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The Human Toll of FIFA Corruption

[ 23 ] May 28, 2015 |

1200 dead workers building World Cup projects in Qatar so far. This compares to just a handful of workers dying for other major sporting events in recent years, even in relatively poor nations like Brazil, China, and South Africa. Note that we are 7 years out from the actual event.

Against Consensus Decision Rules

[ 50 ] May 28, 2015 |

This has been a longstanding hobbyhorse for Loomis, too, but L.A. Kauffman is very much making sense here:

If the forty-year persistence of consensus has been a matter of faith, surely the time has now come for apostasy. Piety and habit are bad reasons to keep using a process whose benefits are more notional than real. Outside of small-group settings, consensus process is unwieldy, off-putting, tiresome, and ineffective. Many inclusive, accountable alternative methods are available for making decisions democratically. If we want to change the world, let’s pick ones that work.

Refusing to Tinker With the Machinery of Death

[ 9 ] May 28, 2015 |

Good for the Cornhusker State:

Nebraska became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty on Wednesday when lawmakers boldly voted 30-19 to override the governor’s veto.

There are 10 inmates on Nebraska’s death row — the 11th died this week — but the state has not executed anyone since 1997 and only recently ordered the drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection. It’s the 19th state to abolish capital punishment.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum came together to pass a repeal bill three times. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a first-term Republican, then vetoed the legislation on Tuesday. Thirty senators were needed to override him.

One one level, the impact on this is relatively small, since the death penalty is rarely used in the state. But it still matters, particularly since the legislature had to override a veto. It’s good that legislators were willing to do it in a Republican state, and hopefully the trend will continue.

“But there is one thing in this story that checks out. There does appear to be a University of California Los Angeles.”

[ 73 ] May 27, 2015 |

Shattered Glass

Oh my:

In that section, he lists as one of his awards: “Emerging Instructor Award, UCLA Office of Instructional Development, 2013-2014. One of three UCLA graduate student instructors selected for excellence in their first year of teaching” (formatting his). But a staffer in the office of instructional development told Science of Us that it does not give out an award of that name. “I don’t know if he either misnamed our department or if it’s from another department,” said the staffer, who only agreed to be quoted if I didn’t use her name. “I’m not clear on what happened.”


I emailed LaCour for comment, and he asked if I’d hold off on publishing this until he released a planned statement about the whole affair. I told him I couldn’t unless the statement contained information pertinent to the nonexistent teaching award. Shortly thereafter, a browser extension I installed to notify me when his website changed pinged me. His website’s link to his CV, which he’d taken down from his site recently, is now back up. This version no longer lists the Emerging Instructor Award, and the entire “Original Grants & Data” section has been cut.

Somehow, I don’t think his allegedly forthcoming explanation is going to be convincing. (See also this.) You almost have to feel bad for the guy at this point.

Further thoughts on the larger issue from Azari and Drezner.

Don’t Try to Create the Impression That You Are a Millionaire

[ 13 ] May 27, 2015 |

Some sage advice to rural people visiting Chicago, 1888

Exculpating the Republican Party, 1960s Edition

[ 43 ] May 27, 2015 |


One thing that many people “know” about the 1964 Republican presidential nomination is that Nelson Rockefeller lost, despite being a frontrunner, because of his marriage to the late Happy Murphy. One obvious problem with the narrative is that if the rejection of Rockefeller was based on “character” reasons, the support should logically have gone to ideologically similar candidates like Romney or Hatfield. Instead, it went to Goldwater. This is because more important than his affair and marriage was that he was a liberal on civil rights:

The day before the Rockefeller wedding, and the day after Birmingham exploded, Joseph Alsop of the Washington Post, one of the era’s leading pundits, concluded that “Rockefeller’s heaviest single handicap” was his aggressive and consistent liberal record on race. This was especially true after Birmingham, which shocked the nation and convinced many in the Republican Party that they needed to stay far away from the controversial issue of civil rights. Alsop noted that Rockefeller’s strength as a candidate was a concern among party professionals, who believed his nomination would forfeit all support from southern states—and a fair amount of support in other regions, too, for that matter—in the general election. A remarriage, in Alsop’s opinion, would give some Republicans cause to rethink Rockefeller’s nomination and to reconsider Goldwater, who, they believed, could successfully carry every southern and border state. While nominating Goldwater would most likely mean losing the urban North, some Republicans preferred to take that chance.

If we’re going to pretend that Rockefeller getting steamrolled by Goldwater was about something other than his ideology being too liberal for Republicans in 1964, I’d prefer that we cite his fascist architectural tastes and leave poor Happy alone…

Today’s Edition of the Worst Article of the 2016 Election Cycle

[ 66 ] May 27, 2015 |


Above: Republican hero Bill Clinton

Sometime in late November 2016, when we have all recovered from the election barrage, we ought to hold a vote on the worst article of the election cycle. Today’s entrant is Peter Wehner’s masterpiece of Republican concern trolling that the Democratic Party has moved too far to the left.

To see just how far the Democratic Party has moved to the left, compare Barack Obama with Bill Clinton. In 1992, Mr. Clinton ran as a centrist New Democrat. In several respects he governed as one as well. He endorsed a sentencing policy of “three strikes and you’re out,” and he proposed adding 100,000 police officers to the streets.

In contrast, President Obama’s former attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., criticized what he called “widespread incarceration” and championed the first decrease in the federal prison population in more than three decades. Mr. Obama, meanwhile, has chosen to focus on police abuses.

One of the crowning legislative achievements under Mr. Clinton was welfare reform. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, loosened welfare-to-work requirements. Mr. Obama is more liberal than Mr. Clinton was on gay rights, religious liberties, abortion rights, drug legalization and climate change. He has focused far more attention on income inequality than did Mr. Clinton, who stressed opportunity and mobility. While Mr. Clinton ended one entitlement program (Aid to Families With Dependent Children), Mr. Obama is responsible for creating the Affordable Care Act, the largest new entitlement since the Great Society. He is the first president to essentially nationalize health care.

Mr. Clinton lowered the capital-gains tax rate; Mr. Obama has proposed raising it. Mr. Clinton cut spending and produced a surplus. Under Mr. Obama, spending and the deficit reached record levels. In foreign policy, Mr. Obama has shown himself to be far more critical of traditional allies and more supine toward our adversaries than Mr. Clinton was. Mr. Obama has often acted as if American strength is a problem to which the solution is retrenchment, or even retreat.

There’s enough stupid here and in the rest of the article to fill a grain silo, but just real quick, let’s note how he sort of kind of leaves out the entire George W. Bush administration and the Iraq War, the idea that Republicans somehow loved Bill Clinton, Obama’s support of education reform and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the various lies and manipulations of the truth that fill the entire column, the idea that the Clinton administration’s policies are where the Democratic Party naturally exists, changes in the belief system of the actual American populace, and about 100 other idiotic things. And that the Labour Party lost in the UK because Ed Miliband was a left-wing ideologue. Wow.

See also The Rude Pundit.

When Unions Take Stupid Positions

[ 52 ] May 27, 2015 |

Head in Hands

With leadership like this, it’s hard to believe the American labor movement is in decline:

Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.

The push to include an exception to the mandated wage increase for companies that let their employees collectively bargain was the latest unexpected detour as the city nears approval of its landmark legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

For much of the past eight months, labor activists have argued against special considerations for business owners, such as restaurateurs, who said they would have trouble complying with the mandated pay increase.

But Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them,” Hicks said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

One can make the argument that such a position makes sense for local unions, in that the idea is to incentivize employers accepting a union in return for lower wages. Except that is a terrible idea for everyone is not a union official. First, it’s not good for the actual workers, who would now be making LESS money thanks to their union representation. Not more, not equivalent, but less. Second, it undermines labor solidarity since it is providing an out for employers who don’t want to pay that wage, albeit with a significant cost. Third, the optics are just terrible. While I don’t have data, I am sure that for most activists, minimum wages are more important than unionization rates. This looks like labor selling out low-wage workers. Because that’s what they are doing. Fourth, it reinforces right-wing talking points about minimum wages. Now conservatives can say that not even unions support higher minimum wages.


The Aftermath of a Moops Invasion

[ 93 ] May 27, 2015 |


Should the Supreme Court declare that the card says “Moops!”, I’m inclined to paint the resulting scenario black. Certainly, most people in red states will have to take Flight 505 to another state if they want to be able to purchase health insurance on a functional exchange. I am waiting for the media to accurately report that this would be a crisis created by a highly partisan Republican Supreme Court and the failure of Republican legislators to act, but they remain under the thumb of “Both Sides Do It” narratives. There may be some rays of optimism — doncha even bother congressional Republicans with acting to put more pressure on Obama, and it’s not always going to be easy for one of the two frontrunners for the Republican nomination when he’s goin’ home to chaos. But the servant of the Koch Brothers he (and the rest of the Republican leadership) is and will humbly remain, and despite the disastrous consequences I think we’d probably be left high and dry.

Wait, FIFA officials take bribes? Next you’ll tell me bankers rig the financial system

[ 107 ] May 27, 2015 |


Acting on an indictment by the U.S. Justice Department, Swiss police arrested several top FIFA officials, including two vice presidents, during an overnight raid in Zurich on charges of corruption Wednesday.

The U.S. investigation targets alleged wrongdoing that spans 24 years. U.S. prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 14 people, on charges ranging from money laundering to fraud and racketeering. They include FIFA officials who took bribes totaling more than $150 million and in return provided “lucrative media and marketing rights” to soccer tournaments as kickbacks.

A few hours later, Swiss authorities said they have opened a separate criminal investigation into FIFA’s operations, this one pertaining to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, which went to Russia and Qatar respectively. Ten people are being questioned.

The criminal proceedings come as members of soccer’s scandal-plagued governing body gathered for an election Friday that could give its leader Sepp Blatter a fifth term.

Blatter isn’t among those being charged. But he was among those investigated, and officials say that part of the probe continues.

The election will go on as planned, FIFA said — as will the games in Russia and Qatar.

“The timing may not obviously be the best, but FIFA welcomes the process,” FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio told reporters.

“First you didn’t want me to get the pony. Now you want me to take it back. Make up your mind!”

[ 61 ] May 27, 2015 |

This attempted Politico hit job on Elizabeth Warren really is something. It would be dumb to attack Warren for participating in a NAFTA tribunal in general; you can be a critic of a system while still participating in it while it exists. (You may some recognize this silly “hypocrisy” charge from such classics as “how can you criticize Citizens United while still trying to raise money?”) But to suggest there’s some kind of hypocrisy for Warren participating in a NAFTA tribunal in order to advance her substantive position that these arbitrators should have less power? Please.

At Least He’s Well-Positioned to Get a Job at Jukt Micronics

[ 66 ] May 26, 2015 |


More than one person in the academic world told me that the “Original Data & Grants” section of LaCour’s curriculum vitae — basically just a longer, academic version of a résumé — is wildly unrealistic. For various institutional reasons, it’s simply difficult for graduate students in political science to rack up all that much grant funding. And yet LaCour lists $793,000 worth of grants received from various foundations, including the Haas and Ford foundations, on the strength of his persuasion research. (LaCour appears to have pulled the CV down from his website sometime over the last few days, but I downloaded a copy before he did.)


The largest of these is a $160,000 grant in 2014 from the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota. But Patrick J. Troska, executive director of the foundation, which is focused on projects that combat discrimination, wrote in an email to Science of Us, “The Foundation did not provide a grant of any size to Mr. LaCour for this research. We did not make a grant of $160,000 to him.”

A political science professor at a large research university told me that the numbers on the CV should have stood out to the many older, more experienced researchers LaCour interacted and worked with during his time as a Ph.D. student.

It does seem odd, in particular, that nobody at UCLA noticed that $800K in grants was resulting in little or no money being spent.

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