Monday, December 28, 2015

The Year in Spew, 2015

Taking a look back at the past year has been a tradition here at the Semi-Spew as narcissism is in its/my DNA.  One of the benefits of blogging a pretty daily basis is that it serves as a decent record of my year and also somewhat the year in International Relations.  Anyhow, I hope you had a great year, and I hope your 2016 is even better.


A key theme of the month was basic misperceptions in how large various ethnic groups are in one's society.  This came up again in late 2015 as Americans, like the Europeans, dramatically overestimate how many Muslims there are in their societies, which then can help breed Islamophobia.  If there are so very few, we got less to fear, right?

I spent much time here and in the less social media talking about Canada's mission in Iraq as news came out that the Special Operations Forces were doing more than what had been advertised.  My basic assertion was that the government had tried to fudge what combat is and is not, and this created a credibility gap.  It could have also been a trap for the Liberals, given their incoherent stance on combat and ISIS.  As it turned out, not much of an issue in the campaign, but became a central focus point once Trudeau and the Liberals were elected.


There is sexism in Security Studies?  I am shocked!  Not. Sexism turned out to be a running theme I discussed over the year.  Yes, as Justin Trudeau said, "It is 2015," but as College Spew would insist, not enough, not fast enough.

ISA was in New Orleans this year, again overlapping with Mardi Gras.  It went well, including victories for the Online Media Caucus.

I had a quick trip to Berlin for a conference on NATO.  I talked much and learned a lot and did some more tourism.


I have to own up to bad predictions.  When the Chief of Defence Staff announced his forthcoming retirement, I predicted that the Navy would get the spot and that General Jon Vance would not.  Oops.

On the anniversary of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, I  argued that, um, not all IR scholars are apologists for Putin, just some of the louder ones.

I marked thirty years of ultimate!

I had the chance to participate in a workshop on social media at Carleton, so, of course, I storified it.

We went to our first professional hockey game--it only took us about 13 years in Canada.  All part of becoming Canadian in 2015.

Lots of discussion about Syria and Canada's extension of the mission to conduct air strikes there as well as Iraq.  As it turned out, not that many strikes in 2015, and the year ended with other western countries joining the US in this.  But at the time, Canada was one of the very few.


Twas not an April Fool's joke: we got the grant that will fund the big comparative project seeking to understand the role of legislatures in the civil-military relations of many of the world's democracies!

I found the vaunted Backfill snowflake that Rummy sent down to the Joint Staff way back when.

I got to go to Brussels for a Canada-Germany conference.  It was held next to the European Union buildings, which was new to me since I am a confirmed EU common defence policy skeptic.  The conference was very interesting, and I got to enjoy more of Brussels than my previous visits which kept me mostly on the outskirts where NATO hq is. And, yes, the beer was good.  I kept making a stink during the conference that NATO needs to do more to make a credible commitment to the Baltics.  I did squeeze in a visit to chat with some sharp, friendly folks at NATO.


The big story of the month was that a political science graduate student committed fraud in the biggest way imaginable.  I wrote several times about various dimensions, including the need to engage in oversight while co-authoring and advising, whistleblowing and Political Science Rumors, my experience with pathological liars

May was the end of my spring European tour--this time it was Amsterdam and the Hague. Much, much, much tourism along with interesting discussions about legislatures and foreign affairs/defense issues.


I got invited to talk about social media to the Bridging the Gap seminar in DC.  I stayed for some of the other sessions.  A terrific initiative and great networking for those who participate.

Mrs. Spew and I got to do some American history tourism after a relative occasion in New Jersey--we went to Ellis Island and Liberty Island

One of the big highlights of the year was going to the Women's World Cup game in Ottawa between China and USA USA USA!!!  My niece was able to come up for the event since my daughter was too busy interning to use her ticket.


I wrote a post on sexism in political science that become the post of the year in terms of hits, and it forced me to think a bit about what we can do to improve stuff, more than just recognize the reality of its existence.

The big IR news of the month was the Iran deal so I wrote about it a few times.

Spent much of the month cramming for and then taking the Canadian citizenship test.  Many fun realizations along the way, but my cockiness about hockey nearly cost me a perfect score.  I guess we timed our first real downtown Ottawa Canada Day celebration well.

Freaked people out by shaving my beard off.  Didn't last long but I looked younger for this birthday than most of the past 20 or so.


We had a great vacation on the CapePlentiful whales were watched.

I never thought I would be making a name for myself as an advocate for online media academic freedom, but it keeps coming up.

I figured out the Iron Laws of University life.

The Canadian election campaign began in earnest, and I ended up getting far more engaged than in any previous election.  I wrote about deficit spending and dumb politics around it, the need for the public servants to dive, dip, duck, dodge and dive,

I also started writing more about the US election, especially the GOP shitshow: " would not bet against him sticking around for a while longer--we love a good train wreck and we love a good circus.  Right now, we are getting both."


Islamophobia has become a theme of the Spew this fall.  The focus was first on the Canadian election but then the American one, or vice versa.

The Canadian election continued to get my attention, especially the foreign policy debate. I ended up writing defence platforms for each party since they were slow to provide their own (if any).


I was pretty thrilled to win an award for mentoring other faculty at Carleton.  I don't think I do that much more than others, but I will take the research cash and the credit while I can.  It did prompt me to think about all those who mentored/advised me along the way, and it is a long list.

The Liberals won!  After a long (for Canada) and brutal (hey, let's scapegoat the Muslims) campaign, we got a pretty good outcome.

Mrs. Spew and I made it official--we are Canadians! I counted it down with an excess of posts.

We launched the latest Canada Among Nations volume, one that I co-edited.


I stopped by the 9/11 memorial on the way back from the Canada/NATO exercises in Portugal, and was most moved by the experience.

The NATO book keeps being useful as many folks were asking questions about NATO and Article V in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.  I explained here why NATO was not going to be so central, as there is no automaticity to ArtV.  

One of the most popular posts of the year was about how much rejection is inherent in the academic enterprise--I enumerated most (but perhaps not all) of the times I was rejected by journals/presses/funders/employers.

The rising Islamophobia in the US combined with the outbidding among the GOP candidates to be the most hateful/fearful caused me to post many times out of tremendous frustration.

People started asking me what the new Trudeau government is going to be doing, so I posted my best (yet ill informed) guesses.  Perhaps part of the reason people asked me is that they could no longer ask my friend, Roland Paris, as he is now the Senior International Adviser to Trudeau!  I genuinely believe that this represents excellent judgment by Trudeau as he will be relying on an international relations expert who has excellent judgment.  Probably means less of Roland at my poker games, but I am willing to take that hit for Team Canada.


Stephanie Carvin, a colleague at NPSIA, and I had a fun debate on a CBC radio program about the teaching of IR via the use of pop culture.  You can guess who was the pro side.

One of the highlights of the year was the new Canadian government pushing back against Islamophobia by visibly welcoming refugees.  It was both good policy and good politics.

Like most years, I ended it in the Washington, DC area as this is where my in-laws reside.  Another interesting, moving day walking in the heart of the capital with my daughter, this time focusing on the memorials of Jefferson, FDR, and MLK.

Overall, it has been a great year, with 2016 likely to be even more fun with lots of sabbatical/research travel to places I have never been before: Brazil, Japan, South Korea, etc.

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