Quote of the day

So, I’m actually at a political science conference learning all sorts of fascinating new things in Political Science.  Really.  Well, sort of, when I’m not socializing with old friends.  I hope to have some good posts on some of this next week.  As for now, it’s about time for more socializing, but I thought I’d at least share this great Kevin Drum quote on who really runs the show in America– hint, it’s not the little guy:

Years ago I remember a lot of moderate liberals talking about how the Bush era radicalized them. For me, it was the economic collapse of 2008 that did it. The financial industry almost literally came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the world, but even so it took only a few short months for them to close ranks with Republicans and the rich to prevent anything serious being done to rein them in. Profits are back up, new regulations are barely more than window dressing, nothing was done to help underwater homeowners, bonuses are as obscene as ever, unemployment remains sky high, and the public has somehow been convinced that this was all their own fault — or perhaps the fault of big government, or big deficits, or something. But the finance industry has escaped almost entirely unscathed. It’s mind boggling. If this doesn’t change your view of who really runs the world, I don’t know what would.

Chart of the day

Let’s make it a double MPSA paper day.  Here’s the final chart from my paper on the generation gap with Kyle Saunders.

Each line is young voters (under 30) minus older voters (60 and over).  Young voters have been getting more Democratic in their partisanship than older voters (blue line), but especially in their votes (red line), and their views on social issues (green line).  It’s not all about gay marriage, but this is certainly a big part of the story.

The health care vote revisited

I was going to email my co-author in crime, Seth Masket, to see if he thought it was alright to go ahead and blog about our MPSA paper.  Instead, I went to his blog and learned that the answer is yes.  Works for me, here’s Seth:

We’ve put this research together into a paper that we’re presenting this weekend at MPSA.

For the paper, we look at the impact of four roll call votes: health reform, the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and the TARP bailout from 2008. We find that a vote for health reform was very costly for Democrats, reducing reelection margins by six to eight percentage points. This cost at least thirteen House Democrats their jobs. We find a smaller, but still statistically significant, effect for supporting TARP. The stimulus has a mixed effect, harming Democrats in more conservative districts but possibly helping them in more liberal ones. We found no overall effect for cap-and-trade.

Here’s my favorite graph from our paper, showing the estimated impact of the health reform vote on Democrats’ likelihood of reelection. The patterns are generated by a logit equation and show how Democrats from a broad range of districts fared in 2010 based on this one roll call vote. For example, in a district where Obama got 40% of the vote in 2008, a Democratic representative would have a 54 percent chance of retaining her seat if she opposed health reform, but only a 19 percent chance if she supported it.

At first, that graph may not look all the dramatic, but you need to consider a vertical line running through the graph at whatever Obama vote percentage you find interesting. There’s a huge amount of space between these two lines on the y-axis representing likihood of reelection.

And, just so we’re absolutely clear, if these results are totally accurate, I still endorse a vote for health reform 100%.  Some votes are worth losing your seat over and I can think of few that would be more worthy.  I think it is genuine shame that our best evidence suggests that this important vote on legislation that will materially improve the lives of millions indeed really cost many Democrats at the polls.  Of course, if I were a Republican, I’d just bury the results.  But us liberals are open-minded.

Was Va Tech wrong on the day of the shooting?

From the Post:

The federal government said Tuesday it plans to issue the maximum possible fine against Virginia Tech– $55,000 — for violations of a campus safety law in connection with the 2007 shooting rampage that left more than 30 students and teachers dead.

A federal official wrote in a letter to university President Charles W. Steger that the penalty for failing to provide timely warnings about the threat to the campus on the day of the massacre should be greater.

“Virginia Tech’s violations warrant a fine far in excess of what is currently permissible under the statute,” Mary E. Gust, an official in the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, wrote to Steger.

Her conclusion represented a stinging rebuke for Virginia Tech, which has sought for nearly four years to overcome wounds inflicted by the deadliest school massacre in U.S. history. It also bolstered the view of some relatives of the shooting victims that the university was negligent in efforts to protect the campus community.

I emphatically disagree.  Early that morning Virginia Tech officials were confronted with what looked like at the time, from all reasonable appearances, to be an isolated act of murder between individuals who knew each other.  There was absolutely nothing to suggest that this was the just the first killing in what would turn out to be the infamous killing spree hours later.  Should a campus of 20,000 students automatically shut down because one of its students is murdered– in a crime that police consider to be isolated and with a killer with a known motive?  Maybe you can argue that, but it is entirely reasonable to notify students and simply move on.  Maybe Virginia Tech should have known better, but they were going with the best information supplied at the time.  I don’t think I want to live in a world where we always have to consider the absolute worst possibility.  Where any shooting anywhere may be the prelude to an unprecedented mass murder.  Looking at the totality of the evidence, I just don’t see how you can blame the University for their actions.


My wife is so over the hill, but I’ve got a long way to go

So, you’ve got to respond to your wife’s blogging suggestions– right?  Actually, as rarely as she suggests, I can count on it to be something interesting.  Here’s the key finding:

According to a recent study in Britain, women say they feel “over-the-hill” by 29, while men feel over-the-hill by 58 years old. And the reasons are the best part: Women feel old when they spot their first gray hairs and start acting like their mothers; men feel old when they can no longer perform in the bedroom and start to become annoyed by loud music in bars.

I’ll not comment on the first part, but I can say according to the loud music in bars standard, I’ve been over the hill for a long time.  I spotted some gray hairs a few years ago, but since they seem to be colonizing very slowly, it doesn’t really bother me.  And to Kim’s credit, I don’t think she feels particularly over the hill.  Of course her hair color is still great.

That said, I’d hate to me considered mid-40’s when I’m only 41 (as I’m only 2 years away from that age):

I am 29 years old, and I find the idea that I am over-the-hill ridiculous. Who wants to be 22, anyway? I was clueless at 22. Now I know what’s up… at least more than ever before, and I know I’ll only get smarter.

When I see a woman I aspire to be, it’s Kelly Ripa, mid-40s, got it together, looks great, smart, confident, successful


Quote of the day

To anybody who actually believes that Republicans have any interest whatsoever in reducing the deficit, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.  Both Klein and Drum flagged this very telling quote today:

Asked about the offer the White House has floated, a top Republican aide says, “This debate has always been about discretionary spending — not autopilot ‘mandatory’ spending or tax hikes.”

I.e., the debate has always been about the things that simply lack the potential to make meaningful changes in our budget deficit.  Or as Drum puts it, the debate is about programs where money goes to help less well-off Americans.  So frustrating how many people fall for all the ridiculous Republican posturing on the deficit.  I guess that’s why PT Barnum remains among my favorite people to quote.

Roger Ebert predicts the future

Found via Ebert’s facebook feed.  This is very cool:

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, inhabiting a primitive world where the biggest movies of the moment were such cinematic fossils as “Three Men and a Baby” and “Beverly Hills Cop II,” Ebert took a pretty impressive stab at swami-like crystal ball gazing:

We will have high-definition, wide-screen television sets and a push-button dialing system to order the movie you want at the time you want it. You’ll not go to a video store but instead order a movie on demand and then pay for it. Videocassette tapes as we know them now will be obsolete both for showing prerecorded movies and for recording movies. People will record films on 8mm and will play them back using laser-disk/CD technology. I also am very, very excited by the fact that before long, alternative films will penetrate the entire country. Today seventy-five percent of the gross from a typical art film in America comes from as few as six –six– different theaters in six different cities. Ninety percent of the American motion-picture marketplace never shows art films. With this revolution in delivery and distribution, anyone, in any size town or hamlet, will see the movies he or she wants to see.

OK, so the CD became DVD and 8mm didn’t really go anywhere, but otherwise, Ebert got it pretty much right on the money.

I’ve never tried predicting more than an election in advance.  Very impressive.

Generation gap and electoral volatility

Having been blogging much because I’ve been working a ton on trying to finish off my conference paper on the generation gap (should be done tonight), but I thought I’d take a break from working to check the blogs and see that Chait has a post that is remarkably similar to what I was just writing in the conclusion:

The 2010 election was largely a result of the generation gap. To oversimplify, the old (conservative) portion of the 2008 electorate showed up, and the young (liberal) portion stayed away. Democrats borrowed a lot of seats in 2008 with a swollen electorate filled with young voters who weren’t likely to stay engaged in 2010. But the corollary of that is that Republicans borrowed those seats right back in 2010 with a disproportionately old electorate that doesn’t reflect what 2012 will look like. The mere fact of having a presidential race will make the House electorate substantially more Democratic.

Indeed, it’s entirely possible that, if the age gap continues, the Congressional vote will continue to swing back and forth like this, with Democrats picking up seats in presidential election years, and losing them in off-years. Obviously, those swings could be obscured by swings going the other way — Democrats could gain seats in a midterm election if the president is a really unpopular Republican, etc. Anyway, my main point is that the salience of age is a new and very important factor in American politics, and it provides some reason for caution in using history to forecast future results.

I especially like it when Chait and I have the same ideas independently, rather than him just making me think about something in a way I previously had not, which is the usual course of things.

Just read this

Apparently, someone has been prosecuted for mortgage fraud, it’s just that the government spent big resources going after a small fish while all the sharks responsible for the financial bubble and collapse have skated off scott free. Absolutely disgusting.

Bachman for prez

Very busy day in the non-blogging world, so one quick wholesale borrowing from Yglesias:

Department of Fake Contradictions


Not sure why popularity with Republican voters means someone’s not a kook.

Exactly.  The general electorate, though, would surely be onto her.  I’d love to see Bachman run just so that more of America can see just what’s become of the activist elements of the modern Republican party.

That’s a lot of salt

I found this article about the next phase of potential problems at Japan’s troubled nuclear plant to be quite fascinating.  This bit really caught my attention:

Western nuclear engineers have become increasingly concerned about a separate problem that may be putting pressure on the Japanese technicians to work faster: salt buildup inside the reactors, which could cause them to heat up more and, in the worst case, cause the uranium to melt, releasing a range of radioactive material.

Richard T. Lahey Jr., who was General Electric’s chief of safety research for boiling-water reactors when the company installed them at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, said that as seawater was pumped into the reactors and boiled away, it left more and more salt behind.

He estimates that 57,000 pounds of salt have accumulated in Reactor No. 1 and 99,000 pounds apiece in Reactors No. 2 and 3, which are larger.


Say whatever you want

There’s really just no accountability, and once you get a reputation (no matter how ill-deserved) as an intellectual, people will still think you are smart despite all evidence to the contrary.  Exhibit A: Newt.  Via Drum:

ThinkProgress has a post up today that shows Newt Gingrich unequivocally supporting a no-fly zone over Libya two weeks ago and then equally unequivocally opposing it today. The only thing that’s changed in the
meantime is that two weeks ago President Obama opposed a no-fly zone and today he supports it. So Gingrich is consistently taking the anti-Obama position, whatever that happens to be…

Back in the day, I remember a lot of people saying that it was getting harder for politicians to shade their positions — either over time or for different audiences — because everything was now on video and the internet made it so easy to catch inconsistencies. But that’s turned out not to really be true. Unless you’re in the middle of a high-profile political campaign, it turns out you just need to be really brazen about your flip-flops. Sure, sites like ThinkProgress or Politifact with catch you, and the first few times that happens maybe you’re a little worried about what’s going to happen. But then it dawns on you: nothing is going to happen. Your base doesn’t read ThinkProgress. The media doesn’t really care and is happy to accept whatever obvious nonsense you offer up in explanation. The morning chat shows will continue to book you. It just doesn’t matter.

And that’s got to be pretty damn liberating. You can literally say anything you want! And no one cares! That’s quite a discovery.

Depressing and true.  Of course, I blame the media for continuing to treat people like Gingrich as if they actually had any intellectual credibility.  Just pretend you do, and they’ll believe it.

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