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Archive for March, 2010

Blasphemy?

[ 0 ] March 1, 2010 |

Last November, Dave wrote:

The Strokes are overrated—they were highly derivative, rather like Beck was highly derivative ten years prior.

In light of this, I wonder what he thinks of this recent remark:

[Pavement] was good in the same way the Strokes are good.

Q1: Is this true? Q2: Who said it?

2010 Patterson Simulation

[ 0 ] March 1, 2010 |

On Friday and Saturday, the Patterson School conducted its annual policy simulation. This year, Patterson students simulated the 22 hours following an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, with a focus on the diplomatic consequences of such an attack. The University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications cooperated in the simulation, with students from thee SJT operating websites representing two news networks, Gulf News Service (an Al Jazeera clone) and International News Network (a CNN clone). A full summary of the simulation can be found at Information Dissemination.

A Curious Omission

[ 0 ] March 1, 2010 |

In the process of engaging In Praise of Aerial Bombing, Edward Luttwak makes an odd claim:

Back in 2006, while the Israeli Air Force was bombing down its target list in Lebanon, assorted experts were almost unanimous in asserting that the campaign would fail. As a defiant Hezbollah continued to launch rockets into Israeli territory day after day, the consensus was seemingly proven right. And because television and photographers in Lebanon kept feeding pictures of dead babies or at least broken dolls to world media while withholding images of Hezbollah’s destroyed headquarters and weapons, Israel was paying a very high political price for its bombing. In any case, it was running out of targets: There were only so many bridges and viaducts in Lebanon. Even its friends could only regretfully agree that Israel seemed to be failing.

But that is not at all how it turned out. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah admitted immediately after the war that he would never have ordered the original deadly attack on an Israeli border patrol had he known that Israel would retaliate with such devastating effect. Before the 2006 war, Hezbollah launched rockets into northern Israel whenever it wanted to raise tensions. Since the Aug. 14, 2006, cease-fire, Hezbollah has rigorously refrained. Whenever rockets are nonetheless launched, Nasrallah’s spokesmen rush to announce that Hezbollah had absolutely nothing to do with it. Evidently, Israel’s supposedly futile bombing did achieve its aim.

To put it as politely as possible, Edward Luttwak has never been the sort of writer who has felt deeply constrained by empirical reality. He’s smart and knows his stuff, but he doesn’t let facts get in the way of the argument he wants to make. In this case, I’m sure that Luttwak is aware that, in addition to the long air offensive that almost everyone agrees was a failure, the IDF launched a large ground incursion into southern Lebanon that engaged prepared Hezbollah defenses and caused significant Hezbollah casualties, by some accounts up to a third of the organization’s front line strength. This ground offensive was covered on several blogs, as well as every major world newspaper and television network. People have written long reports about the ground war, and even books. Even if we assume that Hezbollah’s reluctance to launch rockets was caused by Israeli military action (and this is a tendentious assumption), I would hazard to suggest that it is at least possible that Hezbollah’s reluctance to launch rocket offensives against Israel may have something to do with the ground offensive that sapped its strength, rather than with the air offensive that devastated infrastructure targets in parts of Lebanon where Hezbollah has no control.

And so, while I can perhaps understand Luttwak’s decision to engage in creative history by assigning all causation for the (questionable in any case) moderation of Hezbollah to the air offensive, I’m rather more perplexed by the editorial decision to allow him to perform such artistry. I appreciate that he’s an important guy who’s written books and stuff, but he’s using Foreign Policy to make an empirical claim (terror bombing is super) and basing that upon an evidentiary foundation that would be laughed out of a freshman political science course. At the very least, Luttwak could have been asked to mention the ground offensive, and perhaps even to explain why the air offensive and not the ground offensive caused the purported effect. Like I said, he’s a smart guy; I’m sure he could have managed.

Classic

[ 0 ] March 1, 2010 |

There’s not much more to be said about yesterday’s game — it’s just nice that after the two most anticipated medal round games of an otherwise excellent tournament fizzled it was gratifying indeed to get a game that exceeded high expectations. I was right about at least one thing in my post-first-loss diagnosis, in that Babcock’s puzzling insistence that Niedermayer was still a top 2 defenseman in this context very nearly blew up on him — I have no idea what the hell he was doing for any of the dozen or so seconds leading up to Parise’s tying goal, and many will forget that the Crosby goal came after a gruesome turnover very nearly ended the game the other way. (It underlines how smart Burke was to generally privilege younger players.) Otherwise, both teams were very well-constructed and played as hard and well as anyone could expect — to me, tight-checking hockey without clutch-and-grab is always the most exciting. And Pierce is right that Kane’s hustle to break up the 3rd period Crosby breakaway shouldn’t be forgotten (as well, of course, that deciding this game by shootout would have been an abomination in the face of the Lord.)

In a properly internationalist spirit, I’ll make my designated charity Doctors Without Borders, with condolences to Thers. I don’t have much to say about the rest of the games; I should do some token bragging about Canada surprisingly winning the most gold medals, I guess, but I often didn’t have time to watch and the hockey was so good as to dwarf many of the other events (although it was nice to see that Carrot Top has gone from being a failed comedia to a championship snowboarder, and Joannie Rochette’s courage certainly merits the praise it’s received.)

Ultimately, I’d have to say that an overtime winner set up by Iginla after a devastating last-second goal to send the game to OT at GM Place is a formula I won’t get tired of…

We May Have a Ballgame Here

[ 0 ] March 1, 2010 |
Until this is held, due by June 3 (and the smart money is still on May 6 in order to coincide with the annual local elections) I will be paying more of my scant attention to the forthcoming British general election.

The latest YouGov poll, released on Sunday, has the Tory lead at a mere 2%. While Labour supporters should not get too excited, this is consistent with the trend over the past month to six weeks. Since YouGov essentially became a tracker poll on February 17, the Tory lead has been +9, +7, +8, +6, +6, +6, +6, +6, and now +2. If those +6 results reflect the true value of support at C 39, L 33, then this true value rests comfortably within the margin of error of the most recent poll. Hence, this Times column on the volatility of polling is sound advice, aside from his contention that “all polls have a margin of error of 2 points or so plus or minus”; +/- 3% is the norm due to the inefficiencies of diminishing marginal returns. This poll has an N slightly over 1400, which would place the margin of error slightly below 3%; in order to hit 2% the N would have to be around 2500.

I expect the next YouGov poll to move towards the earlier 6% lead, but the trend is clear: Labour are closing the gap for a variety of reasons (save for Gordon Brown, who still trails Cameron in head-to-head approvals). So what does either scenario mean?

If it’s Tories +6, at 39 to 33, the Tories would have 293 seats, Labour 280, the Lib Dems 46.
If at +2, at 37 to 35, then it’s Labour 316, Tories 256, Lib Dems 48.

Both scenarios assume a uniform national swing, which while not a completely safe assumption, is necessary in order to calculate the distribution of seats. The Tories ‘ground game’ strategy is to (intelligently) target the marginal constituencies at the expense of running a purely national campaign, and this may yield dividends that would warp the results expected from a uniform swing. However, even here, the Tories would come up well short if the gap is only 2%. In an analysis by Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, the Tories might realize 270 seats to Labour’s 300.

What is clear in any of these calculations, be it Tories +2 or +6, due to the vagaries of the British electoral system, neither party would hit the magic 326 necessary for an outright majority. This would result in a minority government and a new election within a year.

Changes

[ 0 ] March 1, 2010 |

When this blog was launched nearly six long years ago, it was a Seattle-based blog, as all three ‘founders’ were graduate students in the political science department at the University of Washington. Shortly thereafter my two founding co-bloggers headed east to take tenure track positions in New York and Kentucky. I remained in Seattle, and spent the next several years adjuncting all over town and not finishing my dissertation. Eventually, in 2007 and 2008 respectively, I managed to get a full time non-tenure track lecturer position and finish my dissertation. These two accomplishments were a tremendous relief, emotionally and financially. However, the funding for my position has been increasingly difficult for my department to sustain, and it became clear it would not be renewed forever.

In the Fall of 2010, this blog will lose its last connection to the city of its founding. I will leave the persistent and urgent uncertainty of my career to date behind (at least for six years) as I will make the increasingly and distressingly rare leap to the ranks of tenure track faculty. I will be taking up this position at the University of Dayton in Ohio, where I will teach a range of political theory courses as well as an introductory course in comparative politics and a course on comparative democratization. Academically, this is an improbably ideal step for my career; the teaching/research mix and general intellectual environment at UD is just about perfect for my tastes and talents, and I’m remarkably fortunate, and given how many talented, sharp and accomplished people in my field who remain un- and under-employed, humbled to have been offered this job.

The difficulty, though, is leaving Seattle, a place that is very much my home. I have never lived outside Western Washington, and the city and region have become constituitive of my identity to no small degree. With the exception of my whirlwind 36 hours of a campus interview, my only experience with the state of Ohio has been a couple of hours on a layover in the Cleveland airport, and my only experience with the midwest has been a handful of visits to Chicago. So I’ll be heading east this summer with some trepidation. So, people of the internets: the purpose of this thread is to solicit advice, suggestions, warnings, and endorsements regarding any and all aspects of life and living in Dayton, SW Ohio, and the midwest more generally.

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