It's so disorienting to be posting on a Wednesday!
I'd like to begin with a bleg: I'm in the market for a platform that allows for easy screencasting. In other words, if you wanted to have 6 to 10 users simultaneously viewing a series of slides, but you thought that Google Hangout was just a little too laggy, what would you use? Comment below or email rpm47 atsign georgetown period edu.
- Via Inside Higher Ed, cell biologists slam the impact factor.
- Did a Fox News reporter hurt U.S. security by disclosing that Washington had a high-level DPRK mole? I thought this was the sort of thing conservatives believed was an exception to the First Amendment. (Also TPM, Jack Shafer) [Kevin Drum]
- China is preparing for war on the high seas; the U.S. Navy is prepared to bomb the Taliban, not men-o'-war [The Diplomat]
- Jay Ulfelder marks his beliefs to market and talks about how he got Syria wrong.
- Rafsanjani disqualified from running for Iranian presidency [Suffragio]
I'm passing along some ideas from Brian Matzke, a Ph.D. student in the Department of English at the University of Michigan. Making social rules and expectations explicit is a big part of contemporary classroom management, and this document is a good starting point for other instructors developing their own syllabi or cataloguing their own expectations. This version has been very lightly edited; you can see the original (with comic strip!) here.
Etiquette Guidelines for Students Interacting with Instructors
Success in any college course is determined by your performance on the graded material—the exams, the papers, the other assignments—but it is also determined by the relationship that you cultivate with your instructor. This might not seem intuitive, but making a good impression on your instructor and cultivating a positive relationship with them can lead to many tangible benefits. It can mean that the instructor will be more likely to excuse an absence or provide you with an extension on an assignment. It can make them more inclined to bump up a borderline final grade. It can turn them into a source for a letter of recommendation. And it can determine how harsh or lenient they are when they evaluate the more subjective components of your grade, like essays or participation. Cultivating a positive relationship with an instructor requires following certain etiquette rules. Some of these may seem obvious, but they are all important:
DISCUSSING COURSE POLICIES
- DO read the syllabus closely and consult it for answers to questions about course policies.
- DON’T ask your instructor questions about the course that are answered on the syllabus.
- DO ask for clarification about course policies or assignments as soon as possible.
- DON’T wait until right before the due date to ask questions about the assignment.
- The Globe and Mail investigates why Japan is falling in love with robots (by the way, I know we're supposed to love longform journalism now because it's long, but you can read either half of this piece and you won't miss the other half) [The Globe and Mail]
- U.S. Naval War College Professor Tom Nichols argues the U.S. should adopt a minimal deterrent---albeit in a piece that mentions "China" only once and "extended deterrence" never. [The Diplomat]
- Asian Catholics respond to the new Pope. [The Diplomat]
- "So if you’re a hedge fund, for now at least, you’ll receive fully 100% of the face value of any debt you hold in Cypriot banks. If you’re, say, a widowed Cypriot pensioner with €30,000 saved in a Cypriot bank, you’ll wake up Tuesday morning to find that you now have just €27,975." [Suffragio]
- Yesterday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Mordor) tried to cut the National Science Foundation's funding of political science. I'm honestly not sure how it failed, but it did (I think? the commenters also seem confused). Phil Schrodt comments that ">the response of the political science community has been astonishingly lame" and I kinda have to agree. [The Monkey Cage, Phil Schrodt]
And some more:
- Jay Ulfelder explains why big data won't kill theory (or as Dan would write, I can haz quant theory?) [Dart-Throwing Chimp]
- Seth Masket >yearns for a Neil DeGrasse Tyson of political science [Pacific Standard]
- Sounds like physics envy to me, Seth [Duck of Minerva]
- I'm actually normally pretty permissive on issues of pay for government employees, but this explanation of the Jack Lew bonus actually makes me less sympathetic to Lew. He's still incentivized to seek public-sector employment because of the contract. [Kevin Drum]
- Aussie academic Inger Mewburn wonders whether jerks finish first in academia. target="_blank">More. [Thesis Whisperer, Inside Higher Ed]
- How one Jehovah's Witness found China changed her.
- The Rise of the New Shanghai would have been better without the "Head of the Dragon" title. [Design Observer]
- Posse Comitatus
- A Proportional Response The Short List and Celestial Navivation
- The Long Goodbye
- The U.S. Poet Laureate
- The Crackpots and These Women (aka Big Block of Cheese Day)
- Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail
- 18th and Potomac and Two Cathedrals
In a nifty contribution to our understanding of LGBT politics, Gallup has surveyed more than 200,000 Americans to ask if they identify as LGBT or not. This gives us what Gallup claims and I'll accept as the first state-level estimate of this dataset.
But Gallup mistakenly interprets their own findings (or, rather, do not fully extract as much information as they could). Gallup writes
While the variation in LGBT identification across states is relatively small, findings do suggest some evidence that the variation is not entirely random. Social climates that promote acceptance of or stigma toward LGBT individuals could affect how many adults disclose an LGBT identity. LGBT people who live in places where they feel accepted may be more likely than those who live in places where they feel stigmatized to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity to a survey interviewer.
This map, which I made in R (hence the bizarre boundaries for Michigan, which are the official jurisdictional boundaries if we include the Great Lakes) using code inspired by Jack Santucci, shows a heat map of LGTB identifiers in the USA. I've broken the states up by deciles of LGBT identifiers to make the patterns stand out more.
Here, the heat map is scaled so that redder areas have fewer LGBT identifiers and greener areas have more LGBT identifiers. Because these are percentiles, the yellower areas are close to the median of the state-level distribution.
It's pretty clear from this revised map (as opposed to Gallup's map on its site) that there's huge and striking variation among regions in respondents as identifying as LGBT. This may be due to social pressure not to identify as LGBT; it may be due to migration away from gay-hostile areas. But I thought this visualization might help clarify what Gallup has found.
Another day, another op-ed or blog post saying that the social sciences contribute nothing and that we must be more policy-centric or policy-relevant or policy-synergistic or policy-policy-policy-policy.
You know, it's funny. I've just finished reading a history of Bell labs (these journalistic nonfiction books go by quick--about the same time as a movie and a half) and the takeaway was that apparently esoteric research (e.g. Claude Shannon's information theory) can have immensely practical implications. Somewhat like that Tom Schelling guy, who thought that he could say something about nuclear war even though he'd never even fought one.
Anyway, Ferenstein's argument is pretty familiar to all participants in the debate, but his argumentation is laughably weak:
As a result, even the potentially useful research gets overlooked by policymakers who have little contact with experts from the discipline. During a dinner my university threw for a distinguished Harvard professor who also served as a United Nations consultant, I asked our guest if she ever witnessed any actual impact of political-science research. She literally laughed out loud, and regaled the now-perturbed table of academics about her experience with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had apparently ignored all the academic experts during his country's transition to democracy and, instead, decided on the structure of government in a tent with his peers.
If this is supposed to be evidence for Ferenstein's position, I'm taken aback. So, the scholars were consulted by Karzai; they gave good advice; Karzai ignored them; and this is the scholars' fault? Isn't there a more parsimonious explanation?
- Tim Burke suggests ways to fix the dissertation, but I'm skeptical that the way to reduce the overproduction of Ph.D.s is to lower the costs of earning a Ph.D. [Easily Distracted]
- Will Moore wonders what the standard for presenting results as a consensus is; a response to Voeten and Nexon.
- Via Anton Strezhnev, a critique of Pad Thai. [The Morning News]
Yet it’s not entirely fair to complain about the authenticity of Pad Thai. It’s the noodle that’s the most Thai, and at the same time, the least. Before the 1940s, Pad Thai didn’t exist as a common dish. Its birth and popularity came out of the nationalist campaign of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, one of the revolutionary figures who in 1932 pushed Thailand out of an absolute monarchy and into a Game of Thrones-style democracy, where coups and counter-coups have become the norm.
- "Did an Excel error bring down the London Whale?" [Revolutions]
J.P. Mogan Chase's ... Value at Risk model that underpinned the hedging strategy “'operated through a series of Excel spreadsheets, which had to be completed manually, by a process of copying and pasting data from one spreadsheet to another', and 'that it should be automated' but never was.
And some Pope-purri:
- David Buckley recommends Whispers in the Loggia.
- David Silbey recounts the history of outrages and antipopes that you'll find interesting:
In the end, the whole fine mess was resolved by the Council of Constance, in 1414, which managed to get both the Pisan Pope and the Roman Pope to resign, and then chose a single successor to unify the two lines. ... The Avignon line (no longer in Avignon but in Aragon) lasted for several more decades in increasingly weird ways (check out the note about the “hidden pope.”) and then faded away. The Roman line is, of course, still going, and they have a successor to choose.
[The Edge of the American West]
- Forrest Maltzman and Melissa Schwartzberg update their analysis of the papacy and agenda control:
s it possible that the timing of Benedict’s departure was affected by concerns about the distribution of votes were he to linger? Again, we do not have sufficient knowledge to make such a claim unequivocally, but it is surely possible that the choice of a successor may have been a factor in his decision-making. And it is possible that either divine insight or strategic thinking may have led the Pope to believe in 2007 that changing the rules was crucial to ensure that the Roman Curia could still call the shots.
[The Monkey Cage]
- Erik Voeten has a different theory.
- Via AKD "Resigning Pope No Longer Has Strength To Lead Church Backward [The Onion]
Given the news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of this month, the first bishop of Rome to do so since the middle of the last millennium, the college of cardinals will soon convene to elect his successor.
Political scientists Forrest Maltzman, Melissa Schwartzberg, and Lee Sigelman researched how Pope John Paul II changed the papal constitution to force an outcome. As they wrote after Benedict's selection in 2005,
Officially, Ratzinger's selection was attributed to the will of God ... The more immediate source of this outcome, however, was a factor about which political scientists can justifiably claim considerable expertise: the rules under which the election was held. Indeed, Pope John Paul II was certainly aware that these rules would shape the outcome of the election: otherwise there would have been no need for him to modify them.
As Maltzman, Schwartzberg, and Sigelman discuss, the papal constitution was reshaped in part because of the influence of consultant (and Nobel Prize winner) Kenneth J. Arrow, who helped shaped the Pontifical Academy's voting rules to guarantee that the conclave could not be deadlocked.
Update: It turns out that since Benedict's elevation, he has returned the papal elections to the traditional two-thirds margin. This could well result in a longer papal conclave than the last one (which was fast). For the Church, this could be a little bit of a problem, as a lengthy conclave during the Lenten season could leave the hierarchy without a Pope during Easter. Presumably, of course, Benedict's move away from the Ken Arrow voting rules was also strategic; perhaps he feels confident that "his" man will be elected under a two-thirds rule. That could mean that the next pope is simply a younger, healthier, equally conservative Benedict supporter. (Thanks to Kevin Collins.)
Second Update: Josep Colomer and Iain McLean, "Electing Popes: Approval Balloting and Qualified-Majority Rule", Journal of Interdisciplinary History (1998). A useful history of papal elections:
This article demonstrates that successive reforms in the rules for electing popes during the Middle Ages can be explained as a series of rational responses to political problems faced by the Church and by successive electors. Although the particular forms that these developments took could not have been predicted in advance, because they depended on certain contingencies (such as the unusual utility function of Celestine V), the process as a whole is illuminated from the perspective of social choice theory.
(Thanks to Kevin Collins.)
Update 3 Not peer reviewed but this undergrad research paper by Adam Brickley got the year of Benedict's removal as pope right and has a neat-looking scorecard of potential papal successors. (Astonishingly, Brickley might have gotten Sarah Palin named VP candidate.
John Quiggin at Crooked Timber discusses the American right's quick shift to admitting a decline in U.S. income mobility. He then asserts that this is part of a process by which "objective truth, rather than political acceptability, should be the criterion against which factual claims are tested." (There's also a long discussion of The Overton Window, although I suppose he meant this one.
Quiggin goes further:
If this view is right, then the most important single development was probably Nate Silver’s successful prediction of the 2012 election. Silver was up against both the pseudo-science of the Republican “unskewers” and the faith of centrist pundits (historically exemplified by Broder) that their deep connection with the American psyche was worth more than any number of least-squares regressions. Given the centrality of horse-race journalism to the pundit class, their defeat by relatively straightforward statistical analysis of opinion polls was a huge blow.
My response to this is somewhat more tempered than Quiggin's--although probably warmer than the average CT reader's. First, I'm skeptical of the notion that Science and Progressive Politics will go through life merrily holding hands. There's no particular reason to think that liberal values are anything but orthogonal to the findings of most research, lab-scientific or observational-scientific. There are some nicely convenient findings for liberal values--the democratic peace hypothesis, for one--but would anyone be willing to give up democracy if we found incontrovertible evidence that democracies (not just Mansfield-and-Snyder-style democratizing countries) are more bellicose? Or, alternatively, would we give up democracy if the field coalesced around a consensus that democracies are less bellicose because they are more successful at using social pressure or other nonviolent forms of coercion to eradicate dissenting views? Social scientific findings rarely provide evidence that prompts us to revise our value systems.