Video of the day

I recently took David and Evan to an NC State basketball game.  Last time we were at the PNC Arena, it was for a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game.  The boys were fascinated by the idea that the basketball court was on top of the ice.  Of course, in the old days, one could only try and describe such things.  This being the internet age, I quickly found this video of how it’s done at the Air Canada center:

I also came across this video which is pretty amazing to behold (though, much more difficult to tell how the conversion actually takes place because it’s so fast).

It’s the Staples Center going from LA Kings (hockey), to Lakers, to Clippers, to Lakers, to Kings, to Clippers.  All in 90 seconds.  Pretty wild:

Shooting down gun arguments

Nice post from law professor Geoffrey Stone taking on the arguments of the gun rights crowd and completely taking them apart.   He take on five of them– I particularly like the last two (all italics in original):

Fourth: Gun control doesn’t work. We have tried it in a variety of ways and in several jurisdictions and it has not reduced the gun murder rate. The plain and simple fact is that we have never had sufficient opportunity in the United States to experiment with serious gun control regulations to know how effective they might be. What we do know, however, as a Harvard University study concluded, is that “where there are more guns there is more homicide.” This is true across “advanced” nations like the United States, England, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, Australia, etc., and across states (on average, states with the highest gun ownership rates also have the highest gun murder rates). In truth, there is no reason to believe that serious regulation of guns would be any less effective in reducing gun deaths than serious regulation of driving has been effective in reducing traffic deaths, and this is evident from the experience of a broad range of other nations.

Fifth: “I have owned guns all my life. If you attempt to use force to leave me defenesless I will defend myself against you and only one of us will walk away. I hope this sheds some light on the subject for you!” This sentiment was stated over and over again in the 1,500 comments to my earlier post, often in even more ugly terms. It sheds sad light, I suppose, on the “reasoning” of our nation’s more vehement opponents of gun control. In a democracy, such threats cannot play a legitimate role in public debate. Whatever the right decision about gun control, we can never allow threats of terror to shape our judgment.

In an earlier post, he argues that liberals who are tired of the gun crowd (i.e., people like me) need to step up and really get involved.

Those who want to see more rational gun laws in the United States have to do more than complain about the NRA. We have to ask ourselves: Do we care enough about this issue to DO something about it? If we don’t, then we can be sure there will be millions more needless and heartbreaking funerals in the decades to come.

I joined the Brady Center last week. If you are one of the 44 percent of Americans who want more reasonable gun laws, then you must DO something to make that happen. That is, after all, what our democracy is all about.

Does blogging count?  :-).  Seriously, though, I’m willing to put money behind my concern on this issue.  I’m not sure Brady is the right place– I’d like to see them a little more thoughtful about policy than they seem to be sometimes– but I suppose there’s not really a better choice, as they are clearly the most organized and influential organization working towards stricter and more sensible gun laws.  And if there’s one thing we need (other than the Republican party getting back in touch with reality), it’s more sensible gun laws.

Photo of the day

From the winner’s gallery of the National Geographic Traveler photo contest.  I love this one, because the really cool effects are from a long exposure, rather than photoshop:

Merit Winner: The Village of Gásadalur

Photo and caption by Ken Bower

The village of Gásadalur and the island of Mykines in the background. 

Until a tunnel was built in 2004, the 16 residents living in Gásadalur had to take a strenuous hike or horseback over the steep 400 meter mountain in order to make it to the other villages.

It was a rare sunny day in the Faroe Islands and I had to wait until the clouds rolled in to provide some softer light. I decided to go with a long exposure (1 minute 10 seconds) to illustrate the force of the wind and a serene sea among the isolated islands.

Political Science vs. the Art of Politics

So, my newest favorite reader Bob wrote me in an email:

In these last few days it occurred to me to ask you to define the difference (if there is one) between (A) “Political Science” and what I would call (B) the “Art of Politics.” Does it all “come together” or are certain maneuvers and techniques different? If there was a sliding scale would you give Obama more “points” for his Art of Politics rather than his abilities in Political Science?

We both agree that the President’s “negotiation techniques” are weak. I would, without knowing any better, consider negotiations to be part of Political Science.

But he’s the President. Is he more an artist than a scientist? Should he be?

Just thinking….

So, even if it takes me a few days, I certainly want to respond to thoughtful emails.  So, I would personally define a huge difference between political science and the art of politics.  I consider political science to be the abstract and scientific study of politics.  E.g., why do voters choose the candidates they do, how do various strategic considerations shape the actions of a House Speaker or a President,  why are women less likely than men to run for political office, how does a female candidate affect a campaign relative to a male candidate, etc.  I could come up with dozen more options, but hopefully you get the idea.  Political science, at least from my perspective, is about using a scientific approach– creating hypotheses, testing the hypotheses, attempting to rule out alternative hypotheses, etc.  Now, it’s far from perfect– it’s social science and thus faces inherent limitations that come from dealing with human behavior rather than molecules or physical laws, but we can come to some pretty good understandings of underlying concepts that drive action in the political world.

I would consider the Art of Politics to be the savvy practicing of actual politics– running a campaign, persuading voters, besting the other political party in a budget negotiation or the other country in a trade negotiation, etc.   Now, in many cases, I think the art of politics can actually be informed by political science (though, not as much as it should– smart practitioners are missing out on some good advice), but, ultimately quite distinct.

As to the more specific case of Obama as a negotiator, there’s a whole branch of political science (and economics) called Game Theory that helps explain negotiations.  Now, I’m not always the biggest fan of this approach, but I do think it can be really valuable in understanding political bargaining.  Would actually be curious to see what a Game Theorist has to say about Obama’s negotiating.


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