not as good as last year.

But on the plus side, GWB knots his tie in the same style I do (proportional with the size of the collar). I didn't think the red worked, though.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

"On the one hand, this is seriously twisted, something only a libertarian could come up with."

-Sara Butler
WHY THERE WON'T BE A BROKERED CONVENTION: CalPundit discusses the possibility. I tend to disagree:

1. There are four big candidates in the N.H. race now: Kerry, Dean, Edwards and Clark. Dean has the numbers (right now) and the organization, Clark has the polling trend in his favor, and Kerry and Edwards have the mo.

1.1 Dean and Clark must finish either #1 or #2 to stay viable--Dean has to do well to counteract the perception that he's slipping (so if he's #2, he has to be very close to #1). Clark has to do that well or his momentum will slow down, not a good thing for the further-out primaries.

1.2 Kerry is probably going to finish in the top 2.

2. Obviously, this means that Clark or Dean will not finish in the top 2. If it's Clark, then he's pretty much done--if he doesn't quit officially, his support is going to start weakening. If it's Dean, he'll probably fight on until he gets statistically eliminated, but he'll start to lose his non-fanatic support.

2.1 Every not-top four candidate (assuming #4 doesn't drop out, of which there's a high probability) will drop out either directly after N.H. or soon after.

3. There is a strong (i.e. non-trivial) possibility of a Edwards 3rd place finish in N.H.--anything lower signals trouble for the campaign's long-term prospects.

3.1 If Edwards doesn't finish #1 in South Carolina, he's done. And not just because I suspect he'll be having money troubles by then.

4. What's really going to keep the possibility of a brokered convention at bay is the question of where supporters go when their main candidate ducks out--this is the key question, about which I don't have anything beyond pure speculation, but I see Kerry and Edwards (especially the latter) being beneficiaries as people drop out of the race, and I also see a non-trivial number defecting from the Dean/Clark camp in the near future. The 1-3 dynamics suggest a four-candidate field won't last past N.H., and a three-candidate field won't last past South Carolina, but it's #4 that determines who wins.
LINK: Matthew Yglesias plays the 'what if' game, and gets the right answer.
LINK: David Brooks suggests I may be a 55-year old female schoolteacher.
WELL: Much more bloggery tomorrow on why Edwards has me excited at the prospect of the Democratic nominee again, an explanation of why Kerry and Edwards did so well after struggling for so long, and why my very, very flawed methodology for predicting the final outcome actually worked pretty well... but only after I'm done discussing the politics of Solon and Herodotus for class. Fun!

19.1.04

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

"FedEx doesn't move as fast as momentum does."
-John Edwards volunteer Abraham Kneisley, on the lack of signs, buttons, etc for the Edwards campaign, as quoted in TAP
LINK: Ah, another Ann Arbor blogger worth reading, but only really for people who live here:

"The piece also notes that Starbucks will be opening at Main and Liberty, "bringing a high-profile chain presence to the block." Well, about time."

As Our Girl in Washington and I put it earlier today:

OGIW: The last thing we need in Ann Arbor is another Starbucks.
Me: No, the last thing we need in Ann Arbor is another Jimmy John's.
OGIW: Four in a one square-mile radius is kind of a lot.
LINK: The new voter myth debunked. This one has been troubling for the Democrats for a long time, so hopefully the powers that be will figure things out soon.
LINK: Le Sabot Post-Moderne questions what we're doing in South Korea if South Koreans don't especially like us being there. Makes me think:

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!"
-King Lear, Act I, scene iv

Which actually strikes me as a rather good analogy. We do have something like a responsibility for the protection of the South Koreans (so long as the threat is as proximate as it is with the crazies in North Korea), and their not liking us doesn't vacate that responsibility any more than, say, having your teenager be mad that you are 'invading their privacy' means you should cease to care about what they're doing.

Maybe this is why my political philosophy professor said I considered paternalism a legitimate basis for governmental action.
LINK: The turnout problem for Gep and Dean.
QUOTE: Born-again Edwards supporters? It may not be as specious a comparison as you think:

"Edwards's presentation over the last week here is more intense and more theatrical. He arrives and departs to rock music blaring from his bus. He draws huge crowds that spill outside of union halls and community centers. He delivers his stump speech in a theatre-in-the-round setting where he stands dramatically in the center of a circle of Iowans. His longtime message of tying his own working class background to a set of policies meant to address middle-class anxiety remains unchanged. Grafted onto it more recently is lots of language about hope, optimism, and an end to the petty sniping that has characterized the campaign. Unlike the events of the other candidates, most of the people at Edwards's events have never seen him before. Many have come out because they watched his final debate appearance, which won rave reviews, or read that he was endorsed by The Des Moines Register.

You can actually watch and feel the crowd metamorphose from folded-arm skepticism to open-minded-curiosity to head-nodding support. "The truth of the matter is this," Edwards says in his closing argument at one stop, "We Democrats have always been the party that believes you don't look down on anybody. That you lift people up. That you don't tear people apart. You bring them together. We are the party that believes that in our America the family you're born into and the color of your skin will never control what you're able to do. I don't for a minute believe I can do this by myself. But I believe that you and I can do it together. Here's why: Because I believe in you. And you deserve a president who actually believes in you. Join me in this campaign! Join me in this fight..." The rest is drowned out by a standing ovation."
QUOTE: Hubert Humphrey in 1948, singlehandedly putting civil rights onto the American political agenda:

"To those who say, my friends, to those who say, that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late! To those who say, to those who say this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!

People, people -- human beings -- this is the issue of the 20th century. People of all kinds -- all sorts of people -- and these people are looking to America for leadership, and they’re looking to America for precept and example.

My good friends -- my fellow--Democrats -- I ask you for calm consideration of our historic opportunity.

Let us not forget -- let us do forget -- the evil passions, the blindness of the past. In these times of world economic, political, and spiritual crisis, we cannot -- we must not -- turn from the path so plainly before us. That path has already lead us through many valleys of the shadow of death. Now is the time to recall those who were left on that path of American freedom.

For all of us here, for the millions who have sent us, for the whole two-billion members of the human family, our land is now, more than ever before, the last best hope on earth. I know that we can -- I know that we shall -- begging here the fuller and richer realization of that hope -- [have] that promise of a land where all men are truly free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely and well."

18.1.04

LINK: Let's all be not even a little bit shocked that I ended up nearly dead center on another political compass test. My only complaint is that I ended up maybe a little to the right of where I am because of the phrasing of the first half of the questions, which leaned as Labour Party-liberal as that other Political Compass test does libertarian.

(Link via Kevin Yaroch)

Note also my neighbor the next cell to the left. Interesting.
LINK: Dan Drezner sums up my rationale for liking Edwards' position despite his supposed lack of ground organization, even if he admits there's not a lot of evidence for that supposition (for me, I presumed that Kerry would win big amongst urban caucuses, and win a fair share throughout the rest of the state. I presume Edwards' biggest support to be in rural precints, with some spillover strength in suburban areas).
WELL: I'd just thought I'd note that if you take my previous prediction of how the general election will go, tip North Carolina to the Democrats and calculate, the Dems would end up winning.

17.1.04

LINK: I will toot my own horn a little bit and point out, via the absolutely indispensible Upper Left, that the poll numbers look a little bit like my prediction for the Iowa Caucus.
LINK: Something to keep in mind if you're ever planning on running for office.

Fortunately, I don't think the same thing will apply to hiring interviews:

"Is it true that you once posted on your blog that a consequence of realist political theory is that you can't trust poll numbers?"
"Yes."
"Oh. Interesting."

not quite the same thing.
LINK: Ann Arbor does have some blogs, apparently, including one Mr. Joan Cole. Odd.

(thanks to Kevin Yaroch for the tip)
LINK: for my own purposes for later: CJR blog
LINK: The economics of this Matthew Yglesias post strike me as fundamentally sound.
QUOTE: Diotima:

"Government is bad, so can we really use government as a tool to lessen people's dependence on government?"

This is the operative premise of Hamilton and Madison in the Federalist Papers, no?
STOP ME BEFORE I BLOG AGAIN: I almost made it 24 hours without posting something... almost...
WELL: Joe Carter:

"As anyone who has spent more than five minutes in the blogosphere knows, libertarianism is a remarkably fast-growing political movement."

I'd say rather that libertarianism is a remarkably fast-growing political movement within the blogosphere, largely because single-issue libertarians (people who subscribe to that label before liberal or conservative) are the vast minority in the country, generally well educated, and completely ignored by the major parties. Even the fair number of people I know who have libertarian sympathies are willing to abandon them when their more serious ideological pursuits require it. Mostly this is because libertarianism runs along the current alignment of politics in America*.

*As libertarianism is a offshoot of liberalism, and both major parties in America subscribe to liberalism as their dominant fundational political doctrine, so a libertarian could (theoretically) be as at home in one party as the other.

16.1.04

I CAN'T SAY I'M SURPRISED:




"[To] serve God properly we must learn to give up our own wills, thoughts, and desires. Why?
Because otherwise we will be wise in our own conceits and will imagine that we can serve
God with this or that, and thus spoil everything."
You are John Calvin!

You're the most intellectual and thoroughly intense theologian on the block. You know what
you're talking about and you recommend people to ignore you at their own risk.
Yeah, baby, you know your stuff. You speak in riddles and confuse people for fun. Still,
this hurts your social skills a lot... and you end up always appearing arrogant and rude.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson

WELL: My inner commutarian is about to come out, so beware.

Ben Domenech has an interesting think-blog about the benefits of home-schooling. I will, of course, be taking the opposite side here.

The problem is that there are essentially three public policy options: the full public funding, the actual public funding, and the homeschool. Public policy working the way it does (the Rosemary Nagle game, and the political preferences of some people for lower taxes over higher social benefits), teachers will be perpetually underpaid, infrastructure will be sub-par, and the educational experience will be shoddy. It's not surprising that homeschooling (especially in the hands of dedicated parents, which seems to be a pre-requisite of home-schooling in the first place) produces better results, because the effort and money will be better targeted.

But let's imagine a Shangri-La for a moment, where there's a large number of well-educated people (some might aver one of the highest per capita concentrations of PhDs in the country) where people constantly vote up their property taxes to keep their schools at the highest possible levels of quality. And let's suppose further that there existed private individuals with some money to throw around, allowing for a high variety of cultural experiences (including a very, very nice library collection). One might be inclined to argue that, should such a place exist, it might provide as flexible and excellent an educational environment as any home school.

The moral of this particular story? Collective actions allows buy-ins on a scale otherwise impossible (school buildings, state-of-the-art science labs, libraries), but only if you're willing to pay for them. If you're not, don't be surprised if those collective institutions underperform.
A QUIBBLE: Diotima says:

"This sounds like a type I am quite familiar with - the woman who got the idea that femininity means acting like a sorority girl, emoting rather than thinking, being passive-aggressive rather than open and honest." [emphasis mine]

Maybe it's just my experience with more than a few sorority girls who make for wonderful interlocutors (including my sister) on topics both serious and not, but this has been one of those stereotypes that has always really bugged me. I understand that they're probably exceptions to the rule, but it still bothers me a little.

"I will admit I've had my temptations in this direction, sitting in class after class listening to young women begin every single comment with "Well, I just feel..." and dealing with passive-aggressive roommates who won't just come out and ask me to turn off my music. "

I'll have to check with Our Girl on Mary Street about this one (she being my resident linguistic anthropologist), but I'm pretty sure that this is a classically 'female' use of deintensifiers and qualifiers (though it is not exclusively female, as I tend to qualify many of the statements I make, this one being a case in point).
LINK: So much Buffy, your head will explode.
UM, NICK, DID YOU PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THE POST WAS ACTUALLY ABOUT?: Louis Vuitton handbags are so ugly, it's just wrong. I do sort of like Burberry scarves, though, so long as they're not the tan plaid.

More seriously, though, I think there's a conceptual link between Joe's observations about the really sickening aspect of Japenese men's preference for the schoolgirl-type (if not actual schoolgirls), and Sara Butler's observations on the Playboy-means-women's-freedom argument.

Two thoughts, in outline form:

1. Clearly part of the problem is that men aren't being adequately socialized into behaving like decent human beings.
2. Equally it seems that there's a problem with women's self-definition. The article Joe links to mentions that women tend to abet men's schoolgirl prediliction, and Ms. Butler's article was written by a woman. Something seems to be missing definitionally: where the line gets drawn between a healthy level of self-respect and comfort with all of the various aspects of femininity, and when it spills back over into perpetuating the same old stereotypes, just at a level where all the participants are more debased.
QUOTE: Jeff Jarvis:

"They are treating the primaries as their big fight. For them, it's all about venting, even revenge.

But that doesn't find a leader. That doesn't create a winner. That doesn't build the nation. That just makes them feel better.

And we, the people, are smarter than that. Whether in politics or media or business, you make a mistake if you think we live on the edges. Network executives do it all the time: If we like one hour of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, we'll want 40 hours, right? And for a while, we do. We Americans are cultural and political and marketing bulimiacs -- binge, purge, binge, purge. But then we've finished purging our latest appetite, and suddenly you're Regis Philbin -- or Howard Dean -- left standing there, yesterday's fad, yesterday's news. Nobody wants to be a millionaire anymore. Nobody wants to just bitch anymore.

All the Deaniac pundits -- and the posters on those weblogs -- may have pushed Dean too far, not toward radical views but toward radical negativity (just read that Krugman snippet again). And Dean let himself be pushed. It felt so good. The people enjoyed getting that out of their tummies. But now it's time to get serious. Now it's time to build. Now it's time to find a winner."
VIEWS ON THE IOWA CAUCUS:

evangelical outpost points out that it doesn't really mean anything.

Dan Drezner speaks for the political nerd in me:

"As a politics junkie, I love what's going on in Iowa. Four candidates with roughly the same level of support the wekend before the caucus? That's awesome, baby!! How long has it been since this many candidates had a legitimate shot at winning Iowa this late in the day?"
QUOTE: Oh, sure, OxBlog pointed out the intro is good, but the rest of it's not so bad, either:

"It is a very virulent season, and one of the consequences of the pitiless, sectarian, self-loving, money-worshipping ethos of the Bush administration is to have made rage seem like reason, and to have erased from the recent memory of Democrats the great debate about the direction of the party that ended with the creation of the New Democrat, who, for all his or her weaknesses and mistakes, managed to combine a genuine concern for national security with a genuine concern for civil liberties, the ethical responsibilities of American power with the ethical responsibilities of American prosperity. But now the Democrats despise Bush so much that they are feeling pure again, which is always the beginning of their end. (I thought that Bill Clinton established once and for all the political utility of impurity.)"
WELL: I just played around with the poll numbers a bit and came to the following not-final conclusion about the Iowa Caucus final standings:

Kerry-- 32%
Edwards-- 29%
Dean-- 24%
Gephardt-- 15%

A few notes:

1. methodology: I took a recent poll where Kerry and Dean's numbers were close, then predicted the move of each of the candidates between now and Tuesday (based on my highly-biased perception of where they've been going lately; thus, Dean down, Kerry up). I further dropped all the candidates who would be unable to muster 15% statewide, on the assumption that if they can't do it across the state, they won't do it in enough caucuses to make a difference, then reapportioned their vote shares where they were likely to go.

2. assumptions: I'm assuming Dean and Kerry are going to partially block each other from doing well because they compete for the same votes in the bigger cities. This could entirely be wrong: Upper Left probably knows better than I do.

3. Possibilities: I'm not going to rule out the possibility of a Gephardt collapse below the 15% threshhold statewide. I'm also not denying the possibility of a much, much bigger Kerry win, or even an Edwards win.

4. Take it to the bank: Dean at #3, and his campaign going into a tailspin from which it won't recover.
SIMILIE OF THE WEEK: from TNR's &c:

"Listening to Kerry warm up a crowd is like listening to your parents talk dirty to one another"

15.1.04

LINK: I'm from Michigan. My friend is from Texas. It was cold out today. Hilarity ensues.
BEAUTIFUL LOGICAL ARGUMENT OF THE WEEK: Joe Carter on the mutual exclusivity of postmodernism and Christianity. It's breathtaking.

Incidentally, my completely crazy epistemology professor had one of the most brilliant takedowns of relativism I've ever heard: it wants to claim that it's epistemological position is an entailment from the world being a certain way, but it's really just a type of justification definition that is so specious it has to be rejected prima facie.

This took him five minutes. It took him three classes (80 min. per class) to get to the lesson plan for the term. He's crazy.
LINKS: Centerfield and New Covenant.

Picking the shortest post on a blog that does really (really) good long posts, there's this interesting bit about the importance of swing voters. I wholeheartedly agree, though would like to point out one thing further: all of the states which could be reasonably described as 'swing states' (New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and possibly Oregon as well) all went Democratic in 2000*. Even if they win all of those, and win back West Virginia, the Democratic candidate would still lose the general election. Obviously, swing voters in swing states does not a winning strategy make.

*you could make a plausible case that W. Virginia will swing back (highly likely), and it's generally true that no one knows what will happen with Nevada, but I'm not really counting those for present purposes.

New Covenant's post on existentialism and Christianity is interesting, except that it again identifies existentialism only with its Camus-ian variety. A great number of the suppositions of, say, a Kierkegaard would be wildly unobjectionable to most Christians.
LINK: The Nation helpfully explains to us all why ant-Semitic behavior is not, in fact, evidence of anti-Semitism. That was nice of them.
QUOTE: Fareed Zakaria from the Slate piece everyone's been linking to lately:

"'I've often been associated with the "democratization spillover" argument, so let me point out that the elimination of Saddam Hussein has been a big plus for American national security. The most anti-American and expansionist regime in the Middle East has disappeared. An actual and potential threat to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Kuwait has been eliminated. A violent, rejectionist state has faced consequences. This has had a sobering effect on the region: See Syria and Libya's recent behavior. Given our interest in a stable Middle East, this is good.

Given our growing interest in a more decent Middle East it is even better. For the last few decades we have defined deviancy down in that region. Behavior that would be utterly unacceptable from other countries gets a pass because it's the Middle East. If we learned tomorrow that, say, the Brazilian government was supporting various terror groups, trafficking in chemical and biological agents, and allowing its media to glorify anti-American violence, we would be appalled. When it's Syria we shrug our shoulders and say, "It's the Middle East.""
LINK: Kevin Yaroch endorses the right guy for the Dem nomination, and for the right reasons, too. Just don't go back to Dean, Kevin.
LINK: You've seen the new madponyness, right?

Something tells me Kristin Madpony picked the wrong polisci classes to take:

"and the first class i did finally make it to? "genocide and u.s. intervention." and the second? "weapons of mass destruction."

oh, what a semester it's shaping up to be."

Incidentally, I'm taking a class in political modeling this term. When people ask me what classes I'm taking, and I say I'm in a modeling class, they tend to look at me askance. I can't imagine why they would...
REASONS TO LOVE HAVING A PHYSICAL DICTIONARY: rather than the online counterpart--in looking up a word just a moment ago, I ran across one of my favorite (and dramatically underused) words: 'inspissate," with a lovely bit of etymology and a quotation from George Barkley which is completely useless in trying to understand what the term means. Oh how I love thee, Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.
WELL: So I've been reading the comments on Yglesias' Bush=Hitler post, as well as the responses to the 'Bush in 2004' in which I involved myself in the argument, and I have sort of a serious question to ask: let's grant the proposition that Bush's policies have been less than stellar (though I'm not entirely prepared to concede this) and that getting him out would be good because Democratic policies would be at least marginally better--this seems like a legitimate set of arguments to me.

Does anyone seriously believe any of the following:

a. Bush's policies will cause irreparable harm to the country (such that a Democratic Congress and President could not at some point step in and reverse the trend)?
b. Bush is actually equatable with a fascist?
QUOTE: Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe:

"Ruy's thing these days is to unify the Democratic party and snuff out faction fights. It's a noble sentiment. But, like the pacifists of the 1930s, his is a noble sentiment utterly mismatched for the times. Ruy, your party is about to be taken over by maniacs! There's still time to stop them! Yes, it's nice that the maniacs bring needed energy to the Democratic Party. And yes, the Democratic establishment leave a lot to be desired. But putting people like Joe Trippi--who are completely deluded about the state of the country outside the tiny liberal sliver in which they reside--in charge is not going to help the liberal cause. This is not the moment to be a noncombatant in the party's internecine battle."
QUOTE: Matthew Yglesias talks some sense:

"Turns out that Bush is Hitler after all. Except that obviously he's not. And it's a shame, too, because the story actually raises some legitimate questions about the future of US-Canadian relations under new Prime Minister Paul Martin, but it's essentially impossible to have a rational discussion about this with people crying "Nazi!" at every turn."

The piece he links to is indeed almost unbelievably stupid.
LINK: TPM has the latest polls and analysis.
LINK: Ben Domenech has an interesting discussion on hockey, which is his 4th favorite sport, but only my sixth: behind baseball, the Tour de France (you'd think that watching people ride their bikes for five hours would be boring, but it's surprisingly gripping TV), football, basketball and World Cup soccer. This is. of course, heresy for someone who lives in the metro Detroit area, and I will watch the Wings in the playoffs, but I never quite 'got' the sport.
LINK: TAP has an interesting dicussion of the possibility that this year's Democratic nomination could go down to the wire. Except that this never happens. Anyone who's ever looked at a model of how primary contests go will note that though the situation always looks tough at the beginning, it always works out in the end (go back to the Dems in 1992 to see this at work): money follows the people with momentum, and only a small number of candidates (perhaps two) can claim a victory after a primary that anyone will take seriously.
LINK: Everything at Ryan Lizza's blog is endlessly fascinating, at least for those of us who enjoy knowing the arcane details of tracking poll numbers and what-have-you.
LINK: I might just be spacing out on finding the permalink, but Mr. Pete's Journal has a nice post on Iran:

"This sounds interesting. A plan for the peaceful removal of the mullahs? It would be wonderful if it happened, especially if a new government in Iran was committed to democracy, individual rights and rule by law. I can't see that the mullahs would willingly give up power. Peaceful resistance, along the lines of the successful resistance against the British in India, doesn't seem to me that it would be effective against the brutal theocracy in Iran. Gandhi's non-violent resistance in India was effective in large part because the British could not conscience aggressive retaliation against passive resistance. In my view, the ayatollahs would not have such restraint. In Iran, I fear non-violent resistance would be met by brutal retaliation, arrests and torture.

I look forward to hearing this plan for peaceful removal of the Islamic Regime. If it is realistic, can be carried out, and is followed by a democratic, secular government that respects the rule of law and individual rights, it would be a fantastic and wonderful victory, indeed. The people of Iran, and the whole world, would be much better for it."