Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I So Want a Crisis in Civil-Military Relations

I write much about how it is important for the military to follow the civilians with the civilians having the right to be wrong.  Today?  Not so much.  I don't expect the military to contradict Trump directly on banning transgender people.  I am not going to bet on Mattis doing anything.

What do I hope for?  Principal-agency theory.  Huh?  There are lots of questions about this policy that was announced in a tweet.  The big one is this: who will be going through the personnel of the US armed forces to kick out the transgender soldiers, sailors, marines, air force folks (have not yet found a non-gendered substitute for airman)? When orders come on down from on high, how will implementation play out?  P-A theory starts with the idea that the agents (the folks lower down on the chain of command) have more information than the principals (el Presidente for Life Trump).  So, they can choose to be enthusiastic and follow the orders and then some, doing too much (consider the ICE folks).  Or they can choose to shirk and do less:  "Oops, found no transgender here!"

While the new "policy" is awful, it is not clear what will happen.  My best guess is that enforcement will be uneven.  The Marines will probably be enthused in general because, well, they have been the most regressive branch of the services.   Special Operations?  Probably will ignore this rule as they tend to ignore many rules, and there has been at least one transgender special operator who came out in the last year.  The more folks know people who are x, the more accepting they are (I think).  Will there be much oversight over this new policy?  Will Congress make sure that the discrimination machine is in high gear?  Probably not as they are too busy trying and failing to pass legislation. Will the Office of the Secretary of Defense spend much time monitoring this?  Still understaffed and overwhelmed.  So, yeah, officers can shirk.  Will they?  I have no idea.

And yes, the impact is beyond the military, as Trump gives yet more license to those who hate and fear to bully those who are vulnerable.  He did it last night with his speech about immigrant "animals" and he did it this morning with his tweets.  Trump continues to surprise me with how thoroughly awful he is--my imagination can't keep up with him.

Yes, this is another day where Trump's awfulness makes me have to try to figure out which conflicting values I want to fight for and which to compromise: tolerance/acceptance/freedom for LGBTQ or good civil-military relations?  Kind of like the feeling one gets when saying Sessions should stay for the rule of law.  I guess I can compromise my focus on civil-military relations since that is headed into the toilet anyway, as Trump's speech to the sailors last week indicated.  Oh and his constant reference to "his generals."

No matter what Trump does, he finds a way to destroy institutions and norms. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Better to Gamble Than Cry?

Time for that semi-regular Semi-Spew post: how to bet in the Age of Trump!  I asked the sportsbetting folks about the latest odds now that Spicey is gone.  So, check out the odds and my take on how to bet below:

Which of these Donald Trump appointees will be the next to leave their current job (fired or resigned)?
Jeff Sessions:+250
Reince Priebus: +450
Steve Bannon: +450
H.R. McMaster: +950
Jared Kushner: +1250
Kellyanne Conway: +1250
Rex Tillerson: +1750
John F. Kelly: +2500
Steven Mnuchin: +2500
Nikki Haley: +5500
James Mattis: +3500
Rick Perry: +3500
Wilbur Ross: +3500
Scott Pruitt: +3500
Alexander Acosta: +4500
Betsy DeVoss: +4500
Ben Carson: +4500
Sonny Perdue: +4500
Elaine Chao: +4500
Tom Price: +4500
Ryan Zinke: +5500
Mike Pence: +7500

Seems pretty clear that, yes, Sessions is the favorite to go next.  Priebus is facing some serious pressure from the Mooch.  I think Bannon's odds are wishful thinking--he has secured himself again after being at risk for a while.  McMaster is probably secure for a while--he can be irrelevant forever... I'd be tempted to bet on Tillerson--he got his tax break and then found out that running State into the ground gets him a lot of unwanted attention.  I don't think there are any long shots beyond Tillerson that make any sense.

So, of all these choices, I would place my bets on Jeff (so frustrated that Trump makes me want him to stay so that Mueller doesn't get fired) and Rex.  So, I'd place $100 on Sessions to win $250 and $100 on Tillerson to win $1750.

There are also bets about impeachment and indictments:
Year that Donald Trump will be impeached
2017: +500
2018: +650
2019: +900
2020: +2500
2021 or later/no impeachment: -450
Strange odds, as I would think the most likely time for it (and thus the lower chance to win would be 2019 with a potentially Democratic Congress). 
I'd bet, however, $450 to win $100 that Trump isn't impeached at all.

Will Michael Flynn be indicted or charged with a crime by 11:59 PM EST on December 31, 2017?
Yes: +300
No: -450
Will Jared Kushner be indicted or charged with a crime by 11:59 PM EST on December 31, 2017?
Yes: +300
No: -450
Will Carter Page be indicted or charged with a crime by 11:59 PM EST on December 31, 2017?
Yes: +700
No: -850
Will Donald Trump Jr. be indicted or charged with a crime by 11:59 PM EST on December 31, 2017?
Yes: +300
No: -450
Will Paul Manafort be indicted or charged with a crime by 11:59 PM EST on December 31, 2017?
Yes: +450
No: -600
Hmmmm, tempted to bet no on all since Trump might try to fire Mueller before any indictments are filed.  If I had to bet, I would bet on Manafort being indicted.  Good odds (4.5 to 1), less likely to roll (he'd be risking his life with Putin).  Flynn?  Likely to roll over.  Kushner?  Probably but not in 2017.  Page?  Oh baby! The risk here is that he rolls over and doesn't get indicted, but he might just tell all the first chance he gets even without a deal--he is that dumb.  Don Jr.?  Ok, why not?  Something to root for!

Anyhow, just some ideas on a wet Ottawa day.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Professional Ultimate? Yes, Please

I went to my second professional ultimate game last night (first time reported here).  It was the final game of the season for the Ottawa Outlaws, and was at a far more convenient location.  So, I felt compelled to see how my favorite sport is doing.   From the crowds I saw, it is doing pretty well.  Nice mix of ages--lots of kids and teens, some old frisbee vets.

 The Ottawa Outlaws were in green, and NY Empire were in white.  I overheard folks taking about how there were multiple professional leagues, but one collapsed. This led to the merger of the NY folks, so they have a heap of talent.  They had two guys were dominated the skies--making many good defense plays and out-skying (out-jumping) the Ottawa players who had no such mutants playing for them.
 It was a great day for it--not much wind--just enough to make it interesting, and, thankfully no rain.  The play was very impressive in terms of athleticism--lots of layouts, impressive throws (one 3/4 of the field hammer--upside down for a score).  Like last time, turnovers kill.  The Outlaws were sloppy early on, so NY could get a four point lead.  They mostly traded points the rest of the way.

 NY Empire played zone defense a few times, which explains why so many white uniforms are near one green guy with the disk.
 One of the big differences is not so much between professional and amateur but between men's and mixed (co-ed): the men's game involves far more hucking.  That is, far more long throws and somewhat less working up the field with shorter passes.

Once again, half time involved letting the kids on the field for some throwing.

This is what it looks like:


I look forward to seeing the game and the league evolve further next year.  The championships are in Montreal at the end of August, by the way.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Desperate Times for Canada's Conservatives?

I have not been a fan of how the Conservative Party has played the Khadr stuff the past couple of weeks. I get it--this is unpopular, so let's bash the Liberals.  But that is all that it is: unpopular.  Paying off Khadr is, alas, not wrong given how the courts have ruled in this case and in similar cases.  Pursuing the case further is dumb bordering on crazy--why spend more and more money on lawyers just to prolong the inevitable?  Reminds me of the classic tale of resentful soon-to-be-ex-spouses (not mine) delaying on finalizing a divorce because they are resentful and petty.  It might feel good, but it does no good.

My colleague Stephanie Carvin has done a heroic job writing about this and replying to the hordes on twitter who hate that the government is doing this.  To argue that Trudeau wants to pay Khahr off is silly.  It is abundantly clear that the Trudeau government is pretty much constrained by the rule of law and by the requirement to do stuff that fosters "peace, order and good government."

My problem today is not that this decision is unlikable--which it is.  No, my problem is that the Conservatives are so desperate to take shots at Trudeau that they are undermining the Canadian national interest.  How so?  Michelle Rempell went on Fox to rile up the Americans as Trudeau is paying off a guy who "killed" Americans.  Why?  How many Canadians watch Fox?  Not many. How many American Presidents watch Fox religiously?  How many American Presidents are easily triggered by what he sees on Fox?  Yeah, it is hard not to think that the Conservatives are trying to sabotage the rather successful effort of the Trudeau government to manage the Trump problem.

Why?  What good is it to cause Trump to become outraged at Canada?  To undermine the sustained, organized, intelligent, determined effort by this government to not break relations with the US?  At a time where the US is already pushing hard on NAFTA and other issues of concern to Canadians?

Trudeau is right to argue that it is one thing to disagree with stuff within Canada, but another to try to bring the debate into the White House via Fox.  Andrew Scheer, the new leader of the CPC, has thus far not distinguished himself.  This is not a good look, sir. How about thinking about Canada's interest for a second rather than the short-sighted interest of the CPC to take PMJT down a few percentage points in the polls? Oh, sorry, too much to ask.

I am too old to think that politics stops at the water's edge (that would be the Great Lakes in this case).  But playing with explosives is not too bright.  But desperate parties call for desperate measures.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Pardon Me!

Ok, sorry for that title.  And, the obvious caveat is that I am not a lawyer, so I don't know what I am talking about (remember, this is the Semi-Spew). But here's my various thoughts on the pardon news and the likelihood of firing Mueller:
  • My only surprise that it is has taken this long for Trump to get curious about pardons except he is the most incurious person I have ever seen in government or anywhere else.
  • Seems pretty clear that Trump can pardon damned near anybody but he can't block impeachment via pardon.  
  • Pardons are more complicated than people think:
    • Those who are pardoned lose their 5th amendment rights as they can't incriminate themselves anymore on the issue for which they were pardoned.  So, pardoning too soon might mean Manafort/Don Jr/Kusher/whoever can't invoke 5th.  Oh, and if they then lie, well, that is a new crime and that would require a new pardon.... Oy.
    • Presidents can only pardon federal crimes, so New York (which much of the shenanigans happened) could go to town on crimes that passed through there, I believe.  
    • Pardons will affect voters and not in good ways.  Maybe not a lot, but might tilt stuff and make a wave election in 2018 more likely.  It will also make it harder for Trump to get stuff through the Senate, especially appointing the next Attorney General and other Justice folks.
  •  But, yes, impeachment is not going to happen.  Paul Ryan will simply not surrender agenda control of the house, so it does not even matter if one could scrounge some GOP reps who would be willing to vote that way.  Same for Senate--McConnell would not let it happen.  Agenda control is a thing.  
  • Firing Mueller would energize the other investigations even if it stops the special prosecutor within DOJ.  Oh, and who fires him?  Yeah, a constitutional crisis if Trump tries to do it himself.  If he asks Sessions, will Sessions do it?  Maybe despite being recused.  Will Rosenstein?  Probably not.
  • Of course, all of this thought about how to stop the investigation might make one think that Trump is guilty as hell.  But, of course, guilt has nothing to do with it.  It is about the GOP and what they think they need to do to get their stuff passed (not looking good), to avoid being investigated themselves (Russians interfered with House/Senate races), avoid being primaried, and all that. 
So, six months of Trump Presidency, and this is where we are:
  1. Arsonists burning down damn near every agency (Tillerson, Sessions, Price, etc)
  2. Civilian control of the military is shaky since DoD is still understaffed and helmed by a very recently retired general who still seems to think like one
  3. Escalations in most wars
  4. A major dispute among our "allies" in the war against ISIS
  5. Turkey competing hard to be a worse ally than Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.
  6. Voter suppression efforts at the federal level.
  7. Sessions reversing a ton of stuff at DoJ so that we are doing incredibly dumb stuff
  8. Tourism industry is getting beaten up as folks are going elsewhere
  9. US has given up leadership in the world.
  10. Trade disputes with damn near every country.
  11. No hope for climate change policies or any environmental regulation.
I could go on, but this is why I have not posted for the past two days--too damned depressing.

Anyhow, I am sorry. Pardon me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gender and Syllabi: A Progress Report.

Many threads in the past two days on gender and race and citations.  That what ends up being cited and being on syllabi tends to be the product of not so much merit but merit plus path dependence plus other stuff going on, which means women and minorities are under-represented (see this storify that has the threads by Paul Musgrave and Dan Nexon).  Similar dynamics tend to apply regarding syllabi--women are under-represented.*
*  I focus on women here, because I am not sure how to do a better job of adding minorities to my syllabi.  Simply put, it is far easier to identify women (although not always) than minorities via names if I don't know the people. 

I focus on this rather than citations since I just finished the syllabus to one of my classes: Civil-Military Relations.  For the past couple of years, I have been more aware of this stuff, so I have tried to improve the gender balance on my syllabi.  Unlike journal articles where the editors might extend the word count to improve the gender balance (h/t to Dan Nexon, see the storify), a syllabus is more or less a zero-sum game.  I can't add tons of new readings and expect the students to read them all (the iron law of reading assignments--the more you assign, the less they read).  So, some folks do get dropped from required to recommended as I seek to improve the gender balance.  I don't aim for 50%--I just aim for more.

For the stuff I teach, it tends to be not that hard to find stuff written by women.  For some aspects/weeks, it is easier than others right now.  Alliances?  Not a problem with folks like Patricia Weitsman, Sarah Kreps, and others.  For Canadian defence, tis harder.  Counting pieces of required reading by whether is one or more women involved (solo or co-author), my syllabus is 37% women.  I used Jane Summer's tool to see how this syllabus does: it says the authors are 28% women, 1.5% Asian, 9.2% Black, 4.2% Hispanic and 83% White.  I have to get the syllabus into the library so I will send it as is, but in the next year, I will keep an eye out for work that is in this area from groups that are less represented.
Update: Using, I have found a bunch of women doing civil-military stuff--mostly junior profs and grad students, so I will be revising my syllabus a bit.

Why? Because it is the least I can do.  It does not involve much work--mostly awareness and a smidge of self-awareness.  Students are less likely to model themselves after people who are dissimilar to them, so I think it is a good thing to try.  Also, when it comes to syllabi, some folks are more likely to get promoted if they can prove that their work is used in syllabi around the world.  Tis harder now as many syllabi are on gated coursework sites (blackboard, webct), but not impossible.  Anyhow, it seems like the right thing to do.  And yes, working on this is a good way to procrastinate on the article I need to finish for the APSA meeting in late August.* 

* The deadline for that (August 14th) is silly and according to this survey likely to be disrespected. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Casualties and Rules

The latest numbers show that the US air campaign against ISIS is killing more civilians under Trump than it did under Obama.  Should we blame Trump?  Sure, but perhaps not entirely.  I think several factors may be at work:
  • urban warfare is just brutal.  No way around it.  The offensive to take Mosul has reminded folks of the line from Vietnam: "we had to destroy it in order to save it."
  • US troops are now deployed in Syria, which means air strikes to protect them.  The Special Operations Forces training/assisting the Syrian allies are few in number and thus vulnerable.  The Marines and others deployed to provide artillery and other support are also relatively few in number and vulnerable.  So, when various forces--ISIS, Iranians, Assad's forces, etc--get close, air strikes happen.  And I am guessing the rules governing airstrikes to protect US troops at risk are probably different from the rules governing attacks on ISIS bases, etc.
  • Trump.  Mattis and others have insisted that the rules haven't changed.  Maybe not, but rules are always interpreted.  One can bend the rules for a friend (as in the case of interpreting caveats in Afghanistan back in the day).  One may strictly interpret the rules (zero tolerance or whatever) if one is being watched very carefully by a superior (a principal, an overseer) especially when being caught has consequences. In Afghanistan, various Dutch officers liberally interpreted the rules because they knew there would be little risk of punishment, for example (again, see the book).  So, the Trump effects here are:
    • Trump has signaled via his statements that he does not care about civilian casualties.
    • Trump has delegated pretty much everything to the military--there is probably no concern that the National Security Council folks are watching, unlike during the Obama administration.
    • Trump himself breaks all the rules, so as a role model, he inspires .... less strict observance of the rules.
War is constantly a gray area--if the rules say that a strike should not happen if it puts 15 people at risk (just an example as the rules of engagement are classified), then does the person calling in the airstrike say that there are 14 or 16?  Lots of estimates with big +/- uncertainty.  So, it is hard to judge.  But the trends do seem to be pretty significant.  Lots of things are in play, but I'd bet that the US armed forces a wee bit less careful now than when they were concerned they were being watched closely.  It is just basic human behavior (and principal-agent dynamics).               

Senior Women in Academia: Few or Feared?

This piece is deservedly getting much attention. In my prior jobs, I have seen men disparage some senior women as being crazy bitches (Berdahl's phrase but one that, alas, has been used widely).  On the other hand, damn near all of the friction/tension/conflict I have witnessed in my academic travels (four universities, two in the US, two in Canada) have been caused by men.  This is mostly but not entirely a numbers problem combined with confirmation bias.

The numbers problem is this: there have always been very few women in senior spots in the places I have worked.  There were one full and one associate at UVM, one associate at TTU, one full and associate at McGill, and one or two associates at NPSIA when I started at each institution.  So, there were few women to be viewed as mentors by junior women, and few women to be seen as crazy bitches.  But since there are few of them, whatever they do is noticed more than what the masses of men do. 

Which leads to the confirmation bias problem: that when one has a bad experience with a female senior faculty member, it gets remembered and reinforces the stereotype more than when one has a bad experience with a male senior faculty member.  Are there senior women out there that are nasty/arrogant/difficult/whatever and do not support those who came after them?  Absolutely.  Friends have told me tales. However, I have heard far more tales and certainly have experienced far more hostility from men in the business. 

All of this is, of course, anecdata.  So, I will focus on the anecdata I know best--the women at each stop along the way as well as those I have met at conferences who are institution-builders, who are excellent mentors to male and female graduate students and junior faculty, who support their peers bigly.  The ones that come to mind immediately are: Lisa Martin at UCSD (now at Wisconsin), Cherie Maestas at TTU (now at UNC Charlotte); Juliet Johnson at McGill, Sara Mitchell via ISA conferences (she's at Iowa), Stefanie Von Hlatky in the Canadian and NATO world (she's at Queens) and Stephanie Carvin at NPSIA.  Many other women have played important roles in at these places and elsewhere, and I am most grateful to all to all of them. The good news is that these and other women are doing a great job of mentoring the next generation.  The key is to find the holes in the leaky pipeline and plug them (which, funnily enough, several of these folks are doing).