Friday, November 01, 2002

Dan Drezner and I, blogging political scientists, have agreed to post our predictions for Tuesday; winner gets bragging rights. (If either of us beats UVA political scientist Larry Sabato we get serious bragging rights.) In principle we're waiting until 5 pm CST, but I'll be at the Rorty-Habermas debate then, so I'm going to post now even at the risk of Dan having access to the Friday afternoon news. So here goes:

House: GOP +2 (because of the point made below about the House and midterm elections)
Senate: no change (the Republicans had a real chance, but bad economic news and the odd events in NJ and Minnesota cost them.)
While this isn't part of Dan's and my challenge, I'll go out on a limb and call particular races-- based on hunches and impression, not on political science.
MO: R (switch)
SD: R (switch)
CO: D (switch)
AK: D (switch)

Everyone else seems to think NH will pick Shaheen. I think the Smith write-in movement will collapse on election day, not because of W's visit to my hometown (NH doesn't traditionally like Bushes very much) but because the hardcore NH Republicans who resent Sununu for beating Smith really, really despise Shaheen... UPDATE: But the NH political reporter I trust the most, the Union Leader's John DiStaso, calls it for Shaheen.
One point about the "history-defying" character of Republicans holding steady or picking seats up at the midterm election: this is less interesting than it appears, and less interesting than people are making it out to be. In particular, if the House GOP holds steady that doesn't mean that the Republicans were tactical geniuses or have some curse-defying level of popularity. Those big midterm losses are heavily concentrated among weak freshmen who got swept in in presidential coattails. But the House GOP lost seats in 2000 (and in 1998 and 1996). There's no big freshman class of people who wouldn't have been in the House but for W's win in 2000. (An obvious point: while the popular vote has no particular constitutional meaning, losing the popular vote does not make for strong coattails.) Indeed, weakness has been weeded out of the House on both sides pretty ruthlessly in the last eight years. The major predictor of the size of the House swing against a President's party in the midterm election is the size of the swing to the President's party during the Presidential election, measured in House seats gained. The history-defying accomplishment was losing seats while gaining the Presidency in 2000. Defying the curse of the midterm election just follows from that.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Kaus vs. Judis, Part 2: The Parties. (See Part 1, the voters, here.) Starting from the baseline of the median voter theorem, which (roughly) yields Mickey Kaus' 50-50 nation thesis (though with the complications noted here introduced by the electoral system), yesterday I looked at some reasons to doubt that voters act as the theorem requires (that is, as pure policy-preference maximizers, carefully voting for the candidate in each election who comes closest to their own policy views). Today I'll introduce doubt into the theorem's view about party behavior-- that is, that parties are free to, and wish to, act as pure vote-maximizing firms, willing to move as close to the center as necessary in order to secure the median voter's vote. Tomorrow I'll take these more complicated models and apply them to the debate between the Kaus-Downs prediction of stalemate and the Judis-Teixeira prediction of Democratic dominance. [Note to Dan Drezner: Brooks' "Patio Man" is similar in kind to the Judis theory-- demographic and cultural trends generating an advantage for one party. I won't treat it separately; it differs from Judis on questions of sociology, which I'm not competent to judge, rather than on questions of political science, which I'm currently pretending to be competent to judge!]

[Question to self: if blogging continues to lead me to write political science instead of just venting about the news of the day, why not write political science in some medium that will help get me tenure instead of on a blog? Hmm... good question...]

OK, parties. Downs recognized, way back in 1957, that parties had some constraints on their ability to lunge to the center. They have bases to appeal to, bases on which they depend for volunteer effort, money, and so on. An especially energetic and far-from-the-center base can credibly threaten to stay home or split into a third party. By doing so they will certainly hurt their preferred candidate's chance of winning right now, but they think that they may move the party back toward them in the long term. (This should all sound familiar-- Nader-Gore, Buchanan- GWB. The third parties in question are those that clearly occupy a position along the regular left-right spectrum, farther from the center than either dominant party. Third parties for which that's not true-- the Reform Party under Perot, the Libertarian Party whenever it draws left-civil libertarians and drug reformers from the Democratic base in addition to anti-tax/ pro-gun types from the Republican base-- present special complications. The whole Median Voter Theorem analysis depends on there being a single left-right dimension onto which candidates can clearly be placed in order. Analyzing those parties has to wait until we relax that assumption, which we'll do tomorrow when we look at niche voting.)

Where people engage in partisan politics for purely power-seeking purposes (you wouldn't believe me if I told you that was an accident, would you?), we should expect Downs-like behavior. But partisan politics, especially post-patronage, (stop that!) just doesn't have enough material rewards available to keep tens of thousands of activists active. Much electioneering work is pretty unpleasant. (I hated, hated, hated going door-to-door, even more than I hated collecting ballot-petition signatures.) There aren't that many politically-appointed positions to go around. For that matter, the elected positions themselves don't pay very much, relative to private sector work. We might assume that people run for office out of a taste for power, but what keeps their activist-supporters, staffers, and assorted hangers-on in the game?

There just doesn't seem to be any reason to suppose that voters have strong, fixed policy preferences, but activists don't. The reverse is surely more likely. A big share of partisan energy, in short, comes from people who want to bring the voters' preferences to them, rather than adjusting themselves to the voters' preferences; and those people often think it's possible to do so.

There could be a sort of Darwinian selection within the party to bring the Roves and Morrisses and McAuliffes to power, since they're the ones who succeed in getting people elected while those who want to bring the voters to them don't. And I think there's probably growing pressure in that direction. But that supposes that the Roves etc can indefinitely win elections with dampened enthusiasm from the activists and the base. They may think they can; but they may be wrong about that.

And even the most purely Machiavellian partisan, perceiving a stalemate at the center, may decide to invest some energy in rallying the base. Boosting union and black turnout has lately been a pretty important strategy for Democrats, arguably more important than pouring endless energy into battling over that last voter in the middle. The same was clearly true for Republicans in 1994, when Gorver Norquist's "Leave-me-alone coalition" was incredibly energized. There are tactical gains to be had from boosting morale and energy on one's own side; and in a near-stalemate nobody can afford to leave tactical gains unexploited. But in order to rally the base in that way, the party has to step back from the center. (This is the primary mechanism at work in what I'll call TNR &c's see-saw thesis-- not endless stalemate, but constant and rapid overreaching by one side, leading the opposition to come to power, leading to overreaching by the opposition-- '92, '94, '96.)

More to come...
I have yet to see Chicago's two new daily "newspapers," the Tribune's Red Eye and the Sun-Times' Red Streak, both sound-bite tabloid-sized papers that aim to bring 18-34 year-olds into newspaper-reading habits. (For coverage, see here and here.) Neither seems to have made it onto Hyde Park streetcorners; I gather that the red boxes are all over the north side, and that the papers are being handed out for free to people who take the El (the El doesn't come to Hyde Park, and I live three-quarters of a mile from my office so I wouldn't take it anyways). So I can't really judge.

Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I'll judge. I find it depressing and almost-incomprehensible that I'm in the target market for these things. But I wouldn't have read them at 18 any more than I'll read them at 31; I probably wouldn't have read them at 15. During my adult life sometimes I've forgone the NYT for a quality regional broadsheet-- the Globe or the Tribune. I have no problem with people who read their quality regional broadsheet daily. But I've never even understood the use or appeal of the regular tabloids (Post, Daily News, Boston Herald, Chicago Sun-Times.) It's not the format; I think there's a lot to be said for tabloid over broadsheet as way to physically present a newspaper. But I'm beyond snobbishness into sheer incomprehension on the content: why bother, except for sports coverage?

The Red papers are, from all accounts, worse. (One of them, after all, is for people for whom the Sun-Times is too challenging.) The alterna-press is different-- the Village Voice et. al. Of course if I'm looking for something young to do on a Saturday night I'm going to look in the Voice, not the Times (or local equivalents). But two-paragraph versions of a few of the day's leading stories? I can't see who would find that a good use of a quarter. I'm not predicting they'll fail, just saying that I won't understand it if they succeed...

UPDATE: I spoke too soon. The red boxes are now in Hyde Park; and there's a pile of Red Streaks in my building's lobby in the morning. I notice that the pile doesn't seem to get any smaller over the course of the day, which speaks well for my neighbors...
Kaus vs. Judis, Part II will be up later tonight, Part III likely not until tomorrow. In the meantime: NRO's Corner is getting fun in the run-up to the election; it now features a guest commentator from my hometown with whom I have a funny sort of political connection, Chip Griffin. TNR's &c is wielding a particularly nice stiletto today. Douglas Laycock has an excellent rebuttal to the nasty piece in the American Prospect about liberal law professors supporting Michael McConnell.

Election doubts on my part. Who is the responsible choice for Illinois Attorney General (the only major competitive race in the whoile state)? The fresh-out-of-law-school hack daughter of a hack who will protect Democratic machine politicians (such as the next governor as well as her father) from any serious legal scrutiny? Or the experienced prosecutor who has sent innocent people to death row and is still an ethusiast for Illinois' utterly broken death penalty process? I genuinely don't know what to do in this one; and that's a) unusual for me and b) frustrating when it's the only remotely relevant vote I might cast next week.

More later...

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Kaus vs. Judis, Part 1:

My post below about the median voter theorem and Mickey Kaus' 50-50 article wasn't, quite, an endorsement of Kaus' general thesis, just an analysis of some things that tend to make it so and some things that tend to make it not so. Now I'm going to start to make things more complicated. I'll take as a point of comparsion the Judis-Teixeira thesis (much beloved by Josh Marshall) of emerging Democratic dominance based on Democrat-friendly demographic and cultural trends.

This will be a political-scientist-hat-on post, but there won't be anything very technical in it. Neither rational choice theory nor voting behavior is anywhere near my areas of research, which is good for you, the reader; it means that there will be neither greek letters nor regression analyses here. But I will make some reference to the conclusions that the greek-letter-people and the r-squared-people have drawn.

Now, the Downs' formal model of parties-as-firms competing for voters-as-consumers isn't the only thing one learns in Poli Sci 101. Another is an empirical finding that psychological identification with a party is a pretty durable thing, and that it endures across generations. (The most powerful predictor of party ID-- more than race, income, or education-- is parents' party ID.) Some insights from higher-level political science and rational choice theory: First, information is costly. Becoming a genuinely informed voter is a time-consuming and annoying activity. (Next week I vote in Chicago. My irrational commitment to casting informed votes is consuming a lot of my energy-- especially because here we engage in the deeply corrupt practice of electing judges, and there are a lot of them.) It becomes even more costly the more news coverage is oriented toward polls and scandals. Figuring out which candidate is marginally closer to my political views takes research. There's therefore a lot to be said for using the informational shorthand or brand-loyalty that is a political party, even though that loyalty will certainly sometimes lead me to vote for candidates who are farther away from my preferred positions.

A difficulty with rational-choice theories of voting that draw attention to the costliness of gathering information is that voting itself is costly, too-- and lacks benefits. For nearly all voters nearly all of the time, the cost of gas used in driving to and from the polling place, the marginal risk of a car accident en route, the loss of fifteen minutes or two hours of one's day add up to a cost that is vastly greater than (the likelihood of one's vote being decisive)x(the marginal benefit of one's preferred candidate winning). Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky (I'm slightly acquainted with Brennan, friendly-acquainted with Lomasky, and enormously impressed by them both, but have no institutional ties to either) have therefore argued that voting is an expressive activity, like rooting for a sports team, more than it is a calculated attempt to bring about the policies one prefers. Voting as expressive activity, in turn, further weakens the Downsian model, since it consists very substantially of loyalty to one's team. I don't shift my baseball loyalty from the Red Sox to the White Sox even when I move to Chicago. Why would I change party-team loyalty just because one candidate in one election was slightly closer to my preferred policy position?

Now teams-- and here I think I'm departing from Brennan and Lomasky's analysis-- needn't be parties. My primary loyalty could be to my union or my ethnic group, and so I could vote according with union or communtiy leaders' endorsements as a way of rooting for my team (my group) to do well. Or I could vote against the party that seems to be allied with the team I think of as the opposition.

For any of these reasons or some combination of them-- the costliness of information-gathering, the psychological character of party identification, the expressive character of voting, or the possibility of expressive voting out of loyalty to my team-that's-not-a-party-- there could be inefficiencies in the Downsian electoral market. Voters will be slow-- sometimes very slow-- to respond to shifts in parties' or candidates' positions. So even if parties are pretty pure vote-maximizing machines, even if the Karl Roves and Terry McAuliffes of the world really do define political parties, the Downsian equilibrium at the median voter might not happen very often. Instead, we'll see cycles of one-party dominance that change, sometimes quite suddenly, when the gap between the dominant party's positions and the median voter's positions has become too great. Then new loyalty will be built to the new dominant party, that will be similarly hard to shake. Things like this happen even in consumer markets to some degree. They're a lot more likely to happen in voting markets, where the incentive of consumer-voters to constantly correct and get things just right is vanishingly low.

Coming up later: part 2-- the parties-- and part 3-- the application of all this to the Kaus vs. Judis contest. (Things don't look quite as bleak for Kaus, or Downs, as it might seem so far.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

U.S. Says Russia Could Have Saved More Lives.

Y'know, for seven years now I've wanted the U.S. to speak up more vigorously about Chechnya. But of all the times to start, we pick the one where:
a) It wasn't the Russians committing a crime. Potentially gross incompetence and negligence to human life; but this time the Chechens really were terrorists and the Russians really weren't committing a war crime.
b) There's nothing to be done. I've wanted us to speak up on Chechnya in the hopes of changing something in the future-- like, say, convincing Russia to change its behavior in Chechnya. This just seems like carping and Monday-morning quarterbacking.
and c) There's an imminent Security Council vote that we care about a lot more than the Russians do, one for which we at least need Russia to refrain from vetoing.

So now we decide to make an issue? This one time, we might've just endorsed the call by the Russian liberals for an investigation and declined to push the issue further.

Question-- a sincere question. Did any diplomats from other states issue official comments on the events at Waco? If so, how did the U.S. respond to them? I don't remember any such; and the storming of the Branch Davidian compound lacked all of the justifications for gassing the Moscow theater. (No one inside was in imminent danger, for example.) My hunch is that any such diplomat would have gotten a very frosty reaction in Washington.
Today for the first time I've had more than 800 visitors to the site, more than 1000 page views. Two links from Instapundit and one from Kaus will do that...
Wow. Does this mean the Republicans are toast?
Mickey Kaus argues that we're in for a long-term 50-50 partisan stalemate, not because of who we are (the red state-blue state cultural divide story), but rather because of what the parties are-- vote-maximizing machines with the knowledge and the polls to constantly adjust to our center of gravity.

An exercise for everyone who took an introduction to political science course at some point: What's that called?

That's right; it's Anthony Downs' 1957 Median Voter Theorem! In a competitive two-party system with a unidimensional political spectrum (and some other technical constraints) the parties will tend to converge around the preferences of the 50%+1th voter. They sometimes make mistakes in their estimation of those preferences (though increasingly-refined polling makes that less likely). They are sometimes beholden to a base for volunteer effort, money, and so on in a way that keeps them from migrating to the center. And sometimes the threat of a third-party split at the left or right margin can exercise a short-term pull on the appropriate party that needs to head off the threat. But, in general and over time, we'll just see fluctuation around the preferences of the median voter.

(A political scientist friend of mine has another friend who's an independent in one of those Reagan-Democrat Michigan counties that splits 50-50 most of the time. He uses this friend as a very reliable weathervane, and proudly tells his colleagues that he knows the median voter. It might seem that in 2000 the decisive voter was more likely to live in Florida, New Mexico, or New Hampshire; but appealing to the median voter in those places requires some local idiosyncrasies. The median voter in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, or Michigan is something more like the median voter in terms of ideological position. This has unfortunate consequences for trade policy. But I digress.)

Most of the conditions Kaus identifies as going on in politics right now could be understood as making this competitive political market (with voters as consumers and parties as firms) work more efficiently and elastically. The absurd heights to which polling, focus-group-testing, and micro-targeted vote appeals have risen are central. As important is his claim that unions and the Christian right have been weakened enough to allow each party to move to the center. I'm not sure he's right about that; remember the teacher's unions and vouchers. Also remember that the Greens are lurking out there on the Democrats' leftward flank, and the Libertarians-- while not right-wing in any general way-- often grab enough of the GOP's anti-tax and pro-gun base to tip House or Senate seats. And we've seen some evidence in the past few elections that one's base can simply get alienated and stay home on election day. So even now, neither party can simply lunge for the center, with no regard for what's happening among their most dedicated supporters.

Note that there are complications in our electoral system. The electoral college, the House, and the Senate might each have a pretty different median voter to appeal to (the Floridian Panhandler-- or do they not like that term?-- the Michigan Reagan Democrat union man and the Missouri soccer mom, respectively). And primaries are a very serious complication. Primaries with lots of candidates have bizarre scrambling effects on who the nomiee will be. Primaries with two or three often pull the nominating process toward the base in a way that makes the lunge for the center more difficult.

But as a general tendency over time, there's a great deal to be said for the Median Voter Theorem-- and Kaus is right that this political market has gotten a lot more efficient lately...

One more complication in mapping Downs' model onto the U.S. is that we don't live in a party-list system. We vote for candidates, not parties-- at least directly. That means that the race for the center will often happen at the level of the individual district-- hence, northeastern pro-choice Republicans and southern pro-gun Democrats. But actual governing happens, in important ways, by party-- most significantly, in control of the two houses of Congress. We lack a strong caucus-and-whip system, but virtually all members elected from one party can be counted on to support their caucus' choices for the chamber leadership (e.g. Speaker), and overall party makeup determines party makeup of the all-important committees. A schematic version of the politics of the mid-90s: the Republicans did a much better job than the Democrats of estimating where the median voters in the south and the Mountain states were. But the Republican caucus elected by appealing to those median voters had an overall position significantly to the right of the median voter nationally-- even though the median voter nationally preferred his or her hometown Republican to his or her hometown Democrat. The Republican House caucus thus became a juicy target for demonization by Clinton-Carville-Morris. District-by-district the Republicans faithfully represented the views of their constituents; and in the nation as a whole more people preferred their district's Republican. But a significant share of northerners and Californians who liked their own Republicans grew to detest the House Republican caucus as a whole, and so the Republicans kept losing PR battles even though they kept holding the House. Call this the Connie Morella problem. Remember that it's happened to the Democrats in other election cycles; indeed, it has something to do with the Democratic House wipeout of '94. And read my earlier post on what how complicated this makes things from the perspective of the individual voter: should I vote for the candidate who most accurately reflects my views? For the candidate whose party most accurately reflects my views, since my Representative or Senator will end up facilitating his or her party's control of the chamber? Or, most interestingly-- assuming local candidate convergence around the local median voter-- should I vote for the candidate whose party does not reflect my views, on the grounds that it's desirable to have a pro-choice segment of the GOP, a pro-gun segment of the Democratic Party, a caucus of pro-trade Democrats, a caucus of pro-gay Republicans, or whatever? (I think the answer is sometimes the last-- but it can involve serious short-term costs.) And this dilemma becomes most serious under conditions of a 50-50 split nationally-- because control of either chamber really could turn on my local election-- and local convergence around the local median voter.

UPDATE: See more above about Kaus' (and Downs') prediction, leading up to an analysis of it vs. John Judis' prediction of a new Democratic majority.

ANOTHER THOUGHT: This is an uncharacteristically goo-goo thing of me to say, but the Florida 2000/ Missouri 2000/ Florida 2002/ Torricelli-Lautenberg/ South Dakota vote fraud/ Minnesota absentee ballot/ etc/ etc problems make it tempting. A time when the parties are in near-perfect balance is as close as we get to a veil-of-ignorance situation for electoral laws. In other words, this-- or rather next January, once all of this year's election lawsuits end-- would be the perfect time to try to generate a model uniform election statute and get it adopted by the states. Election statutes are the quintessential case of rules that should be clearly enacted in advance, without knowing whom they will benefit, because interpretation of ambiguities in particular cases cannot plausibly be separated from the identity of the parties (in both senses). We don't know in advance which party is going to want to yank losing candidates off the ballot. We don't know in advance which party is going to have a Senator die a week before the election. Once the case arises, there are rampant doubts about those who interpret the rules-- the Florida, New Jersey, U.S. Supreme Courts. We've lately discovered all sorts of issues that arise in elections. What's really required to meet a residency requirement (or, in the case of Cheney-Texas-2000, a non-residency requirement)? On what date before an election does a ballot become irrevocably fixed? Should parties be able to yank their living nominees off the ballot? How does the need to get absentee ballots out in a timely fashion balance against the interest in having the Election Day election proceed? What is the right thing to do if polling places open late, or if they still have lines of voters come closing time?

These aren't questions about technology, though one could also add "what standards should apply in triggering recounts, and what standards should apply to the counting of ballots during those recounts?" Deciding them and fixing them isn't a matter of adopting touch-screen ballot booths, the goo-goos' favorite recommendation in early 2001; it's not a matter of passing this law. It's a matter of settling legal questions in advance. A few matters remain pretty clearly linked to partisan advantage: the Republicans have an interest in military ballots, the Democrats in felons' enfranchisement and in same-day registration. But a whole lot of disputed questions of electoral law could right now be treated as indeterminate with respect to who would be benefitted by which answer. The system would be benefitted by clarity, though. It's in everyone's interest that state and federal courts not have to step into a half-dozen elections per year. Let's get that bi- or multi-partisan commission rolling-- not another Ford-Carter or even Brookings-AEI group, but one made up of election-law and procedure specialists who know all the ways in which elections have gone wrong in the U.S., and that has the specific charge of reducing election-law ambiguities and suggesting a model uniform code that could keep elections out of the courts.
Campus Watch ad nauseum: For those who share my particular interest in Campus Watch's allegations against the University of Chicago, see this article responding to some of them and to President Randel's comments on free speech and civility or-- even better-- Provost Richard Saller's comments on the same topics.

Monday, October 28, 2002

One quick footnote (so to speak) the Michael Bellesiles case. I know one of the members of the investigative committee, Stanley Katz, Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and former President of the American Council of Learned Societies. And one other, Hanna Gray, is former president of the University of Chicago, my current home. (I don't know much about the third, Laurel Ulrich.) They're each distinguished historians, and it was presumably in that capacity that they were chosen to lead the investigation. But they're also each people of exceptional integrity, and are widely known as such. ACLS and Chicago are institutions for academics' academics, and Katz and Gray have the reputation of having been exceptionally dedicated to serious and rigorous scholarship. (One sign of Katz's integrity is that, year in and year out, he's the only prominent figure willing to question the MacArthur Foundation's "genius awards," not because of political bias or trendiness, but just because it's a strange way for a foundation to spend its money and to advance any scholarly, artistic, or social agenda.) They're not only knowledgeable about history but also knowledgeable about and committed to the academy in general. It's unsurprising that they did such a fair and careful job. I have no particular reason to even have a guess as to the politics of either Katz or Gray-- itself a bit unusual in academia-- and that in its way is the point.

And so we see Bellesiles claiming that the charge the investiagtive committee was given was too narrow; but we do not see him charging bias in the committee. The rest of us who also care about the academy and scholarly integrity owe them thanks for their work on the Bellesiles problem, and for much else besides. And those whose interest in this case is primarily due to the subject matter should be glad that Emory chose investigators whose judgment is valued so highly in academia.
I'm happy to see that one of my daily must-reads, The Chronicle of Higher Education, has resurrected another, Arts and Letters Daily. The two are a great fit, and the Chroncile has performed a real service. (And, yes, the Chronicle is a daily read-- online. They make new stories available to subscribers electronically every day, before they end up in the weekly print edition.)

The press release says "The Chronicle acquired Arts & Letters Daily on Thursday, along with the assets of its parent company, which published the magazine Lingua Franca." This is more curious, and I'd very much like to know what assets those include (the Lingua Franca name?), and what plans the Chronicle has for them. On the one hand, the Chronicle might turn out to be the only owner that has the expertise to bring back Lingua Franca in a cost-efficient manner. On the other hand, LF always seemed to me to be thumbing its nose at the Chronicle's serious, balanced, no-nonsense coverage of academe.

Let me be clear: I think that the Chronicle is excellent, and it's excellent in large part because it's careful, thorough, judicious, and fair. It very rarely gets things wrong (unlike, say, the NYT Arts and Ideas page which covers some of the same beat). It understands the difference between what's worth covering and what's not (unlike, say-- oh, hell, just keep filling that phrase in after every bit of praise). And it covers both sides of major stories. It's exemplary of one understanding of what a newspaper should be.

But dishing dirt has its place, too. LF was always a guiltier pleasure than the Chronicle-- but was often more of a pleasure simpliciter. I wonder whether the institutional culture of the Chronicle is too incompatible with the smart-assed former-humanities-grad-students-with-attitude schtick that LF had to do the latter justice. I wonder whether we'll ever hear from any of those other "assets" again...

UPDATE: Jack Shafer reports on the connections between LF and the Boston Globe's smart new "Ideas" section, which has made a real splash already.

On a somewhat-similar note: I'm mostly unable to share in any weeping for the soon-to-be-ended NYT/WaPo collaboration at the International Herald-Tribune. The Post, after all, is the paper that still wheels out the frozen head of Art Rooney-- or is that Andy Buchwald?-- and makes it dictate a column that they then distribute all over the world. In lots of ways I like the Post better than the Times. But the IHT is overpriced and underthick. I've had several stretches when I got it every day, especially when there were baseball standings to keep track of and the local press (in Australia, Hong Kong, Paris...) for some reason didn't care. I gradually gave up, especially when the international USA Today and the appropriate-region Wall Street Journal became appropriate (and when the internet let me find out about the standings.) The Post contributed the comics, I suppose, but when last I looked there were only about a dozen strips and they included Peanuts reprints, Calvin and Hobbes reprints, and the Wizard of Id. I'm guessing they haven't gotten around to adding Boondocks.

If the Times can create a paper that is to its domestic edition as the European or Asian WSJ is to the domestic one, then readers will be much better off. Genteel collaboration had left a paper that wasn't worth the effort.
For those who are into this sort of thing, it doesn't get much more heavyweight than Habermas vs. Rorty on "Rationality and Universalism." I'll be there, and recommend it to anyone within driving distance of Chicago with a taste for ethics, metaethics, or just the chance to see two of the the most prominent living philosophers talking about the issues that divide them.