Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When Justice is Served

I don't have much to say on the Manning conviction because Joshua Foust said damn near all of it so well here.  For me, the key really is how indiscriminate the dump was.  Had Manning released a few key documents that revealed illegal or even just poorly conceived American programs, then a whistleblower he might be.  But that is not what he did.  Instead, he collected as much stuff on anything and everything and then handed it over to someone else to release, which was lazy and irresponsible. It is not whistleblowing but something else.  And in the process, he broke a variety of laws.  He should not have been treated the way he was once he was arrested, but that does not mean he did not commit some crimes.

I have similar feelings about Snowden, as he released some information that probably needed to be exposed and much information that did not need to be exposed.  More damning is the timing for Snowden--contacting the media and then getting the NSA contracting job--that it was deliberate ... espionage. 

Anyhow, I am not a legal analyst, and I have not followed either of these stories as closely as others.  Josh did a great, nuanced analysis on Manning--that his superiors screwed the pooch on multiple occasions, but that does not absolve Manning of responsibility.   So, go read Josh's piece. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Geeking Out of X-cellent Promotional Stuff

The Next X-movie is looking incredible cool.  Check out this teaser:

and then check out the Trask website.

Deja Vu Prison Break Edition

The past week or so has seen dramatic prison breaks in Iraq, Libya, and Pakistan.  I cannot help but have flashbacks not just to the movies and TV shows of my youth but to more recent events: the prison breaks in Kandahar in 2008 and 2011.  Like the more recent ones, hundreds of extremists (and other folks) were freed in attacks upon the prison (break number 1) and tunnels (break number 2).  Like the recent ones, the prisons in Kandahar were in the hands of the indigenous folks.  It astonishes me that anyone would look to the US when thinking about the Abu Grhaib break since the US has been out of Iraq for a few years now.*  Same for the other places.
*  The original sin, of course, still is American--choosing to continue to use a prison that was used by Hussein to torture people and then where American abused occurred.  They should have closed that place down after Hussein fell...

In Kandahar, one could wonder about whether the Canadians should have faced some blame even though the prison was in the hands of the Afghans.  So much effort was made by the Canadians to improve the prisons--in terms of treating the prisoners better.  Not so much in keeping them in the prison.  The first break could be seen as surprising--that the Taliban could coordinate and plan better than expected.  The second?  This was not the first time someone tried to tunnel out of a prison.  Plus it was clear then as it is becoming clear in the case of the Abu Grhaib prison that there was significant inside help. 

Anyhow, as people keep talking about the three big prison breaks of July, I cannot help but think of the Saraposa prison in Kandahar.  That and whether we should use the theme from The Great Escape or from Hogan's Heroes?  This silly suggestion is actually a reminder that none of this is very new.

Talk about a Resource Curse

Canada recently was called a petro-state.  I took some umbrage at that, arguing that this stretches the concept quite a bit given that Canada has an oil sector but the economy is not the oil sector.  For a bit of comparison, check out this piece.  It turns out that Saudi Arabia is a one-commodity country, a banana republic if you will, and with the rise of the US's shale oil (here's the upside of fracking), Saudi Arabia will no longer be able to dictate oil prices.

I think most of us can relish just a bit of schadenfreude at the suffering of the Saudi royal family.  The Saudi record for the past forty years or so has been mixed--supporting an ideology that justifies terrorism but also being more moderate in oil prices and in policies than some of the neighbors. So perhaps it is immature to say "woot!" if the Saudis get a bit marginalized.

All I do know is that if we can reduce the relevance of the Mideast in world politics, that would be a huge victory for not just the US but pretty much everyone, even many of the folks in the Mideast who have suffered from too much American attention.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Gitmo In the Rear View Mirror

I tweeted this morning the following:

It got picked up and discussed at Political Science Rumors while I was at a NPSIA retreat so I could not really put things into context.  So, let me try now.*
* I can talk about this because it has been discussed in the media elsewhere.  Indeed, it was the cover story for a Bosnian magazine in the aftermath (that is Uncle Sam pissing on the Bosnian constitution and the European Charter of Rights--or its equivalent. and then in Time and eventually the Washington Post.  Oh, and apparently Wikipedia

In the late fall of 2001 (a month or two after 9/11), the US got some intel that six Algerians were planning on engaging in terrorist attacks against US/NATO targets in Bosnia.  The US was still participating in the NATO Stabilization Force [SFOR] at the time.  The Americans informed the government of Bosnia, which then arrested these Algerians.  Two months or so later, the Bosnian government indicated that the Algerians would have be released because they did not have enough evidence, given the US's unwillingness to share intel.  The US had been trying to get Algeria to take these guys, but Algeria had refused, also citing the lack of intel.

So, in late January, the issue suddenly appeared in the US interagency.  The American commanders in Europe were seeking guidance from the interagency about what to do.  The choices were: let the Bosnians release the six suspected terrorists; give the Bosnians/Algerian the intel (actually, this was never discusssed as far as I can remember),* or have the Americans pick them up and hold them someplace.  At this point in time, the only people that had been sent to Guantanamo were those picked up in Afghanistan.
* One of the fundamental problems for the US in its war on terror was its refusal to share intel.  Like the tendency to over-classify stuff, the reluctance to reveal key bits of evidence cut against American interests.  But the intel folks fought hard to restrict access, citing the fear that it would reveal American "means and capabilities"--how the US gets its info.

The guidance cable that eventually went out (it was slowed by a day or so because the folks under Rumsfeld did not want to bother him after 7pm and also because the Office of the Secretary of Defense's lawyer was pondering whether this was good policy--which was not his job--and this gave the folks in Bosnia some time to organize a protest that could have turned into something far worse) that had the consent of State, National Security Council, OSD and the Joint Staff.  It gave the US military orders to act on their own and not part of NATO (the double hatted folks essentially took one hat off for the night) to pick up the six Algerians and drive them to Tuzla, where they could be put on a plane and flown to Guantanamo. 

At the time, sending these guys to Gitmo did not seem to be a horrible idea.  Yes, it did not help Bosnia's efforts to build a robust rule of law.  Nor did it play well among the Bosnian Muslims, but those folks still had a favorable position towards the US (they hated UN, liked NATO in general).  On Poli Sci Rumors, I tried to clarify that I was involved but not at the table.  This was not meant to indicate that I had no responsibility because I was just following orders but to clarify that I was not a decision-maker. Had I been one, knowing only what I knew in January 2002, I would have supported the decision that was made.  In fact, I did support the decision at the time.

What I did not know in 2002 was that detention without trial would be the norm.  I also did not know at the time about the rules that Rummy and others were sending out to detention facilities that essentially gave the green light for torture.  So, the relatively straightforward tradeoffs of 2002 were less straightforward with more information.  If I knew in January 2002 what I know now, I might not have been as supportive of the decision.  But given the tradeoffs, releasing six guys who we had good reason to believe were terrorists (I didn't see the actual intelligence since I had a Top Secret clearance which was not high enough to see the signals stuff--NSA stuff) seemed to be really problematic.

Anyhow for a better example of Steve just following orders: in the summer of 2002, the Bush Administration was trying to get all of the mandates of the US missions in the world, including the Bosnian mission, revised to exclude the US troops from being vulnerable to being tried by the International Criminal Court.  I was strongly opposed to this stance, not so much because I believed in the ICC, but because I knew that American allies really cared about ICC.  Given that a new war was on the horizon (Iraq), it seemed foolish to antagonize American allies in Europe over a symbolic issue (the ICC rules give the country of the troops the first chance to handle any suspicion of war crimes, so the Americans could always handle the cases themselves).  I argued with my superior officers and then went ahead and did the paperwork--that I was just following orders.  In the Gitmo case, I believed that the course of action was the best of a set of lousy alternatives--so I was not just following orders.

So, there you have it: my role in the sending of some suspected terrorists to Guantanamo.  I am not proud of it, and that is why I asked the question on twitter: to find out whether any of these guys were still left in Gitmo. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Soul Mate? How About Eight Hundred of Them?

A fun use of astronomy to address a fundamental question in life: is there someone out there for you?  Turns out many if you buy the assumptions:

For the record, my wife and I like both Star Trek and Star Wars, so that explains why we managed to last twenty plus years ...

H/T to Will Moore

Visual Perspective Sauce

When pondering US-Canadian relations, this tweet and map might be useful:

Just something to think about.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What Universities Are For

Today's Globe and Mail has a story that has me full of admiration and jealousy.  The University of Ottawa is giving an institutional home for the former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page so that he can set up a shadow budget office.  This is freakin' brilliant because the Canadian government seems not to understand the concept of budgets.  The last budget didn't have any numbers.  The government has resisted the efforts of the Parliamentary Budget Office to track spending.  Really.  The contrast with the US where the General Accountability Office is perhaps more feared than the Internal Revenue Service is quite stark.

So, if the government will not be at all transparent and responsible with the spending of the taxpayers' dollars, then it looks like we need some folks outside of government to do the work.  And what better place than a university?  Forget about coordinating professors, have you ever tried to manage their messages?  The Harper government obsesses about controlling information.  One could say that the Obama administration is obsessed with leaks, but the Harper government is obsessed with preventing the release of ordinary information that the US government releases all the time, like where is the money going.

Anyhow, universities and professors are the antithesis of this (except when certain professional societies try to embargo dissertations, but that is a post for another time), as the creation and dissemination of knowledge is the essential mission of universities. 

So, I admire Page and the U of O folks for doing this.  Of course, I would prefer to have had Carleton land Page, but as long as someone is preparing to hold the government's feet to the fire (parliament seems to suck at this), I am pretty thrilled.


There are apparently bears near us, and my brother apparently has bears near his place in NJ.  So, here is a video that will show what they are doing when you are not around:

H/T to Peter Trumbore

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wolverine the Musical?

Thanks to Stephanie C:

Survey for Republicans

If you are a Republican, do you feel embarrassed that the party at the state level in a number of states feels that disenfranchising people is the right way to deal with diversity?  Wasn't the Republican Party the one that was responsible for the 14th and 15th amendments?

Sure, the Democrats can do mighty foolish stuff, but given that there is no real threat of voter fraud and given the statements made by Republican officials that make it clear that making it harder to vote is a deliberate effort to win elections, on a scale of 1 to Donald Trump, how embarrassed are you?  I am embarrassed to be an American when I see American politicians trying to game elections by removing from the voting pools those whom they lack the ability to appeal.

So, again, on a scale of 1 to Donald Trump, where are you ?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Stupidest 21st Century Idea

Is that race does not matter in the U.S.  The election of Obama was huge, but it didn't change the daily realities.  That Stop and Frisk in NYC is racial profiling in perhaps its purest form.  That law profs on rental bikes get stopped twice in five minutes or so....  I am not saying that if you deny that race matters that it makes you a racist.  It just makes you so deeply ignorant and in denial that you pretty much lose all credibility. 

Race just simply matters in the U.S., just as other ethnic divides matter in other countries.  Slavery is the foundational sin of the US and it still has heaps of consequences to this very day.  Obama's talk last week was so simple but so powerful because he was the first President to be able to articulate the difficulties of being black in America.  And some on the right crapped all over it as being divisive.  Um, #voterfraudfraud is fucking divisive.  A President saying that folks of different races have different experiences is common sense and basic social science. 

There has been tremendous progress made, so much so that people can claim that race does not matter.  But we are not there yet, not even close to there yet.  I have no patience for anyone who says otherwise.  What to do about it?  We can argue about that.  We can disagree on whether government has a role in addressing the inequalities that the history of US racial relations has fostered.  We can disagree on how to fight crime in ways that do not discriminate against minorities.  But, dammit, we simply should not disagree that race matters.  Of course it does.

Breaking Bad Game: When Titles Become Reality

When I entitled the Draft for the Breaking Bad game Drafting Bad(ly) playing on Breaking Bad, I had no clue I was forecasting.  Three things seemed to go wrong for me and the players. 
  • For me, the combination of players who were twitter peers and facebook friends meant I had to watch three streams simultaenously: twitter, facebook and the blog.  As it turns out, the twitter folks tended to miss their turns and had to draft out of turn.  They apparently have more lively lives than my facebook friends. 
  • The second thing that went wrong was that some of the players did not do well on the Reading Comprehension tests, as they thought any character in the show could earn points by not dying in the last eight, whereas I had stated earlier than only those depicted in the final eight episodes would count.  I did give people a chance to suggest revisions to the rules, but no one took me up on that.  Oh well, the world of Breaking Bad often means stumbling upon rules and codes that were not so obvious.
  • The third thing that went wrong is that the drafters seem to be wildly optimistic.  I mean, Jesse as a number one pick?  Hank in the first round? Walt was not the last pick? 
Ok, who was the drafted:

Players 1st pick 2nd pick
Noah Jesse
Brandon Saul Bogdan
Rob Kaylee Steve Gomez
Rodger Gretchen Lawson
Chip Holly Walt
Kristy Todd Ted
Caitlin Skyler Group leader
Will Badger Declan
Kelsey  Huell Brock
Wendy Hank Skinny Pete
Sara Marie Walt Jr.  
Matt Old Joe Lydia
Blue means likely to live and be relevant, red means likely to be dead (using Nate Silver's prediction machine). 

My analyses and Vegas's odds below:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Drafting Bad (ly)

Ok the draft is at hand.  The order is set:
  1. Noah Chestnut (@noahchestnut)
  2. Brandon Valeriano (@drbvaler)
  3. Robert Chasen (via fb)
  4. Rodger Payne (@rodgerpayne)
  5. Chip Gagnon (via fb)
  6. Kristy Caruso (@siteseers)
  7. Caitlin Fitzgerald (@caidid)
  8. Will McCants (@will_mccants)
  9. Kelsey Atherton (@athertonKD) 
  10. Wendy Wasserman (@wjw26)
  11. Sara Mitchell (via fb)
  12. Mark Jarvis (@markdjarvis)
The way to draft is to enter a comment onto this post.  You will each have five minutes to make a pick (please be faster than that).  If you do not pick and I do not have a list of your preferences, you get skipped until you show up.  As it stand now, I only have two lists (Sara and Brandon).   

I have these names as possible characters to draft:

  1. Walt/Heisenberg
  2. Skyler
  3. Walt Jr./Flynn (dying under either name counts for both)
  4. Holly (the baby--yes, we have no humanity--Walt lost his, and we lost ours when we rooted for Walt)
  5. Jesse
  6. Hank 
  7. Marie
  8. Saul
  9. Steven Gomez (the DEA sidekick)
  10. Ted Beneke
  11. Skinny Pete
  12. Badger
  13. Todd (formerly of Friday Night Lights)
  14. Andrea, Jesse's former girlfriend
  15. Brock (Andrea's kid)
  16. Lydia
  17. Bogdan (the guy who used to run the car wash)
  18. Kaylee (Mike's grand-daughter)
  19. Group Leader played by Jere Burns--from Jesse's addiction treatment group
  20. Gretchen Schwartz (one of Walt's former business partners)
  21. Lawson (Jim Beaver, the arms dealer)\
  22. Old Joe (the guy with the wrecking yard)
  23. Huell, Saul's bodyguard
  24. Declan, the new drug dealer
If you have others, that is fine, but you may have to explain who you chose.  Remember, you only get the big three points if they are visibly alive in the last episodes.  Folks who never show up in the final eight get bumpkus/zip/zero/nil.

Ok, Noah is on the clock

Breaking Smack

Tonight, at 8pm (eastern US/Canada timezone), begins the draft for the Spew's Breaking Bad Breaking Deadpool.  Folks will comment on the post I put up at 8pm to enter their picks on who they think will survive the remaining eight episodes.  Maybe all of them will, but given that Walter White watched Scarface and noted that "Everyone dies," I am thinking perhaps not so many will survive.

Each player will draft two characters.  The draft order for the first round, as posted before is:
  1. Noah Chestnut (@noahchestnut)
  2. Brandon Valeriano (@drbvaler)
  3. Robert Chasen (via fb)
  4. Rodger Payne (@rodgerpayne)
  5. Chip Gagnon (via fb)
  6. Kristy Caruso (@siteseers)
  7. Caitlin Fitzgerald (@caidid)
  8. Will McCants (@will_mccants)
  9. Kelsey Atherton (@athertonKD) 
  10. Wendy Wasserman (@wjw26)
  11. Sara Mitchell (via fb)
  12. Mark Jarvis (@markdjarvis)
In the second round, the order is inverted so Mark picks 1st, Sara 2nd and so on.  

Chip complained that there had been no smack talk thus far.  So, I am posting this morning this list with a few insights about the various players so that people who don't know each other can have some material with which to snark/smack.

  • I don't know anything about Noah aside from his tweets and his twitter profile.  
  • Brandon is new to Scotland and tends to conflict with me over TV shows and movies.  In other words, except for BB, he has lousy taste.  
  • Rob and I went to high school, and he observed some of my more embarrassing moments (he was in the same French class), so I will not give any clues about how best to attack him except he does live in NY--whatever that entails. 
  • Rodger Payne is a department chair--which raises all kinds of questions about his judgment after having a cool gig running the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.  
  • Chip lies flat while bicycling all over New York and elsewhere. 
  • Kristy is an Australian so, um, I will just avoid tangling with her.  Caitlin runs the amazing vehicle for self-promotion known as Twitterfight Club, and is a bit too enthused about all things Boston.  
  • Will McCants is the Patron Saint of the terrorism cottage industry, so blame him for all of the threat inflation and over-reaching. 
  • Kelsey helps to run a blog that combines Star Wars and national security stuff:  So, think strategically when attacking him because it could be a trap.
  • Wendy went to the same high school as Rob and I.  She enjoys her booze and her dog, but mostly her booze, at least given the ratio of pics of cocktails to dogs on her FB page.  She also goes for guys with nice cars, if nothing has changed in nearly thirty years.
  • Sara Mitchell is a sucker for more work, so invite her to run a new organization or something to keep her distracted during the game.  Oh, only her laugh rivals my own in terms of volume/piercing-ness.
  • Mark is perhaps more obsessed with his dog Rudy than anyone else on this list is obsessed about anything.  
So, them's the players.  Their true character will be revealed by the choices they make (I am a Potter-ite).  Then the smackage will truly begin.  See you at 8pm tonight here at the Spew.

Oh, and Vegas has Rob as the favorite (I still don't understand how he was not our valedictorian, instead, my Dad's heart doctor was).  Plus as a NY-er, Rob is very familiar with math.  The darkest dark horse in this race is Brandon, not just because he is living in Scotland these days but because he is a lousy gambler.  The sneaky choice to quietly slip ahead of everyone would be Will since he understands criminal enterprises the best--after all, he runs the terrorism studies cottage industry--which itself is a criminal enterprise if you believe certain semi-journalists.  Sara is also sneaky--her hard work produces heaps of output--but you would not know it because she seems to be on the tennis courts when she is not closing down bars in Budapest.

Identity, Nostalgia and Edu-mication

My daughter and I went to the Star Wars: Identities Exhibition currently in Ottawa at the Aviation Museum.  Teen Spew noticed that the exhibition and the site only started to relate to one another when we got to area that had the models of spacecraft that were used to film the trilogy (just realized
that none of the craft in the big space model showcase were from the prequels). 

The actual Yoda puppet
The exhibition has the actual costumes, puppets, models that were used to make the movies as well as the art used as they moved the characters/scenes/etc. from the screenplay to filming.  I highly recommend the exhibit when it visits your town.  It was a heap of fun.

One of the most interesting things about the Exhibition was that a common theme tied the whole thing together--Identity.  Where does your identity come from?  The exhibition was split into various segments: species, genes, parents, culture, friends, events occupation, personality, values. So, we all got wristbands with chips inside that we had to (if we wanted to play along) put against panels at 12 different stations as we answered questions and registered our preferences to shape our ID.   Some things we could choose.  I chose to be an alien (see pic below).  I did not get to choose the seminal event that shaped my character:
But I did get to choose how I reacted to it--doing my best Leia-imitation.  Since the animated show had this particular kind of alien on a water planet, I chose among a limited subset of planets Kamino--where the clones were made in the second prequel.  And I chose Chewie in several categories--as a friend, as a personality type (loyalty).  As my occupation, I chose.... Jedi, of course.

Anyhow, it was funny to see how the exhibition approached identity--no inter-subjectivity to it at all--complex, partially by choice, partially not.  The last panel before seeing the character gave you a choice--accept or refuse the Emperor's offer to join the dark side.  Seems purely a choice, but given all the steps ahead of time, perhaps the choice is guided by one's identity.  The contrast between Anakin and Luke was made many times over the course of the exhibition--Luke had better parents as Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru gave Luke some limits and Shmi was too lax, apparently; Luke had better friends, and so on.  So, I chose, of course, to refuse the Emperor's offer.  As did Teen Spew, who chose to be a Wookie from Endor (no, it does not make that much sense but it is her destiny, not mine). 

In the last room, they show what you look like along with the key event, your homeworld and your mentor which was also in the email the exhibition sent with the details of my decisions:

Steve:Male Nautolan

I was raised on the ocean planet Kamino, where members of my community made their living working in the cloning facilities. On holidays my best friend and I would traditionally watch the thunderstorms from the rooftops of Tipoca City.
My parents raised me with a mix of independence and support, and I inherited my strong set of motor control abilities from them. Later on I spent some time with the brave Wookiee Chewbacca, whose guidance left me with knowledge I still use every day in my job as a Jedi Knight.
I remember this one time when I was captured by a crime lord and chained to his belly. I didn't let this affect me too much, though; instead I used my chains to throttle the crime lord to death and escaped.
People often tell me I’m a generally adventurous and curious person, I also tend to be energetic and social. But the most important thing to me is self-direction: I believe that living in a free world means we all have the right to choose.
I have pretty strong powers with the Force; I guess that's why the Emperor came looking for me. When he offered me limitless power in exchange for my allegiance, I fought the urge to join him and his evil minions and rejected his offer.
One last thing: it turns out that mentors play a big role in shaping identities.  As a professor and supervisor of a number of grad students, all I can say is uh-oh!

PS  Oh, and the most tempting thing at the exhibition was not the Emperor's offer, but all the Star Wars schwag in the gift shop.  I bought Darth Vader and Son, a highly entertaining picture book for kids, and my daughter got a Metal Rules (with C-3PO and R2D2 on it) t-shirt and a SW cookbook.  They had nice robes but I am already well equipped. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Seven Year Post-Doc

This piece is really interesting.  It is written by Radhika Nagpal who was on the tenure track at Harvard but treated the experience like a seven year post-doc.  That is, she didn't focus on what it took to get tenure there, because, well, most folks don't get tenure.  Instead, Nagpal focused on pursuing the most fulfilling seven years so that she would be in a good position at the end of the "post-doc."  This led her to some conclusions, which I consider below.

But before I do so, it is important to note that this advice of hers applies everywhere but to greater or lesser degrees.  There are some places where tenure is going to be highly unlikely, so her advice applies the best at those places (although she got tenure it seems).  There are many, many places where tenure is most likely, so Nagpal's advice applies but only with some adjustments.  And there are places in the middle where tenure is up for grabs.  In those cases, I am not sure if this post-doc view is any good.  As I go through her list, this might begin to make sense.
Seven things I did during my first seven years at Harvard. Or, how I loved being a tenure-track faculty member, by deliberately trying not to be one.
  • I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.
  • I stopped taking advice.
  • I created a "feelgood" email folder.
  • I work fixed hours and in fixed amounts.
  • I try to be the best "whole" person I can.
  • I found real friends.
  • I have fun "now".
 The first--to treat the seven years as a post-doc--makes a heap of sense at the schools that tend not to tenure.  The essence of this means getting work done, focusing less on sucking up/appeasing the powers that be, and not stressing too much.  So far, so good.   This can also work fine at those places where tenure is relatively straightforward if you hit some kind of clear and relatively not-impossible criteria.  You will not do much harm to your chances.  On the other hand, if you do not invest in the place and then you get tenured, well, you might be at a disadvantage post-tenure as others have figured how the place and have invested well. At places where one has a good chance at tenure if one plays one's cards right, this outlook might come off very poorly.  If you are near the razor's edge, sending signals that you are not committed might be self-defeating.

Stopped taking advice?  Don't follow all advice you receive?  Certainly.  But do listen and then figure out what works for you.  If you think you understand your department, your university and/or discipline sufficiently that you don't need advice, you probably need more advice.  The author's point should be clearer--do not follow advice without thinking seriously, and don't take all advice seriously.  But do listen and then decide. This kind of like becoming a new parent--you get bombarded with heaps of advice, much unsolicited, and then you do what is right for yourself, your partner and the baby/career.

Feelgood email folder?  Absolutely.  Nagpal is right that there is so much rejection in this business that we must keep track of the positive feedback.  I keep the most entertainingly positive teaching evals on my bulletin board, for example.

Working fixed hours and in fixed amounts. I think this makes a great deal of sense especially for one with young kids. But it really depends on one's style.  Some people can get more out of less hours and some need more hours.  I never burned the midnight oil or worked long hours on weekends.  I will work on weekends--grading, reviewing stuff for journals or for tenure letters--but my writing and reading for my writing is a weekday thing.  I sometimes read the stuff for my teaching on weekends if I am short of time.  But I do think I am more productive when I work finite hours.
  • Fixed travel schedule.  Nagpal travels 5 times a year maximum.  I probably average that, depending on the project in play and what I get invited to.  I do not mind going over five (a higher level of frequent flyer status, please).  Again, it depends on the personal situation.  I traveled less when my daughter was young.  Teenagers don't want parents around that much ;)
  • Quotas for service stuff.  Absolutely.  One has to and should do service, such as media appearances, reviewing articles, etc.  No one gets tenure or many units of joy for doing such stuff.
  • Weekly hard/fun quota.  Making sure one does just one hard thing a week (grant report, letter of recommendations) and one fun thing.  Indeed, I try for more than one fun thing a week when ultimate is in season.  Plus if I don't go to the movies and watch too much TV, I might run out of pop culture references.
  • Managing the parenting.  See her piece on this--quite well stated and developed.  I don't think we managed 50-50, but we have done pretty well.
Try to be the best whole person I can. No arguing with that.

Find real friends. Indeed. I have been lucky that I have found great friends everywhere I have worked.  Which is why conferences increase in importance--to see old friends when we all left the old place.

Have fun now.  Yes.  It was easier for me since my first tenure track job was at a place that had quite feasible criteria for tenure, that there were only short commutes and few distractions.  But absolutely, have fun now. 
A faculty member once told me that when people are miserable and pushed to their limits, they do their best work. I told them that they were welcome to poke out their own eyes or shoot a bullet through their own leg. That would definitely cause huge misery and might even improve their research. Ok, yeah, I only thought about saying that.

The funny part is that Nagpal says not to take advice but then provides some pretty useful advice, but that which depends on where you are at.  Figuring out the tenure dynamics is really key, and some folks do not pay attention enough to figure out what game they are playing and what the rules might be. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Problem of Pariah States

Jim Mattis, former Marine 4 star general and former Commander of CENTCOM, is a great source of quotes.  Last night, he spoke at the Aspen security forum, and criticized the Obama administration for not taking more action after Iran was tied to an attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC.  And my only question is: what kind of action could the US take?  I simply do not know.

The problem is that pariah states, those that have been largely excluded from the international system due to their own behavior (North Korea is prime exemplar), already face the full array of sanctions, more or less.  So, how do we punish Iran when we are already punishing Iran for its nuclear programs?  Perhaps there are a few token tools left in the box, but given that we do not want war in Iran (especially if you buy Mattis's discussion of having end/exit strategies and McMaster's sharp comments about the importance of politics in wars).

Mattis argues also that Assad would have lost by now without Iranian support.  Maybe so, but we really cannot go back in the past and renegotiate the departure in Iraq to make sure Iran does not fly over the country. Iran could engage in such behavior because the US has limited tools to impose costs, and most of those tools are focused on something else--Iran's nuclear program. 

So, my point here again is this: I simply do not know what the US could have done in the assassination case that would have mattered that much. Anyone have any ideas?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Poking Fun at Low Hanging Fruit

The Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, wants to make oral sex illegal.  Why would he want to pass such laws, especially since the Supreme Court has ruled them to be unconstitutional?

Well, the first thought is that this man's denial might be mighty deep so I tweeted the following:
I followed this up by saying that I would bet the under--that he will be outed before the random date I picked.  The GOP has had a plethora of anti-gay politicians turn out to be, well, pretty interested in having sex with folks of the same gender.  So, this could be more of the same although he claims that this is about preventing child molestation despite there being plenty of laws on the books to cover that and despite the clear background that he has of opposing oral sex among consenting adults.

Another possibility is that he does not like to, um, contribute to his wife's happiness, so he would prefer to have legal cover.  "It is not me, honey, but the law. Sorry."

It makes no electoral sense since he has already won the primary.  I can imagine a political base that is this uptight sexually, but given that somewhere around 80% of the population admit to engaging in oral sex at the very least, this seems like a poor strategy.  How does this win votes?  Or does Cuccinelli really not want to win?

The best part, of course, is that Cuccinelli's success would mean having to revise the Virginia slogan: "Virginia is for Conventional Lovers."  Or "Virginia is for (Missionary) Lovers Only."  Or "Virginia is for Vagina Lovers but No Mouths Please."

Instead of

We would have to go with something like:

Virginia is for (a restricted subset) of lovers

h/t to

Is Obama a Squib?

In the Harry Potter universe, a squib is someone who is born to a magical family but cannot use magic.  The most noted one in the HP books is Filch, caretaker of Hogwarts.  Anyhow, is Obama a squib?  Well, many folks seem to think he has magical powers.  Well, specifically one magical power--the ability to get leaders of other countries to ignore their domestic political constraints. 

This, of course, is most ironic, since Obama himself has faced quite significant constraints at home with a Congress that has been most willing to try to handcuff him in any way possible.  Indeed, John McCain is even now threatening to put a "hold" on the General Martin Dempsey's second term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff due to McCain's Syria fixation.*
* Someone tweeted that McCain was wrong in using something he is entitled to use, a hold, in this case.  I would disagree.  I don't think the founders had any clue that individual Senators would hold up the administration over appointments.  Otherwise, why set rules about majorities and super-majorities for appointments? 

The topic du jour is the failure of Obama to get a deal signed with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai to deal with the US sticking around after 2014.  This Bilateral Security Agreement has hit more than a few bumps in the road with the most recent moves being the US govt saying that without a BSA, the US will leave Afghanistan and with Afghanistan now starting to levy fees on the "cans" taking equipment out of the country as the drawdown proceeds

Obama could not revise (nor had any interest in revising) the deal that Bush had struck with the Iraqis, which led to the complete American military withdrawal from Iraq.  Even if he had wanted to, Obama would not have been able to get Iraq's leaders to agree, given the nationalist resentment about the Occupation--a vote would not have passed in Iraq's parliament.  In Afghanistan, things are a bit different as it is not clear at all that there is much opposition to a BSA/SOFA [status of forces agreement] within Afghanistan's legislature.  Karzai is being recalcitrant (that is being kind), perhaps due to his reading of the domestic landscape, but it is not as clear this time that there is a legislature that is deadset against a continued American presence. 

Still, Obama does not have the wand or the magical education necessary to make Karzai or his resistance disappear.  If he had, Obama would have used the wand and the magic in 2009 when Karzai undermined the western effort via his gratuitous corruption of the Presidential election. 

Alas, Harry Potter is fiction, and anyone believing that Obama can wish away the domestic constraints limiting his negotiating partners (or himself) are confusing fantasy and reality.

Addicted to Denial Sauce

The Department of National Defence is removing info from the web and denying docs and other info to the Parliamentary Budget folks.  I argued that this government is deeply addicted to denial sauce a while back, and it just seems to get worse.  I remember when an opposition staffer told me that when he has a question about what the Canadian Forces are doing, he calls the Pentagon.  I didn't really believe him, but over time, I have come to believe the essential logic of this.

Folks have been making a lot of noise about the new return to various British/Royal names/symbols and the rest.  I am tempted to think that the government's move is due to a focus on the monarchy part of constitutional monarchy.  Yep, Canada is a constitutional monarchy which means that the Crown is the fount of all that is right and just and whatever (insert corporation sole for Phil here), but it seems that the adjective gets lost by this government.  That Harper and his minions prefer to be a monarchy sans accountability.  Giving basic info to the Parliament and the budget folks would seem to be a key requirement in a Constitutional Monarchy.  In an old fashioned non-constitutional monarchy, then one is not bound to be at all transparent. 

Of course, the reality is that the efforts to cover things up just focus more attention and raise more suspicion.  Defence procurement is hard, lots of countries face similar problems with 21st century weapons systems, so one could look at Canada's problems in comparative perspective and have some sympathy for the government as it struggles to modernize the force.  Until the government chooses to bury stuff. 

This compulsion for message management is just incredibly counter-productive, perhaps not to the ability of the government to stay in power (stifling information since 2006: woot!) but it sure sucks for good governance.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Risky Blogging?

I responded with snark when a tweet raised the question of is blogging risky for younger academics:
But there is probably something to it. I want to be very clear.  I don't think that blogging in and of itself is likely to endanger many folks seeking tenure.  There was much mything about certain famous cases about six or seven years ago, but I think the basic tenure reality still holds:
if the folks in the department want to tenure you, they will.  If they do not, they will not.  They may come up with excuses to justify their decision, but the excuses have little to do with the motivations much of the time.
If one has a tenurable record and blogs, blogging is not going to get in the way, even if it bothers senior folks that one has opinions, is voicing them, and engaging in outreach.  If one does not have a tenurable record, then blogging might be seen as a cause--that it took time away from publishing.  So, there can be a risk if one spends too much time on blogging and fails to satisfy the criteria that the department has either established or hinted at (some departments are less than transparent).  

So, the risk is really about one's own time management.  One could argue that falling short of the refereed pubs is justified because one's outreach via blogging is swell, but that probably will not win the day, nor should it.  If doing heaps of media shouldn't count for missing pubs (and I have argued it should not), doing heaps of blogging should not count for missing heaps of pubs.  Why?  Because, at least in the social and not so social sciences, our primary job (other than teaching) is to produce reviewed research.  Blogs are entirely unreviewed, which is why they are so much fun. 

I do believe that the two enterprises should be connected--that one should disseminate one's research in as many ways as possible, including via blogs.  And that one's research can be and often is inspired by blogging/tweeting and the reactions to it.  But blogging is not producing science--not without review. 

Finally, I think that universities should not provide disincentives for engagement.  Merit money can be aimed at facilitating more engagement, as grants now require more dissemination.  But promotion/tenure are blunt instruments and should be focused on those more central aspects of one's job as a professor.  Giving lifetime employment to folks should be based on their more solid/central contributions.  Giving cash, on the other hand, makes complete sense.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Breaking Bad game: Refresher course

First, the draft is not last night but next Tuesday, the 23rd.

Second, here is a refresher on the show:

Anyhow, I look forward to the return of an awesome show even its demise is so close as well.

Israel as Greatest US Friend

Samantha Power is getting blasted on twitter for saying that the US has no greater friend in the world than Israel.  I understand that she has to oversell this to Congress as she testifies as part of the vetting process, but oy.  Given that Petraeus, when he was running CENTCOM, was arguing that Israel's policies towards the Palestinians was leading to a more threatening environment in the Mideast, we might want to consider the best friend to be one that does not take that much off the table (using the guidlines Bill Simmons has established for ranking basketball players).

I cannot find the post I wrote a while back about which allies the US should keep or drop, but it would inform this discussion.  Keeping peace on the longest US border and heeding most American requests about border security would pretty much put Canada at #1 or close to it.  Add in that Canada is willing to share its sovereignty via NORAD, that Canada bled at a higher rate than nearly any other to help out the US in one of the most pivotal spots in Afghanistan for several years, and Canada makes a good case for number one.  And that is before considering how much of each's economies are dependent on the other.

How about the Brits?  They have been patient when they needed American help that always seems to come a couple of years late (1917, 1942), and they have been willing to jump in on American adventures when others have been reluctant (Iraq most obviously). 

How about the Aussies?  Yes, their role in Afghanistan has been overplayed (read our book next year), but they have been a major force for stability and facilitator of American influence in an important part of the world.  They have done nothing to weaken the US or suck it into conflicts the Americans do not want to fight.

How about the French?  Yes, indeed, the French.  We can go back to 1781 and Yorktown, of course.  But more recently, the French, once Chirac and his anti-Bush pique was displaced, got serious about fighting in Afghanistan.  The US has depended on French intel in Africa, has received much support via Djibouti, a former French ally and so on.  French presidents can be difficult indeed, but the country has been willing to fight alongside the Americans on more than a few occasions.

How about the Germans?  Sure, we are miffed with their caveats, but Germany has been a crucial ally in Europe, with its restraint and finances building bridges to cement the gains made at the end of the Cold War.  While Germany can be inconvenient at times, not participating in the Libyan operation, it has not blocked NATO efforts (NATO was not coming to Iraq in 2003 with our without German opposition). 

I can go on, listing Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Denmark, and on and on.  Israel is an important country, a major player in its region.  But it pursues its own interests, which is fine (except when they are defined by the religious parties that have too much influence on Israel's politics), but the US has its own interests.  The two sets of interests are not identical, and we should keep that in mind.  Israeli politicians have regularly blown off American presidents, weakening their hands in Mideast matters.  Which is fine for Israel--they should do what they feel they need to do.  But the US should not define its foreign policy by the interests of any other state in the world--not Britain, not Canada, and certainly not Israel. 

So, the US and Israel are friends, but besties forever? Perhaps not.  Canada and Britain are far better BFF's for the US.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The IR of Pacific Rim: Nearly There

My family just saw Pacific Rim tonight, and we enjoyed it immensely.  Quite a fun summer movie.  One can poke all kinds of holes in such a movie, and I will resist.  I will just speak to a key bit of the international relations of the Jaeger effort below the break.

Putting Lipstick on a Pig, Academic Budget-Style

McGill didn't have to fire people to get within the budget parameters set by Quebec. Woot!  I guess we can declare victory, eh?  Um, not so much.  The Voluntary Retirement Program worked well to meet the $43.5 million cut in the budget, but that is only good news if you think that these 250 people were not really doing that much.  That they were entirely extraneous or made redundant by technological improvements. 

Me, I am not so sure.  My last couple of years at McGill saw significant cuts that were making matters worse for the students, for faculty and for administration.  Fewer course offerings, more service heaped on fewer people, department staffs being cut back so that offices have shorter hours and serve less...  And that was before the last couple of rounds of cuts. 

There are a lot of reasons why I left McGill, but one was that I thought its future was mighty bleak (Ontario is not terrific but it ain't this).  I knew the PQ would not be kind because of its ideological hostility that which McGill is--English and excellent.  The folks in the party have long complained about how disproportionate higher ed funding in Quebec is since there are so few Anglophones.  Which implies that McGill (and Concordia and Bishops) should be cut.   I also guessed that the PQ would cut the tuition increases and would otherwise mismanage things.  So, yes, there is this victory that the budget has been cut significantly without firing people, but I would guess that there is now a freeze on hiring. Which means that there will be fewer people around to do the work that more people used to do. 

McGill is still a great deal for undergrads as the tuition is dirt cheap, but one of these days you will get what you pay for--less and less.  I worry about the friends I left behind--faculty and staff--who are now expected to worker harder and harder.  Sure, they can say work smarter, not harder, but that only works for my defense in ultimate--it is no way to run a resource deprived educational institution.

A Quick Note on Race and Riots

Some folks on twitter have argued that the expectation of riots after the Martin/Zimmerman verdict is racist.  No, it is just basic social science.  While much of what I learned about riots is from Donald Horowitz's Deadly Ethnic Riot book, my understanding here is informed by my observing the Rodney King riots as a grad student in nearby San Diego and the implications of IR theory.*
* It is not an accident I started thinking about security dilemmas and ethnic conflict just as other folks were thinking of the same thing elsewhere. 

The basic idea is that when groups are sent signals that the justice system does not work, that the state is a combatant rather than an adjudicator of disputes, then domestic society starts to look a lot like international relations with arms races (people stealing guns) and strange alliances (rival gangs working together against the police).  One reason why the riots in this case have been far less intense than the LA rights after the King verdict is that the person who got off was not a cop.  In the King case, cops who clearly beat a guy were acquitted, basically telling the African-Americans of LA, who were already familiar with other problems with the LA cops (The Shield was almost a documentary) with the Rampart division, that there was no law in LA, just rival gangs with some wearing blue.

In this case, which I have not followed very closely, there is a lot in play, so it may be harder to mobilize.  Also, police have gotten far more organized and equipped* for dealing with large scale dissent and near riots.  We need to also appreciate that there has been much peaceful dissent, which speaks well of the folks organizing and participating in these protests.
*  There is, of course, the ongoing debate about the militarization of the police, which is something else I have not followed too closely but perhaps a topic for another time.
Anyhow, this is not over yet, of course, with violence last night in Oakland and large protests in LA and elsewhere.  All I wanted to point out that it is not racist to think that members of an ethnic group that has repeatedly faced unequal justice (the story about the woman getting twenty years for firing a gun in the air is pretty striking) might engage in some violence in response to a disappointing verdict. 

I have otherwise stayed out of this because I did not follow the trial and do not understand the legal stuff involved.  So, this is all I am going to say about this for now.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Canadian Citizenship Cliff Notes

Canada's founding myth:

This is apparently 100% accurate.  Now everything makes sense, except where is Tim Horton?

H/T to Stephanie the Cupcake Squirrel Carvin

Advising About Advising

Interesting piece at Inside Higher Ed on what a PhD adviser will never tell you.  Here is my early morning take (bold is in the original post).  I am not sure that the title really works, but there is some good stuff to chew over.
  1. Key predictor of supervisor's ability to guide a postgraduate to completion is a good record of having done so.  Yep, that makes sense.  This can be deceptive if other profs have been mostly carrying the load, but still the long-term record is a good indicator.
  2. You choose the supervisor. Do not let the institution overrule your choice.   Is this really a problem?  Sure, you get assigned someone in the first year, but you can change.  I guess this might be a problem in the hard sciences where you get committed to a lab, but in poli sci?  Not an issue.  
  3. Stars are attractive but may be distant. Pick a well-regarded supervisor who does not spend too much time away.  This entry was kind of confusing since you want your supervisor to be networked via meetings and to introduce you to people at such meetings. Plus later on, these will be good opportunities to catch up with one's adviser as students frequently leave town.
  4. Bureaucratic immunity is vital. Look for a supervisor who will protect you from ‘the system’.  In principle, cool.  In reality?  Professors are absent-minded not just in stereotypes but in reality.  Expecting them to know the ins and outs of the bureaucracy is perhaps a bridge too far.  Yes, you want them to support you and have your back in whatever difficulties you encounter, but don't expect them to wage wars against the bureaucracy for you.  They have day jobs that involve other stuff and limited expertise.
  5. Byline bandits abound. Study a potential supervisor’s work.  Good point--see if the prof is a leech who builds career by exploiting students or is a mentor who helps students out.  
  6. Be wary of co-supervisors.  This seems a bit overwrought but the basic idea that a dissertation committee contains many conflicting points of view is on target--you need to adjudicate between different criticisms/suggestions but do not always follow your main supervisor.  The other folks on the diss committee may be right and your adviser may be wrong.  Developing your own work means learning how to listen to conflicting points of view.  This will continue throughout the career as reviewer #1 and reviewer #2 will rarely be on the same frequency.
  7. A supervisor who is active in the area of your doctorate can help to turbocharge your work.  Certainly, but this can be rare as your interests may diverge from anyone's specialty, plus it is better to have a committed, interested generalist than a disinterested specialist.
  8. A candidature that involves teaching can help to get a career off the ground.  Your mileage will vary quite a lot here--I think this might be very field/country specific.  "it is teaching that will get them their first post (and probably their second and third)."  Really?  I do think that students should TA for their advisors and for other folks to learn what to do and what not to do, to have syllabi/notes that one can plagiarize build from.  But some really good supervisors can suck at teaching at the undergrad level, and some  great teachers are lousy researchers/advisers.
  9. Weekly supervisory meetings are the best pattern.  Um, hard science?  I never have had weekly meetings with my Phd students.  The timetable is set by progress--if we have something to talk about--a draft of a proposal, a completed chapter, a paper that needs feedback before submission, a conference coming up, job talks in the near future--then we meet formally.  Informal conversations view phone, skype, email, even facebook happen all the time, but no need to meet in my office (which can be inconvenient for both of us) unless there is something to talk about. 
  10. Invest your trust only in decent and reliable people who will repay it, not betray itIndeed
I have often referred to my agreement to supervise a PhD student as an unbreakable vow--that we are joined pretty much for the rest of our careers.  Just as I seek out my adviser at the occasional conference and ask for advice and have asked for letters, I expect to be contacted by my students and updated as long as they remain in the profession, including writing letters for them for the next couple of decades.  The choice made early in one's career will .... forever dominate one's destiny.  The good news is you can always find additional advisers, formal and informal, in case your original choice does not work out so well and even if it does.  I never looked for "mentors" but found plenty of people who gave me good advice and support over the years.  Indeed, one is never too old or too senior to find new folks to provide feedback.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Breaking Dead Pool: Getting Started

Given that I got no suggested revisions to my original post specifying how the Breaking Bad Dead Pool Beyond the Wall Game will be played, I will stick with what I wrote with some clarifications below. 

I have twelve players and twenty four characters (at least as far as I can count) who may or may not live to see the end of the Breaking Bad finale.  This means that in the draft (to be explained below), everyone will pick two characters that they think will survive.  Three points for those characters that are alive when the show is over--if the show makes a leap forward in time and has only one character alive, so be it.  One point if they are in a coma or near-death like situation that is unresolved.  Oh, and to make it interesting: -1 point for the first character to die in the final eight episodes.

Oh, and for a three part tiebreaker: you will have to email me at the end of the draft the name of who you think will be the last person killed, how they will be killed and by whom.  You could have Walter White is last one killed and killed by cancer, for instance.   Who, how, by whom are the three parts--cancer would both be how and whom....

The draft will take place on my blog on Tuesday evening on July 22nd at 8pm East Coast time (sorry, Kristy and others in distant time zones), which should give people time to do some research.  If you are unavailable to post on my blog at that time, send me a list of your draft picks (you should submit a list of all 24 characters in your preferred order), and I will input the highest remaining character on your list.  And, yes, the players can snark on facebook, twitter and/or the blog criticizing the choices made by the other players.  Smack-talk is a key part of any game like this.  Indeed, there will be an award for best smack-talk.  Observers can have their own contest for guessing who will be the most humorously abusive (emphasis on the humor part).

The draft order, decided by alphabetical order of the third letter in the players' first names (and then fourth for the many tiebreakers):
  1. Noah Chestnut (@noahchestnut)
  2. Brandon Valeriano (@drbvaler)
  3. Robert Chasen (via fb)
  4. Rodger Payne (@rodgerpayne)
  5. Chip Gagnon (via fb)
  6. Kristy Caruso (@siteseers)
  7. Caitlin Fitzgerald (@caidid)
  8. Will McCants (@will_mccants)
  9. Kelsey Atherton (@athertonKD) 
  10. Wendy Wasserman (@wjw26)
  11. Sara Mitchell (via fb)
  12. Mark Jarvis (@markdjarvis)
Again, the draft is snake-esque, so Mark gets the 12th and 13th picks, Sara gets 11th and 14th, Wendy gets 10th and 15th, and so on.  

The players themselves are an interesting mix of political scientists who I have met over the years, friends from high school with whom I re-connected through the miracle that is facebook, a few folks I met over the internet via twitter fight club or other fight clubs (silly facebook games).  There are only two people listed here whom I have never met in person.  Nope, I met Kristy the Aussie when she was visiting Montreal.  Vegas surely come up with odds on who is likely to win, but only after the draft.

The list of characters is on the old post here.  If I omitted any, you can suggest other ones either privately or via twitter/fb/blog.  Up to you.  If I find any spectacular omissions, I will add them to this page via updating.  

If I have forgotten any details, let me know.  I will provide updates after each of the last eight episodes of the show.  Remember, death is only really conclusive at the end of the show.  Surely, BB would not have clones, dreams or other stupid plot devices, but people have been known to recover from comas and from self-poisoning. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Military Industrial Congressional Academic Complex

Yesterday, a twitter friend started posting about defense dollars being spent at universities.  He was making a point about how people seem not to realize how much $$ go to universities from DoD:

I first took him seriously and defended the academic-military relationship, although he didn't need the lecture.  But since I had a bunch of tweets on this, I thought I would explain my take, as some folks do worry about academics getting money from the military or from government.

The first point is simply this: if one is going to do research that requires coding (and thus graduate students and/or undergrads) or travel for interviews, fieldwork, whatever, then one is going to need money.  Where does that money come from?  In Canada, there is not much in the way of private sources of cash, so one relies on one of the national grant agencies (universities tend to provide little $$ for research expecting that their profs get the national money).  If one does international relations, one can apply for money from the Department of National Defence and from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.  One could seek out money from the corporate sector (not so much in my area), but if people worry about the taint of government, the taint of corporations might bother them more.

My attitude towards govt $, military or otherwise, is simply this: if they do not tell me what to say or how to say it, then I am not worried about strings.  I understand that people might fear potential retribution which might cause self-editing, but I have yet to feel any pressure to say what I think the government wants me to say.  Indeed, my blogging and my pubs are not very filtered, with heaps of criticism towards the governments of the countries I study and also often of the oppositions of those governments. 

I can see how getting too buddy-buddy with the folks we study could cause problems, but extreme distance is also harmful because then we have no clue about that which we are studying.  Life, as always, is full of tradeoffs.  My preference ordering generally would be: university $ > national grant agency $ > government $ > private for profit $.  If I worked in the US, I would probably put non-profit (Carnegie, Ford, Pew, etc) in between university $ and national grant agency $.  Of course, once one adds in status and expectations, the ordering changes a bit with national agencies being seen as more prestigious and generally more valuable to one's universities since they get a cut.

I have long sucked at the teat of government in doing my work.  When I was a grad student, I received funding from the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, which is a U of Cal system wide institution that essentially represents the conscience money given to the UC schools to compensate for running the nuke labs.  IGCC was originally run by physicists who discovered sin--that they wanted to study how the stuff they built would not be used.  IGCC was mighty good to me, as has Canada's Dept of National Defence has been, with a couple of small grants to help with workshops and research travel (my trip to the Netherlands a couple of years back). 

So, when I hear folks complain about defense dollars going to the academic world, I think about how little my work has been shaped by those who gave me money, and how grateful I am to their generosity and their distance.  It is not a perfect world, which is why it is so much fun to study, and as I try to make folks aware of the tradeoffs policy-makers need to face, I try to make sure I am aware of the ones I make.  Consider this post a reminder to myself.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Day Late, a Shark Short?

Space, the scifi channel in Canada, showed Sharknado tonight.  I missed the first 30 minutes since I had not realized it was on, so I might have missed some key bits of plot that would have made the movie make sense.... or not.  Anyhow, it was just delightfully awful as twitter reported last night.

My big complaint: they had a weapons-making scene but failed to turn it into a montage!  We needed a montage:

Alas, it was not to be.  My other regret was the 24 hour delay meant I could not participate in the twitter conversation last night.  Oh well, I am just glad I could see The Narrative work its way through most of L.A.

Environmental Xenophobia

I have not been following the writings/speeches of David Suzuki as I do not study environmental politics. However, he seems to have crossed over to my territory: xenophobia.  He criticized Canadian immigration policy as "we plunder southern countries by depriving them of future leaders," which might sound somewhat reasonable (more in a second).  However, he also said "Canada is full, too!  Although it's the second largest country in the world, our useful area has been reduced."  That second part is so chock full of stupid that it makes the rest of his statement quite tainted.

Yes, if the advanced countries of the world set up immigration policies intended to lure the best and brightest to Canada, then Canada is doing less developed countries a disservice.  One can criticize immigration policies for having negative impacts on other countries.  I think the issue is more complex than that, as the possibility that the best (smartest, most trained, most talented, whatever) might leave can serve as a brake on governments from pursuing bad policies.  If they cannot exit, a key restraint on bad (or worse) policy policy is gone.  The article that discusses this also mentions remittances--that the immigrants tend to send income back to the homeland.  Indeed, remittances have become a major source of income in less developed countries. Anyhow, still, one can debate the pro's and con's of immigration policies that might entice the skilled to leave the countries that need those skills.

One cannot really debate that there is heaps of room in Canada.  It is one of the most underpopulated countries on the planet: 2nd largest country with 33 million people.  Even if one were to exclude from the math the various territories that are not so inhabited or inhabitable, Canada is a big country with lots of space.  Sure, Toronto and Vancouver are facing significant pressures because of the flow of immigrants, but there are plenty of smaller urban areas in Canada that have room for immigrants.  The country has heaps of fresh water and energy and food.  The immigrants are mostly coming from places that lack fresh water and energy and food.  Which is better for the global environment?  Keeping people where there is scarcity?  Or letting some to move to where there is abundance?

I am not an expert on the environment, but claims like what Suzuki has made suggests that he is not either.  Out of space?  Canada?  Looks like intolerance of foreigners to me... and that would be xenophobia.  Perhaps Suzuki is not a xenophobe, perhaps he just sucks at math.