Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Hearts, Ending Not Bad

I really enjoyed this final season of Breaking Bad.  I will be to re-watch the last episode to gain more confidence in my assessment of how it stuck the landing, but given the stakes, I really cannot complain much.  It was so much fun, so much suspense and tension even as the last episode largely served as one of the most predictable.  To beyond the break we go one last time:

Breaking Bad Semi Final Post

I have much to say about this show and how it stuck the landing.  But I am tired from driving back from New York and I have much work tomorrow, so I am just going to report on the game (even though one of the most competitive folks will not be watching until tomorrow).  I will post tomorrow at some point my thoughts about the episode and the series.  In terms of the best drama ever, the question that will be forever argued will be scope/ambition vs. consistency as The Wire had the former and Breaking Bad had the latter with a better final season.  But that is for another time.

Spoilers dwell below (and everywhere else):

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It Gets Better: Breaking Bad edition

The academic job market is heating up, and so the folks who are on the market are getting stressed out.  As it turns out, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have come a long way. H/T to Mrs Spew for finding this one:

Love Hurts, Breaking Bad Style

Spoilers but so very good, combining a summer song from my youth with BB:

Just a few hours left but glad to be home from the college tour number 2 so that I can get set for the last night of BB awesome-ness.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Breaking Principal, Agent Bad

With only one episode left of Breaking Bad, it is time to ask one of the most fundamental questions: is Walt a worse principal than he is an agent?  That is, he is bad at both, but where does he really fall short: as the one issuing the orders or the one taking them? 

In principal-agent theory, both sides can do stuff to screw things up.  Sure, it might be in the nature of agents to shirk or be opportunistic if not properly managed, but it is up to the principal to hire the right people, give just the right amount of discretion, engage in sufficient oversight and provide incentives. 

Walt has played both roles, as he was most clearly subordinate to Bogdan, the school district, Gus and even perhaps Tuco.  On the other hand, he also was a principal, serving as the boss of Jesse at various times as well as Badger and Skinny Pete.  And, of course, Todd and his friends/relatives.

So, let's ponder Walt as agent and then as principal.  As an agent, Walt constantly tried to evade oversight especially as he sought to do both more and less than his principal, especially Gus, wanted him to do.  This behavior ranged from  contacting Gus or trying to get another agent, Jesse, to work against Gus.  And, of course, the latter meant getting Jesse to kill Gale and then try to kill Gus.  Ultimately, Walt kills Gus, which makes him a really insubordinate agent, right?  He just couldn't stick to making meth, taking the money, and staying out of trouble.  Walt also violated the rules of the first employer we saw in the series--the high school.  He used its equipment to make meth and then, well, got creepy with his boss, so he got fired.  Anyhow, it is very clear that Walt epitomized the worst case scenario for the agent dangers of opportunism and shirking.

But Mr. White was not that swell at being a principal either.  In making his meth empire, he picked Jesse to be his primary agent, which was a mixed outcome given Jesse's addiction (to drugs) and distractions (his ladies).  Plus Jesse turned out to be the drug dealer with a heart of gold or something, so he didn't always want to do what Walt ordered.  More problematic were subsequent hires: Badger (who tried to sell meth to a cop) and Todd, who exceeded his discretion by shooting a kid.  Yes, over-enthusiasm can be a problem.  Oh, and Walt decided to hire Nazis to work for him, and they apparently do not take no for an answer.  Smooth move.  Sure, Walt hired Saul, who turned out to be an extraordinary agent, providing sage advice (even if Walt tended not to listen to Saul), doing what needed to be done, and ultimately sacrificing his own thriving practice.  Otherwise, Walt was not so good at agent selection. 
Walt also was bad at providing incentives to his agents.  Sure, he paid well, but he also constantly berated Jesse, making him feel inadequate.  Jesse would have been a fair more responsible and responsive agent had Walt treated him better, but that would have required way more patience and empathy than Walt was capable of.   At least Walt did not try to kill his agents unless he really, really had to.

So is Walt as Principal > or < than Walt as Agent?  Well, given that Walt as agent killed his boss and destroyed his agent's meth empire, I would have to go with Walt as agent < Walt as principal.  But he made it close.  Walt as bad human being made him bad in either capacity, of course.

Who was the best agent?  Mike, of course.  He followed orders and stayed within his boss's intent when granted the discretion to make decisions.  Gus didn't have to engage in intrusive oversight over Mike's behavior.  No, he had to use Mike to monitor Walt--this was expensive as Mike could have been used to deal with other problems, so the opportunity cost here was pretty significant. 

Who was the best principal?  Gus, of course.  He tried to be careful in hiring, reluctant about hiring Walt given his inherent unreliability, but hired Mike and others who were very good at staying within their lanes.  He tried to develop alternative agents (Gale, Jesse) so that he would not have to rely on an unreliable agent.  He used Mike as well as technology to oversee Walt--the camera in the lab to name the most obvious one. Gus provided excellent pay as an incentive, but also demonstrated with a box cutter how he would punish bad behavior. 

Is this too much over-thinking?  Of course, but it could be worse--I didn't even apply chapter two of Dave and Steve's new book  to the collective principal in the first part of the last season--the Mike-Jesse-Walt troika. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Robbies! NATO's Award Show!

Thanks to inspiration from a friend via twitter

plus the damage done by six hours of driving through New York to get to a college to visit for Teen Spew yesterday, I developed the question: What would a NATO Awards Show be like?  And, yes, the awards would be called the Robbies after Lord Robertson.

First, everyone would get an award because all members are equally specially except in ways that they are not.

Second, we would have to specify some clear caveats to start, such as:
  • NATO is the most effective, interoperable alliance even if it falls far short of what we would like it to be or do (I am a Churchillian and not a Bonapartist on this one).
  • This is going to be incomplete since I am writing it from the road.
  • I don't fight after midnight.  
  • Don't blame me for all of this: Stephanie Carvin had some wonderful ideas about categories.
Ok, let's proceed:
  • Most Useful Country ending in an "a"*: Estonia--for providing a proportionally significant contingent that took some significant hits in Afghanistan.  Surprising upset over Australia, which may have been hurt by not being a member of NATO.
  • Country Most Likely to Be Obsessed with Flags to Post (getting flag officers assigned to NATO billets):  France, always.
  • Country That Was Most Thankfully Eclipsed By Germany: Italy, which had as many or more restrictions on its forces than the Germans but Germany remained the poster child for caveat criticisms.
  • Most Excessive Enthusiasm for the Possibility that Paddy Ashdown is named grand poobah again for a NATO intervention: Great Britain, always Great Britain.
  • Most Likely to Provide Only token Contribution: Greece, which has one of the largest militaries in NATO yet sent around 15 troops to Afghanistan for much of the mission.
  • Most Likely to Break Silence to Block a NATO intiative: Greece and Turkey tie as always.
  • Country That Punched Most Over Its Weight: Denmark for both its contributions in Afghanistan and Libya
  • Country Most Likely to Leave a NATO Op Early: Canada.... because it not only withdrew from the combat mission in Afghanistan before most others but also it got to leave the Bosnian effort with the US when it was renamed a EU mission.  The Dutch feel ambivalent about losing this one.
  • Most Transparent Abuse of a UN Resolution to Produce Regime Change: While the entire alliance gets the Robby for this, France accepts the award since it was the most enthusiastic and first mover.
     I will take nominations for both new categories and for next year's potential winners.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

College Costs: US and Canada are on Different Planets

As I leave later today for the first foray into the US for college tours for my daughter, I saw this piece and it almost makes me weep.  University costs in Canada are really, really, really low.  Which I already knew, having scoffed at the Quebec students protesting their especially low tuition.  This article quickly sums up the basic reality in most of Canada: once you build in grants, scholarships and tax credits, the costs have gone down and not up for most folks:
Economists such as Carleton University professor Frances Woolley note that we’ve moved to this rebate system because everyone wins: well-off students with mediocre grades (who wouldn’t have gotten into university at all back when I went) are now effectively subsidizing the smart kids and the ones who need financial aid. This takes some of the burden off the government funding, and still allows universities to grow and admit more students every year.
This is quite un-Canadian since the folks here tend to hate means-testing, which often means that the poor subsidize the rich, essentially.  But here we have a nice progressive outcome.

Alas, I have grown up with the philosophy that my kid should go anywhere that she feels is best for her, and given the lack of liberal arts colleges in Canada, she very well may go south for college.  Which means heaps of dollars and hence my weeping.  Sure, the sticker price for American schools is not always what folks pay, but it is far closer to the real price for us unless there are scholarships for ex-pat Americans that we do not know of.  

The Canadian students should appreciate how good they have it, and the provincial governments should do their best not to screw up a good thing.  Watch them try.

Oh well, the adventure begins. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

We're The Tops.... in Dysfunction

Check out this map, where each state is labelled in the dysfunction they lead the nation:

Some very interesting surprises/ironies along the way:
  • Live free or die New Hampshire pays for its no income tax ways by piling on corporations! 
  • Colorado is for coke?  I would have thought pot would have filled the illegal narcotic need (oops, it is legal now).
  • Apparently, Utah is for porn.  Ok, not that big of a surprise.  
  • I grew up in the Arson state.... I guess I didn't get caught.
  • Minnesota leads in tornadoes?  Not Oklahoma?
  • Maine is the dumbest state?  I guess the power of Bowdoin and Colby is limited.
Ohio, home of my alma mater, is the nerdiest state not for the density of liberal arts colleges but by the high patronage of libraries.

Least surprising: a tie between Hawaii as most expensive, Mississippi for leading many categories in awful and Massachusetts for bad drivers.

Best one: New Mexico is "anti-social" but of course with Walter White and the Nazis running rampant, I would not be so sociable either.

How Not To Explain Twitter

This is not the way to explain twitter (slightly NSFW):

The Numbers Don't Lie: People Don't Like Numbers

Perhaps the first Monkey Cage post at the Washington Post presents some numbers that show that policy-makers tend not to like the higher tech kind of poli sci.  We knew this from previous TRIP reports and other studies, but still it is important to consider such stuff, especially given that quantitative work (in IR, anyway) is now about as prevalent as non-quant work.

One might be tempted to argue that we should stop or reduce quant work given that a key audience may not like it so much [originally had the key audience, but I was reminded by a friend that the job of IR scholars is mostly aimed at generating knowledge, not at providing policy guidance, although your mileage may vary].  My first reaction was to think about baseball.  The rise of statistics to evaluate players--as depicted semi-accurately in the Moneyball book, a bit less accurately in the move--was resisted by those in the game, but that did not mean that the numbers did not capture key dynamics, that knowing the results proved to be quite helpful to those who were willing to learn or hire people who understood them (thanks Ben Denison).

As someone who is far more comfortable with qualitiative work but has published some quant, I tend not to be as fearful of the rise of the (quant) machines as others but also see the point that the quant work has its limits.  In all things, I am a big fan of portolios and of diversity.  Just as professional baseball still relies on scouts to complement the numbers, the professionals in politics need both numbers and stories, quant and qual analyses.  After all, these politicians who do not like to read numbers sure as hell rely on them as they run for office via polling and market analyses.  Seems to me that they should keep on relying on numbers when they govern.

So, again, the answer is not to run against the latest in political science but find ways to make it digestible to both policy folks and general publics.  That this post appeared in the Monkey Cage as it starts its new life as part of the Washington Post is then especially appropriate.  The MC's aim is to do precisely that--take poli sci and present it in ways that publics and policy folks can get easily without mastering the methods behind the analyses.  I do think that policy folks also will have increasingly stats-literate folks working for them, just as baseball and basketball teams hired the whiz kids who never played professionally but provided much insights with their scientific study of the games.

We can continue to think of ways to improve our dissemination of the knowledge we create.  Sorry, the grant I am writing this month requires a knowledge mobilization plan so this jargon is inescapable right now.  But I don't mind thinking about such stuff--if I want public money (Canadian money in this case), I should and do accept the responsibility of trying to figure out how I will share my findings beyond the academy.  This responsibility does not shape the methods I choose to study the stuff, but it does mean I will take seriously how I plan to communicate what I learn.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

With Fans Like These

No spoilers

Bryan Cranston should just have a new series where he reads his old fan mail.

Unintentional Comedic Ranking of the Week

When a private company is hired to rank universities, you can guess that the results might just be entertaining....   Well, a friend forwarded me this story which has Texas Tech as the best university to be an employee.  Given that not only did I flee but most of the folks I worked with, this is strange news.  Have things gotten that much better since I left about eleven years ago?  Or perhaps all the disgruntled folks have left, leaving behind the super-satisfied to fill out this survey?

The department is no longer in receivership and the dean is no longer the dean.  She was such a big fan of receivership, she swapped the chairs of a couple of other departments.  She also nearly cost the school its accreditation by screwing up the paperwork apparently.  The misogynistic President was fired (only to be hired by a couple of other universities later on).  So, maybe the place has become nirvana.  Maybe the current guy has a high approval rating because expectations were so very low?

Here is the key quote in the story.

“The people there are very laid back. The campus is beautiful. The pay is competitive with other universities. You are free to do your own thing, just be ready at the deadline.” – Texas Tech Instructor (Lubbock, TX)

Um, ok.  The people are laid back?  That standards are low?  The campus is beautiful?  Well, it is nice enough when there are no duststorms blowing through.  Pay is competitive? Well, I did take a paycut to leave, but when I tell folks what my salary started at, they tend to be quite surprised and not in a good way. 

The key advantage I had at TTU was that I did have plenty of time: very short commute, the only students who came to my office hours were seeking to borrow a pen or a stapler or a phone. 

So, is this a great place to be an employee?  These days?  I have no idea.  Perhaps they talked to the staff and not the profs?  In any case, I sure hope the place is better, but I cannot see how TTU is number one on this list.  This ranking fails the "face validity" test.

Beer for the Win!

This infographic indicates that beer is good for creativity, coffee is good for execution.  Given that I drink the former and not much of the latter, I guess that explains why I am half-assed?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Look! A Non-Squirrel!

One of the biggest problems with Quebec's Charter of Values is that it is addressing a non-problem: accommodating the religious folks who feel obligated to wear various symbols and clothing is not causing anyone any real issues.  This letter by a head of company that not only employs Quebeckers but handles employment problems illustrates this quite well.
We hear it all – from day-to-day relationship challenges to workplace problems to real crises. What we don’t hear are questions or problems about religious or cultural issues. They literally do not make the list of employee concerns. Of the 75,000 calls we received from Quebeckers last year, the top three issues were personal relationships, personal stress and mental-health issues, consistent with our statistics from the rest of Canada. Our diverse work places are working, but the pace of life, and business, is changing. Canadians, including Quebeckers, are finding ways to work together harmoniously, notwithstanding their differences.
Rights should only be infringed when there is a real risk posed to the rights of others.  Lots of rights can come into conflict, but I don't think the need for the state to be neutral is so threatened by a small percentage (hey, we have no stats collected by QC government to make their case) that infringing on the rights of minorities makes sense.

Unless you think tyranny of the majority is a good idea.

Again, there is no problem here, and so the Charter of Values proposal is lousy distraction sauce--most folks see it for what it is--a non-solution to a non-problem because governance is too damned hard for the PQ.

Voting Rules and Perverse Outcomes: Understanding the Emmys

First, to be clear, I didn't watch much of the Emmys as my priority was, naturally and logically, watching the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad.

Second, I have no real knowledge of how the voting works for the Emmys.  This is all just ruthless speculation.

Third, I have not worked on voting rules in over a decade.

Fourth, I am just trying to avoid grading.

Ok, with those caveats out of the way, let me explain the importance of the "drunk frat brother" voter here.  When you have more than two candidates running for one spot and the winner is the one that gets a bare plurality of votes, then you can get strange outcomes, like Jesse the Body Ventura becoming Governor of Minnesota with 37% of the vote.  In many-sided elections, really small swings can matter a great deal, leading to outcomes where 2/3's of the electorate may have voted for someone other than the winner.  I saw that in Montreal, where a three sided race left the tarnished incumbent in power with just a bit more than one third of the vote with the majority of the city voting for two other candidates.

With the Emmys, I think what happens is that voters have to choose among five or six or even seven candidates, which means that someone could with just more than 20% of the vote, 17% of the vote or even 14%.....

So, what this means is that vote-splitting can lead to an unlikely outcome, such as Jeff Daniels winning Best Actor in a Drama when very few people consider that role to be deserving of an award, especially when Bryan Cranston is having an amazing run, where Jon Hamm still has not won for great performances, and so on.  This is probably one of the best examples of the least popular candidate winning because of votes being split among the more favored candidates, including Damian Lewis and Kevin Spacey as well.

The same could have occurred with Best Actress in a Drama but Claire Danes was viewed by most as the favored candidate.  To be clear, it is the best single episode since that is all that the voters have to watch, so Danes may not have been consistent (I don't know, haven't seen season two), but one could easily imagine her having the best episode.  I cannot say the same about Jeff Daniels having any episode better than the best that Cranston, Hamm, Lewis and Spacey delivered.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama?  Breaking Bad dudes split their votes, and other folks split between Peter Dinklage and Mandy Patinkin.  Bobby Cannavale might have been swell, but better than these other folks?  Again, no way.

Since we cannot have a series of runoff votes, the solution would be to have a system where people get to vote their preferences, and once their candidate is eliminated, their second preferences get added to the surviving candidates and so on until someone gets a majority.  Such electoral systems do exist (in Sri Lanka), so why not with the Emmys and Oscars?  Because it would require folks in Hollywood to think a bit more, I guess.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pentultimate Breaking Bad: The End is Nigh

Damn, damn, damn, that was an episode where little happened but managed to elevate heart rates across the land.  The game as it stands after the break

Pentultimate Preview: Breaking Bad is Almost Done Breaking

We have, alas, only two episodes left, so I thought I would review the current standings in the Breaking Bad game beyond the break:

Speaking of Satire: Guns

Once again, Brian McFadden brings the heat and light on a Sunday morning:

Sarcasm Can Be a Weapon

Rape in India is not a new problem, but it has gotten a lot of attention lately.  This video by Bollywood actresses is perhaps one of the most powerful uses of sarcasm I have ever seen. 

While the message is aimed at India, this message can and should be deployed pretty much everywhere else.  The only problem would be that some folks do not get sarcasm, but pretty hard to miss the message here.

See here for the story.   H/T to Christine Fair for posting it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Big Brother Problem

Dan Drezner has a very good post on the problems of credibility in the stuff being discussed about Syria these days.  The focus has been entirely on the credibility of the US following through on its threats, but these discussions, as Dan rightly notes, credible threats must not just be credible about using force if the other side does not give in but also NOT using force if the other side does concede. 

This is the Big Brother problem: that your big brother may promise to stop hitting you if you give him what he wants, but he just keeps hitting you since... he is your big brother.

One of the key problems of the axis of evil regime change obsession since around 1998 (when folks pressured Clinton to make regime change the US objective in Iraq) is that it makes little sense to bargain with the US if it is going to keep trying to overthrow you not matter what you do.  Forget Iraq, how about Libya?  Gaddafi gives up his stuff and tries to turn a new leaf (hanging out with big names in political science to prove his street cred!?), and the US seems to go along with it.  Until Gaddafi hits a bump in the road--the protesters he is seeking to squelch.  Then the US policy of preventing the loss of lives turns into regime change (for not entirely bad reasons since G's credibility on this was pretty lousy as well).  So, even the most cooperative of countries on weapons of mass destruction face the regime changing machine that is the US in the 21st century. 

So, why would Iran bargain with the US given the regime change mania?  Can the US accept yes as an answer, as in yes, we will make a deal over our WMD?  Perhaps the good news out of Syria's horrific civil war is that it might lead to some American restraint, which, in turn, might lead it to be a better bargaining partner.  This might not solve the Iranian nuclear weapons problem, but it is probably a necessary condition for any progress, right?

Implications of NATO Book for the Big Problems of the Future

Twitter is a wonderful place where folks can let us know of important developments, such as that some folks were confused--thinking that sharknado was really SharkNATO:

So, of course, the key question is this: how would a North Atlantic Treaty Organization behave if its  membership (at least at the North Atlantic Council) entirely consisted of sharks?  Holy caveats, Batman!  If ferocious, man/Tara Reid-eating sharks were the ones at the bargaining table, deciding whether to give consensus support to a NATO operation, I would be of two minds:
  • Sharks do not seem to be all that cooperative, compared to dolphins.  Multilateral cooperation might not be in their nature.
  • However, initiatives going through the North Atlantic Council only stop if one of the members "breaks silence" which means voicing their opposition to the proposed policy.  And sharks tend to be very, very silent.  However, the folks they bite tend to scream.  So, again I am confused.  
More research is required--I might have to change my current grant application to focus on this important question.

All I can say for sure is that my co-author must be very, very pleased that this picture came out just after I sent the proofs back to the publisher.  This means I cannot insert a SharkNATO footnote to join the Avengers footnote.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Great American Character Actor

I first enjoyed Jonathan Banks's acting in Wiseguy in the late 1980s.  I really enjoyed his time on Breaking Bad, so to see Banks do his take on fairy tales?  Delightful:

The best part?  The man's professionalism.  He complains that he is not giving the material the excellence it deserves.  The man rocks!  I am looking forward to seeing him on Community this year.

Rank Confusion

In Foreign Affairs, Peter Campbell (no, not that one) and Michael Desch argue that the competition for higher rankings among grad programs has perverse results (see Charli's thoughts here).  I would agree with that insofar as the rankings lead folks to obsess about rankings.  Whether the desire to be highly ranked actually causes people to engage in research differently I am not so sure.  Let me explain.

First, let me be confused.  I am not sure why IR is so different--why it is more oppressed than other subfields?  Sure, Americanists tend to dominate because they are more numerous, so their preferences and tendencies do matter.  In my first job, my book counted as essentially three articles, even though it seemed more than that because the Americanists didn't write books.  Also, in many places, the so-called top three journals are largely Americanist journals with a sprinkling of other stuff.  I get that.  Yet, Comparativists would also be oppressed, right?  Theorists, too....

Anyhow, the basic point they make is correct--all rankings are rank.  That is, any ranking is just a set of metrics that may not measure anything but when combined create a hierarchy that may or may not reflect how people think of the discipline.  Because, dare I say it, rankings/hierarchies in this business (and many others) are socially constructed.  The reputation of universities is not just about what the folks at them write and where they publish their stuff but how others view them.  The multiplicity of rankings (borrowing a current thread from twitter) means that none of them really have that much value. Especially once you invoke Wuffle's Law: that any re-ranking will improve the standing of the ranker's institution

The authors focus on the National Research Council's rankings, which provides a good bit of nostalgia for me, since I remember the one that came out in the early 1990s.  It led my institution at the time to ponder its ranking (90-something out of 110 or so PhD programs), and seek to change it.  Well, the chair at the time published a piece criticizing the rankings (helping me to come with Wuffle's Law in the process).  But besides one department meeting and some memos, it did not change what we were doing or how we did it.

Why not?  Because despite what the authors here assert, most scholars do not choose what they do or how they do it by how it shapes the ranking of their institutions.  Yes, some institutions carefully develop equations or formulas that tie merit pay/promotion to specific kinds of output, but for most of us, we are doing what we think is the right way to proceed.  Much of that is determined by socialization--what we were taught, what our friends value, what our mentors value, but much of it has to do with individual proclivities.  And that socialization is not so much about the understanding that there are rankings out there that devalue policy relevance, and more that there is a shared understanding that refereed stuff is more scholarly, more credible than that which is not refereed.  As far as I can tell, that is the big difference between the academic and policy pubs.  That and timeliness, which is somewhat related (causally that is, as refereeing takes time).

The funny thing about this piece is that it says that schools that don't play well in the rankings game are "left out in the cold" including Harvard's Kennedy School, SAIS, the policy schools at Georgetown and GW and the like.  Um, in whose world are these places not highly thought of?  Indeed, because of the lasting residue that is reputation, I am pretty sure that any undergrad asking nearly any IR prof, where should I go if I want to do policy, the aforementioned schools will ALWAYS be mentioned (unless you want to work in Canada, then come to my school---NPSIA).

I could go on and on about this, but I only have really two thoughts left and one is the same thought I had nearly twenty years ago when my Chair at the time hired a bunch of research assistants to collect the data to be doing the research he wanted to alter the rankings: isn't there a better contribution to knowledge that these RA's could be making than re-ranking the discipline?*

The second is this: these guys do have a point.  That we need to take policy relevance and public dissemination of our stuff more seriously, especially in a time where some folks in Congress are attacking our discipline.  I chose to do a CFR Fellowship (which is part of their ranking system, even if I was not on the list of folks to be ranked [insert sad face here]) because I wanted to learn how policy got made.  Ever since that experience, I have been more interested in communicating to and with policy-makers.  So far, my efforts to publish in policy oriented journals have not been very successful--it is hard to think/write differently.

But on the upside, the new social media do facilitate this exchange of views pretty well, even if such efforts do not show up in the rankings that Campbell and Desch develop.  Which, of course, means that I need to come up with a ranking that uses numbers of blogs, number of posts, number of tweets, number of twitter followers and how well one did in last year's twitterfightclub to come up with a new ranking.  Would that elevate my standing?  If so, that would just be an accident and not my fulfillment of Wuffle's Law.
*  To be clear, I am a participant in what can be called a navel-gazing project that uses heaps of RA's as well--the TRIP project out of William and Mary.  The difference in my mind is this: TRIP aims to understand the discipline for the sake of understanding the discipline--contributing to the sociology of the profession.  The Campbell and Desch project could be seen in that light, which would make the data gathering effort worthwhile.  But if the point is just to re-rank, then there are better uses of the money and students' time.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Examining the Intolerance Numbers

A friend tweeted thusly:
So, I decided to take a look at the slides, using my best French.... well, not hard since numbers are numbers, right, Hugo?

Before getting to them, one thing to keep in context: the way the ridings (districts) are drawn in Quebec, Montreal is under-represented.  Combine that with the "safe seats" where the Anglophones have local majorities on parts of the island of Montreal, it means that Montreal is almost entirely irrelevant for provincial campaigns.  For referenda, it is different, because then Montreal is a big hunk of votes.  And that leads to a real conflict between the short term and long term interests of the Parti Quebecois--the strategies to win elections to run the place compete pretty directly with the requirements to win an independence referendum.  So, embracing of the short term here suggests that the PQ has given up on independence.  

Anyhow, the latest polls suggest some interesting stuff.  First, the PQ is actually behind the Liberals by a smidge (p.4).  Not surprising given the PQ's performance but it also shows that the PQ has not gotten a bounce yet from the Charter debate.  Of course, it could if Harper gets too loud about it.  The other thing to note from this is, of course, that the PQ faces a two front war for the nationalist vote as the CAQ competes for the xenophobes just a bit (as the successor to the ADQ) and Quebec Solidaire claims to be more faithfully separatist.  Nationalism is a many splendored thing, and Quebec demonstrates that two threads of Quebec nationalism are a bit at  war--the separatism vs. the xenophobia.

Page 6 addresses the Charter of Quebec Values.  Turns out that it is not so rabidly popular, at least in this poll with a statistical tie between yes and no.  Francophones favor it but not decisively so--49%.  Funny that Allophones are less opposed than Anglophones, but Allophones refers to those whose first language is not English nor French.  They are a diverse lot, with some not so opposed to a fistful of secularity.  Montrealers are not so favorable, but also not so opposed.  This result is not quite the unanimity that is represented by the various municipal councils on the island.

Page 8 reveals that the PQ may not be that dumb after all: the Liberal voters are not fans, but those are largely lost to the PQ; the PQ voters are huge fans so the PQ is playing to the base; but most importantly the CAQ, the rival for the Francophone vote, is divided pretty evenly.  So, one could see this legislation to be aimed both at energizing the base (says something sad that this is the base of the PQ) and dividing a key competitor. 
The other slides address various nuances--such as whether there is a problem, who should be banned from wearing religious garb, etc.

From the standpoint of political science, this makes a heap of sense: when a homogeneous party faces a heterogeneous one, the temptation/logical thing to do is to outbid the heterogeneous one--promise to be the best defender of the group's interests.  This would weaken the heterogeneous one and strengthen the homogenous one.  Of course, it depends on the numbers involved, but with Quebec having large majorities of Francophones and a majorities of non-religious folks (people who do not wear large crosses, kippas, turbans, hijabs, etc), the PQ is just doing what makes sense for the party.... in the short term.

The problem is that in the long run that any vote on independence will lose because they need to have cross-over voters for that, and today's minorities are unlikely to do that tomorrow.  To be clear, the PQ does not have the Republican problem quite yet--the demographic trends are not as dangerous to the PQ's future chances in part because stances like this will continue to encourage immigrants to move to other parts of Canada.  See, xenophobia can work!