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Like Candy In A Dirty Wrapper

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
This morning my employer called me into his office. He was wearing a very serious expression, and as usual my guilty conscience convinced me that I was in trouble for something, although I couldn't imagine what. He asked me to close the door behind me, which only accentuated my nervousness, but I put on a glib, helpful demeanor to cover it up. He said that the wife of one of senior people at our office had just been diagnosed with a rare and very lethal form of cancer. I'd never met her, and didn't really know my co-worker very well, but it was shocking news nonetheless. My boss was very shaken by the news, in part because they're the same age. She's not really that much older than me, come to think of it.

Then I was told why I was one of the first people to hear the news: I was asked to take on the responsibilities of my co-worker. Now I was already expecting a promotion some time in the new year, but this elevation is considerably more substantial than I or my boss had in mind. I'm looking at a lot more money, very interesting work, and what looks to be an entire career before me - should I do the job properly.

I've spent the last year at this job maintaining a very low profile, doing only what was asked, because I didn't want to be taken advantage of or be distracted from my dissertation. But now I'm going to have real responsibilities and the financial status to go with it. I've never before been called upon to actually perform in a professional setting, to do more than the bare minimum, and to work without close supervision by someone else. Frankly it's a bit frightening.

What's also shocking is that for the first time in my life, I won't have to be so terrified about my financial future. I've been worried for so long about how I'm ever going to make my student loan payments that I can't imagine not feeling that pressing anxiety in my chest anymore. The only thing that's come close is concern over my dissertation, which is very close to being finished. The two central challenges of the last decade are just about solved, which seems to me to be bizarre and a little incredible.

So today was bittersweet. I'm elated at the promotion, full of sorrow for my co-worker's travails (more than I'd have expected - I'm not a particularly empathetic person), guilty that I'm benefiting from his misfortune, and bewildered at my change circumstance.

All and all a very strange day.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:46 PM

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If Elected, Mitt Romney Will Break The Law

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, upon being asked whether he would hire a cabinet member of the Muslim faith, stated the following:

“…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified."

Romney is making some very bizarre claims. Implicitly he is arguing that the cabinet should reflect the demography of the country, something Republicans have traditionally criticized. Does this mean that the Cabinet would be 30% non-white? 25% non-christian? 15% foreign born? Majority female? Furthermore, Romney, as a Mormon, wouldn't be eligible to serve in the Cabinet according to his own criteria (% of the population), since Mormons make up roughly the same share of the U.S. population as Muslims.

Beyond this, Romney has stated explicitly that he intends to violate federal non-discrimination laws. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids hiring and firing on the basis of religious belief. As such, Romney would have to be prosecuted by his own justice department.

Romney is the weirdest sort of hypocritical pandering bigot.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:34 PM

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Vacation Over :(

Monday, November 26, 2007
I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving break. Brazen Hussy and I spent a lot of time working, but there was plenty of playtime too - so much so that by Sunday we were out of entertainment. I'm beginning to think we're developing an alarming preference for work. My big accomplishment was writing a dissertation chapter in a single week. I promised that I'd perform a dance of joy around the apartment if I managed to do so, and when I completed the chapter on Saturday I proceeded to do a little jig. Brazen was confused and the dog was very excited.

Today at work I've had a hard time getting anything done. I pecked at the next chapter a bit, but my heart really wasn't in it. I suppose I could use the excuse that I need to look at stuff at home, but I still feel guilty......

By the way, for once I agree with Grover Norquist: a constitutional amendment barring dynasty candidates. I'd even expand it to include a lifetime ban on immediate family members holding the Presidency. It's just too dangerous. I know that Michael D. at Balloon Juice and Andrew Sullivan think that such an amendment is unnecessary, since the voters are free to vote against dynasty candidates. I think this is naive, given that 2 families have passed the white house back and forth for the last 20 years - and may be about to do so again. We don't let the voters elect Presidents to a third term because it's dangerous to a democracy to have one person viewed as indispensable. In much the same way, we can't let folks think a particular group of families is in indispensable either.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:55 PM

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Apparently We Shouldn't Mess With Popes

Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Brazen and I stayed home today to do some work, and I'm trying to focus on my dissertation rather than the news. But this is just too funny to not pass on: The Five Biggest Badass Popes! (via Ezra Klein)
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:02 PM

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Andrew Sullivan Shows His Spots

Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I missed Sully's slanders in the run-up to the war in Iraq - I only started reading him during the 2004 election, so I didn't hate him like some bloggers do. I disagree with much of what he says, but he seemed like a rational person.

And then I read this. Apparently Sullivan is willing to entertain the idea that some races are genetically inferior. A little surprising that a gay man would be so quick to find bigotry attractive, but then Andrew does call himself a conservative.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:05 PM

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We Don't Need No Stinkin Books

Monday, November 19, 2007
Apparently Americans don't like to read anymore. A recently released study indicates that reading and reading proficiency has declined dramatically over the last 20 years. That means that people don't just not read Faulkner, they can't. To quote:

The NEA reports that in 2006, 15-to-24-year-olds spent just 7 to 10 minutes a day voluntarily reading anything at all. It also notes that between 1992 and 2003, the percentage of college graduates who tested as "proficient in reading prose" declined from 40 percent to 31 percent.

This is positively alarming. It's not just about people being too busy to read once they start working - it's about people never learning the value of opening a good book. It's about people not even reading when they're in school. Now I've quibbled with Brazen over whether there's an inherent value in reading, but the fact that reading abilities are in decline signals a serious problem in our society. I don't have any data, but I'm willing to guess that there's a correlation between literacy and critical thinking and self-efficacy. Tell me, how long do you think this will remain an affluent democracy when it turns into an Idiocracy?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:52 PM

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How Is It Washington Journalists Don't Understand Elections?

Thursday, November 15, 2007
This is just amazing to me. A lot of journalists and pundits seem to think that a candidate can lose the first three major primaries (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina) and still win the nomination. Rudy Giuliani thinks he can skip them and focus on the Feb 5 primaries. Now John Judis seems to think that Hillary will still be competitive is she loses all three to Barack Obama. Have these guys ever read a book on presidential primaries? Or watched a few races? Can someone please tell me the last time a candidate lost all the early primaries and still managed to win the nomination?

1976: Carter wins Iowa and New Hampshire. Nominee.
Ford wins Iowa and New Hampshire. Nominee.

1980: Reagan loses Iowa but wins New Hampshire. Nominee.
Carter wins Iowa and New Hampshire. Nominee.

1984: Mondale wins Iowa but loses New Hampshire. Nominee.

1988: Bush loses Iowa but wins New Hampshire. Nominee
Dukakis loses Iowa but wins New Hampshire. Nominee.

1992: Clinton skips Iowa, loses New Hampshire. Nominee
I would argue that Iowa, since it was uncontested (Harkin was running)
shouldn't be counted in this year, making the next major primary Georgia -
which was won by Clinton, the eventual nominee.

1996: Dole wins Iowa but loses New Hampshire. Nominee.

2000: Al Gore wins Iowa and New Hampshire. Nominee.
George Bush wins Iowa but loses New Hampshire. Nominee.

2004: John Kerry wins Iowa and New Hampshire. Nominee.

Get the picture? Nobody skips the first 2-3 major contested primaries and wins the nomination. It hasn't happened in 30 years and it's not going to happen now. A lot of folks seem to think that front-loading is going to diminish the role of Iowa and New Hampshire, but instead that role has been enhanced. I expect that if one candidate wins Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, he/she will win most of the February 5 primaries and clinch the nomination. End of campaign.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:50 PM

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Why Do We Need A Vice President?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I mean, honestly? What's the point?

The position of Vice President is a constitutional afterthought that has become a nuisance at best and a serious problem at worst. Dick Cheney has done the most damage, of course, but he isn't responsible for the constitutional disarray generated by the existence of a sub-President. I fail to see any substantial advantages and a number of bothersome disadvantages.

The arguments for a Vice-Presidency are weak at best. First, it designates an official successor to the President, a successor who is privy to the inner workings of the White House. Second, it gives the President a useful alter-ego when he/(she?)can't be somewhere. I can't think of a third.

To dispense with the proposed advantages:
1) We can easily designate someone else as a temporary official successor, for example the Secretary of State, who would have knowledge of the most crucial elements of White House policy. Also, how many VP's have been cut out of the loop on vast areas of policy?

2) Um, why do we need an extra office for this? Aren't there a bunch of people working for the White House already?

Now let me address the disadvantages of a Vice-Presidency. There is the obvious expense and the blurring of the separation of powers, of course - neither which I think are serious problems. More importantly, the existence of a VP gives President a way to nominate their successor, greatly strengthening their power at the expense of the voters and the party. Presidential nominees have pretty much unilateral capacity to select a running mate, and Vice Presidents are almost always prohibitive favorites for the White House in future elections because of their "quasi-incumbent" status. This effectively excludes other candidates from contention, and gives the President an undue influence over future nominees. In addition, Vice Presidents have the ability to usurp considerable amounts of power without much public accountability. Impeachment has been greatly weakened as a political tool by the 1998 fiasco, and let's be honest - the voters really don't pay much attention to who a candidate's running mate is. So we have a de facto unelected official with steadily growing powers and an inside track on the Presidency. Sounds great, doesn't it?

If I had magic powers, I would simply abolish the office. Make the Secretary of State the Acting President until the Congress can select a replacement. We should just consign this absurd position to history's dustbin.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:21 AM

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Well, Obviously

Tuesday, November 13, 2007
William Shakespeare

This was the noblest Arbitrista of them all.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:33 AM

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Should Democrats Be Fighting Democrats?

Saturday, November 10, 2007
Hillary, Barack, and John have really been going at each other lately. Should I be worried?

There's an idea in political science called the "Divisive Primaries Hypothesis." Basically it argues that hard-fought primaries weaken a party's eventual nominee in the general election because it consumes resources, makes the party look fractious to voters, alienates key internal party constituencies, and develops damaging narratives about a candidate than can used about another party.

The evidence for this hypothesis is mixed, but party leaders and other political types tend to believe it, which is why parties generally try to limit the degree of internal political conflict by reducing the number of candidates. There are some (like Kos) who think that the divisive primary hypothesis is just wrong, that candidates are toughened up by the fighting, that they are prepared for inevitable negative campaigns, and that exciting races can draw more attention and participation. It can also be argued that in-fighting is inevitable, since if you're behind in a race you'll do almost anything to close the gap - worry about the general election tomorrow!

I've generally fallen into the first camp, which is why early on I stated that I would view negative attacks by Democratic Presidential candidates on each other very dimly. But upon reflection I wonder if I was mistaken. Obviously saying things that are untrue or just nasty about one's own party members is stupid (not to mention morally wrong), but what if what you say about your rivals is true? What if it's an obvious vulnerability that the other party is bound to try and exploit? Fair are not, there are concerns in the minds of voters that Hillary is too calculating, that Barack is too inexperienced, that John is a phony. These are all lines of attack that the Republicans are going to make use of, and wouldn't it be better to get ready for them now? Do we really want a nominee who can't take a punch?

I haven't really made up my mind about this question, but it's worth thinking about. Hmmm. All of a sudden I wonder if there isn't a good research project in here somewhere.....
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:51 AM

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Tasty Hypocrisy

Wednesday, November 07, 2007
The next time someone from the "social conservative" wing of the Republican Party starts talking to me about abortion, or gays, or divorce, I am going to laugh in his face.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:13 PM

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InaDWriMo Update

Tuesday, November 06, 2007
2240 words on my dissertation today, even while I was (supposed to be) working. I now have 4 chapters pretty much finished. Only a zillion more to go! :(
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:53 PM

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Not so much

Monday, November 05, 2007
Rebecca Traister thinks I should love Dennis Kucinich because he's the most left-wing candidate running in the Democratic primaries. Leaving aside the strange presumption that I'm a peacenik vegan who sees UFO's, there's one pesky little detail about Kucinich that makes him unacceptable: he was one of the most anti-choice members of the U.S. House until about 30 seconds before he decided to run for President. Tell me again about he's a man of principle?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:31 AM

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Happy Guy Fawkes

You know where I'm going with this...

Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:33 AM

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Allrighty Then

Saturday, November 03, 2007
From ComebackNikki

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Take the quiz at www.FightConservatives.com

Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:19 AM

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Hmm, that's almost misogynistic....

Thursday, November 01, 2007
(via Seeking Solace)

You Are a Witch (or Warlock)

You are deviously brilliant and a perfect manipulator.
You somehow always end up getting what you want - without anyone knowing you're working behind the scenes.
Crafty and cunning, you can work your way out of any jam.
And it's easy for you to get people to do what you want, whether you're working for good or evil.

Your greatest power: Mind control

Your greatest weakness: Making people your puppets

You play well with: Ghosts
What Kind of Monster Are You?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:35 AM

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Under orders from Brazen Hussy, I hereby pledge to write at least 20,000 words during November. I really out to be writing more, but this way I can feel better about myself when I do!

Speaking of, I realized this morning that a) my dissertation is already a lot longer than I thought it was, and b) I'm a lot further along than I thought. I didn't absorb the fact that single space 1-inch margins produce a lot more pages than the dissertation format - so I already have like 100 dissertation pages written. Also, I had crammed three different models into one chapter, when I only have 6 (maybe 7) models in the whole thing! So by this weekend I'll be halfway done! Damn, I'm dumb.

Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:51 AM

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