Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Note on Self-Citation

There were panels at APSA addressing gender in the profession, and one of the things that came up is that women tend not to cite themselves while men do.  The idea is that self-citation is cheezy/cheating, and that men are more likely to self-promote and do so.

I think there is a difference between legitimate and gratuitous self-citation.  Folks have been complaining about self-plagiarism--using material published by oneself in spot and re-using it elsewhere.  One way to avoid that is that if you have a coherent research agenda--articles/books relating to each other--is to cite the other work and not reproduce it.  So, self-citation may not only be legitimate much of the time (well, who knows how much is gratuitous) but a solution to a problem that people have been talking about.

anyhow, just a thought that is tertiary to the larger debate.

Syria and Self-Promotion

I cannot help but notice that the differences in the UK and France reactions to the discussions to intervene in Syria are akin to those Dave and I discussion our recent article and our upcoming book.  The UK now is acting far more like a coalition government than it did during Afghanistan, and France is once again looking far more Presidential than Semi-Presidential.

So, is it lucky that our work captures a bit of the current dynamics or just the result of hard work and brilliant thought?  Oh, the former?  Better to be lucky than good, eh?

And, yes, it was great to see the book advertised both in the APSA program and in the flyers that our publisher has at the conference.  We still need to figure out a cover, and I need to turn in the changes to the proofs in two weeks.  But we are nearly there!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Heat vs. Light: Iraq in the Rear View Mirror

I have not had much time to blog or tweet during APSA, as the conference has kept me busy.  I have enjoyed chatting with former students, past colleagues, co-authors, and other folks I have networked over the years.

Tonight, I attended a panel I helped organized.  It was a plenary session--meaning big room in a special time slot with John Mearsheimer, Juan Cole, Linda Blimes, and Peter Feaver discussing the big Iraq decision ten years ago.  I live tweeted so here is the storify containing my tweets and some interactions.

Mearsheimer was rehashing stuff he has said before about how the marketplace of ideas was squelched by the Bush Administration and its allies.  I don't think it was squelched, as many academics (not just realists) thought and said the invasion was a bad idea.  My feeling was and is that academics said a lot of stuff and were allowed to say so, but that there was no audience willing to listen and heed their sage advice.  Mearsheimer also took some early shots at Feaver, who responded in kind (and got the better of the exchange in my humble opinion).

Peter Feaver, who worked in the Bush administration after the bad decisions of 2003-04, argued that the big communication problem is not the marketplace of ideas in the public in 2003, but the noisy consensus among academics who are falling for myths and not really doing the necessary work to understand the decade.  The problem with seeking a "balance" in the academic work on Iraq is there were so many incredibly poor decisions, where there is no upside--such as disbanding the Iraq army.

Juan Cole had the presentation that most resonated with me as it confirmed my biases--that the problem was not the marketplace of ideas but of policy.  That the folks who would say that Iraq was hard were shut out of the process, that those who had better ideas of how to do it beter were left out of the policy process.

Linda Blimes was the one that presented information that I did not know before--that the costs for the war are bigger than I thought--$4 trillion.  The bad accounting has huge consequences, that the peak year for WWI veterans' payments/costs was 1969 or so, for WWII it was 1976 or so, and so the costs for Iraq and Afghanistan are very much in the future.

So, more heat than light, but it was interesting.  Plus my partner in crime, Idean, got a key to the Conrad Hilton suite:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When a Xenophobe Complains

Parti Quebecois defenders have been asserting that the Anglophone media does not know what it is talking about, that their stance is not xenophobic.  "Xenophobia is the irrational or unreasoned fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange (wikipedia)."  Perhaps the PQ and its supporters are not xenophobic, as their fear could be rational or they are fearing stuff that they think is familiar.  So, perhaps we should just call them fear-mongerers or the religious equivalent of race-baiters?  Would that be better?

When a party seeks to discriminate against minorities, it better have a good reason.  Actually, it rarely has a good reason, and here there is the Quebec specialty: the non-crisis crisis.  There is no crisis that this law is supposed to address. It is about mobilizing a base, distracting a public, and developing more divides with the Rest of Canada.  It is not about justice, and it is not about "values."  Well, it might be about values if intolerance is a value.  

So, the PQ can push back and claim they are being oppressed for their political stances, which is mighty rich, of course, given that they are seeking to repress those who follow religious injunctions closely.  As a non-religious person, I have no crucifix/turban/kipa/whatever in this fight.  As a scholar of nationalism and of xenophobia, I have a pretty good idea of what is going on: marginalizing minorities for political gain.  People have been calling it xenophobia, but we can just call it .... wrong.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Five D's of Token Intervention

In my posts at Political Violence at a Glance and at the Globe and Mail, I tried to explain the choice of multilateral cooperation and who is likely to get involved, respectively.  I did not argue whether intervention is a good idea or not. Given my posts on the war cap and such, you can guess where I stand.

The basic problems are the following:
  • Token intervention, which is what lobbing some cruise missile be, will not change anything of consequence.  Assad will not fall, the rebels will not gain heaps of advantages, and the punishment for using chemical weapons will be modest at best.  Indeed, cruise missiles, like economic sanctions, sends a signal: we don't care that much.
  • What happens then?  Not clear what the next steps would be.
  • If this is all about protecting American credibility, the social science indicates that reputation really does not matter too much.  Countries will focus on today's pattern of interests and not yesterday's weakness.  
  • Oh, and intervening on side rebels apparently does not help that much in the short term.
Much discussion today on twitter and various blogs has been about the imperative to do something as the key force driving the US.  If so, well, that is a lousy reason to kill people, spend heaps of dollars and distract from every other problem.  Yes, the Mideast is the Land of Lousy Alternatives (tm), but I am not sure that token intervention is the least bad option.

Sara Mitchell Rocks!

For the twitter impaired, I tweeted thusly:
Her post demonstrates not only that she has studied the gender challenges in the poli sci profession but has done much to address it.  Of course, she is almost uniquely qualified, given her poker skills, her sharp poli sci work, and her great sense of humor.

So, I must conclude that Sara Mitchell not only rocks but should keep on rocking this profession!

Busy Blogging? Syria and Syria

As it turns out, blogging about the IR of Syria turned out to be more fun to write than a grant application, so check out my pieces at Political Violence at a Glance on coalitions vs alliances and at the Globe and Mail on options for Syria and whether Canada will jump in.

An Odd Year for Heaps of Anniversaries

I just got an email from a friend reminding me of another friend's 25th anniversary.  This got me thinking as my girlfriend (now Mrs. Spew) and I went to the wedding as we moved from the east coast to California for grad school.  Yep, it has been 25 years since I started grad school in San Diego.  So, I will be pondering that move this fall, but also something that happened exactly five years later--leaving San Diego to start my first teaching job.  Yep, I have been teaching for twenty years.  Much has changed, including one of my peers in grad school working to tax pot in Denver.

Sure, the end of the ultimate season reminded me of my age, given how battered and bruised I am, but the realization that I was driving to the west coast in my 1971 Buick Elektra twenty five years ago this week does that even more so (alas, all of my photos of the old car are not digital--I did make an anchor for this land yacht).

What did we learn along the way to California twenty-five years ago?  The Grand Canyon is big but also not as close to the highway as we would have preferred ;).  Kathy's relatives in Amarillo were most sweet (I had not met them before).  Little did we know that we would be seeing them often (once we moved to Lubbock).  Motel 6's and Coca-cola seemed to be sponsors for our trip.  We tried to be strategic and cross the desert in California late at night--our old car had no air conditioning and I worried about the car over-heating.  So, the late night trip seemed like a good idea at the time.  But it was mighty dark, the road had bumps on the side to make you aware if you went too far, and that was our first time experiencing those. 

So, we arrived in San Diego exhausted, stressed, and anxious.  Why anxious?  Because my girlfriend had no job and San Diego was not exactly chockful of publishing industry employment.  Also, we didn't have a place yet so we had to find an apartment quickly.  Our rush to find her a job and us a place probably led to some pretty sub-optimal decisions.  She got great networks but little pay from her job, and we fled our La Jolla studio apartment after six months since it was tiny, expensive and not terribly convenient.  Our move from there to Clairemont proved to be a breeze since my entire cohort showed up for the pizza and beer that promised in exchange for help.  Since we did not have much stuff at all, packing the truck took about thirty minutes.  Unpacking took a bit more time since folks started drinking the beer at the destination.  Little did we know we were moving into a place where there would be crazy people living below us and next to us.  Good times.

I was so clueless at the time about what grad school would be like, what I would eventually study, and how the profession worked.  But it has worked out.  Anyhow, I am just posting this now to warn Spew readers that there will be waves of nostalgia as I look back at these key points in time. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Star Wars? The Star Wars!

Oh my:

For explanation, see here.

Never Go the Full Xenophobe?

I have not been paying as close attention to Quebec politics as I used to--I guess that is what happens when one leaves the province.  So, I had been thinking that the PQ's attack on non Christians Charter of Values might not pass since the PQ only holds a plurality of seats, not a majority.  I was not sure where the CAQ, the third party in the system, stood.  Now I know.  Apparently, instead of discriminating against non-Christians in all government positions, they want to exclude the medical community (remember, practically all doctors, nurses, and related folks are government employees in Quebec). 

All I could think of is this video

In other words:

Will the CAQ Abet the PQ in going the full xenophobe?  | went full retard

A Quick Caveat About Caveats

For those wondering about a potential Syrian intervention, there is the classic question of coalition of the willing vs. NATO.  Sarah Kreps and Patricia Weitsman have books on the question of the relative effectiveness of coalitions vs. alliances and why the US chooses one or the other.  Nora Bensahel did some work on this earlier.  There is much to say and to study on this topic, but I just want to say one thing:

Choosing coalitions of the willing so that you don't have to deal with caveats (restrictions a country will impose on how their contingent is used) is a mistake because countries in coalitions of the willing also can and do impose restrictions on how their troops are used.  Just ask the Americans about all of the caveats imposed upon partners deployed in Iraq in 2003-2007.  Yow.

So, if you think going caveat-free is one of the key pro's to relying on a coalition rather than an alliance, think again.

Belated Sunday Silliness: the US in the World

I think it is better than this but perhaps not:
Brian Macfadden, NYT

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Quebec's Future?

Probably not.  The PQ needs the votes of another party to get their Charter of Values made into law, and I doubt that the CAQ is that craven .... but it could be.  The Liberals are unlikely to support it, although they have been willing to sip from the cup of xenophobia in the past. 

Just enough xenophobia and uncertainty to take one's mind off of the crappy roads/bridges/etc.  Good work all!  Anybody got survey data on this stuff?

Breaking Bad Confessions

This show is finishing so well, amping up the tension so brilliantly.  The update continues after break with heaps of spoilers below.

Sunday Silliness: Pre-APSA Edition

I am a big fan of IR as depicted by cats.  Even after the Duck contretemps, I fully buy this cat pic:

Friday, August 23, 2013

When a Party Repels

I left McGill to move to Carleton and Ottawa for many reasons.  Only one of them was the imminent rise of the Parti Quebecois, but it was not a trivial one.  No, I don't wear religious garb in my day job, but I would be tempted to wear stuff from every religion if I had remained there.  This new proposal is much like previous stuff.  It is xenophobic, it is unconstitutional, and mostly aimed at provoking crises so that the PQ can claim that Quebec is oppressed by Canada.

Kind of hard to make that argument when Canada seems to be doing the tolerating and the PQ is doing the oppressing.  Yet twisted logic is the specialty of a secessionist group that cannot muster enough support to gain a majority of seats even where the electoral system tends to turn pluralities into majorities (proportional representation is certainly on the shelf for a while longer).

Was this easy to see in 2011 when I decided to skedaddle?  Yes, yes, it was.  The PQ was clearly going to win the next election, although I was wrong about how well it would do.  Their affiliation with the student protest movement probably cost it a majority in the provincial parliament.  So, this proposal is unlikely to pass, so the PQ cannot do as much damage as it might have.  Yet, I am glad to have left, as I don't have to wonder if the third party, the CAQ, will cave on various issues to give the PQ the votes it needs to do further damage to Quebec.

Yes, I love Ottawa and my new job, so I would feel great about my move anyway, but the news that comes out of Quebec reminds me that it was time to leave.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dueling Comic Banjos

These kids rock ... or folk or whatever:

Biggest Mistakes in US Foreign Policy and Some Good Uses of Force

Stephen Walt enumerates a list of the US's best foreign policy moves, including the Marshall Plan, the Camp David Accords, the opening to China, Bretton Woods, the Non-Proliferation Treaty and German Reunification.  It is part of an argument that diplomacy is better than force.  Well, yeah, but it often takes two to tango, and diplomacy requires the other side to be willing to bargain.  Still, it is a good list that I cannot quibble with, except I might add:

Deciding to intervene in the Korean War.  A use of force that kept South Korea from being under the North Koreans.  While it took perhaps longer for South Korea to become democratic, the gap between South and North Korea on pretty much every measure is about as vast as it gets.  Plus my first car and the next one were both made in South Korea.  The huge mistake here was going past the 38th parallel to bring China into it.  But it was our first limited war and we didn't really get the whole idea of limits until we got close to the Chinese border.  Oh well.  At least it provided a dramatic lesson in civilian control of the military.

World War II.  Sure, the US was late to the party, but made most of the right decisions once engaged.  Well, even before, supporting the UK in ways that were pretty war-like.  FDR over-ruled the military who wanted to invade France as fast as possible to get the war over with. 

The Berlin Airlift was pretty forceful as well.  The US did make a difference when really needed in World War I as well. 

Iraq 1991.  Bad dipomacy in that we did not send Hussein a clearer signal, but the US did rally heaps of support and then launched a war to kick out the Iraqis.  The big regret was not spending a day or two more destroying the Republican Guard, but we had no mandate for Baghdad then, and 2003 revealed that 1991 Dick Cheney was pretty smart about restraint.

Spanish-American War?  I have no idea.

I do agree that many of the American uses of force were big-time mistakes: War of 1812, Iraq 2003, Cambodia bombing and invasion, toppling Iran's govt in 1953 (and we could probably throw in a bunch of other coups the US helped along, such as Chile), intervening in the Russian civil war along with the other nervous Europeans, Bay of Pigs, Nicaragua (supporting El Salvador, on the other hand, not so bad in retrospect, although not nirvana either), Drug wars (see Peter Andreas's book)....

Oh, and NATO, if a good thing as Walt suggests, was diplomacy and force--bargaining with countries to improve deterrence in Europe.

Anyhow, the American record is both good and bad.  Diplomacy is usually but not always better than the use of force.

When The Few Screw the Many

In both Star Trek II and ST Into Darkness, the folks ponder whether the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.  For Kirk and Spock, the needs of the one are the most important (which might make them crappy military officers). 

Well, I am thoroughly depressed that the impulses of the few have screwed the many.  In this case, it is the news that Oberlin's racism stuff of last year was a hoax apparently (I can only find it on right wing websites so it could be a hoax hoax, I suppose).  That students of the far left decided to plaster the campus with racist stuff to perhaps spawn a reaction, a learning moment.  Indeed, the college shut down for a day to do exactly that. 

Should I be happy that there were apparently no real racists running around my alma mater? Or upset that folks are so ideologically committed to their cause that they will upset everyone to trigger a response (kind of sounds like terrorism without the physical violence, eh?)?  And, of course, now that it comes out, the initial cause is most thoroughly undermined.  Well done, doofus-es, well done. 

I was embarrassed last year and I am embarrassed now.  If it turns out that the news is accurate, then the folks should be tossed out with just as much alacrity as if they were genuinely racist.  This is not what Oberlin is about.  Yes, it can be chock full of knee-jerk reactions to perceived oppression, but deliberately causing fear and pain to mobilize people?  That ain't the Oberlin that I experienced, and it ain't the Oberlin that exists today.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Who Should Blog?

In the past week, there has been a heap of controversy over at the Duck of Minerva after a post that many folks found to be offensive.  In reaction, the blogger is ceasing to blog, others are discussing the challenges of blogging, and others still are drawing lessons, such as: "the vast majority of academic political scientists are just not cut out to be bloggers, and probably shouldn't do so." (anonymous facebook friend who is also known as Christopher Zorn)

My reaction to this is: blogger is a label that describes a whole lot of activity, so saying people should not blog might mean that they should not write on the internet.  Or it might mean that they should be far more limited in what they write.  What I mean by this is that bloggers vary in the scope of the stuff they address and in the style they write.  Some folks restrict themselves to a rather narrow area and write with little snark.  Some folks are willing to write about pretty much everything (that would be me, for instance) and either use heaps of satire or vary widely in the tone they use.  I would agree with my anonymous facebook friend that not everyone should try to address the profession or to engage in satire or be extremely snarky.  Not all of us are good at it.  I am not saying that I am, just that I think I am ok at blogging widely and varying my tone based on the issue.  I am willing to take the hits that come with having a wide array of interests and the risks that come with using humor.

To be clear, I do tend to be more careful in what I write about and the tone I use when I am writing in other places than the Semi-Spew.  I do not blog that often for Duck of Minerva, for instance, because I have always been concerned about whether my posts are up to snuff for that wider audience and to be associated with that label.  Same for Political Violence at a Glance and for my weekly columns at Canadian International Council.  I can pump out two or four posts a day here at the Spew because I am less concerned here about writing something that is too snarky or too far from my expertise, like my obsession with #voterfraudfraud.

But I do think that anyone who is an expert on an issue, and all publishing academics should feel that they are an expert on the stuff that they study, can and SHOULD write on the internet about the stuff that falls within their area of expertise.  Otherwise, we are just talking to ourselves and hoping that our students someday become policy-relevant or that some policy type explores an issue of the APSR or International Studies Quarterly.  Phil Arena, W. Winecoff, and Erica Chenoweth (most of her newer stuff is at Political Violence at a Glance) are good examples of young political scientists who focus almost entirely on the implications of their research for events going on in the world today.  Scholars like these folks are getting their ideas out so that peopleoutside of the academy can learn from their expertise.  Just as we have argued about doing media work, my stance here is the same--we have some obligations to disseminate our work both as part of the service component of our jobs (teaching/research/service) and as the responsibilities that come with grant money.

The funny thing is that this discussion started with the question of whether and how people should network, and the danger is that it might cripple one key means by which the less powerful, the less privileged can have a voice and engage in networking--via social media.  Indeed, people are asking why there are so few female bloggers and why so few non-white male bloggers out there.  I would hate to think that one of the consequences of the discourse over the past week or so would be to discourage new, less well represented voices.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blogging Shortage and the Iron Law of Publishing

The iron law of publishing is that proofs will arrive just at the worst time possible.  Our publisher is giving us a decent interval to proof the NATO and Afghanistan book, but this is also a week before the APSA meeting, two weeks before classes, just as grant applications heat up in Canada, and has tenure review packets start to gather moss on my desk. 

10 ball jugglingSo, you may see less blogging from me for a while.... that is, until I feel like procrastinating.  The old metaphor I have been using is this: most jugglers worry about dropping a ball.  I worry about tripping over those already on the ground.

Monday, August 19, 2013

When Bargaining Is Easy

IR theory has never really helped me that much when buying a car.  Sure, I learned about bargaining and incomplete information, but I rarely have practice.  Meanwhile, the car people do this everyday. 

So, today, we bought a used car so that I can be stuck with just one set of car payments (our other car).  The lack of a need for financing made the bargaining easier but not easy.  They claimed to have already marked down the car enough.  I got a decent price, I think.

But then the bargaining got easier and yet less pleasant.  At the end of these processes, you always have to deal with another person for the contract, and they like to bargain more.  But this is where it is easy:

Extended Warranty?  NO
Car service package?  NO!!  Hey, but cars are complex these days and service elsewhere might void the warranty.  HELL NO!.
Emergency service?  NO, got CAA (Canadian version of AAA).
How about rustproofing. NO!  Come on, cars rust without rustproofing.  NO.

By the time you get to this guy, after all the test driving and bargaining, you, or at least me, well, I was pretty tired and cranky.  So, it was easy to say no even before the guy would finish his song and dance.  Then he played a new card: this car is for your wife, so let her speak and decide without your interference.  Oh, really.  So, Mrs. Spew go to say HELL NO! NO,NO & NO.

So, long afternoon ended with success but cranky folks.  We will only know if we made a good deal if the car manages to hold together for another seven years or so.  Oy.

Breaking Bad Game Buried Update

Holy cow, this show is on the fast track!  Below spoilers await as I consider the implications of last night for the Breaking Bad dead pool:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Unpacking Privilege

I promised to ponder privilege as part of my response to Will Moore's criticism I received over my networking post--that is my privileged-ness.  So, here it goes.  I am aware of only some of the ways I am privileged, probably, so I can guess that I will still upset folks for the privileges I don't identify as well as for identifying any.  I mean, I tried to address man-splaining a while back and my wife was quite critical of my take on it.

When did I first become aware I was privileged?  Well aside from my family's trip to Mexico when I was five, I would have to say it was probably my first few weeks at Oberlin.*  While my mother raised me to be a good liberal beforehand, I was still a callow, shallow teen with little awareness.  I mean I brought this poster to Oberlin (my mother did not know about it).  What was I thinking?
* My daughter has already figured much of this out and more due to the internet, which happens to include some progressive content.  In our conversation over breakfast this morning, she reminded me that smashing the patriarchy is not an attack on individuals but on the social structures that constitute male privilege and related stuff.  I was stunned at how well she articulated this stuff--not because she is a girl but because she is seventeen and a year away from college. 
It didn't take me that long to realize how incredibly sexist such stuff was.  I immediately stopped referring to the females at Oberlin as girls, using women instead (even if some might find that male-dominated name problematic).  Indeed, I was and am still surprised when "girl" is used to describe an adult female.  Except when counting how many females we need on the starting line when playing ultimate (usually there are four guys and three girls, but sometimes teams will put four girls and three guys).

I was not only made aware of my male-ness and my white-ness but my straight-ness.  Oberlin was the first time I got hit on by a guy.  I also had openly gay friends at Oberlin.  I might have had friends in high school and camp that were gay, but they were not out.  

Pondering Universal Arrogance

My post on networking in academia got some fire from an unexpected direction: Will Moore.  He suggested that I (and a few others) was tone deaf about networking.  Will is a friend and a sharp person (not all my friends are sharp, not all sharp people are my friends)* so I take his concerns quite seriously.  Also, I am self-aware enough to know that I can be oblivious if that makes any sense.

* Will's post makes me want to qualify everything I write.
His essential argument is that my experience (and the other folks listed in his post) is not universal, and I should probably not offer unsolicited advice that ignores my privileged position.  So, let me first consider the advice I offered to see if it is universal-ish or not and I will ponder my privileged-ness in another post (since this one is long enough)  Of course, explaining any of my thinking risks man-splaining, but I am a man and I explain.  Crap, I am so screwed.  Alas, I am not because I am privileged.  Oh, double crap.

My post at the Duck developed what I had written here and at PSR just a bit.  The major points are:
  1. Networking with peers and with juniors can be as/more rewarding than networking upwards to the stars.
  2. Go to the receptions thrown by the department that gave you your PhD and talk to the next generation of folks, not just the profs and your friends from grad school.
  3. Go to business meetings of the various sections at APSA/ISA.  
  4. Poker and other activities.
  5. I was mostly looking for interesting interactions and not being very strategic.
Ok, would I advocate these things any differently if I was behind a veil of ignorance where I didn't know who I was and where I came from (trying to shed all of that pesky privilege for a moment in an amateurish Rawlsian way)?

Red Dawn Redux

Last night, I watched both Red Dawn 1.0 and 2.0 as they were back to back on my sat dish.  I just had to watch to compare and contrast.  Oh, and live tweet it.  I had seen the first when it came out in 1984 at the peak of the second Cold War.  2.0 came out this year and I refused to see it--the idea of North Korea invading the US?  Oy.  But I understand that the switch from China as adversary to NK was made because China has a huge box office potential and North Korea's is just a tad smaller.


It was a much closer call than expected. So, we must turn to a systematic comparison of the aspects of the movies:

Saturday, August 17, 2013

We Live in a New World

My daughter just said: what a time to be alive:

Oh my.  The police handed this out.  I just love the Dark Side of the Moon reference--"at a reasonable volume."  Oh my.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Q is for Quebec and for Qartel and for Qollusion

I really should not be surprised that the Quebec government's solution to the threat to smaller bookstores posed by the internet and bigger bookstores is to impose some kind of price controls.  After all, this is a province that tolerates collusion among car dealers so that they don't sell new cars on the island of Montreal on weekends.  And remember, the great Maple Heist happened because there was  a stockpile of syrup by a cartel of maple producers that produced a tasty, tempting target for maple dealers elsewhere.

Competition apparently is so American or something.  That and doing what is best for consumers.  So, why not have more expensive books?  Of course, the reality is that people will do stuff like download them instead, either legally or illegally.  Good luck policing the internet, Quebec.  For a government that seems to be unable to handle the real problems of governance, I guess solving the problems of a small group of booksellers at the expense of the public and of other businesses might make sense. 

Have I said lately how glad I am to have left Quebec?  Oh, yeah.  Sorry to be so repetitive, but woot!

Rule #1 for Secessionist Movements

If one is going to try to get votes in support of a separatist referendum, rule number one is as follows:
Play up all of the advantages of independence (even imaginary ones), and downplay all of the potential costs, promising that a change in who is sovereign is really not so consequential except for when it is.
In the Quebec case, in past campaigns, folks were told that they could still use Canadian passports and other such conveniences that come with Canadian citizenship even if one is no longer a citizen.

In the Scottish case, the hope of the Scottish National Party was that they could promise independence from the United Kingdom (or Great Britain, I am easily confused--must re-watch this video) yet get slid back into NATO on a fast track.  Alas, the SNP's past stances on nuclear weapons--that the newly independent Scotland might be a nuclear weapons-free zone--runs up against an old NATO nightmare--the painful deployment of Pershing missiles to Europe in the early 1980s.  Because Scotland has been home to a nuclear sub base, and the SNP wants to close it, NATO has said that this would be a problem.

Now, the SNP has to figure out how to finesse the party's position with NATO's stance and yet still promise that independence will change nothing in Scotland except for all of the cool stuff.  I have no doubt that the SNP can find a way to gloss over this.  After all, if Quebec can promise referendum voters that they can keep all of the cool Canadian stuff, like passports, but not pay taxes or have any governance emanate from Ottawa, I am sure that the SNP can spin this as well.

Oh wait, Quebec failed twice to gain enough votes (merely 50% plus one), so perhaps  democratic publics might just understand that dramatic political change may have some costs attached.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Favorite Recent-ish Poli Sci Books

I have been thinking of listing a bunch of my favorite 2000s+ Political Science books, and a variety of circumstances has inspired me to write the list today.  These books make my list because they made me see the world differently.  Most persuaded me of their core arguments, but all made me think and even ask questions I had never asked before.  My reading is fairly random as my interests are fairly wide (I read and research in IR and comparative, in ethnic conflict and civil-military relations).  I read some of these books because I was asked to review the book or the person while some were for courses I was teaching.  And some I just bumped into and then read.

In no particular order:
  • Erin Jenne, Ethnic Bargaining: The Paradox of Minority Empowerment.  The book essentially argues that the more power minority groups have, the more they demand, and then the more likely it is that violence breaks out.  This challenged much of my thinking on ethnic conflict, since I tended to see the denial of access to be a key factor but she finds in some ways that empowering can be just as provocative if not more so.  Erin and I have co-authored since I read the book's ms.
  • Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works.  They find that non-violence is far more effective than violent resistance.  The book is incredibly thorough and persuasive.  Perhaps one of the most important pieces of political science during my career as it has incredibly important ramifications for political change. 
  • Stacie Goddard, Uncommon Ground: Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy.  The book addresses the question of whether a hunk of territory is indivisible or not, which matters greatly since if the territory cannot be divided, conflict becomes zero-sum.  Using the hard cases of Ireland and Jerusalem, Goddard persuades me that indivisibility can vary over time--that it is not fixed but shaped by politics.  
  • Kelly Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy.  One of the most fun and mind-blowing books I have read.  Greenhill explains how and why countries may impose significant costs upon democratic countries by threatening or causing massive waves of migration.  I now see the world differently thanks to this book.
  • Monica Duffy Toft, The Geography of Ethnic Violence.  Toft takes a variety of data and case studies to argue why territory shapes the likelihood of ethnic violence.  She does one of the best jobs of making the case for the role for group concentration, which is so much more important for ethnic conflict than ethnic fractionalization (my biggest pet peeve in the business).
  • Page Fortna, Does Peacekeeping Work?  It is all in the title.  Using a heap of evidence, Fortna changes my mind about the efficacy of peacekeeping.  Another book with important policy implications.
  • Judith Kelley, Ethnic Politics in Europe: The Power of Norms and Incentives.  I didn't need to construct strawmen for my second book--I had to deal with a pretty power and convincing existing target. Having to deal with this book, made the Steve and Bill book on the joys of xenophobia a better book.  Or at least, I hope so, as Kelley makes some mighty persuasive arguments.
  • Milada Vachudova, Europe Undivided: Democracy, Leverage and Integration After Communism.  See what I said about Kelley.  Just a very good book that made me work harder.
  • Sarah Kreps, Coalitions of Convenience: US Military Interventions After the Cold War.  As I got into the alliance/coalition business, the book helped me dodge the question of why the US chooses to engage in multilateralism or not and could focus on other alliance/coalition questions.  A fun and interesting book that does an excellent job of looking at recent US choices to figure out when the US seeks to use formal alliances or not as it wars.
  • Patricia Weitsman, Waging War: Alliances, Coalitions and Institutions of Interstate Violence.  Weitsman and Kreps cover some similar terrain, but there are some fun nuances in each argument that lead in somewhat different directions.  Weitsman's book is slightly more recent so more of Afghanistan as well as Libya are covered.
So, that's ten terrific books in one decade.  I might have included this if I had been further along in my diaspora project as I would be engaged in more non-state actor stuff or this if I was caught up on my elections and ethnic conflict stuff since it addresses the international politics of elections.  There are obviously other great books that have come out the past thirteen years or so, but these are the ones that come to my mind first.

Sure, more than a few of these folks are now my friends, but I would say that for most, the causal relationship was: "hey, this is a cool book, I should meet them" -> I meet them --> friendship rather than me just listing the books of my friends.  But, as always, my readers should take all of my opinions with whatever grain of salt they find handy. 

Networking at Poli Sci Conferences

A Duck of Minerva post has gotten heaps of attention because, well, Brian's attempt at humor may have flopped bigtime given the sexual harassment that does exist in the profession and does show up at conferences.

I posted this as a comment on the thread (with some modifications/links):
One can read Brian's post in a variety of ways. My reaction was mostly to the notion of networking down rather than up. I have always been more comfortable hanging out with the junior folk than the senior folk at the APSA and ISA.  I never liked approaching the big names who are very, very busy, but have enjoyed meeting the newer folks. I made a lot of good friends by going to the reception held by my old school, and meeting the next generation of folks. We had something in common--experiencing the same profs.

The business meetings of the APSA and ISA sections to which I belonged tended to be populated by younger folks, so that was an easy way to meet people. These folks led me to a poker game that introduced me to a senior faculty member who has become a mentor and mensch for me, but that was not my intent (I like poker).

When I worked on a speaker series at my old job, I wanted to include
younger/newer/female voices since the previous person to organize them tended to focus on big male names. As a result, I met several really interesting people who are doing fun work that changed how I look at the world and at my research.

As I get older, the potential set of "younger" folks widens, and I hope to keep meeting new folks at these conferences while remaining connected to those I have met before--the time does tend to fill up (contact those you want to see at APSA soon as dance cards do get full). This is a very social business, and you never know where your research will turn. The new scholars are more likely to turn you on to a new set of ideas or perhaps be excellent co-authors as they have the latest methods training.

To be clear, my networking at conferences was never very strategic--only once did I try to meet someone with the purpose of establishing a co-authorship (that did work out real well). But my non-strategic behavior has largely paid off in the sense that I know a larger community of people who do interesting work, some have become pretty influential people in the discipline, and I am now pretty well connected even if I am not wired into some big names/networks.
 Brian's post is already generating discussion about sexual harassment at conferences and beyond, which is a good thing.  My own take is that we have a real handicap when addressing this stuff because the legalities and norms usually mean that we throw a cloak of invisibility over cases of sexual harassment.  The intent may be to limit the damage down to the harassed, but in practice this serves to protect the harassers.  So, individuals develop impunity or a perception of it, which does not help the cause.  Perhaps developing better systematic understandings via surveys and such can help.

Anyhow, there is some baby and bathwater stuff in the original post, and I wanted to re-post my comments on networking here as APSA is less than two weeks away (crap!).

Breaking Bad and IR Theory

I saw a post that sought to apply IR theory to Breaking Bad, and developed some strong opinions.  Check out my guest post at War on the Rocks.

Oh, and the post did cut out my footnote that referenced The Wire.  I am sure Wire cognoscenti can figure it out.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Breaking Bad Musically

The theme played on meth stuff:

Not a Racist? There is an App for That

This is sheer genius:

Thus who are satire impaired should be warned that this video is, um, comedic.

Bad Policy Advice or Bad Governance

William Watson argues today that evidence-based policy-making can produce bad policy.  Maybe, but ideology-based or evidence-less based policy might just be far worse, right?  This reminds me of certain political scientists pushing against hypothesis testing.  The advice at the end is correct--that we should be mindful of the reality that experts will disagree, that the evidence is not always clear, and that choices have consequences.

The funny thing is that Watson uses pretty selective evidence to illustrate (not test) his argument--his ability to get a doctor.  Now, to be clear, I had pretty much the same experience .... in Quebec.  One thing this article does (perhaps it was written for Quebec audiences first and foremost), and a common mistake it is, is to conflate a provincial policy with a Canadian experience.  It may be the case that provinces besides Quebec also messed up the sizing of the medical community, but one thing that all folks who compare Canada to the US or anywhere is must ALWAYS keep in mind is that the administration and thus the quality of medical service varies by province because the provinces run them.

When I moved to Ontario (using my experience to generalize) from Quebec, it took us a few weeks to find a clinic and a doctor.  Both the clinic and doctor are wonderful--the service is quite fast--appointments within a day or three, the facility is clean and modern, the doctor is responsive, and so on.  The emergency rooms can be a bit slow, like Quebec, but they are not beaten to crap so that they look like a 2nd or 3rd world facility (that would be Lakeshore General in Montreal).  It really is night and day.  It is not utopia, but anyone making arguments about health care in Canada must be wary of generalizing from their province's experience especially if their province happens to be Quebec. I have long argued that anything that Quebec's government touches turns to crap, that Quebec could not administer a lemonade stand (see here for how opposition politicians are of little help).

The argument Watson is addressing is the notion that doctors were creating more business for other doctors, so if one cuts the number of doctors, there might be less spun up health care expenses.  This seems like an incredibly stupid theory, and I have no clue as to what evidence was used to test it (I am not a health economist nor was I around at the time).   It seems real convenient to a government that might be interested in cutting costs and being not so accountable for good government (because elections based on nationalist issues tended to distract SQUIRREL! the public from issues of good governance).  So, was it really that experts advocated cuts in doctors or was it that the government of the day listened to the advice that matched their preferences?  Oh, and where did the doctors go?  Ontario and elsewhere, right?

So, I would argue that we need to be careful about the evidence that we use (perhaps my experience in Ottawa is an outlier), that we need to keep in mind the source of policy-making (province or federal), and that we need good theory and good evidence AND we need to keep in mind that there are always tradeoffs and second/third order consequences. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Speculation Bad!

Check out this theory  (thanks Chip).  Suggests that a certain youngster may not make it to the end of the game.... or perhaps a couple of folks.  And here as well for more fun theories.

Spoilers below

Monday, August 12, 2013

BB Game After Blood Money

The game is afoot!  Check out the state of the Breaking Dead game below the break:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Breaking Bad, the Game Begins

Folks, the game starts tonight with the first episode of the last part of the last season of Breaking Bad (sob).  We can chat here in the comments or on twitter, but not on my blog please, as there are folks who will not be seeing the episodes tonight at 9pm. 

So, use the comment section here or go to twitter.  And be prepared for the awesome that is about to come, as the reviewers have really liked this ep.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Getting Close to the Game

Tim Goodman has a scouting report that is too late for my Breaking Bad game, as the draft is complete.  But check it out.  Perhaps it can provide some clues about who will win our game.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Vacation Adventures

I learned today that white water rafting is best done while remaining in the raft:
The actual rafting pics will be posted next week--once I return home since I left my cable for my waterproof phone at home.  I led the raft that was chock full of Saideman relatives in number of times falling out of the raft: 2 to, um, none.  The first fall was early and in a non-nasty place.  The second?  Um, in the nastiest place apparently.  I am bruised and beaten, but I still had a great time.

When I returned, I consulted my doctor, and he advised ibuprofen, hot bath (my hotel room has a great bathtub and amazing shower), and a few beers.  Well, the doctor was me,* and since I was in and I gave great advice, I took it.

We shall see what wonderful colors my leg displays tomorrow.

Breaking Bad Dead Pool Game: the Tie Breakers

As the new season of Breaking Bad is almost nigh, it is time to unveil the tiebreakers proposed the various Breaking Bad dead pool game contestants.  The idea here is that each player had to name the person they think will be killed last in the series, by whom and how.  But before that, how about an Honest Trailer (chock full of spoilers):

The list is below, with perhaps a comment or two:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

One of the Joys of Returning to the U.S.

I can get Comedy Central videos without having to go through the Canadian comedy network's crappy site:

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

woot, Stephen!

The vacation continues.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Light Blogging Ahead

I hope I will not be blogging much over the next week as I am headed to vacation with the rest of my family (except my wife and daughter due to daughter's internship).  So, unless the wifi is great on Lake George, don't expect too much.  I just hope the hotel has AMC for Sunday's BB episode.

Anyhow, these old photos will be re-enacted in a few days.  Ciao.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Gallons of Perspective Sauce

A friend of mine is fighting leukemia.  This is her second bout with the disease.  I only found out about the first fight after she was mostly through it.  One of the key strategies she and her family have used is to rely on a virtual community of friends, who get status updates on a daily basis, more or less.  That way, her friends are informed, can know where and what to send to lift her spirits (I send silly pictures and share some snark).

The daily updates reveal how courageous this person is and those in similar situations are.  Each email from one of those around her providing the updates is like a body blow--the fight is not a steady forward campaign but a brutal back and forth, with the chemo, the other drugs, the grafts all kicking my friend's ass as much as the leukemia.  I admire the hell out of her, her family, and her friends as they wage this incredibly painful war against the enemy within.  Having to go through it a second time must be far more difficult.  I am glad to be included in the circle of support this time, and cannot imagine what it is like for those to be going through it again.

I am sure that I will whine and complain about the minor misfortunes that I bump into, but I am going to try to do that less and enjoy the good stuff along the way.  If my friend can keep up the positive attitude with all that she is going through, I think I can enjoy the half-full glass, especially if it is half-full of a tasty wheat beer.  It is easy to get discouraged by the daily difficulties, but given her guts and determination, I am pretty sure my friend will win this battle.

I am posting this year here because one of the original reasons I started blogging was to talk though stuff to figure out how I think and feel.  Not just to sell yet more bottles of my perspective sauce.

Feral or Febrile

A nice confluence of posts this past week: Phil Schrodt declared his resignation with something like a declaration of independence, and Inside Higher Ed had a piece on profs not retiring.  First, I do appreciate a good Hitchhiker's Guide reference so kudos to Phil.  Second, I am shocked, shocked to find that academics respond to incentives.  In this case, for many folks, why retire when the income can still come in and you can hang out with smart, interested, dynamic students?  The original hypothesis that ending mandatory retirement would not change retirement patterns just seems so un-social scientific--where is the logic?  How was it tested?

I am not a big fan of mandatory retirement, but I am also keenly aware that having heaps of slots taken up by those who got their PhD's a half a century [oops, had decade here!] ago may not be that good of a thing.  There was a burst of talk in the late 90's, if I remember correctly, about post-tenure review.  This would involve some sort of effort to review professors on a regular basis to make sure they were still producing research and still teaching well.  What came of that?  Well, I am not sure, but what I saw in a few places were the establishment of in-house, staffed by department members, processes.  Just as police are lousy at policing themselves, having profs monitor other profs for being unproductive after tenure is a bit problematic.  They protect each other. We cannot entirely trust administrators to run such processes because they can game such efforts to cut costs. And, of course, there is legit concern that retirements mean tenure track slots disappear and are replace with adjuncts.

So, what is the solution?  I do worry about age discrimination, but I do wonder if we could put a clock on tenure.  That is--it expires after x number of years or at a certain age, and then one is not fired, but one has to earn renewed contracts.  The idea of going through another tenure-esque process in one's golden years is, of course, not terribly attractive.  Of course, this would not push out those who are still productive but also still occupying a slot that might be better occupied by someone educated after Watergate.  So, not a panacea, and with heaps of problems baked in.

Of course, I have strong preferences since, with one exception, the folks who caused the most trouble for me (either by standing against me or refusing to stand for standards) were those on the other side of 65/70.  So, take this post with a big grain of salt, of course.  But do contemplate the health of places where the future of the department is seen to be the folks over70.

I have vowed that I will get out at 70, if not before.  Which is still 5 years after ordinary retirement but was apparently the old mandatory retirement age.  Of course, if my funds continue to get hit hard by various shocks, I may find myself tempted to stick around.  If I do, please dig up this post and print it out and then hit me with it.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Most Ultimate APSA Scheduling Detail

ISA 2012 Ultimate
APSA-goers: the ultimate game will be Saturday, August 31st, at 10am in Grant Park (after the soccer game).  The park is in between the Chicago Hilton and Lake Michigan.  I don't know exactly on what softball field we will set up--depends on what else is going on.  Email me at for details on that day or just look for the shaggy, slower ultimate game (if there are any others out there at the same time).

No cleats, just bring two shirts--one dark and one light--and I will bring the cones and disks.  Oh, and you can bring the ice, Vitamin I(bruprofen) and the various braces to keep your body parts intact and so on.

Almost That Time of Year

When the calendar turns to August, many academics start to think "oh sh!te!  I have only a month (+/-) to finish what I can and get to work on prepping classes."  Yes, many of us still like to teach and enjoy our students, but summer is the time to get stuff done, and we usually find ourselves with too much on our "to do" list and not enough on our "done" list. 

I had hoped to finish a book this summer, but it is unlikely that I will complete the first draft (will be 1-2 chapters short).  I am feeling crunched because I have to write a grant app to kick of the semester (due in October) along with teaching a new course and prepping a new course for the winter term.  I keep thinking--after this next project, I will have some breathing room to finish those things that I am way late on.  But I find myself committing to the next thing already.

Anyhow, as we start to begin our end of the summer panic, new grad students are preparing to go off to their first year.  Matt Dickerson has come up with some excellent gift ideas for new graduate students, and I thought I would add to the list:

  • Any stats, figures, charts of the law profession, so that the new graduate student can at least take comfort in the path not taken.
  • A guide to the local restaurants that are cheap but filling--one cannot survive on the free food at the various talks alone.
  • A costume--hey, they are going to be too busy grading to come up with a decent Halloween costume.  
  • An internet blocker to keep the student away from stress-inducing rumor mills.
  • Those things that horses wear that block their vision--you want to keep the new grad student from dating other grad students, or else their career will be forever dominated by the dreaded "two-body problem."  Of course, one can still have that problem with non-academics....

Things not to send along:
  • Any books listing alternative careers.  Unless you want the person to quit.  I stayed in school in part because I had a lousy imagination of what I could do other than poli sci.
  • Any advertisements of luxury items, like nice clothing, great vacations, new cars.  Going to grad school is like taking a vow of poverty--do not tease the new grad student with all of the stuff they will not be able to buy.  However, do provide them with sweatpants and sweatshirts, as these are handy pretty much all the time (red ones served well for a Halloween costume as a red pepper.  Really).
Grad school actually does not have to be a miserable experience.  As long as you go someplace where all of the PhD students are funded, you are likely to find enough supportive folks in the cohort to enjoy the town, to engage in distractions from the work and to get help while preparing for comprehensive exams, dissertation defenses, job talks and whatever else that comes along.


For today's Sunday silliness, how about some Sudekis on soccer:

When Congress is Regress

The old joke that the opposite of Congress is progress.  Well, certainly Congress has been pretty abysmal the past few years. So, I did appreciate this cartoon quite a bit:
Brian MacFadden, NYT

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ironies of Harassment

This story, smack in the middle of the NYT website front page, has only one surprise--not that a philosopher would engage in sexual harassment but that he would actually pay for it.  I cannot say that political philosophers in the various places I have worked were more likely to engage in sexual harassment, but in a few stops along the way, the most notable offenders were such folks in the present or recent enough past.  The irony would be that those who spent heaps of time studying normative issues, like what is justice, would act so poorly.  But again, not that surprising.

Losing tenure?  That is a surprise.  The predators (and I don't use that word lightly) have tended to get away with it or just get a slap on their wrist (and that applies to non-philosophers as well).  Of course, this guy was stupid or arrogant enough to do two things: email the target of his harassment so that there was plenty of documentation (that is not so exceptional) and then blog about it to defend himself.  Apparently, he sucked at that, causing even allies to turn away from him.

I did not know the field of philosophy was so male-dominated.  One tends to think that the humanities are more gender balanced than the sciences but philosophy seems to be a hold-out, stuck in the 19th century?

Anyhow, the good news here is that the guy is paying heavily for his sins, which is about damn time.  To be clear, there is a lot less sexual harassment than the movies tend to portray.  Most professors are not sleeping with or trying to sleep with their graduate students or their undergraduate students.  Norms have changed from fifty years ago or whenever this was accepted behavior.  However, the few retrograde folks in the academic business tend not to be punished much and the punishments are usually invisible so it often looks like the offenders pay no price at all.  So, while I would prefer not to have the myth of predatory professors reinforced, having a clear case of a guy losing his job published in a very visible way can only be a good thing.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Belated Harry Potter Parody for the Birthday Boy

I have a late July birthday (much beer was consumed) but not as late as Harry Potter's and thanks to Jimmy Fallon and Simon Pegg, we have this:

Hoist one for The Chosen One!

Budget Crisis: So Let's Do Things More Expensively

Here is my CIC piece taking issue with the move towards having defence policy be industrial policy.  That is, buy Canadian when there are more efficient producers elsewhere.  Why not?  It is not as if there are limits on what we can spend, eh?  Oops.