Apparently my Gender & Politics course does provide value to NC


Here in Raleigh we’ve got our very own conservative “think” tank.  One of their main issues is lamenting the liberal bias and all that is wrong in NC Higher Education.  I recently came across this list of all the courses that are presumably wasting taxpayer money.  The NC State section contains a list of what seems like virtually every course with “gender,” “women,” “Black,” or “African” in the name.  Yet, my PS 306 Gender & Politics is left out.  I wonder if I’m doing something wrong.  A friend of mine teaches a very interesting course that, alas, has “feminism” in the title, so is undoubtedly a clear waste of taxpayer resources.  I really enjoyed her response when I told her:

LOTS of race and gender on that list. There’s a shamelessness in their racist and sexist attitudes that’s surprising. It’s not surprising that Civitas would be racist and sexist; it’s just surprising how explicit they’re being about it. What explains the newfound freedom in expressing such ugliness openly?

The simple truth is, you cannot judge a course by its title.  Yeah, the History of Surfing sounds laughable, but my guess is that taught by a quality professor, you could learn more about American history and culture then you’d ever learn from a mediocre professor in the presumably much more acceptable “2oth century US History.”   I must admit, some of these titles sound questionable even to me: “fire service diversity”? but on others it really does seem like they just want to single out almost anything on race or gender.  What could possibly be wrong with a class on Black Political Participation or Black Political Thought?  This list truly is shameless in the openly hostile attitudes towards the study of anything but white males.

Fix the deficit now

That’s sarcasm by the way.  Addressing unemployment is way more important.  And, as mentioned time and time again, the way to resolve deficit issues is to get the economy growing (which are not going to happen from cutting next year’s budget).  Anyway, I love it when mild-mannered Kevin Drum gets mad:

The insane idea that the federal deficit needs to be addressed now now now!Republicans didn’t care about the deficit when Reagan was president, they didn’t care when Bush Sr. was president, and they didn’t care when Bush Jr. was president. They only get religion when a Democrat is president and they need an all-purpose reason to oppose everything Democrats want to do. Is this really too complicated to understand?

The whole post (five things that get him mad) is terrific.  Read it.

Chart of the day (murder rate)

Via Yglesias, I came across this really interesting chart of the US Homicide rate over time:

Wow– so what started to happen around 1960?  Best guess– drugs.   And how about the amazing decline we’ve had over the past 10-15 years.  Speculation as to causes for the recent decline (less drugs, better policing, economic growth, even immigration) at the link.

TV Shows and partisanship

I was trying to describe this chart the other day to a favorite reader of this blog, and I realized that I had failed to post it despite my best intentions.  Time to remedy the issue.  Short version: a chart of favorite TV shows by political ideology:


As for voter turnout on the vertical axis, clearly there’s some age and socioeconomic effects.  My best guess: Family Guy definitely equals young people; Cops equals poor people.  60 Minutes and the Mentalist equal old people and 30 Rock = college-educated.  Now, as for ideology, I’ve got nothing to say about liberals love for the Donald, but I was quite amused to see that I am joined by fellow liberals in my #1 guilty pleasure, yes “Wife Swap.”  Can’t really explain the ideology findings here, but I am pretty sure that the enjoyment of the show comes in watching incredibly inane and dysfunctional families and being able to say, “at least we’re not like those people.”

Down with IA and NH

Another week, another excellent column from Dave Leonhardt.  This time he takes on the absurdity that is the wildly disproportionate influence two wholly unrepresentative states– New Hampshire and Iowa– have on our political discourse.   Most notably, an argument that really appeals to me (because it also applies to the real-world workings of the electoral college) is that it totally violates the principle of one person, one vote:

A presidential campaign is once again upon us, and Iowa and New Hampshire are again at the center of it all. On Thursday, Mitt Romney will announce his candidacy in Stratham, N.H. Last week, Tim Pawlenty opened his campaign in Des Moines. The two states have dominated the nominating process for so long that it’s easy to think of their role as natural.

But it is not natural. It’s undemocratic, in fact. It is unfair to voters in the other 48 states. And it distorts economic policy in several damaging ways.

Most obviously, the federal government has lavished subsidies on ethanol, even though those subsidies drive upfood prices and do little to solve the climate problem, partly because candidates pander to the Iowa corn industry. (Mr. Pawlenty, who now says the subsidies must end, is an admirable exception.) Beyond ethanol, a recent peer-reviewed study found that early-voting states received more federal dollars after a competitive election — so long as they supported the winning candidate.

There’s even a cool graphic that estimates the impact of your primary vote depending on the state you live in (I’d love to see this for the general election as well)

Our country certainly can and should do better:

The typical defense from Iowa and New Hampshire is that they care more about politics than the rest of us and therefore do a better job vetting candidates. But the intense 2008 race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton showed that if Iowa and New Hampshire care more, it’s only because of their privileged status. In 2008, turnout soared in states that finally had a primary that mattered, be it Indiana or Texas, North Carolina or Rhode Island.

A more democratic system would allow more voters to see the candidates up close for months at a time. The early states could rotate each year, so that all kinds — big states and small, younger and older, rural and urban — had a turn. In 2016, the first wave could include states that have voted near the end recently, like Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon and South Dakota.

I don’t think a national primary day is a good idea because, in a primary campaign, having the money to compete in every state at once probably distorts even more the outsized role of fundraising, but the current system has to go.  My Congressman, David Price (also a former Duke Poli Sci professor) has long advocated a system where there is rotation every four years based on regions of the country.  Of course, that just means that every four years, different states will count a lot more than other different states.  Short of a national primary, though, I don’t see how to avoid that necessary evil.  One thing is for sure, the continued reliance on Iowa and New Hampshire is not only grossly unfair, the evidence strongly suggests it ends up being grossly unwise due to its policy implications.

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