Projectors and Pollsters

The methodologists and closeted Americanists among us (everyone is during the election season, it seems–don’t worry, we won’t tell) may be interested to know that is hosting a live chat tomorrow at noon with Nate Silver from and Charles Franklin of  If you are unfamiliar with these websites then first, you should be warned that they are addictive.  Second, you may want to check out their FAQs and methodology statements: FAQs and Statement of Methodology FAQs about Maps Go here to submit questions and for more information.

The European Treasury

Philip Coggan gave an interesting interview this morning to NPR in which he discussed the effect of the of the United States’ bailout failure on the European markets.  The primary purpose of the short interview was to describe the European perspective on the global impact of the U.S.’s financial crisis and the speculation on Congress’s activity surrounding it, though one incidental point caught my attention.  Coggan mentions that a concern in Europe at the moment is that a large Swiss bank might fail.  This would be quite problematic because, while these types of firms are probably considered "too big to Continue reading The European Treasury

Where’s OUR Particle Accelerator?

Yesterday, the first particle beam was guided through the $8 billion Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva.  In mid-October, the first particle beam collisions will be made, thus inaugurating the biggest, most expensive playground for particle physicists ever imagined.  I’ve been trying to figure out what political science equivalent would match the LHC in scale.  The most obvious example might be the commissioning of our very own laboratory-state in which political scientists schedule time to come in and basically mess with a state’s government to see what happens when we enact small institutional or social changes.  Of course, without comparison, Continue reading Where’s OUR Particle Accelerator?

Rum and Revolution

NPR has an interview this morning with Tom Gjelten, the author of Bicardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause, which  details the rum company’s history in Cuban politics and the role it played in the Cuban Revolution.  The company was very supportive of the Revoultion at first, as its success was derived essentially from its cubanismo, if you will: In the 1950s, the family’s support for Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution was a natural carryover from 100 years of involvement in Cuban nationalistic movements. Pepin Bosch, the chairman of the company at that time, Continue reading Rum and Revolution

What does Universal Jurisdiction Mean for the Future of the Sovereign State?

Earlier this month, Spain’s National Court decided to hear a case arising by a lawsuit from a pro-Tibet group against seven Chinese officials over the pre-Olympics repression of protests in Tibet.  This case draws on that court’s Doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction, as no Spaniards were personally harmed and, of course, the events in question did not occur on Spanish territory.  Perhaps the most notable instance of Spain’s use of Universal Jurisdiction is the charge of genocide against former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet (those interested specifically in this case may want to check out my review of a recent documentary chronicling Continue reading What does Universal Jurisdiction Mean for the Future of the Sovereign State?

P.O.V.: Truth and Reconciliation in Chile

The PBS series, P.O.V., aired an excellent documentary Tuesday night called The Judge and The General.  This film tells the story of Juan Guzmán, a judge assigned to try criminal cases against members of Augusto Pinochet‘s regime in Chile.  Guzmán had been a supporter of Pinochet, and the film chronicles the information he uncovered while investigating these cases, and how he ultimately came to the realization that Pinochet’s legal immunity from prosecution was a huge hurdle toward Chile’s goal of truth and reconciliation.  From the P.O.V. synopsis: The Judge and the General follows the twists and turns of the efforts Continue reading P.O.V.: Truth and Reconciliation in Chile

China, Sudan, and the British Empire

As the opening of the Olympics in Beijing nears, NPR is running a few series on the foundations and future of China’s global power within the context of the country’s history and economic position.  Today’s installment, “China and Sudan: A Marriage Sealed in Oil, History,” is the first of stories that will outline China’s influence in Africa.  The story recounts the tale of Major General Charles Gordon of Great Britain.  He worked to secure trading lines with China, and later to manage Britain’s colonial possession at the time, Sudan. The relationship between Sudan and China is widely believed to be Continue reading China, Sudan, and the British Empire

Strategies for Writing: Advice from the UNC Writing Center

Ever the connoisseur of writing strategy and style, I have encountered enough advice and discussion that I could probably change my dissertation topic to the analysis of the modi operandi of academic writers.  I’ll stick with my current dissertation topic for now, but some of this advice needs to be shared with as many  interested people as possible, such as that from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The handouts they have created offer valuable advice for academic writers at all levels.  Of the most useful for my purposes has been the handout on Continue reading Strategies for Writing: Advice from the UNC Writing Center

The Unbearable Lightness of Game Theory? has a great post today assessing the merits of game theory.  The author makes some excellent points.  In particular, he points out that some of the more interesting outcomes we see in the social sciences are off-equilibrium–inherently, then, these are the ones that we can’t explain with game theory.  Additionally, and more generally as a criticism of rational choice, individuals don’t necessarily make decisions that conform to what we typically think of as the rules that describe rational actors. Check out the post at, and the preceding entry by the same blogger (Michael McBride) about game theory’s potentially Continue reading The Unbearable Lightness of Game Theory?

Stats Professors and State Lotteries

Last month, Washington and Lee professor Scott Hoover announced that he intended to sue the Virginia State Lottery (a threat that became a lawsuit yesterday).  Hoover, a business finance professor, wasn’t upset that he didn’t win the lottery–he was upset that it had become impossible to win the prize.  His complaint is that the Virginia Lottery advertises inaccurate odds on their scratch-off tickets.  If there is a scarce number of prizes to be won in a scratch-off game, then the odds of winning them drop to zero after they’ve been won.  However, scratch-off tickets advertising that it was possible to Continue reading Stats Professors and State Lotteries