Friday, December 13, 2002

I can't muster the energy for anything new on the substance of the Lott problem, while we're waiting for this afternoon's press conference. So instead I'll kvetch about language, a la Jay Nordlinger or William Safire.

The WSJ editorial about Lott has as its subhed:
He must ask if he's still the best leader for the GOP.

Did I miss the memo announcing the abolition of the if-whether distinction? In the past six months or so, even venues that I expect to know better-- TNR, the WSJ, the Economist, the NYT, NR-- seem to have given up on the distinction entirely. (When there's an implied "or not," the proper word is "whether." When there's an implied "then"-- "If Trent Lott steps down, the GOP may have trouble finding a willing successor"-- the proper word is "if.") Do in-house stylebooks no longer even mention this? Do copy-editors no longer read stylebooks? I find this as jarring as that-which mistakes, and only a notch or two less jarring than the misuse of "disinterest." I can't see any good reason for the change, and can't understand why even usually-dependable editors seem to have given up on the distinction.

UPDATE: As far as I can tell, "I wonder if" is never correct. That is to say, I can't think of a correct sentence that would begin that way. This is among the most common ways of making the if-whether mistake. If your sentence or thought begins with "I wonder," [implied "then"] it should take "whether," not "if." I wonder whether there are any exceptions [implied "or not"]...
Coming next week: a response to Nick Shulz's Tech Central Station column on Rawls and foreign policy.

The debate over Rawls' ideas rarely spilled over into the realm of foreign policy.
And whether Rawls had strong feelings about, say, the war on terror or toppling
Saddam Hussein, I do not know. But Rawls' concern for the least well-off can -
indeed, it should - extend far beyond domestic political economy to the realm
of foreign policy. After all, he was positing universal principles, principles in
many ways useful and suitable for an examination of foreign policy.

Rawls did indeed have strong views on the relationship between the principles of Theory of Justice and international politics-- published in The Law of Peoples. That relationship doesn't turn out at all the way Shulz suggests here-- for reasons that some of Rawls' leftist admirers and critics have disputed but with which I (in large part) agree.
Via AppellateBlog (which you should be reading every day anyways): Salon (which I used to read every day but no longer do) praises Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and in particular its opening episode of the season. You read about it here first...
Heh. Paul Krugman:

And without the indefatigable efforts of Mr. Marshall and a few other Internet writers,
Mr. Lott's recent celebration of segregation would probably have been buried as well.

And who might those others be, Paul?

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Bush is right on the substance, wrong on what to do next.
NO, NO NO... This time it's some Jewish groups trying to use France's free-speech-unfriendly laws to suppress a novel they don't like. (Some Muslim groups tried something similar earlier this fall.) I'm especially dismayed that Americans, working for an organization that is overwhelmingly funded by American Jewry, are considering the suppression of speech overseas, showing little commitment to the values of the First Amendment.* (Yes, I understand that the U.S. Constitution doesn't bind France; my point is that I kind of hope that Americans think the First Amendment is correct, and that they therefore wouldn't promote censorship in other places even in places where they might get away with it.)

*Shimon Samuels, director for international liaison for the
Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he and
other Jewish representatives were considering the possibility
of seeking a court order to ban the book, for which no sales
figures were yet available in France.
I quite like Kieran Healey's quip about the OxBloggers pinch-hitting for the Volokh Conspirators:

Even in the blogosphere, when the Prof is out of town, the grad students teach the class.

(I suspect that this is the harbinger of things to come. Given a) the time demands involved in blogging and b) the time demands involved in following multiple blogs, group-blogs-- Corner, Hit & Run, OxBlog, Conspiracy, etc-- seem to have a real advantage over individually-authored blogs: more content-per-effort for writers and readers alike. And now the group blogs are collaborating with each other to make sure that their posting frequency doesn't fall! Conspiracy, indeed... )
The window is closing. If no Republican Senator has broken ranks by Friday; if Republican Senators don't hear enough from angry constituents (especially Republican constituents!) by the end of the week; then we're going to be stuck with Confederatista Lott for two more years. Attention Republicans: even if you think that Lott's apology has been adequate, it is not in your party's interest to keep this wounded, tainted figure as one of its most prominent spokesmen, to create such an obvious (and IMO legitimate!) target for charges of GOP racism. See David Frum, Deroy Murdock, Robert George, Dan Drezner. (See also Josh Marshall on the lies Lott is telling at this point, or Michelle Cottle's sketch of Lott's history, in case you actually do think Lott is repentant and are tempted to accept his pseudo-apology at face value.)

Find your Republican Senator's e-mail address and let 'em know-- civilly but firmly and clearly!-- that Lott as Majority Leader is unacceptable.

I'm intrigued and persuaded by Andrew Sullivan's take on the generation gap here, on the degree of anger among young conservatives and libertarians at what some older Republicans still think is acceptable... though there's something, too, to Tapped's condescending observation:

In a way, this all makes Tapped feel bad for younger conservatives,
especially the cosmopolitan-intellectual types who talk a good game
about the virtues of Red America but live in places like Washington,
New York and Cape Cod. Guys like McCain
[not the Senator-- JTL]
and Lott are throwbacks, a dying breed, and clearly it legitimately
pains the younger guys that they have to play on the same team as
these jackasses. It's tough being the Blue-state intellectual arm of
an Old South-led political movement.

This is a big part of why I'm more skeptical of the GOP than are many other blue-state libertarians my age. (Of course, the constant betrayals on trade, taxes, and spending don't help either.) A show of Republican spine in getting rid of Lott would certainly help to allay my worries that the troglodytes have a stranglehold on the party's conscience.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Dan Drezner floods the zone on Lott.

Those of us who live in states with Republican Senators should start suggesting to them that they not re-elect Lott as Majority Leader. I'm writing to Peter Fitzgerald...

Update: Written, as follows.

Dear Senator Fitzgerald:

I'm writing to urge you in the strongest possible terms not to support Trent Lott's re-election as Majority Leader, and to ask you to urge him to step down as soon as possible. His deeply inappopriate comments last week about Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat presidential campaign in 1948; his inability to grasp how seriously inappropriate those comments were; his repeated pattern of statements in support of the Confederate cause; and his apparently longstanding conviction that the country would have been better off with a Thurmond win (as evidenced by the news that he made an almost-identical statement in 1980) leave him hopelessly tainted. For the good of the Republican Party, for the good of the Senate, and for the good of race relations in the country, he ought to step down. His supposed apology was utterly inadequate, given the seriousness of what he said.

You represent the Party of Lincoln from Lincoln's own state. Lott, by his own repeated statements, stands for the legacy of Jefferson Davis and Strom Thurmond circa 1948 (who was, after all, not the Republican candidate!), not for the legacy of Lincoln. Please do the right thing, and do your part to remove Lott as majority leader, by persuasion or with your vote.

Update again: Josh Chafetz has (independently) done the same. He made a specific recommendation for who should replace Lott, which I didn't do. YMMV.
See Josh Marshall on "safety-net entrepreneurs" in the Bush Administration.
Interesting tidbit: in today's article about conservative opposition to Stephen Friedman's selection as director of the NEC, the NYT says "White House officials lashed out at critics... including [NRO and Cato regular] Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth... They said Mr. Moore had no credibility with the administration." What's the story behind that?
Today's NYT subhed: "Conservatives Join Call [for Lott] to Quite Leadership." Later says that "Some calls [to step down] came from conservatives... Much of the criticism came from members of the Congressional Black Caucus." (Emphasis added.)

Umm... excuse me?

The good news, I suppose, is that if the CBC is angry then maybe the NYT will start giving this Augusta-level coverage... whereas if the Times believed that conservatives had been attacking Lott earliest and oftenest, then it might feel compelled to come to his defense.

[This is cranky and grumpy on my part, I know. But it's pretty annoying on the NYT's part as well.]
Another in the depressing string of stories about the Bush administration alienating those who want to be our genuine friends in the world. Avoiding European goo-goo multilateralism is one thing. An inability to conduct diplomacy is another. The administration spares almost no effort in sucking up to China, Saudi Arabia, and usually Russia. Australia, Canada, Mexico, India, and Israel get no such consideration-- to say nothing of Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, democratic states and movements in Africa... I don't believe that the U.S.' power forces it into being an arrogant hyperpower, and I don't believe that a rejection of Kyoto makes it one. But an utter disdain for friends and allies does.
This Washington Post comparison (via Mark Kleiman) of DiIulio's retraction to show-trial self-denunciations is spot-on. Thought for the day: DiIulio said his father taught him to apologize "on your knees, or not at all. In other words, whether completely culpable or not, and whether there are complicated mitigating if not exonerating motivations and circumstances or not, you do not express honest, heartfelt remorse for wrong by quibbling over how the wronged person or persons characterize it." DiIulio's father was a wise man-- though I don't think that facially absurd over-the-top apologies are what he had in mind. (You do not express honest, heartfelt remorse by coming across as if you're mocking those demanding an apology. One of the British papers did something like this not long ago; they repeated, verbatim, the demand for an apology that some offended celeb had included in the settlement of a libel suit, and it came across as so absurd as to be obviously insincere. Was covered in The Economist.)

But let's read that over again:

In other words, whether completely culpable or not, and whether there are complicated mitigating if not exonerating motivations and circumstances or not, you do not express honest, heartfelt remorse for wrong by quibbling over how the wronged person or persons characterize it.

Are you listening, Trent?

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Mark Levin asks, in effect, why people are piling on poor Trent Lott who didn't give Bill Clinton a hard time for honoring William Fulbright.

Answer: People aren't piling on Lott for honoring Thurmond. We're not complaining about the fact that he appeared at the cryogenic old lecher's birthday party, or that he gave a speech lauding his accomplishments. We're complaining about the fact that he expressed regret that Thurmond didn't win the presidency in 1948 on a platform of explicit racism, and that he suggested that the fifty years that followed would have been better if Thurmond had won and been able to block anti-lynching legislation, civil rights legislation, and so on.

The analogous behavior for Clinton would have been endorsing the Southern Manifesto. This, he did not do.
Good for Emily Yoffe and OxBlog's David Adesnik for responding to the NYT's Rhodes story.
The flying monkeys are very good on Lott today. See Robert George (the journo, not the prof) and David Frum. As it happens, I think it's especially important that National Review-- the conservative magazine founded on the expulsion of the "troglodytes" from the conservative movement-- weigh in on this; it means more coming from them than it does coming from the libertarian blogosphere. See also continuing coverage by Instapundit, Virginia Postrel, Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall,and so on. The Weekly Standard has chimed in, too. But Tapped, bizarrely, says "Good for Lott for apologizing." [Update: Tapped later recognized that "maybe we let Lott off too easy." But then later still Tapped writes "It's amazing to Tapped that this story almost went away," without acknowledging that Tapped was almost alone in the blogosphere in being willing to let it go away. Tapped also seems to consider it a clever and surprising insight that Taki, who is backing the new Pat Buchanan magazine, has said anti-Semitic things in public. I thought that "Taki is an anti-Semite" long ago passed from being an open secret to being the conventional wisdom-- so much so that when the new magazine debuted, Kristol was quoted as saying, in effect, that even Pat Buchanan should be embarrassed to be associated with him.]
Where's Jack Kemp?

Lott's non-apology apology isn't even close to adequate for reasons already described by all of the above commentators. Get rid of him.
Sheesh! Dan Drezner's post on Krugman has hit the big-leagues: Kaus mentioned it, but made a minor mistake, prompting this bit of nastiness from Krugman and a response from Kaus. Hey, Dan: You might want to leave Paul off your list of possible reviewers come tenure-time...
Department of self-parody: This New York Times article says

Women Who Lead Colleges See Slower Growth in Ranks

"[T]he number of women tapped to become college presidents has leveled
off in recent years, after increasing steeply from the mid-1980's through the late 1990's,
according to a survey of more than 2,500 two- and four-year institutions.

"The survey, by the American Council on Education, found that from
1986 to 2001, the percentage of college presidents who were women
jumped to 21.1, from 9.5 percent. From 1998 to 2001, the increase
was only 1.8 percentage points.

"Similar shifts in hiring occurred among minorities, whose ranks among
college presidents increased to 12.8 percent in 2001 from 8.1 percent
in 1986. Since 1998, however, the share of minorities running institutions
of higher education rose by just 1.5 percentage points. If historically black
and Latino institutions are not counted, only one in 10 colleges or universities
is run by a minority."

Women first: From 1986 to 2001, there was an average increase of .733 percentage points per year in women's share of college and university presidencies. From 1998 until 2001, that racing growth screeched to a halt... of merely .6 percentage points per year.
To put the ACE's and the NYT's point more effectively, don't compare 1986-2001 with 1998-2001; compare instead 1986-1998 with 1998-2001. Then we get (21.5-9.5-1.8)/12, or an average increase of .85 percentage points per year over those twelve years, compared with the same average increase of .6 points per year over the final three years. A decline? Sure. A "levelling off after increasing steeply?" Seems like a heck of a stretch to me. (For a graphic representation, click here.)

It's worse for the story's treatment of minorities: An increase of .267 percentage points per year 1986-1998; an increase of .5 percentage points per year 1998-2001. In other words, the pace of minority hiring for presidencies has picked up over the last three years-- by nearly as much as the pace has decreased for women; not at all a "similar shift" to the purported levelling off among women presidents. And the analysis in the rest of the article, concerning the alleged increased conservatism among boards of trustees, proceeds as if for women and minorities alike there has been a dramatic slowdown (or even an outright reversal) in the assumption of college presidencies.

(Note: it has occured to me as a possibility that the numbers reported for 2001 were supposed to be attributed to 1998. That would have made for a genuine levelling off in both cases. But I can't find any sign in the ACE press release that there has been such a mistake.)

To reiterate: The levelling off in the hiring of women is tiny, and the pace of minority hiring has increased not decreased (though by a similarly tiny margin). If not for the fact that this appears to be an ACE problem rather than an NYT problem in the first instance, this article would perfectly fulfill the old "World Ends: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit" joke about the Times. On the other hand, the fact that the NYT ran this article at all (as opposed to articles based on the thousands of other press releases it receives each day), and that no one stopped to check the arithmetic, might qualify the piece as a fulfillment of the joke after all.

UPDATE: Readers Paul Cashman and Bob Perera object that I should have used compound growth rates. Mr. Cashman writes:

Typically when we deal in growth rates or percentages, the key figure is CAGR -- compound annual growth rate, or the constant percentage by which some amount grows over a period of time. For example, when the statement is made that the stock market has returned an average of 8% since 1929, or inflation averaged 3.2% between 1980-2000, it's the CAGR that's being referred to. When businesspeople do return on investment analysis, they're looking for the constant rate of growth of some investment over a period. Mathematically, we have:

ending_amount = starting_amount * (1 + CAGR) ** years

which becomes:

CAGR = ((ending_amount/starting_amount) ** (1/years)) -1

Applying this analysis to the Times story, we see:

CAGR for women presidents, 1986-1998 is 6.1%
CAGR for women presidents, 1998-2001 is 3.0%
CAGR for minority presidents, 1986 -1998 is 2.8%
CAGR for minority presidents, 1998-2001 is 4.2%

So the growth in women presidents in the recent period is half of what is was in the earlier period, while in the recent period minorities are being hired as college presidents at a rate 50% higher than they were in the earlier period.

Here's part of what I wrote back:

I'll note your dissent online; but I had considered the issue you raise before
writing my post. (I carefully wrote in terms of percentage point increases,
not percentage increases, for just that reason.)

What the cases you refer to have in common with each other, and not with this
case, is compounding. That is, next year I'll earn interest on the interest I
earned this year. Next year inflation will increase even this year's inflated
prices. I just can't see the relevance of compounding to the case at hand.

To put it a different way: The NYT made it sound like the first derivative of
women-presidents-over-time had dramatically fallen. It hasn't. You correctly
argue that the second derivative has fallen dramatically. But I can't make out
the substantive interest of that fact. The number of women presidents, their
share of the total, has continued to rise at a nearly-steady rate. The
of increase in the number of women presidents has slowed, as you say. But,
well, so what?

The way Mr. Perera puts it:
Dr. Levy's conclusions still more or less hold but using linear (as he does)
instead of compound growth puts most of the percentage gains into early years,
which could be valid (I have no data) but is probably wrong.

It seems to me that compounding can't be relevant in the same way when the underlying variable is has an upper boundary-- which both number of presidencies and share of presidencies do. In a variable with that characteristic, the compounded growth rate must eventually fall over time. And in this particular variable it seems perfectly plausible and uninteresting to me that the year-on-year percentage gains weremuch higher in earlier years (Mr. Perera's point). Wouldn't they have to be? When initial values are tiny, but increases can only happen in whole numbers (i.e. from 1 woman president we can't go to 1.05 but must go to 2), then the percentage gains early on are huge. But if we keep hiring one net new woman president per year, then the number of women presidents and women's share of presidencies both rise steadily over time (hiring doesn't "level off") even though the compound annual growth rate falls dramatically (from 100% in the first year to 50% in the second year to 33% in the third year...)

But I might be wrong about this. If I am, then the substantive interpretation changes as follows: there still hasn't been a "similar shift" in the hiring of minority presidents; indeed, the dissimilarity becomes even more dramatic. A shift from a CAGR of 6.1% to 3% in the hiring of women presidents still seems to me pretty different from the image created by "leveled off" vs. "increasing steeply" (for a graphic representation using those figures click here) but it's admittedly closer to that than is .85 percentage points per year vs. .6 percentage points per year. If CAGR is the correct measurement then I have some egg on my face; but the NYT's substantive interpretation still looks like nonsense. With a CAGR of 3%, it's not the case that Boards of Trustees are increasingly conservative (even assuming an equation between "conservative" and "not hiring women presidents during times of uncertainty.") It's just the case that the rate at which they are becoming less conservative has slowed.

One more point: if I was wrong in my initial post, the blame lies on me; please don't harass Andrew Sullivan for linking to my post...

Sunday, December 08, 2002