Saturday, January 31, 2015

Modest Proposal: Anti-Vax Edition

To continue my obsession du jour, I have a modest proposal: the federal government should legislate the creation of a database of all those who are vaccinated.  The law would also include/allow discrimination:
  1. Public schools would be required to exclude the un-vaccinated.
  2. Private schools and day care provides would be allowed to exclude the un-vaccinated.
  3. Airlines would be required to exclude the un-vaccinated.  Not sure about trains and buses--they don't have the same handy ticketing/database connections.
  4. Any other private actors would be allowed to exclude the un-vaccinated although access to the database might require some regulations/limitations.
Sure, some private schools might want to keep their doors open to potential plague carriers, but the creation of this law would most probably shift the burden in the litigation game.  That those who welcome the un-vaxxed would be legally liable if those who are legitimately unvaxxed--the very young, those with specific health conditions--get exposed.

Yes, there would be waivers for those have health conditions that make vaccination actually dangerous.  No, this probably would not lead to medical marijuana type access since most doctors probably feel more strongly about vaccinations than about marijuana AND one could also include legislation that allow folks to sue doctors who give out too many exemptions (details beyond my random speculation).

The idea would be that we would essentially quarantine those who are potential carriers.  Is this more or less draconian that what people considered last fall with the Ebola scare?  Probably less.  Especially given that it is pretty rational to vaccinate as I discussed earlier today.

The Narcissism of Anti-Vaxxers

Penn and Teller have a great video that demonstrates quite clearly that you are a lousy parent if you do not vaccinate.

Basically, one is gambling the kid's life (measles, etc) versus the chance of the kid getting autism from the shot (largely imaginary, but let's cede them a small percentage risk).  For the parent, the question is x chance of death for my kid vs y chance of my kid having autism.  How awful is autism that one is willing to prefer a small chance of death?  I don't have any autistic kids but I do have friends who do.  They seem to view autism as something less than a fate worse than death, so I would have to say I would prefer the small chance of autism to the small chance of death.

But there is something else, of course, to add to the mix, as we have seen at Disneyland: that choosing not to vaccinate your kids increases the risks to others that they will catch diseases such as measles.  Is the same true of autism?  If your kid is autistic, does that further the spread of autism?  Unlikely.  Sure, your kid could ultimately have kids, but I am pretty sure the math of contagion would mean that the chance of your kid causing autism to spread is much, much, much smaller than not being vaccinated has on the spread of preventable diseases.

The anti-vaxxers don't seem to care about anyone else but their child.  If other kids are vaccinated, good for the anti-vaxxed kid since it produces herd immunity.  If they don't, well, measles is not that bad, right? Um, wrong.

So, anti-vaxxers are bad at math, bad at risk assessment, and they don't really care about others.  Sure, they promote their flat earth type beliefs because it improves their self-esteem.  It is the height of destructive narcissism to argue that one is doing what is best for one's kid when it is so bad for everyone else.  Many of these anti-vaxxers are folks on the left who think that they are so wonderful and good to the planet in some many ways, but they are actually not.  They are bad people. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

ISA 2015 Scheduling

Save room on your schedules for some Ultimate:
I am hoping that there will be enough space and too few drunken folks on the playing field at Woldenberg Park at 10am on Saturday of ISA week.  It is just up the river (if you look at a map, it looks is up and to the right of the Hilton along the waterfront).  Bring a dark shirt and a light shirt.  Cleats are optional. I will bring the cones and the disks.

Hope to see you there.  

Proof that ISA and Ultimate go together!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Academic Conundrum: Bad Jerk or Worse Jerk?

Who is more annoying the insulting committee member who prolongs meetings because he likes to hear his own voice but happens to have an excellent record or the same kind of person with a lousy record of teaching and research?

On the one hand, the blowhard with a strong record is annoying because it is harder to object to them and everything they stand for--they are a success, having built a record of excellence.  And that can be really frustrating.  One can have much fun, taking apart the record of the talentless, unachieving blowhard.

On the other hand, the accomplished blowhard may actually have expertise which justifies their stances, that their comments might have value.  The entertainment value of the talentless hack may be marginal, and not overcome the annoyance that they bring to the table. 

Of course, whoever unnecessarily prolongs meetings more is obviously the worst.

Belichick's Horcruxes

Now we are on to something: where has Belichick stored the other pieces of soul?  I really should not speculate because I am, well, a fan of the Dark Coach's team and want them to be successful this weekend and beyond.

But I cannot help myself as a student of Defenses against the Dark Arts.  So, where are BB's horcruxes?  If he is at all like Lord Voldemort, he would place pieces of his soul in items that mean a great deal to him from his past.  So, my guesses are:
  • There would be one at a Annapolis somewhere since that is where his father coached football--a very formative experience.
  • There would be something that involves his time with Bill Parcells and the NY Giants.  Probably involving Lawrence Taylor--maybe his shoulder pads?
  • Something from BB's time in Cleveland.
  • His second Super Bowl ring--not his first or his most recent--that would be too obvious for a scheme-ster like BB.
  • The challenge flag he carries around in his sock during games--it is never that far from him.
  • No, none of his coaches, since he discards these much like Voldemort discarded Death-eaters.  One could have guessed ye olde offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, but BB would never put a piece of his soul in a person older than himself.  Kind of defeats the purpose.  Tom Brady?  Well, if Tom Brady is not cut after this season or next.  Yes, Brady is akin to Voldemort's snake.  But crafty BB might actually put a piece of his soul into .... Peyton Manning instead.  Why?  Because Manning is perhaps the smartest QB in the game, and that is one thing that BB values.  It might also weaken Manning, making him easier to control/defeat.  This would explain his recent performance.  Finally, making Manning a horcrux would not be what anyone would expect (well, except me). 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Unsolicited Advice: Empty Next Version

I saw this piece that contains advice from parents whose kids have left the house to parents who still have little kids in the house.  Of course, my first reaction is: hey, parents with little kids have no time to read this and no energy to follow this advice.  I remember how exhausting it was to have one little kid in the house.  Having more than one?  Oy.

Anyhow, some of it is good, some of it is impractical, some silly.

  • Record conversations with them about whether or not there is a Santa or God.  People worry enough about the surveillance state without us dragging out our phones/ipads/whatever recording device whenever a conversation with our kid(s) get interesting.
  • One hunk of advice is not advice--time is precious.  But the text beneath it is good--embrace the family vacation.  Once they get older, holidays and summers do get more complicated.
  • Get to know their friends. Sure.  We were inconsistent with that--we knew Kid Spew's friends far better than Teen Spew's. 
  • Have family dinners.  For some this is impractical.  For us, we did this nearly every day and our daughter managed to dominate the conversations somewhere along the way.  I forget when that started.  
  • Go to every play, sporting event, awards assembly you can.  Yep.  I missed a few along the way due to travel, but was there for most of this stuff.  Of course, this is easier when you don't enroll your kid in four or five activities at the same time.  Our kid tended to pursue one activity at a time and then drop it and move on.  Tiger parents we were not.
  • Listen from the front seat while chauffering around.  Hard to avoid if you have a talkative kid.  Sure, we ended up listening to podcasts the past few years, but they often provided us with more fodder for more talking.  If you don't get it by now, yes, we have a talkative family where I am often the quiet one.  Really.  No, really.
  • Keep the kids secrets.  Sure.
  • Help your kid figure out their strengths and interests.  Well, yeah.  Not sure why empty nesters have to tell anyone this.  
  • Same goes for be affectionate.  Of course.  Again, this is not the wisdom of empty nesters.
  • At the end of the year, sit down with your kid and write down their memories of the past year.  Sure, this is an annual thing you only have to do about 16 times or so.  But really?  Interrogate your kid on an annual basis?  Isn't this what Facebook is for--noting in your account what has been going on?  I sent out annual letters with our holiday cards that detailed the year in Kid/Teen Spew.  Sorry, by the way, as we missed this year's card due to work and flu.   This is the kind of thing that separates the ambitious parents from relaxed (lazy?) ones like myself.
  • Unplug when the kid talks to you.  "You can check email when the kid goes to bed." Some of us work out of the house and also use computers and other screens for much of our entertainment.  So, no on this one.  Yes, in terms of paying attention during meals and when the kid has a serious concern, but one can turn away from a screen temporarily without turning offf the machine.  
I am still trying to figure out this empty nesting.  The good news is that technology allows us to be connected without being intrusive via email, facebook, skype/facetime.  I certainly don't miss having to chauffeur the kid even as I miss having the kid in my car.   Things are definitely less interesting without Kid/Teen Spew around.  I get more sleep, but I am pretty sure I prefer less sleep and more kid time.  Just not the less sleep we got when she was zero to five.  That was not so much fun. 

I would say that every year of parenting this kid was better than the previous one with this year being the first year that is not true.  Why? Because she ain't around anymore.  How could that be better than High School Senior Spew?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Canada and Success in Iraq

I was on CBC's The Current radio program today, and among three experts talking about Canada, Iraq, and what success might look like.  As I had to wake up early for the taping, I had to scramble to think about success.  The answer: multiple audiences means multiple definitions of success.

In the short term, the standards are lower and clearer: stopping the expansion of ISIS in Iraq.  Check.  That is, the bombing campaign, enabled by CANSOF (Canadian Special Operations Forces) and perhaps others, has helped the troops on the ground (Kurdish and Iraqi forces) to hold the line against ISIS.  Given that ISIS's key narrative was about the inevitability of its momentum, just stopping ISIS's expansion is important and not just for protecting those who had not fallen in the hands of the truly bad guys.
Also, short term success: Canada once again showing that it is a reliable ally to the US and the other advanced democracies.  Given how short term American political memory is, Canada has to keep showing up rather than just pointing to the time in Kandahar.

Two other key measures of success for Canadian politicians looking more at the home crowd: no casualties (successful so far) and no discordant messaging from the field (successful until last week, now quite the failure).  As long as the costs of the mission are measured in dollars, it is hard to see it resonate that much domestically.  Unless the government looks like a bunch of liars.  In the past week, I have blogged much about the mismanaged messaging.  Trying to say that there would be no combat by Canadian ground forces has been a mistake, given that SOF doing advising and assisting will do stuff that looks like fighting to most observers.  Again, the line should have been drawn between conventional military operations and SOF mentoring, which could involve painting targets for the air campaign.

Long term?  That depends on politics in Baghdad over which Canada has no influence.  If Canada's aid on/near the front lines gives the Iraqis the breathing space to develop political deals that allow the Sunnis and Shia to live together in relative peace, then there would be long term success.  But, to be clear, the US had limited leverage on the Shia to be inclusive with the Sunnis when the US had 100k troops in Iraq, so it really is about the domestic stuff there over which the outsiders have minimal influence. 

One of the speakers focused on the UN.  I snorted.  Why?  Because the UN cannot get the Sunnis and Shia to come to an agreement.  Because who would provide the peacekeepers in Iraq?  Because the example of Bosnia is actually a lousy example of peace keeping/enforcing--that it was the US and NATO that ended the Bosnian war, not the UN which probably prolonged it

One of the things I have been consistently pushing lately is humility--that outsiders have had limited success in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.  Canadians have to be particularly humble given that it has a relatively small military and it makes relatively small commitments.  Again, if the US cannot get the Shia and Sunnis together, it is silly to expect Canada to bring them together.

Anyhow, it was an interesting conversation, one that will be continuing as Canada continues to try to figure out what it can do in the Mideast and elsewhere.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Will Deflation-Gate Replace Squirrel?

The folks here at Spew Industries are trying to assess whether to develop a new flavor of Distraction Sauce.  Our current product does really well in today's market place, as squirrel seems to be a popular flavor.  However, tastes do change quickly and it appears that a new form of distraction may gain in popularity:
Brian McFadden, NYT
The challenge for us is what does a deflating football taste like?  We know what squirrel tastes like, as we fried up a few and presented them to focus groups.  But I am pretty sure that we cannot get our testers to eat slices of fried deflated football.  Hmmm.   Plus, is this is just a fad?  Is the popularity of this taste as fleeting as ... the Indianapolis Colts' chances were in the game last week, regardless of the balls being used?  

For now, we will keep selling our Distraction Sauce with its squirrel flavor.  We were wise not to buy into the Benghazi spices that some folks were recommending to us.  Still, we will keep an eye open for popular distractions.

Ethnic Security DIlemma in Retrospect

One of the regrets of my career is that I was developing the ethnic security dilemma concept the same time as Barry Posen, who published his in Survival in 1993.  As I prepared for my comprehensive exams in 1991 in IR and Comparative Politics, I focused on ethnic politics for the latter exam.  I wrote papers that developed the IR concept for ethnic politics, got nice comments from my profs, but moved on to the dissertation. I should have tried to publish the piece--I would have scooped Posen.

Why talk about it now?  Well, one lessons is that publishing good ideas in grad school might just help one's job market outcomes--I spent three years on the market and ended up in a less desirable spot.  If I had that pub, who knows?

More importantly, I have been forever frustrated since because Posen's view of the ESD is a pretty military one--that it is all about translating the security dilemma to the civil war battlefield.  So, he ends up arguing that intermixing provides temptations to pre-empt, which leads to group competition which leads to spirals and violence.  The policy implication of this is to separate groups--partition or something short of it, so that groups are not tempted.  The problem is that groups that are quite concentrated, that are not intermixed, are not deterred by their vulnerability.  Highly intermixed groups have to worry and may be deterred by their vulnerability.  Indeed, in many of the classic ESD cases, outside actors have to be brought in to trigger the violence (see John Mueller's stuff). 

My view of the ESD was a political one--that competition was not for terrain and neighborhoods but for control of the government.  Why? The greatest threat to any group is the coercive apparatus of the state.  Genocide is committed mostly by governments who have most, if not a monopoly, of the means of coercion. 

Why am I thinking about this today?  I am preparing for my Contemporary International Security class, which meets tomorrow.  One reading focuses on the surge in Iraq and seeks to explain what caused the decline (temporary as it clearly now is) of violence.  Four arguments are in play: that the US surge worked on its own, that the Anbar Awakening (Sunnis turning against extremists in their own group) worked on its own, synergy between the two (the authors' argument), that violence declined because the ethnic security dilemma was resolved via ethnic cleansing. 

That is, no more ethnic insecurity due to intermixing as violence was aimed at creating homogeneous neighborhoods.  The article does a great job of showing that violence was not related to intermixing, that the creation of homogeneity did not lead to less violence but to changes where violence occurred.  That the homogeneous neighborhoods served as bases for aggressive actions, not for defensive ones. 

Anyhow, I am always glad to see some evidence that I might have been right long ago.  And, yes, I did publish pieces of my view of the ESD in various spots along the way, but it was a bit late to influence how others view it.  So, the more popular version continues to shape how people think about ethnic conflict.  Which proves the old academic saying: if you snooze, you lose.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Credibility Gap Opens

I want to be clear--I don't think it is wrong for the Canadian SOF to help with targeting and other advising/assisting stuff that gets them closer to the front lines.  If you want to engage in a bombing campaign, it is better to have accurate bombing than not.

BUT this government has done its best/worst to be manage the messaging and create more confusion than there needs to be.  The latest is a statement by the CDS to make it appear that he was not lying on October 19th:

“I understand that there may be some questions about my comments on Oct. 19th about the nature of activities being undertaken by Canada’s Special Operations Forces in Iraq. To be clear, the situation on the ground has evolved since I offered those remarks, and we have increased our assistance with respect to targeting air strikes in direct correlation with an increased threat encountered by the ISF. 

“Our SOF Personnel are not seeking to directly engage the enemy, but we are providing assistance to forces that are in combat. The activities of Canada’s Special Operations Forces in Iraq, as described by Generals Vance and Rouleau on January 19th, are entirely consistent with the advise and assist mandate given to the Canadian Armed Forces by the government. You should be justifiably proud of your men and women in uniform.”

I call B.S. on this.  Why? Because I have some decent sources that say that the CAN SOF were tagging targets--acting as forward air controllers--before October 19th... as in when the mission started.  Indeed, the Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson says that the SOF guys never had any limits on what they could do.  So, which is it?  No activities near the line, no tagging or no limits?  I would bet on the latter.

The problem is that this government created a false impression in September when it was talking about the mission. It should have said something about how this mission was not going involve the SOF engaged in offensive operations on their own, which would have allowed for facilitating the offensive/defensive ops of the Kurds/Iraqis.  But the urge to say no boots on the ground doing combat made the government say something that was unlikely to be true--that the SOF were not involved in combat. 

This is not mission creep as Roland Paris would argue, but deceptive government messaging.  If the govt slid into combat, then it would be mission creep.  But that is not what happened, aside from one firefight.  But this is also not akin to what the CF did in Bosnia or other peacekeeping missions, as the CF did not tag targets for someone else in those efforts (as far as we know). 

So, we have much muddled/confusing/conflicting tales being told now that just undermine the credibility of the government and the Canadian Forces.  More transparency at the start would have largely avoided this. 

I will post tomorrow on combat vs. whatever, boots on the ground vs sneakers and all that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tag, You're It

The debate of the past 48 hours about what the Canadian Special Operations Forces [CANSOF] are doing in Iraq is partially repeating the confusions of September.  The CANSOF were sent to advise and assist the Iraqis (seems to be primarily the Kurds).  Canada then sent planes--to drop bombs, to refuel their planes and others and to do reconnaissance.  While the two opposition parties opposed the deployment, they cannot do much both because they do not have enough votes and because the Canadian Parliament does not have authority to do anything--tis all the prerogative of the Crown (thanks, Phil!).

Anyhow, the reality is that Canada is engaged in bombing targets in Iraq along with its allies.  To engage in accurate bombing of moving targets, having someone on the ground "tag" the targets via a laser designator is pretty much required in the 21st century.  Especially if you want to minimize mistakes--hitting civilians.  Indeed, the most controversial bombing in Afghanistan was where the Germans claimed to have eyes on the target but did not, which led to more than a hundred civilians being killed. 

Alas, we are stuck in a definitional mess about what is combat and what is not combat.  But the larger issue is that if we want the CF-18s to do their job, we need to rely on folks on the ground to help out in the targeting.  Outsiders can train the Iraqis to do this, but it is not an instant, easy lesson apparently.  So who gets to do the tagging? As it turns out, Canada does (and maybe the British and Aussies, so far the Americans are saying they are not doing it).

This does mean more risk than just hanging out far behind the lines, which means a firefight that happened last week.  But that is why SOF are sent, rather than conventional forces--they are better trained, better equipped and more experienced (hence the Special).  This means you can offset or mitigate the risks--there are more risks but you are sending the best folks who can operate in ways that reduce the risks (the Canadian snipers that seemed to end the firefight pretty quickly from what the reports suggest).

The key is this: sending CF-18s meant that Canada was doing combat.  It wants to avoid sending larger numbers of troops to do ground combat--that this is not Kandahar.  But there are boots on the ground doing stuff very related to combat--designating targets, advising at the front.  These books are worn by SOF, so the risks are less and we don't think of them as boots on the ground.  The government is trying to have it both ways--that there is no ground combat but Canada is engaged in a kinetic air campaign.  That creates the muddled confusion. 

To be clear, I am fine with Canadian SOF enabling the air campaign (aha, the army guys are enablers!), as the Iraqis are not yet ready to do that work apparently.  I would rather have the CF-18s  (and our allies) hit the targets than miss--both to be more effective and produce fewer civilian casualties.  I am not fine with the idea that Canadians should avoid the front entirely, as this would put real limits on the ability to advise and assist those who are facing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. 

The line should have been drawn not between ground combat and no ground combat but between combat and conventional offensive military operations.  But too late for the government to undo their rhetoric of the fall.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mission Confusion

Today, we got a clearer idea of what Canada is doing in Iraq and so we are now more confused.  How could clarity provide confusion?  Let me explain by focusing on what we learned today.
  1. We learned that Canadian Special Operations Forces engaged in a firefight with ISIS.
  2. We learned that CANSOF are near/on the front lines about 20% of the time, as they assist the Kurds/Iraqis.
  3. We learned that CANSOF are using laser-designators to help the planes drop their bombs accurately on targets (GPS bombs are, in my amateur understanding, good at fixed targets, but moving targets are best hit when spotlighted by laser-designators--some knowledgeable Air Force types can tell me if I am wrong on that).  
  4. That the CF and CANSOF were incredibly transparent today.  Which is really, really interesting (see below).
Canadians seem to be confused because they were told by their government that there would be no combat operations.  The government seemed to indicate that the CANSOF mission to advise and assist and train the Iraqis would not involve stuff on the front line.

I had a long day so I have not had the chance to check my old posts, but I think I raised the question of what "Assisting" meant.  Anyhow, Roland Paris, amongst others, is calling this mission creep.  I have many problems with that term, but given that this seems to be the mission all along the way, the mission did not creep--it was just not what people thought it was.

One of the problems in today's discussion of deployments is boots on the ground vs. no boots on the ground--with a key exception--that SOF don't count as boots on the ground.  That the Special Operators wear flip flops or sneakers or float on hoverboards, but do not count as troops in popular discussion of deployments.  We have known since September that Canada had SOF in Iraq.  Assisting.  Well, what kind of assistance is most useful when the other side is on the offensive?  If you have 60 SOF or so, perhaps the most useful would be serving as forward air controllers to facilitate the air campaign.  And that seems to have been the case. 

What happened last week was not a combat operation in the sense that Canadian Forces did not plan an attack but got attacked and responded with force.  Which is fine and to be expected.  But this is effort is not so similar to the combat Canada experienced during the blue helmet days of peacekeeping as the CANSOF were participating in combat--targeting the ISIS troops/assets on the ground so that the air campaign.  Is that combat?  Certainly.  Is it participating in ground combat ops?  Kind of.  I think that will be the government's fudge--that the Canadian Forces in Iraq on the ground are not engaged in offensive operations--that they did combat but not combat ops.  Which is slicing things finely and making them look silly. 

The really big news, in my opinion, is that the CANSOF folks were pretty transparent today, which the CF does usually but only rarely when it comes to Special Ops.  And now the government is in a bind.  Pretty much everything the officers said today at their press conference can be used to raise questions about the government's policies:  will the mission be extended? how much combat will the CANSOF folks experience? Did this exceed the mandate (even though the parliamentary vote was one of expressing support and not about approval [thanks, Phil])?  My guess is that the firefight forced the openness as it would get out that the Canadians did engage in combat.

For my televised take on this stuff, see this video as I was on CBC's Power and Politics today.

And, yes, my winter beard is awesome.

Hate and Heritage

Today is Martin Luther King Day.  It takes on a  bit more meaning in my house this year since we just saw Selma, which reminded us that MLK kept pushing and pushing when he knew his life was at stake. 

It led to a conversation with Frosh Spew--she said she had learned that the appearance of the Confederate battle flag on state flags in the South was not something that had been around since the Civil War but was a response to the Civil Rights Movement.  Yep.  So, the flag came to symbolize not the war and whatever heritage might be involved but opposition to Civil Rights. Which means it stands FOR segregation.  It stands for Voter Suppression.  It stands for ... White Supremacy.  

It is just that simple--that the timing of its re-emergence as a symbol means that the heritage that is bound up with the confederate battle flag is not brotherhood in battle in the Civil War or States' Rights but racism. 

Which is why I am appalled to find out today something that I did not know or had forgotten: that in some places in the South, MLK Day is also Robert E. Lee Day and Stonewall Jackson Day.  FFS!!!  It is perhaps the perfect way to diminish the day--combining MLK with those who fought to perpetuate slavery and White Supremacy. 

Whenever I discuss inequality and discrimination with my daughter (racial, gender, whatever), I tend to emphasize the progress, and she always sees and finds unacceptable anything short of equality.  She has tremendous impatience with the way the world is.  A tremendous passion for seeking change.  And, as a result, I have a hard time arguing with her.  Because she is right. 

As long as we have states continuing to lionize those that fought for inequality and politicians undermining the gains of MLK via Voterfraudfraud, we will need to be passionately impatient.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Updating Misperceived Ethnic Composition

I blogged last week about how universal the tendency is to overestimate the share of each non-majority ethnic group in a population.  Well, we have a more recent set of polls from the US case:

Same old, same old. 

Foreign Policy Prophet?

I am confused this morning.  Apparently, Mitt Romney is considering himself a foreign policy prophet since he argued in 2012 that Russia was the greatest threat to the US.  Um, no, Mitt.  Yes, Russia is damned inconvenient with its sham referendums and its irredentist efforts.  But I am pretty sure that Russia is not the greatest threat to the US nor did most of his other predictions come true.

However, I cannot help but think of another prophet and the parallels:
Yes, Professor Sybil Trelawney!  Who was wildly scorned for making dramatic predictions that had little to do with  reality.  Only twice did she make an accurate prophecy, and the first one was very much of the self-fulfilling kind (if Voldy had not acted as he did in reaction to the prophecy, the subsequent prediction would not have come true).  Oh, and her accurate predictions only came when she was essentially unconscious.

So, Mitt, foreign policy prophet?  Sure.  But in the manner of Trelawney and not Cassandra or Elijah.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Online Media Caucus, 2015 ISA Meeting

The effort to develop a caucus at the ISA dedicating to Online Media continues.  The proposed caucus will be considered at the Governing Council meeting on Tuesday of the ISA this year.  I have not received any signs that this will not go through.  Consequently, we are having our first business meeting on Saturday, February 21st, 12:30pm in the Hilton's Elmwood room.  The meeting will sketch out the plans for the next year and seek advice/feedback on future activities.

For your reference, the key documents for applying to be a new caucus are here: the justification and proposed charter. Also, the officers of the OMC for the first year are:
  • Chair: Steve Saideman, Carleton University
  • Vice Chair: Amanda Murdie, U of Missouri-Columbia
  • Officer: Christian Davenport, U of Michigan
  • Officer: Bruce Jentleson, Duke University
  • Office: Laura Seay, Colby University

Two other OMC-relevant events at the ISA (let me know if there are others) are:

Presidential Theme Panel - How Much Freedom In Too Much Choice? Reflections On Academic Freedom And Social Media
TC30 on Thursday, February 19th at 1:45, Hilton Grand Salon 7:
 This Round Table is an attempt to have a conversation around issues of academic freedom and the popular use of social media. University education is expected to uphold norms of democratic citizenship and freedom of expression is a critical aspect of it. Academics use the social media to communicate their ideas to a wider audience, to research and teach and most importantly to raise concerns about institutional practices and other matters of public concern. However, there are also concerns about how much freedom is enough or rather what kind of responsibilities underpin that freedom especially as social media provides opportunities of wider engagement and influencing public opinion. While taking cognizance of the legal guidelines about what can or cannot be revealed in the social media, institutions that fail to defend academic freedom, undermine democratic participation in times when it is most needed. The participants in this Round Table, drawing from their own experiences of being active social media users, reflect on the larger question about academic freedom and the possibilities and challenges in the world of social media.

The Duckies!  IR Blogging Awards and Reception, Sponsored by Sage and Duck of Minerva
Thursday, February 19th, at 7:30pm, Hilton Quarterdesk A&B Ballroom

Meet other folks interested in blogging, check out a few presentations and the awarding of Duckies to the best blogs of the year.

Tanking Epidemic

I was listening to the Grantland NFL Podcast today and was surprised as to how the two speakers, Robert Mays and Bill Barnwell, lost sight of something.  They were answering a question about the Carolina Panthers, who finished with a sub .500 record but made it into the playoffs and into the second round.  The question centered on the reality that by getting to the playoffs and winning the first game (against the much depleted Cardinals), the Panthers moved from 11th in the draft to 25th or so.  That is, this spring, they will be choosing their next batch of rookies further down and are, thus, less likely to get the best talent.

Mays basically said that losing that many places in the draft was costly, that the franchise would be better off missing the playoffs.  Why?  So, they might be better next year.  Well, what might that mean?  Getting into the playoffs and making it into the second round? Like they did this year?  Or maybe a better shot at the Super Bowl?  Maybe.  But isn't the point of any season of competition is to win as much as possible in that season? Don't the fans get their utility--their happiness, their self-esteem--by their team's success now? 

Yes, franchises always have to balance the present against the future, but only one team wins the Super Bowl and it is always unlikely to be your team.  Getting into the playoffs means that the team has done well and that the team has entered a lottery with fewer participants.  Isn't this the goal?

In basketball, we have epidemic tanking.  The 76ers are engaged in a multiyear effort to stockpile talent so that they might be competitive some day.  Fans have to tolerate years of not just losing but losing a lot.  Sports pundits criticize teams that are on the bubble, trying to get into the playoffs, as they would be better off losing more games so that they can get a better pick.  But isn't winning the goal?  Isn't getting into the playoffs something a team should aspire to?  Not every team can win the championship, and, in most years, only a handful of teams have an excellent chance.

Since sports are ... entertainment, shouldn't franchises aspire to do as well as possible?  If they are close to the playoffs, shouldn't they try to get into the playoffs so that their fans have more games to watch, more opportunities to root for their team, and the team might get lucky and make it further than it is supposed to?  In the NFL, wildcard teams have won the Super Bowl on a regular basis.  In basketball?  The lesser playoff teams don't make it as far (one game rounds vs best of seven...).

I get the larger, long-term strategies that these folks are espousing.  And if a team truly sucks, then tanking a bit more makes sense.  But if you are close to the playoffs, like the Panthers were, then go for it, try to win, and don't worry about losing one's place in the draft.  Instead, just try to draft smarter.  FFS.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Voterfraudfraud Is an Abomination

For much of the life of the Spew, a consistent topic has one that is largely out of my direct area of expertise: what I call voterfraudfraud.  These are the efforts to create barriers to voting based largely on myths of voter fraud.  I have been pretty passionate here and on twitter about #voterfraudfraud because voting as a right is so very basic to democracy.

I have always argued that the danger of suppressing the vote greatly outweighs the threat of voter fraud in the US.  And then I saw Selma tonight.  While its accuracy may not be perfect, it does a nice job of demonstrating the stakes and the risks and the costs of the effort to pass the Voting Rights Act.  In the movie, Martin Luther King makes quite clear how basic voting rights are--that one needed to be registered voter in order to serve on juries and that once Blacks gained the real right to vote, they were able to get rid of at least one racist Sheriff.

This movie came out 50 years after the Voting Rights Act and just a short time after a hunk of it was gutted by a blind Supreme Court that had the ignorance to believe that race was not much of an issue anymore.  So, its timing is quite apt indeed.  2014 was an awful year for race relations in the U.S.  I am hoping that we make some progress in 2015.  I would really like to see the last two years of the Obama Administration be spent using the Justice Department to fight against all efforts to suppress the votes of minorities, the poor and the young.  These folks are under-represented enough as it is.  Making some real progress here would be a fitting legacy for the first Black president. 

Voterfraudfraud efforts are an abomination in 21st century democracy. 

Harry Potter and the Tainted Chocolate

It is the choices we make, says Dumbledore.  Well, Warner Brothers, the company responsible for not just the movies by the merchandizing of the Harry Potter stuff, is apparently run by Potter-ites

The Harry Potter Alliance noted that the chocolate used in the various HP products (chocolate frogs, etc) was from places where children were engaged in slave labor.  Due to a lobbying effort by the HPA, Warner Brothers is changing its chocolate providers.  This entire story is news to me, but it seems like WB moved pretty quickly once they were lobbied, compared to the average corporation. 

Sure, they should have been avoiding such companies in their supply chain before now, but changing now is better than not. 

Very Professional!

Dan Drezner posted this interesting comparison today: both the US military and US universities are not so diverse politically.  The US military is right of center, professors are left of center.  As Dan correctly asserts, the key is not people's political orientations but their behavior (perhaps Dan is a Potter-ite).

Despite being mostly Conservative or Libertarian, the US military is obedient to its Commander-in-Chief.  As long as academics teach the stuff that they discover through research and not their political opinions, all is good.  Obviously, there are members of each profession that are unprofessional. 

My blog here and my twitter account are not always "professional" as I offer opinions that are sometimes but not always based on my research.  I have not researched Voter Fraud, for instance.  And I do trash politicians in my classes as I provide examples.  I try to be equal opportunity--criticizing Harper and Trudeau, Obama and Bush, etc--in my classes.  I am admittedly less careful than I was when I started.  Still, when a student asked me last week where I stood on the next election, I demurred.  If he cannot figure it out from my out of the classroom stuff (my posts here and on twitter), then that is his problem.  And if he cannot figure it out from what I say in the classroom, I am doing something right, I think.

I noted on twitter that during my year in the Pentagon, the phrase "Very professional" was viewed as a compliment, even if sometimes in a joking way.  That the military takes itself very seriously as a profession.  Academics don't use the same lingo, but mostly have the same outlet.  "Hey, great research design" is essentially the same thing as "very professional."  Of course, there is more open conflict in academia what counts as good research, but there is also some debate among uniformed folks about what is good leadership.

I would prefer for both worlds to be more politically diverse, as I think we do better when we have more ideas in play.  But we need to look at the behavior of folks--the choices they make--rather than their political preferences to see if the lack of diversity in political outlooks is really problematic or just mildly so.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Reading Assignment for Canadian Defence Fans

Today, those of us who follow Canadian defence issues have a new reading assignment.  It is another batch of informed reason from Dave Perry, with a wonderful rollout by the CDAI folks and the McDonald-Laurier Institute with stories in the news.

I have not read it yet but will so soon. The highlights as presented in the media include:
  • a series of governments has gutted procurement expertise, 
  • this has meant slower and dysfunctional procurement, 
  • asking people to do much more with less staff is broken,  (see my post on dismissing what govt workers do)
  • the Canada First Defence Strategy is dead (again). 
I may have reactions later today when I get to the document.  It is already clear that this should be assigned reading for the government, but that would require having enough staff so that people can actually read stuff.

Here is my research assignment for anyone/everyone:
All democracies seem to have trouble with defence procurement.  Does Canada do it worse?  Are there are common problems or is every democracy a snowflake with its own uniquely messed up procurement processes?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Best Reason to be on Twitter

Why should folks be in on twitter? So you can watch Fox get a heavy dose of well deserved snark.

My fave example today:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cartoonist Reacting to Cartoon Controversy

I am a big fan of the NYT's Brian McFadden and his Sunday comics.  So, of course, I have to post his reaction to the events of the last week that are central to his enterprise--satire via comics:

Notable, of course, is what is excluded: violence.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Clash of Civ Re-Redux

The attacks in Paris yesterday and today have people citing Clash of Civilizations again.  I have repeatedly posted here my take, so instead, I will just put up a few of my tweets from earlier today:

Anyhow, that is my rant du jour.  I am sure I will rant again because, as the third tweet suggests, this crap-tastic idea is not going away anytime soon.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Over-Estimating Minorities and Xenophobia

I saw this on twitter this evening
And it reminded me of this slide I used to use for American Public Policy, a course I taught way back in the day at Texas Tech:

The figure, using data from some article lost to the ages, demonstrates that pretty much every ethnic group over-estimates the "Other" except for the largest group.  In the slide, everyone underestimated the population of whites in America in the late 90s.  But everyone's perceptions of Blacks was double the actual number; perceptions of Hispanics varied widely but ranged from 50% to 100% more than the reality; and perceptions of Asians (with the exception of Whites) tended to triple the real number.

So, when I saw the graphic that Saunders tweeted, my focus was on the ratio between the real population of Muslims in European countries and the perception, with the ratios varying from 1:3 to 1:8 (Spain) to 1 to 70 (Hungary).  Not surprising--people, via confirmation bias I suppose, tend to notice that which is different far more than that which is the same.  So, minorities stand out and majorities get under-estimated.

And, yes, these kinds of perceptions both generate and are generated by xenophobia.  It would be interesting to see if tolerance/acceptance of groups is correlated or not with how dramatically over-represented they are in the perceptions of the population.  I am not surprised, for instance, that Hungary, one of the most homogeneous countries in Europe, has the most skewed ration between actual and perceived Muslim populations.

It is important to understand the real numbers, as fears of swamping generate or exacerbate xenophobia, and in pretty much every case, the populations of Muslims are so small that they are politically powerless.  Instead, what we have are perceptions that will feed Islamophobia.  And that is a far greater threat, as alienating Muslims is probably the worst way to avoid subsequent radicalization.

Sports Fans Can Be As Silly as Me

I would never do this for a sports team ... but I wish I had the mad skilz to do something like this: A-Team + San Antonio Spurs =

Twitter Danger Du Jour

What a wonderfully deceptive title!  No, twitter is not dangerous, but it can be frustrating.  How so?

Well, if one enters a conversation and then tries to leave, one may find one's notifications filled up for days with people responding to the earliest part of the conversation.  I chimed in on a discussion about collective guilt yesterday in the aftermath of the attack in Paris, and then realized it was something I didn't want to talk about.  But the folks who read the first few messages keep replying to them so they keep popping up in my notification feed. 

This is not a huge problem as I can try to ignore these folks in my feed.  But I am easily distracted.  Will I learn from this not to chime in on a conversation unless I am in it for the long haul?  Absolutely not.  My tweeting is filtered but only slightly, so I don't think and re-think every twitter conversation as I am about to enter them.

For those with more restraint and patience, this may not be a problem.  For me, today, I am annoyed at myself.  Oh well.  A minor 21st century problem at best.

Fighting After the Whistle Blows

I have always had a fondness for the Battle of New Orleans.  Why?  First, the idea that the biggest American victory took place long after the peace treaty had been negotiated amuses me.  Second, I wrote a paper in either middle or high school on the battle. 

So, I was most pleased to see this video posted on twitter by Kelsey Atherton (

Lego plus music!

Happy 200th anniversary, Battle of New Orleans!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bring Out the Dead!

I guess I am easily annoyed these days, but when I saw this tweet, I could only Spew:

My immediate reaction:
* Which produced a twitter follower recommending this Carol Burnett song.
To be fair and accurate, there are all kinds of undead, not just zombies.  So, for guidance, perhaps we should consult the Liches, Wraiths, and Ghouls* from Republican Administrations past as we ponder the future of the United States.
*  It has been a long time so I barely remember the D&D categories of undead.  Liches might make the most sense here: "Unlike most other forms of undead creatures, the Lich retains all of the memories, personality, and abilities that it possessed in life — but it has a virtual eternity to hone its skills and inevitably becomes very powerful."  See here.  Sounds like Kissinger to me.
 I am pretty sure that Oliver North is available, so why not dig him up and ask him questions?  Where is Eliott Abrams?  Hey, if we need to dig up old GOP foreign policy folks, how about Scowcroft (same cohort as Kissinger but without the arrogance and far fewer war crimes)?

There are two problems with this proposed hearing:
  1. US world leadership?  This is likely to be bait for discussion about how the US is retrenching or pivoting or not leading enough.  How many wars must the US be fighting at one time to qualify for being "sufficiently engaged" and not "isolationist"?  Because I am pretty sure we are over whatever threshold that might be.  If it is not just about war, then how about the US being engaged in hard bargaining with Iran, reinforcing the allies near Russia, leading the sanctions on Russia, bargaining with China, and on and on.  One can take issue with Obama's foreign policies (and should), but any discussion of US leadership is likely to be asking for more... more.... um, more leadership.  Whatever.
  2. Kissinger?  Besides the fact that the man is OVER-RATED and always has been, what fresh perspective does he provide for 21st century international relations?  That we should play Russia and China off of each other like he did so long ago?  Got it.  What else?  

So, I ask my readers three questions today: which undead creature would you want to testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?  Which Republican would you prefer to wake up or dig up?  And what topic would you want the committee to examine?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Shuffle Up and Deal: Canadian Mil/Vets Edition

In October, I argued that hawks in Canada have a problem--the party that would seem to be their friend has been cutting various programs, harming the readiness of the Canadian Forces and undermining the services for the veterans.  Where could such folks go?  Could they find a party that might support their interests more?   My answer then: probably not.  That the Liberals would more likely pander to NDP voters than to Tory voters, so that it was unlikely that they would advocate for more defence spending. 

The good news for the Liberals is that the repeated coverage of poor stances on Veterans Affairs has provided an opening.  Harper turfed his Minister of Veterans Affairs, Julian Fantino, sending him to be Associate Minister of Defence, responsible for Arctic Security, information technology secuirty and foreign intelligence.  Am I reading too much into this to read it as Fantino being sent to equivalent of Nome, Alaska or Greenland?  That is where the US military sends folks who are out of favor (the best equivalent to the Hogan's Heroes threat of the "Russian Front").  Arctic Security is not just a metaphor for a distant area of responsibility (feels mighty close with the super-cold temps this week), but a failed portfolio--that the government's commitment to the Canada First Defence
Strategy and a focus on Arctic Sovereignty has produced exactly nada, nil, zilch, zero, zip.  Info tech security?  Only will be in the news if there is some kind of cyber security failure.  Foreign intel portfolio?  Sshhh!  Again, only in the news if something goes awry--a Canadian Snowden or Ames or something like that.

So, things are looking great for the Liberals, eh?  Well, this piece in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen suggests that the Liberals are going to aim at dis-affected hawks via these candidates with military experience.  The thing about this piece is it makes the Liberal attempt look kind of lame.  I have heaps of respect for Lt. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Leslie, but there is really nothing in the piece about what the Liberals might to run the military or veterans affairs better.  More money?  Where would that come from?  Cancel the F-35 and then do what?  The Liberal history of cancelling programs is chock full of glory?  Not so much.  The Liberals can claim that this government is starving the military (which it kind of is, even as it limits the real choices the military could make to ease the pain of the cuts), but the Liberals starved the military pretty well in its not so distant past.  And Trudeau's stances last fall on Iraq suggested that he needs to listen to Leslie and pals much more closely so that he does not step on himself. 

Still, firing one's ministers and sending them to the Russian front are a signal that Harper is concerned about that portfolio and seeking to fix it before the election season really heats up.  Will we see any better performance on Defence and Vets issues in the new year?  I doubt it, as again it would require making choices.  And there is no real need to do that since Harper knows that the hawks have limited choices indeed.

Monday, January 5, 2015

ISA Blogging Progress: Blogging is Not Special (Which is Good)

Last winter, the ISA executive committee proposed new rules for editors of ISA journals that would restrict their blogging.  This led to a pretty hostile reaction.  At the ISA meeting, the proposal was sent to committee. The committee has circulated its report and recommendations.

What do they recommend?  Basically, the recommendations:
  • suggest some language that would clarify that all ISA officers, including editors, would expected to be professional in their various endeavors.
  • indicate that expectations for blogging would be the same as the expectations for everything else ISA officers do.
  • that there would be no need for disclaimers on blogs since this would really mean that ISA officers would have to put disclaimers on everything they do.
Will this proposal pass at the Governing Council in February?  I expect so, since it largely reflects the tenor of the discussion last winter, and it is hard to see that a majority would emerge to revise these proposals.  I could be wrong.  And, no, I will not be in the room this time, as I am not a member of the Governing Council this year.  Instead, I will be outside the room, reading to be consulted and queried when they consider the proposal to form the Online Media Caucus.

Overall, I am pleased with this outcome.  I may have to re-read it a few times and talk to folks, but the basic idea--that we expect everyone to be professional and that blogging is essentially just another form of outreach--seems to be quite good indeed.

Teaching Security and American Foreign Policy

Today is the start of a new semester.  I, of course, screwed up my syllabi as an absent-minded professor is wont to do.  On my very first day of teaching at my very first real teaching job (visiting professor at UVM), I forgot to bring the syllabi to class.  Ok, I forgot to bring them to any of the classes on the first day.  Three times I made that mistake on that first day. 

This time?  I just confused which class is on which day, so I had to rearrange everything. 

Here they are: Contemporary International Security and American Foreign and Security Policy.  The former serves as a survey of the big problems facing the world and especially Canada.  It is for both the students at NPSIA studying international security and those who are doing a joint program, Infrastructure Protection and International Security, that brings together social scientists and engineers.  The issues change over time, but this syllabus is mostly a slightly revised version of last year's since last year was the first time I taught it.  It involves much stuff that is out of my area of expertise (such as cyber), which means I do not know that much but also means that I learn quite a bit.

The latter course is one that I used to teach as an undergraduate lecture, but is now a graduate seminar.  I have only taught it once since moving to Carleton, so I am still trying to figure this one out as well.  That's right, two courses that are probably still quite buggy.  Good thing I didn't overcommit this winter to various research and service stuff.  Oh, wait, I did. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wifi Entitlement

Free wifi might not be an entitlement, but any hotel that decides to block alternative sources of wifi is going to lose my business.  The good news is that the FCC might not let Marriott and its ilk do this.  The bad news is that I have little faith in regulators these days.

While I would like to have free wifi at airports (some do, some don't), I merely expect that the hotels have decent wifi for a minimal cost (around $10 per day).  It is pure profit, of course, not unlike the baggage fees that airlines charge these days.  But charging a ransom for using wifi during a conference?  No thanks.

Last year, I organized a panel on twitter for the ISA that took place in Toronto.  The Sheraton wanted to charge $75 per person for wifi in the conference rooms.  Because most of the participants were not Canadians and were roaming, they could not resort to using their cellphones to participate in the twitter conversation associated with the panel.  I had much sympathy for the audience and panelists since I am usually the one looking for low/reasonable wifi since I roam while I am in the US.

Charging extravagant fees for wifi is a sure way to alienate a clientele.  Providing free wifi is a great way to gain clientele.  Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds all have gained my loyalty since they are islands of free wifi while traveling in the US.  Hotels?  I may not go to hotels that offer free wifi, although I do seek higher status in my hotel loyalty program so that I can get free wifi.  I certainly will avoid hotels that charge too much, and will definitely avoid Marriott as long as they seek to block wifi.  We know they are not interested in consumer protection but in accumulating unearned profits.

I may not be entitled to free wifi, but hotels are not entitled to high fees for wifi either.  I will vote with my feet and my grant budgets.

I got this response from Marriott:
My response: I would believe them if they didn't charge exorbitant fees for wifi in their conference spaces.  So, no, I don't believe them.

2015 Predictions: Silliness Edition

Brian McFadden of the NYT has a fun view of 2015:
Ok, make that a relentlessly negative few.  I am not so sure about all of these predictions, especially at the bottom except I am very much not looking forward to the obsessive focus on Iowa and New Hampshire that comes with the approach of a Presidential election.

There are many broken things in the American election system, but the importance of these two states is among the most broken AND the most fixable.  All it takes is gumption for either/both parties to revise their schedule so that these two marginal states go back to where they belong--on the margins.  The role of money? The insistence by one party that mythical voter fraud should allow for disenfranchising the poor, the young and minorities (#voterfraudfraud)? The harshness of the process that may deter good candidates?  These are all hard, but temporarily pissing off two entitled states?  That is actually pretty easy.  But politicians would need to cooperate and not be gutless.  So, IA/NH will remain overly important.  So messed up.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Justified Binge-ing

Every year around this time, I binge on Justified, a TV show based on Elmore Leonard characters.  The acting, dialogue and all the rest is quite good.  It is not quite Breaking Bad/Mad Men/The Wire great, but it is a heap of fun.  I don't get FX on my Canadian satellite dish, so I have to wait until the previous season comes out on DVD, which, nicely enough, is right before Winterfest.  So, I get the disks as a gift and spend part of the holiday binge-ing on the season. 

I have just a few thoughts after the break:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

An Irresolute New Year

I have never been one for making heaps of resolutions.  Given that I have spent the past week hacking, wheezing and oozing, I am hoping that I got my annual illness (I tend not to get sick much) out of the way.  But hoping that I am health ain't much of a resolution.

I joked on twitter that I am resolved to self-promote less in 2015.  But that is not really a resolution as much as a realistic expectation.  I hit personal highs in self-promotion with the Dave and Steve book.  I visited many lands near and far, tweeted early and often, to get the word out on the book.  Since I don't have any books coming out in 2015 ...   Oops, I may have two or three.  The edited volume that is part of the Canada Among Nations series, which is the focus of my Dec/Jan; the new edition of For Kin or Country that is coming out in July; and perhaps the Canada and Afghanistan book that has been on hold while I have been working on other stuff.  Ok, 2015 will be chock full of self-promotion--just with three different projects rather than just one. 

I will be writing a bit less in 2015, at least as far as I can tell.  I will be in between books, as I will be starting up the next big project in the spring--researching the role of legislatures in civil-military relations.  That will require interviews, travel and interviews.  I will be writing far less frequently for, as they are changing their way of operating.  I will have occasional posts but nothing like a weekly column.  I hope to use that energy to write a bit more for Political Violence at a Glance and Duck of Minerva.  I don't expect any of my posts to get as much attention as a certain few did in early 2014.  I am Spewing at a slower rate here over the past year than in previous years.  I expect that pattern to continue--not quite writer bloc-ed or exhausted--but not quite as energized as in previous years.  Of course, most of my blogging is reactive--reacting to the news (thanks, Putin!), to what I see on twitter and in the blogs of others.  So, if I get agitated enough, my output might increase.

I guess if I had to be resolved to do anything this year it would be to read more.  I am far behind in my reading of academic stuff--what has been published in journals and books over the past few years.  Once I clear my desk of the backlog of letters of recommendation, reviews, and that Canada/Afghanistan book, I hope to read more.  I remember being admonished by my adviser at Oberlin when I thought that life as a prof would mean reading to my heart's content.  He suggested that there would be other stuff that would crowd out the reading.  He was most wise. 

One thing I do not have to resolve--staying up to date with the latest in fun tv and movies.  2015 promises to be an amazing year, and I will be keeping on top of that.  One of the handy things about having the kid away at college is that I no longer have to wait for a time that is convenient for her to see something.  So, I expect to see every big superhero/space movie pretty close to the release date.  And, of course, the countdown to Star Wars 7 is now under 365 days!

I had an excellent 2014 as there was much skiing that came along with book promotion.  I hope your 2015 is just as much fun as I had in 2014.

Oh, I just need to get my 2014 holiday cards....