The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Anxiety running high among Jane Fonda and her lit friends
Tom Smith

As a newly minted supporter of Obama, who reminds me, I forgot to mention before, of Jesus, I can really feel the pain of some of our leading literary lights, such as Erica Jong, who wrote that book about sex back in the, when was it, 1960's?  70's?  According to this post, Fonda has had to resort to Valium and massages, she is so anxious that Obama might lose.  Terrible back pain.  You know, I think John McCain has some chronic pain issues; maybe he would have some tips for her on how to cope?

Maybe under Obama we could have Valium and massages for lots of people when they get anxious.  I had not thought about the government giving everybody chill pills, but I think the idea has promise.

They refer to Tom Wolfe and John Updike as men of the right.  I knew that about Mr. Wolfe, whom I consider to be not a great stylist, but still a fine novelist, but not about Mr. Updike, of whom I have had many uncharitable thoughts over the years.  Is he really, gasp, a Republican?  I find that a little hard to believe.  My guess is he just likes nice country clubs, but that's really not quite the same thing.

October 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

My Vote
Mike Rappaport

This has been one of the hardest decisions that I have had to make about how to vote.  As readers may remember, I initially leaned towards voting none of the above or writing in a candidate rather than voting for McCain.  (I don't find the third party candidates palatable.)  While I thought McCain would be superior to Obama in the short term, the long term situation was different.  After four years of Obama, there was a decent chance that the country would have seen the results of his policies and might have rejected them big time as they did Clinton in 1994 and Carter in 1980.  In any event, being out of power, the Republicans would have had an incentive to reform.  In 2012, the Republicans might be in a position to take back the presidency or the Congress.     

By contrast, if McCain won, the Republicans would pursue big government policies that involve compromises with the Democrats.  The Republicans would be blamed for the resulting ills and the party would still be clinging to power without having reformed.  In 2012, the Republicans might even be more unpopular than they are today.  While a McCain presidency would have the benefits of divided government, McCain is a compromiser who might sign on to lots of bad stuff from the Democrats.  It is not clear that a Republican filibuster would be that much worse than a McCain veto pen (although the Republicans may do so badly that they may have a very weak filibuster).

I wish I had the luxury to vote this way.  It was always a close case, but I would have been comfortable doing it.  Unfortunately, something happened in October to change all that: The financial collapse.  There are two main aspects of the collapse that really change things. First, the financial collapse means that lots of new legislation will be passed and the Democrats are likely to pass pretty bad stuff in this area.  Second, and more importantly, even if the Democrats do a bad job and the economy does badly, the voters might not blame them now.  Things might get so bad that voters might just cling to their government, especially if it is good at speaking to them and reassuring them.  Moreover, voters might place the blame on the prior administration, saying that the Obama administration had merely inherited the problems. 

Thus, I have reluctantly concluded that I should vote for McCain.  It is an awful pill to swallow.  I don't particularly like the man, and really dislike his policies.  But that is how bad things have gotten.  So, on Tuesday, I will "pull the lever" for McCain.    

October 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)

New world
Tom Smith


via here.

October 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Althouse
Tom Smith

This is a link to a post by Althouse.  You may find it interesting.  Thank you.

October 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A true conservative comes out for Obama
T.A.C. Smith, A.B., B.A. (Oxon.), J.D.

Oh jolly good.

October 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Which Obama would we get?
Tom Smith

It would be nice to have had a choice, but I guess that would be asking a lot.  Taylor does not consider the possibility of a radical success, in the sense of being radical and getting what he wants.  That could also happen.

October 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

More on Multiple Choice
Mike Rappaport

Tom makes the case well for multiple choice exams.  I write separately to add how bad the arguments are against multiple choice exams.  I clicked through the link to see the argument against multiple choice and I couldn't bear to read it.   For example:

MC exam results are mathematically skewed - say I sit down at a 500 question multiple choice exam for a class I never attended, never read the textbook, and know nothing about: when I receive the grade for my exam, I'll have received a score of 25% (within some standard deviation) if I filled in all the bubbles randomly. Clearly, I do not understand 25% of the material, I understand 0% of it. My score significantly misrepresents my knowledge on the topic.

That really is ridiculous.  As Tom points out, if one has a relatively large number of questions, and one curves the exam, it gets one a spread which most definitely reflects knowledge. 

There are also other silly arguments.  For example, one of the commenters over at Marginal Revolution writes "My problem with multiple choice exams is that they are generally very easy to game."  People say this all of the time, but it is not true, if your exam is at all competent.  When I give multiple choice exams, the highest score is usually in the 75 percent range.  So much for gaming the answers.  

Interestingly, the author of the original post has in part seen the error of his ways.  At the comments over at Marginal Revolution, he writes:

Having written the piece referenced by Tyler Cowen over a year ago - I have had plenty of time to reflect on whether I still believe multiple choice is a poor means of testing.

First, I realized that my beef is less with multiple choice exams and more with bad professors.

This is a good point.  Bad multiple choice questions are, unsurprisingly, a bad way to test.

But that is not exactly a strong argument against multiple choice.  After all, bad essay questions -- and all the more so, bad grading of essay questions (bad grading is not implicated with multiple choice) --  are also a problem.  The criticism of multiple choice smacks of the Nirvana Fallacy.  People just assume the essay questions have been graded correctly.  But, let me tell you, this is hardly a reasonable assumption.  One can grade the essays with a checklist, but that just turns it into an objective exam, which is inferior to multiple choice.  Or one can grade the essays with by a gestalt judgment, but there is no particular reason beyond faith to believe that that accurately distinguishes between exams that are relatively close in quality.  

October 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama for President
Tom Smith

After some thought which I concede has not been all that deep, I have decided to announce that I support Senator Obama for President.  I have been inspired to take this step, which I know some of my readers will find shocking and disappointing, by the several other famous conservatives and/or libertarians who have thrown their backing to the Senator from the Land of Lincoln.  Allow me to explain.

Obama has made many insprirational arguments about why he should be the next President.  There is Hope, Change, the Audacity of both, the financial crisis's verdict on the failed policies of the last eight years, and transcending the politics of yesterday, which are narrow, in order to get to the politics of the future which are, I infer, very broad. But in truth, I am not sure what all of this means, concretely.  Thus I have tried to pay attention carefully as Obama and his many proxies have explained what his actual plans would be.  These are much more comprehensible.  With some gratitude I realize that all the talk of Hope and Change can be distilled into a two-fold message that is both direct and pure:  If Obama is elected President, the government will give me money.  And second, that would be fair.

To take the second point first, some might well wonder what is so fair about my getting more money from the government, or even their getting more money, though that usually provokes fewer objections. But consider the following thought experiment.  Imagine someone coming to you and saying "How about if I give you some money, and you have to do absolutely nothing in return?  Does that sound fair?"  Most of us, I hazard, would reply "Sure!"  I know I would.  Thus, by a kind of deontological intuitionist argument, we can see that my getting more money in this way is in fact fair.  Next, it is true that I would like more money.  Indeed, the prospect of getting more money does inspire in me a feeling I recognize as hope, and it would certainly be a welcome change.  Like many Americans, I get paid every month, and every month I pay bills.  I am struck by the frequency and intensity of the feeling that I could use more money.  This would be a change I could believe in.

Some readers may object that as a member of "the rich" who makes more than $42,000 per year, or whatever it is these days, I would be taxed more by an Obama regime, and not be one of those in the lucky 95 or 40 percent who are going to get checks from the government for having been so redistributed against over the last 8 years (of failed Bush-McCain policies), or perhaps even since this Republic adopted a Constitution that makes redistribution so legally awkward.  But this is taking too narrow of a view.  There are many ways to get checks from the government, and my sense is that an Obama administration would be amenable to all of them.  For someone like me, an academic, working in some way for the government seems promising.  So while I may be taxed more, I think the chances are good that I could find some job where I would be well paid and not actually have to do any work.  It could thus be a part time job that would not interfere with my current position.  It could be anything, really, so long as I could listen to my iPod during any meetings, which I assume, in a modern Obama administration, would be held in virtual government-space anyway.  Many people like me will be looking for jobs like this.  It may indeed usher in a kind of new age of entrepreneurialism, as people look for ways to get money from the government in new and creative ways.

Some long time readers may object that this endorsement represents a rejection of every principle I have ever stood for on this blog.  This may be true.  However, I would ask them to consider that standing up for principles against an enthusiastic mob is a good way to make yourself very unpopular.  I'm also not sure I have ever been to a conservative or libertarian party that was not a rather sad affair, with people standing around talking about the money supply or the importance of traditional values.  I mean, that gets old.  I'm 51 years old and I'm tired of it.  It just has to be the case that those redeemed by Obama are going to be having much better parties over the next several years, at least while the dollar holds out.  This may be a case for making hay while the sun shines.  Apres moi and all that.  

I do admit I am a little worried about Ahmedwhatshisname getting nukes and Putin rolling into Europe, with only Obama's charisma to stop them.  I had never really thought of let's all play nicely together as a foreign policy since it doesn't even work with kids.  But hey, is that really my problem?  He has like a zillion brilliant foreign policy advisers and I'm sure they'll figure something clever out.  I can no longer afford a trip to Israel anyway and I assume pictures of it will be archived on the internet.

Some may say, and you call yourself a libertarian.  But I have decided I can be a kind of statist, big government, expansive regulation, high taxing, low investing, industrial policy, aggressive PC enforcing sort of libertarian.  If you look at libertarians for Obama, I would hardly be the first.  Besides, I never listen to Rush anymore and Fox I could even do without.  I have hundreds of books in my library I have yet to read, and this would give me the chance.  All that conflict in the media is a huge time suck anyway.

So think of it as kind of the rather bearable lightness of being for Obama.  It's not so bad really.  It feels kind of like when you wake up in the morning and your mind is kind of blank, but in a peaceful sort of way.  Rather nice, really. You know, healing.

In conclusion, I would like, instead of saying God Bless America, which is divisive, to wish everyone a really nice next four to whatever years. (If anyone connected with the forthcoming government is reading this post, and would would like an address to send my money to, please just email me and I will let you know.)

October 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (55) | TrackBack (0)

Welcome to the Third World
Tom Smith

This guy Ajami really gets if, like few commentators on the American scene do.  Who is he?  I've never heard of him before.

October 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Bernstein on the LA Times tapes
Tom Smith

David puts it very well.

FWIW regarding whether Obama has any conservative friends (besides Warren Buffet, of course) -- I was talking to a well-known conservative scholar who was at Chicago when Obama was there, and he said Obama was well to the left of the Chicago faculty, and refused to have lunch with him.  He said Obama considered conservatives "evil".  He regarded an Obama presidency as "scary".

I have been told American Jews don't care about Israel any more, or at least the young ones don't.  Israel is not my top priority, but I certainly care about it.  I think US policy should be simple in a sense. Israel should be secure, period.  Lots of things are possible after that, but the security of the state of Israel should not be in any sense negotiable.  I think anyone for whom Israel's security is any sort of priority to support Obama, would be a grave mistake.  Unfortunately, I fear this will be clear soon enough.

October 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)