Friday, September 30, 2016

Out of Sync

Just a heads up that I am going to be out of sync with North America for nearly all of October.  I am spending the month in Tokyo, thanks to the Social Sciences Research Council and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership for the Abe Fellowship. I will be studying Japan's civil-military relations with much help from Professor Takako Hikotani of the National Defense Academy, while hanging out at the Air Staff College of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force as a Visiting Fellow.

The focus will be on the role of the legislature in overseeing the Self-Defence Force. The timing is great as Prime Minister Abe (a different Abe from the Fellowship) has reinterpreted the clauses of the Constitution that limit what the SDF can do.  So, the question of legislative oversight is more important these days.  Since I will have far more time in Japan (October and then two weeks in January for follow ups and presentations) than we are doing in the rest of the targets of our research, I plan to get more out of this research than just one part of a chapter in the Dave and Phil and Steve project.  What that will be, I am not so sure yet.

Anyhow, being on the other side of the planet will mean that I will be out of sync with social media back home.  I will still tweet, but I will not be able to converse and engage as I usually do since I will be mostly asleep when my usual twitter pals are awake and vice versa.  Will I tweet less?  Probably.  I am posting this so that folks who are used to me engaging with them will understand why I am slow to respond. It will also be an interesting social science experiment--to see whether the radical change in time zone for a sustained period of time makes much of a difference.   It might exacerbate a bit my chronic FOMO.  On the other hand, this probably means that I will be somewhat detached from the election for a while.  A good thing.

Anyhow, I am posting this as I make my way to Toyko.  I am excited for the research (and tourism) ahead.  I will certainly be blogging about it.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fake Nazi or Real Nazi?

I have been reluctant to call Trump a fascist or a Nazi during this campaign.  Why?  For many reasons, but mostly because I was never really sure whether much of his braggadociousness was a put on or real.  That is, I was not sure whether he was just a con artist, using white supremacy and xenophobia to appeal to some voters, or whether he was a true believer.  Sure, I always thought he was a racist, given his long history of racism from housing discrimination to his statements about wanting Jews and not African-Americans to be his accountants to his more recent stuff, but Nazi?

Well, thanks to his own words, of course, I am now pretty sure that Trump is a Nazi.  How so?  He believes in eugenics--that some people are innately superior to others:

Of course, most of this video is him bragging about how smart he is. And, yes, we can contest that, but I think it makes a decent case for the continuities in Trump's behavior and history.  Is it worse to be a true believer than a con artist?  Actually, yes.  Because a con artist might not follow through once he achieves what he wants.  A true believer is something else entirely.

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose Trump already, but a candidate buying into the core tenets of Nazism is just so far beyond the pale that he needs to be criticized without pause, opposed with all energy, and defeated utterly.  Alas, the US is a polarized political system, so many Republicans will simply vote for their party's candidate regardless of how awful he is.  The good news is that Trump is self-destructive, lacking discipline and focus, despite being so "superior."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Favorite Post Debate Tweet, maybe

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Quick Debate Takeaways

Last night will probably be the only debate I watch completely and live since I will be on the other side of the world for the month of October.  There will be lots of hot and not so hot takes on this one, as Hillary Clinton did a mighty fine job of both demonstrating she is capable and Donnie is not.  So, I just want to point a few things that are likely to matter, besides her greater stamina:
  • Clinton got Trump to basically admit that he pays no taxes!
  • Clinton got Trump to admit that he stiffs those who work for him.
  • Clinton got Trump to basically admit he is a serial misogynist with the discussion of the former Miss Universe, which allowed him to offend women and Latinos. 
While debates may not move the needle that much, those are three significant punches that landed hard (I could not help but think of Rocky IV when Rocky cuts the Russian).   She appeared ready (dare she say it, prepared) to be President, Trump did not.  I will not go into the NATO discussion, having discussed it here, here, here, and here.  But Clinton's basic take--speaking to our allies, our word is good and that our allies joined us after we were attacked--was the right one.  Not too technical, just the right beats.  Indeed, the combo of Trump statements leads to the realization as someone tweeted that NATO members might underpay but they pay far more for US defense than Trump does with his zero tax payments.

Enjoy the October debates--I will either be sleeping or drinking heaps of sake.

Update:  I forgot this exchange:
Mrs. Clinton, seeking to portray Mr. Trump as an enemy of working people, said he had “rooted for the housing crisis” because of the financial opportunities it might afford him. “That’s called business, by the way,” he interjected.  from NYT summary  although the summary omits his admission that he does not pay taxes.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Plural of Profs

Yesterday, someone asked what a group of academics would be.  As in a murder of crows or a school of fish or whatever.  I came up with a few and ran a survey:

The survey results: 30% for Plethora, 20% for Profligacy, 23% A Den, 27% for A Plenitude

People suggested alternatives:
  • A Bore
  • A Committee
  • A Minyan
  • A Chatter
  • A Conference or Meeting
  • An Elmer of Phds (the problem with this is we spell it out rather than say phd or fudd).
  • A Squad
  • A Pain
  • A Shrewdness
  • A Tedium
  • A Cacophony
  • A Review
  • A Parliament
  • A Pontification
What to choose?  With the voting result so narrow and with so many alternatives, no result stands out.  If you think of the nouns for other collectives, none seem too negative.  As much as I like a Committee of Profs, that seems too generic.  Plus my basic preference would be for alliteration and something that is not unduly harsh.  Given that Parliaments can vary in terms of how much they do, how they operate, but have some of the qualities of the other suggested names, I think I will have to go with it: a Parliament of Professors!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Best Political Science Books for Military Historians

Tom Ricks asked me for a list of the best political science books for those interested in military history.  This is part of a long-running conversation we have had about the contributions made by political science.  To be clear, I don't see my assignment to be to find the best military history written by political scientists.  That is not what we really do.  The best military history is written by military historians--that is the joy of specialization/training/etc.  Military historians are likely to see the way political scientists use military history to be, um, icky.  Regardless of the methods political scientists use, the focus is almost always on generalizing rather than getting the specifics perfect.  That probably drives historians crazy.

Anyhow,  I see as my mission to be: find some of the best political science that puts into context and develops arguments about recurrent patterns that might interest  those who study/care about/read military history.

  1. How and why insurgents organize as they do and how their organizational development shape how they use violence--Jeremy Weinstein, Inside Rebellion.  For different but equally sharp approaches, see Paul Staniland, Networks of Rebellion and Fotini Christia's Alliance Formation in Civil Wars.
  2. Speaking of likely foes, there is a lot of work on terrorism, and I am hardly an expert, but I find the work on organizations, rather than individuals, to be far more compelling.  Jacob Shapiro's Terrorist Dilemma considers how terrorist organizations must deal with difficult tradeoffs between secrecy and controlling their members.  For a sharp book on individuals and what causes them to join such organizations, see Mia Bloom's Dying to Kill.
  3. How and why do weaker countries challenge stronger ones in non-military ways that still threaten much conflict, such as forced migration--Kelly Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration.  I love this book because it reminds us that weaker foes have imaginations that allow them to turn the strengths of more powerful countries (democratic norms) into leverage.  Or at least, the weaker states think they have leverage. 
  4. While folks may not buy the Democratic Peace (that democracies don't fight each other), the post-Cold War era has seen democracies fight mostly authoritarian regimes, so understanding why some of these countries can fight more effectively than others is probably important.  I have just started reading Caitlin Talmadge's Dictator's Army, and it is mighty good.  A related question is when do miltaries fall apart or remain coherent enough to keep up the fight.  Jasen Castillo's Endurance and War addresses this. 
  5. Coups are back in fashion, and while one can just go back and read Luttwak, a more social scientific approach that analyzes why coups happen rather than provide instructions, see Naunihal Singh's Seizing Power.
  6. Given all of this stuff going on the world, what shapes the intervention strategies that the U.S. chooses?  Elizabeth Saunders is an unusual political scientist as she focuses on Leaders at War.
  7. If you care about the armed forces, then you should care about civilian control of the military.  While Peter Feaver has written a lot on this, I think the key work is Armed Servants.  While it can be a bit intimidating with some formal modeling, one can get the gist from the rest of the book, which clarifies the basic questions about oversight.
  8. Technology plays such an important role in military history, so people interested in such stuff should be interested in the The Diffusion of Military Power by Michael Horowitz.
  9. One of the basic realities of war is that countries rarely fight alone--they have allies of some kind.  I know this area a bit better because I have actually researched and written on it, and the two best books of late (ahem, besides the one I co-authored) are by Sarah Kreps, Coalitions of Convenience, and Patricia Weitsman's Waging War.  They both deal with the tradeoffs of relying on alliances, coalitions of the willing or on no one else. 
This is an idiosyncratic list of books that I happen to like on topics that interest me.  There are many books and infinite articles on these and other topics.  These all contribute to our understanding of important dynamics involving violence within and mostly across international boundaries, using a variety of methods.  If you have suggestions of other books or topics that I ignored (hey, no ethnic conflict, Steve?), comment below and maybe I will do some reading while I sabbatical this year.

And, yes, this is a very American-centric list in terms of authors and presses and, of course, language.  The topics, however, are not so much.


Debate Hopes and Expectations

I will probably only be writing about the first debate because I will be in Japan for the others.  And, no, I will not sit in front a computer screen and watch videos of them.... ok, maybe I will.

Anyhow, what do I hope for, besides Clinton wiping the floor with Donnie's hair?
  • Despite being a person who studies foreign policy and international relations, I think I would prefer more discussion of domestic policies.  Why?  First, we have actually had a surprising abundance of discussion of foreign policy in the campaigns, crowding out discussions of how to fix social security and medicare, how to rebuild US infrastructure, regulation of banks, education, and on and on.  Second, Trump doesn't know much about things like facts and details, so this would be fun to watch him struggle. Third, and, most importantly, history/political science tells us that people care about/vote on domestic stuff--the things that they think affects them most directly.  
  • Here's where I get idealistic: I'd love it if the media used as a basis of comparison for Trump's performance not the low bar of his regular Trumpiness but the performance by past candidates, losing and winning.  That is, how about considering whether Trump performs better than Gore or Romney or Bush or McCain or Obama?  Does Trump perform as well or as poorly as candidates that were seen as qualified, whether they went on to win or lose the election?
  • Even less realistic, it would be great if the discussion afterwards discussed not just the horse race but the policy stances, fact checking them and analyzing their likely impact/meaning on/for voters.
What do I expect?
  • That Hillary Clinton will "win" the debate by having a greater mastery of the facts, having greater composure, and all the rest.
  • That the media will focus on a few key lines
  • That Trump will probably do better than the expectations his campaign has set, but probably will still fall short of the Dan Quayle standard and probably even the Sarah Palin standard.  
The stuff that I have read that has resonated the most with me (thanks to Michael Cohen [the the says who one but the one who writes for the Boston Globe], the Keeping It 1600 gang): that Trump has a pretty hard ceiling of support, so his performance here really does not matter that much.  That the pool of voters who are "gettable" are those who might vote for Clinton, Johnson, Stein or not at all, so Clinton has to show to them that she can be President, that she is not just a robot or presenting completely canned material.  I think she can do that, but as Obama showed in the first debate in 2012 and I showed at a few job talks, what one can do and what does do in these moments are often two different things.

To be clear, I am still confident that Clinton will win the election because the fundamentals are still fundamental: Trump is a detestable person, has a very poor team and weak organization, far less money, while Clinton is actually better than how she is perceived, has a very smart team and very sharp organization and far better surrogates.  Oh and Pence really doth suck.  One more thing: our October surprise might have come early--the Trump campaign might have worked with the Russians on messing with our election....  So, there's that.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Three Fictional Characters Exercise

The latest thing to spread on Facebook is to put three pictures of fictional characters that somehow describe you or that together help to explain one's character.  Or something like that, as it is not well explained. 

Here's what I chose:
Kevin Arnold from the Wonder Years
Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H

The Professor from Gilligan's Island
I think one is not supposed to explain the choices, but, hey, since when have I ever followed the rules?  One of my friends guessed that two of these characters never had sex, at least not on the show, and that was pretty close.  Damn.

Ok, Kevin Arnold since he was the youngest kid of the family with a few siblings, and FOMO (fear of missing out) from not being able to participate in their stuff was a key dynamic shaping me for the long run.  Also, Kevin got his heart broken on a regular basis when he was young.  Check.  He was not in any of the major groups, but seemed to be in the clique of the folks who were clique-less (at least, that is what I remember of the show).  Finally, he seemed to over-think just about everything, or at least his voice-over did. 

While Kevin Arnold was a character that kind of depicted the age I grew up (a bit early but close enough), Hawkeye Pierce was on a show that was on TV during my pre-teen and then teen years.  A smart aleck who thought he knew better than most/all?  Um, yeah.  Rebelled against authority much of the time?  Yes.  Likes to drink?  Well, I am not a cocktail fan as much as a beer fan, but sure.  The womanizing part?  Not so much.  Plus that whole war thing.

The Professor from Gilligan's Island?  Well, I had to find a prof and almost went with Professor Flitwick (I am not as brave or as resourceful or as rugged as Professor Jones, nor as smart as Professor Dumbledore, nor as lecherous as the profs in most movies.  I am not as creative as the Professor on GI, but lots of stuff I try seems pretty inventive until it doesn't work.  So, how about that?  Also, since I consumed so much bad TV growing up, this character helps cover that part of my personality.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Arguments about Voting on Deployments

Academics care a great deal about whether countries have votes on deployments of troops.  This month so do the opposition parties and the media in Canada.  Why?  A quick illustration:

Ok, that is perhaps a smidge unfair.  But all this talk of a vote about the deployment of Canadian troops for a peacekeeping mission is very premature.  First, we need to know what the mission or missions will be. Then, the opposition parties can try to oppose when perhaps they ought to try to criticize instead?

Ah yes, that distinction.  Mindless opposition to anything the government does is easy, but becomes too much like automatic gainsaying.  Thanks to Monty Python for explaining that to me when I was ten. The problem is that the Conservatives will use the same criticisms of the Liberals that the Liberals did of the Conservatives when they were in power.  This looks more like farce than a real attempt to hold the government to account. 

Of course, once there is a decision made by the government, there will probably be debate and possibly a vote but maybe not.  Will the government stick to the precedents set by the previous government?  Not sure.  If not, will that contradict what they said when they were in opposition?  Probably since then they were just reaching for the easiest cudgel to beat on the government.  Why?  Tis easier/more seductive to score points via the simplest of accusations (war criminal! waster of
 public funds!) rather than getting into the complexity of a policy that can't fit into a sound bite.

The questions I would like to ask are not so much about whether there will or will not be a vote, but why one mission (and not many) or why many (not one)?  Explain the choices and how they further Canadian interests.  Or more directly, what does Canada hope to achieve?  Not "we are back" or "peacekeeping is swell" but what is the objective, what is Canada's role in achieving the objective, why this place(s) and not some other, what are the risks, and what are the costs/benefits?

That might take more than 30 seconds.  Oops.

Misplaced Fear of Impact of Terrorism on Election

Since last spring, people kept saying that the two things they feared about Trump vs. Clinton is that either the email scandal might lead to an indictment or there might be a terrorist attack that would cause people to rally around Trump.  The first is no longer an issue (the email stuff is, but not an indictment), and the second has proven not be so problematic.  Why?

One of the consistent findings in the polls has been that most Americans (over 60%) consider Hillary Clinton be qualified.  Roughly the same percentage consider Trump to be unqualified.  Sure, it is astonishing that Trump can get this far and be this close yet be widely considered to be unqualified.  Indeed, how can people vote for him if they think he is unqualified?  Because of many things, including party identification and all that goes with it, but in part because the Trump voters who think he is unqualified either think he will have good advisers (um, have they seen his campaign team?) or that the system will mute his impact.

But when something like an Orlando or now bombs in NYC happen, it causes people to think a bit more about the qualification problem which then offsets the "rally around the xenophobe" dynamic.  In these events, people can respond to terrorism in two ways: fear the people who are somehow connected to it and choose the candidate who promises to "deal" with them or fear that Trump will screw stuff up.  These probably mostly offset, so that the terrorist incidents do not shake up the race.

The race is where it is at largely because of voter identification--most Republicans will vote Republican, most Democrats will vote Democrat, most independents are not really that independent and will vote however they always lean.  The fundamentals that favor Clinton will not go away.  The media is starting to turn a bit on Trump thanks to his Birther press conference that was not a press conference is important since the false equivalence stuff may start to lessen (see WashPo's take on the email stuff). This might lessen his dominance of the airwaves, which has been the other reason why the race is tighter than it should be. 

I am still pretty confident despite 538 lowering their probably of an HRC victory to under 60%.  Why?  Because I cannot imagine Trump doing well in the three debates--too undisciplined, too lazy, too ignorant, too easy to bait.  Folks are betting on whether he will lash out at the moderator or curse out Clinton.  He may not do those things, but he will not able to be disciplined for more than an hour x 3. 

More importantly, I think the election will be determined by the usual stuff  even though Trump should have been disqualified roughly 176 times.  Oh, and the gap in qualifications will matter when people actually have to vote.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mount Rushmore of Candy

Thanks to Don Trump Jr's neo-nazi post about skittles, we now have a debate about which candies belong on the Candy Mount Rushmore.  There will be no consensus on this, as people have very different tastes when it comes to candy--whether they like peanut butter, nougat, wafers and all of that.

So, mine will be distinct as I don't want peanut butter in my chocolate, nor do I like nuts either.

My Mount Rushmore of Candy is:
  • Hershey Bars--maybe not the very best form of chocolate but the classic that saved the world.
  • Twizzlers--I am a big fan of licorice
  • M&Ms--Sorry,  ET.
  • Tootsie Pops--combines a lollipop with chocolate with a mystery!
Honorable mention goes to caramel in whatever form it takes, Milky Way bars, blow pops, and sweet tarts.  Sugar daddies might have gone on the list if they did not cause so much problems when chewed.

Anyhow, too much stuff going on to get deeply into this.  More research during Halloween is required. 

PS Unlike Dan's nearly all chocolate list, mine was aimed at a diversity of candies: bars, chewables, the single serving pebbles (skittles, sweet tarts, etc go here), lollipops.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Latest in Poll Reading: When Up is Up

The way this poll is being pitched is strange to me:

In nearly all of the questions, Clinton has 30-40 point lead over Trump.  Isn't that good news?  Oh, wait, "many don't see a difference!"  Trump gets around 20% on each question, which as I have always asserted, is about what you can expect from any poll--that a decent chunk of people are, um, reality-averse.  Anyhow, asking all millennials these questions will certainly turn up people who are pro-Trump because there are both the "deplorables" and the party loyalists in the pool.  That 25-30% are uncertain also makes sense because Trump has often taken both sides of an issue, making it hard to discern what his real stance is.

So, letting confirmation bias be my guide, I would say that this poll is outstanding for Clinton.  It shows a commanding lead with millennials on these issues.  The hard part is not so much getting the undecideds to take a pro-HRC stance, but getting the pro-HRC folks out to vote since young folks are less likely to vote than Trump-friendly old voters.

Oh, and another thing to keep in mind: how people vote when they are younger tends to shape how they vote when they age (from what I remember of previous coverage of this).  Which might just mean that the GOP is alienating the next generation of voters not just in 2016 but for the future.

So, consider this a good news survey if you are a Democrat.

For a really interesting survey, see this from a very helpful comment:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Trump's Vocab Quiz

I was inspired by this tweet:
What words does Trump use that raise many questions but often this meme in particular?

Here is my short list of words I would like Trump to define:
  • Neurotic (thanks Zedd)
  • Nuclear
  • Cyber
  • Contract
  • Debt
  • Blind trust
  • Mercantilism
  • Bigotry
  • Sarcasm
  • Federal or "the Fed"
What would you add to this list?

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Next Canadian Deployment: Asking the Right Questions in the Wrong Order

Many people are asking the right questions about the much ballyhooed next Canadian military deployment, including where and whether there will be a vote or not.  The problem is that we are getting the questions in the wrong order, which is creating more confusion.  We cannot ask some questions until we know the answers to the others.  The vote question should be after we know much more about the mission.  The where question actually is not first either.  So, here is the correct order of questions:
  1. Will Canada commit to doing a UN mission of some kind?  Yes.  The government has set aside 600 troops.  Now we need to ask the second question.
  2. Will Canada send these troops to one place or to several?  Aha! You might not have been expecting this question, but we still don't know whether Trudeau is Paul Martin or Jean Chretien on this issue.  Chretien committed Canada to many missions at the same time, with smaller contingents (I hope I am getting this right).  There is much talk right now that what Canada can best provide are "enablers."  This is the fancy military term for specialized personnel who are really good at certain tasks and would be "multipliers" making the existing UN force more efficient/effective/efficacious/excellent.  Paul Martin wanted Canada to make a big difference by focusing its effort on a key spot or two.  While he retrospectively regretting the Kandahar mission, that was an example of this view.  Go to one spot, be very responsible, have greater command of your own troops since you dominate the neighborhood.  So, Canada could send that one battalion (600 soldiers is a battalion, more or less) to someplace where they might make a big difference.  This question is prior to the next question because we cannot say where the troops will go until we know if there are going to one spot or many.  
  3. Where will the troops go?
    1. If one spot, then there will be many questions to be asked of that one spot.  Who are our partners?  Will Canadians be commanding themselves?  Commanding others?  What is the nature of the mission?  Peacekeeping?  Peace enforcement?  How kinetic is the place?  That is: how violent is it? 
    2. If many spots, then there will be different questions as Canadians will not be in command (most likely), their role will be quite specific, and they will, almost certainly, be far away from combat.  They will be at bases doing logistical stuff or training.
  4. Once we know where they will go, then we can start figuring out whether there should be a vote or not.  If the troops go to many relatively less risky spots, the current precedent of no votes for such stuff should apply.  If the troops go to one spot but are mostly doing something approximating traditional peacekeeping, then a vote is unlikely.  If they go to someplace like Mali, where combat is going to be part of the job description, then the question will be whether the Liberals follow the precedent set by Harper.  Of course, we can then have the discussion of what counts as combat, which usually misses the point, but whatever gets the attention in Ottawa...
Why is it taking so long for the Liberals to announce the decision?  Because as we should have learned by now, the Liberals have a very deliberate process that looks slow to outsiders.  It requires a subcommittee of cabinet to meet before it goes to cabinet.  Getting these folks together is not easy and apparently does not happen very frequently.  Cabinet-style government is slow.  Should it be this slow?  I am not sure, as I would rather the government enter the next mission with all due diligence and deliberation than rush into it.  But the optics are the optics.  Will Trudeau have something specific to announce next week at the UN General Assembly?  Probably not.  Does that matter?  Probably not.  It is the doing that matters, and once Canada deploys, either to one spot or to many, what they do there is the key.

So, we don't have to read all of Phil's stuff on parliamentary votes quite yet. But soon. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Campaign Spew-Drive-By

Not a great week in American politics as Hillary Clinton's poll numbers have dropped and too many Americans find Trump to be a viable choice. 

Just a few quick reactions rather than anything especially thoughtful as I am burned out by both the race and the need to enumerate my musical tastes.
  • I love the Keeping It 1600 Podcast as they help talk me down and help me talk others down from panicking or bedwetting as they put it.  A key highlight today was an appearance by David Plouffe who explained a key dynamic in polls: that when the GOP candidate is doing well, people favoring that candidate are more likely to answer the pollster's phone call and those favoring the other will be less likely. And vice versa, so selection effects!  We political scientists love it when measurement problems appear in the real world.
  • The Trump family had quite a day.  Ivanka Trump wants to be both a major campaign operative, admired for her smarts, and innocent waif who should not be asked tough questions by Cosmo.  Sorry, can't have it both ways.  But she looks good compared to Don Jr who made incredibly stupid remarks invoking holocaust imagery (gas chambers) and then was dumber still when he tried to explain it via "corporal punishment" when he meant capital punishment. The boy hangs to much with white supremacists/neo-nazis for gas chamber references to be a slip of the tongue.  
  • The fundamentals are fundamental still.  Great census news--that median incomes are rising across every decline from poor to rich.  It may not be evenly spread across the country (battleground states? hmm).  We are unlikely to get bad economic news, except Ford moving its small car business to Mexico, anytime soon.  Oh, and other fundamentals--Obama hit the trail and kicked butt in Philly, Sanders & Warren are headed to Ohio. So, maybe I am a wee bit more nervous this week, but still mostly confident that things will turn out ok. 
I am pretty sure that this is the bottom of the campaign, that this will be Hillary Clinton's worst week.  Why?  Partly because the media is realizing that the false equivalence campaign is going too far.  Partly because the debates are ahead, and Hillary can make Trump look unpresidential just by standing next to him.  And partly because we are going to have more days like this than not:

via Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star @ddale8
Media preview

Favorite Music: I Am Old and Mainstream

I have not come up with a favorite bands/musical acts list, which is strange given all the other stuff I have ranked/listed over the years.  A friend pushed me to do so on twitter so that she could comprehend how I could possibly like Rush so much. Yes, many Canadians don't like the best band their country produced.  I don't get it at all.  Canadians, as demonstrated last month, love the Tragically Hip, and I will just say that I don't get that.

My musical tastes run very mainstream, so I am prepared to be mocked by my friends who are far more hip than I am.  I have not listened to much new music lately partly because my kid is away and partly because I tend to listen to podcasts these days.

The other caveat before getting going is this: I like music, more than movies or tv shows, by how they make me feel, mostly by whether I feel propelled off my couch to sing or dance (and I do both badly).  I really have no clue about what counts for quality music, whereas I can understand what makes for a great TV show or a great movie even if they don't move me much. The feeling various songs and artists induce have a lot more to do with the time I first heard them than tv shows or movies (although Mrs. Spew thinks my relative distaste for Voyager is because it didn't hit me at the right age).  As a result, most of the music listed below is pretty old.  For a post that lists my faves of the 2000's, go here.

I am going to go from easiest list to hardest list, packing a bunch of lists into one post since I have not written much about music.

I don't like musicals much, but a few stand out
5.  Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  Because it was funny. Oh, and the girl who played the lead role at camp was very cute. 
4. Grease.  I was 12 when the movie came out, the music had some dirty stuff, and Olivia Newton-John was, um, wow. Hmm. I sense a theme. Since then, it has gained additional resonance thanks to it being eminently karaoke-able with the right people. 

3. 1776.  Some of my friends were in the Oberlin version of it, and I loved it for its humor and its politics.
2.  Fiddler.  Because it is the only musical I have ever been in.  My drama instincts were largely denied in high school and summer camp because I can't sing, so I dodged the various musicals.   But I got drafted by friends, and I had much fun playing multiple roles.  I got lots of different one or two line parts that got cobbled together.  I also danced with a bottle on my head.  Well, mostly.
1.  Avenue Q.  Too much fun.

Favorite One Hits: these are songs by bands that might not have been one hit wonders, but they produced a single song that I really, really like.
  • My Sharona, The Knack,
  • The Breakup Song, Greg Kihn,
  • Twilight Song, Golden Earring
  • Blinded by the Light, Manfred Mann (tis better than Bruce's version)
  • Lamer than Lame, Nerf Herder. Silly song by a band named after Star Wars reference
  • What I Like About You, The Romantics
  • 867-5309, Tommy Tutone
  • I Was a Teenage Anarchist, Against Me!
  • Damned If I Do Ya!, All time Low
  • The Geeks Get the Girls, American Hi-Fi 
  • Sometimes When We Touch, Dan Hill
  • Happenstance, the dB's

Favorite Songs--this, of course, changes a lot of time, depending on how I am feeling, but the current top twenty-five are:

  • Almost, Bowling for Soup. 
  • Eight Days a Week, Beatles 
  • All the Small Things, Blink-182
  • Somebody's Baby, Jackson Browne.  From Fast Times, one of my favorite movies and because a running theme here will be crushes and broken hearts
  • One Way or Another, Blondie.  I heard Blondie the first time at my first rock concert (Graham Parker).  They were not there, but their music played before the start of the concert.  
  • Born to Run, Bruce.  Just gets me up and moving.
  • Hard to Say I am Sorry, Chicago.  Hit me square in my broken heart. 
  • Tusk, Fleetwood Mac.  Marching band FTW!
  • Baker Street, Geoffrey Raferty and covered nicely by Foo Fighters
  • Stalker, Goldfinger.  Just too much fun. "I want to marry my stalker."
  • Good Riddance, Green Day.  I am so easily jerked by a moving song.
  • Don't Stop Believin, Journey.  I needed this desperately when I was in high school.
  • Favorite, Liz Phair.  We overlapped at Oberlin, but I never met her.  This song is just fun, comparing men to favorite underwear essentially.
  • Rock and Roll Dreams, Meatloaf.  I swear this song came out when I was a teenager, but seems to be only on Meatloaf's later album.
  • Welcome to the Black Parade, My Chemical Romance.  Like most of my favorite songs, when it comes on, I feel like I just got injected with caffeine.
  • Don't Stop Me Now, Queen.  Lots of Queen can go here, but this one gets me going these days.  Bohemian Rhapsody, Under Pressure, and Somebody To Love come real close.
  • Heartbreaker, Pat Benatar
  • Teenage Lobotomy, The Ramones
  • Freewill, Rush.  Mostly these days because I love quoting a key passage, but it has the usual Rush stuff--sharp guitars, heaps of drums.
  • While You See A Chance, Steve Winwood
  • The Kids Aren't Alright, The Offspring 
  • MakeDamnSure, Taking Back Sunday
  • Dreaming, Weezer.  So hard to choose. 
  • The Boys are Back in Town, Thin Lizzy 
  • Twisted Sister, We're Not Gonna Take It 
  • Is She Really Going Out With Him, Joe Jackson

Fave Canadians
  1. Rush
  2. Neil Young
  3. Arcade Fire
  4. Triumph
  5. Bryan Adams
  6. Feist
  7. Alanis Morissette
  8. Bare Naked Ladies
  9. Tegan and Sara, if only for Everything is Awesome! 
  10. Robin Sparkles

Honorable Mention for Fave Musical Acts (Bands/Singers/etc)

Bon Jovi, Simple Plan, Sum 41, Blink 182, Kansas, Van Halen, Fountains of Wayne, Supertramp, Graham Parker, Beyonce, Heart, Prince, Aerosmith, The Who, Jimmy Eat World, Bowling for Soup, Cheap Trick, Green Day, Steve Miller, Amy Grant, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Devo, B-52's, REM, Foreigner, Linkin Park, The Offspring, Talking Heads

Top Ten
10. John Williams. I am not a fan of classical music.  His stuff is the only thing I have played by orchestras, but the music that has been married to my favorite movies is among my favorites, I cannot deny.
9. Journey.  Really.  Used to be higher up on the list.  How un-cool!
8. Rush.  There it is.  Not at the very top, but I like a lot of their music.  .
7. Blondie.  I didn't love everything they did, but what I liked, I liked a lot.
6. Pat Benatar.  She did hit me with her best shots again and again.  Her videos were also fun.
5. Eagles.  The soundtrack of my youth.  It took me far longer than it should have to realize how many songs I liked were by the same band.  Steve Miller-esque in that way.
4. Bruce.  So good for so long.
3. Weezer.  I just love damn near everything.  Makes me laugh and jump.
2. The Beatles.  First band I listened seriously to, and it was at a pivotal summer. 
1. Billy Joel.  I have more of his music than anyone else.  His music evolved, and it seemed to always catch me at the right time (see this post about his Kennedy Center honor).  Also, I have only seen two acts twice--Billy and Graham Parker.  And I like so much more of Billy's music.  This makes me cheezy and conventional, but I like what I like.

That was harder than I thought it would be.  But the answer to the original question: I like Rush both because the music is fun--heaps of guitar, heaps of drums--and the lyrics are fun.  A song about trees...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Trolling Works: Ask Dan

Absolute trends in Grand Theory
Today, Dan Drezner pulled on my chain more effectively than damn near any other scholar I respect.  I should keep quiet (not my strength) as I have an article* I am revising for resubmission that addresses this very argument--that big IR theory has gone away somehow.  But I cannot help but respond, partly because this article may not make it past the next stage, partly because by the time it does, people will have moved on (or not, as this argument keeps coming up).
Relative trends in grand theory

* The rejected draft is here. The revised version is, um, being revised.

The basic realities in this area are this: the early 1990s were a rare moment in IR, where much of the focus was on big/grand theory (my paper addresses perhaps inadequately how to define and think about "big"/"grand").  People are nostalgic not for how things used to be but for a blip in time.  The producers of grand theory were never that numerous, although they made heaps of noise (grand theory is better cited than the rest of IR--which cuts against arguments about how professionalization deters grand theory). 

The real thing is this: there has been a proliferation of outlets when it comes to IR articles (I have no idea if there  are more or less IR books).  That is, there is more IR being produced and published.  In absolute terms, there is not less grand theory, there is not less qualitative work, there is not less of much (perhaps less marxist analyses).  There is more of everything (well, realism is basically staying the same).  Is there relatively less grand theory?  Again, it depends on the point of comparison--compared to 1994?  Yes.  Compared to the mid 1980s?  No.

There is something else that would never make it into a refereed journal: why should we give a rat's ass about there being more "big" ideas?  Is another relative gains debate going to help us much?  How about medium sized ideas that help us figure out how to deal with the problems of today?  There is plenty of stuff being produced that asks questions about how to win/lose counter-insurgencies, about the politics of alliances (oops, self-promotion), about coups, and on and on (I am sure there is good work on questions about the politics of international economic relations but that is not what I pay attention to).  Dan always wonders whether we are policy relevant, and the answer is that the medium and micro work are quite policy relevant with the grand theory not so much.

Oh, perhaps the world would be better off with less big ideas like "clash of civilizations" which is not only bad social science but destructive social science. 

So, Dan, thanks for producing this cathartic moment this morning even if it reduces my chances of publishing the R&R piece (if reviewers/editors read my Spews). 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Media Puzzle: Understanding the North Black Disease

I have long been puzzled why the media (not just cable tv but newspapers and magazines, etc) continually go back to the same well and spend tv time or column-inches on people have failed pretty spectacularly.  In the US, I am mostly referring to the Bush folks like Cheney and Rumsfeld and their ilk.  In Canada, I tend to get most annoyed by Conrad Black.  Then I realize, oh, yeah, he founded the National Post.  So, that explains why they give him attention, but I am not sure why anyone else does.

Sure, I get it, these folks have strong stances.  No, not logically strong, not strong via heaps of evidence but strong in the sense that their stances are largely unpolluted by evidence, facts or other sources of inconvenient truths.  They get eyeballs and clicks because they are dynamic (as in dynamically wrong).  And media folks like this because it presents "a point of view" even if the point of view is wrong/dumb/destructive.

I get what I am saying is that I take umbrage that the "if it bleeds, it leads" strategy is not just about putting on TV pictures of crime and war, but also bad/ugly arguments that would otherwise not really deserve airing.

I am not against anybody's right to speak.  I am much more a free speech guy than most Canadians and more than many Americans (Canada is not as much of a free speech purist place, which has led to arguments with College Spew, who was raised up here), but the right to speak does not equal a right to get big megaphones and have big audiences.  I'd love for a general rule that felons should not get free TV time until they are no longer relevant to be on TV (how is Oliver North still on TV?).  I'd love for the media to develop a different instinct---whenever they have the urge to to find some man who messed things up, find a woman or other under-represented person and have them talk instead. 

But alas, news organizations are far more about entertaining than giving us the news.  I know they live in dire times, but it seems to be that weakening the product is not the best way to proceed.  But what do I know?  My office is one floor above the journalism school, and osmosis probably does not work so good.

All I do know is that when I see one of these professional failures appear on my screen, I change the channel.  When they appear in my twitter feed, I skip past.  When they are in my newspaper, I turn the page.  And when the media folks see this blog, they can just skip over it.

Consider this perhaps a new running gag here, Steve's peeves, where I complain about stuff that is never going to change.  Ok, it is an old running theme.  Never mind.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why Less Blogging?

I think because I am running out of words.  I mean, deplorable has been taken.  And it fits. 

Plus I have a heap of deadlines that do indeed exist despite the sabbatical. 

If you have any questions or suggestions for posts, let me know.  Of course, I might get cranky about something and go on a spew.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years Later: Thinking About the Lessons of 9/11

Before last fall, I had not visited the site since the spring of 2002
I did a bit of media stuff the past few days that prompted me to think a bit about 9/11 and what we have learned.  Also, as I was thinking about the annual 9/11 post, I was trying to figure out what to say that would be different or just repeat the usual story.  This year, a key part of my 9/11 story resonates more than ever before--that the officers I was with were desperate to get back into the building so that we could deposit our classified documents rather than take them home.   Thanks to this election, we are all now far more aware of classified materials and the need to be responsible.

Anyhow, over dinner a couple of days ago, I happened to talk to Mrs. Spew about an exercise I did on the first day of class when I was teaching smaller classes.  I would ask the students what their first international political memory.  You can tell how long I have been in the business by tracking the evolution of the answers:
So many first responders died, devastating NYFD and PD.
  • Started with either Grenada or Falklands
  • Moved on to students first memory being Iran-Contra
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall lasted for a few years with the Gulf War of 1991 starting to resonate more
  • Then Bosnia and Rwanda dominated the answers up until
  • 9/11
And then I realized that if I taught such classes now (only grad classes these days), 9/11 would no longer be in the lived memory of the new generation of undergrads.  International events rarely impact three year olds.  Wow.

Anyhow, I have realized that as time moves us further away, the stories of that day move me more and more.  See here, here, here, here, and here.  Indeed, it gets mighty dusty in the Spew cave when I read such stuff now.  I didn't cry on 9/11.  Probably too shocked, stunned and angry.  Now, I am mostly sad when this stuff comes up.  Why?  First, the stories are very sad, about the heroes who lost their lives.

Second, they gain greater resonance as we seem to be unlearning the lessons of that day.  One of George W. Bush's greatest contributions (he had a few) was making it clear that Islamophobia was not the right response to 9/11.  Alas, politicians, not just Trump, have decided to scapegoat Muslims for the crimes of their less moderate "kin".
Part of the memorial

Third, 9/11 and the fear mongering since have created perceptions that we are more in danger now than before 9/11.  Well, it depends on your point of comparison, but Americans are not really that much more at risk--the number of Americans killed by Islamist terrorism every year is quite low and lower than the number killed by white supremacists.  For Europeans, things seem much more dangerous, but the danger is comparable to the 1970s, yet they didn't panic and seek to exclude large groups back then.  It is far more dangerous in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.  But not in the West, so perhaps we should try not to overreact.

Fourth, speaking of the Mideast and beyond, I am sad that the US got distracted by the Iraq fixation.  I am not sure we could have been successful in Afghanistan, but I am pretty sure we would have had a better chance had we done more earlier.  Obama's surge came many years too late.  Lots of lost opportunities.

Fifth, I am sad because 9/11 facilitated Iraq (no, 9/11 was not caused by Bush, but his team took advantage of it), and Iraq was not just so very costly to Iraqis and to Americans and to our allies, but also this mistake is what caused ISIS to exist.

Sixth, we will never know what the US could have done with the political capital, the support, accumulated in the immediate aftermath of the attack.  It was wasted as the Bush Administration focused on Iraq and precious little else.  And that makes me sad.

So, I have many reasons to be sad on this day every year, as do we all.  15 years have gone by, and the impact of that day continues to reverberate.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Job Talk Advice

Seems to be the time of year when folks post their advice for aspiring professors on how to succeed at the job talk.  For non-academics, the job talk is the heart of the interview for folks seeking jobs (especially tenure-track or tenured positions) in academia.  While there are other parts of the process--being interviewed one on one by various members of the department or getting grilled by a committee (something that happens far more in Canada than in the US), the most important (and probably not deservedly so)* part of the "fly-out" is giving a talk based on one's research and responding in the Q&A.

I tend not to be very humble here and offer all kinds of unsolicited advice, but I hesitate on this particular question because my record, um, ain't great.  I have been given three job offers (TTU, McGill, Carleton) in my career.  That's it.  And I have interviewed and been rejected many, many times--more than sixteen ... .  I might have blogged my advice about job talks before, but I can't seem to find the post.  So, here is just a few tips to go along with the stuff circulating this week (see the link's in Tom's post).

Some basic technical stuff:
  • Don't use a software platform for your presentation that is finicky or otherwise not widely available.  In other words, no Prezi.
  • Do have a PDF of your slides in case your software does not work so that you can at least page through on the projector through your outline/figures/tables.  Keep your files on your laptop and on a usb key and on dropbox---plan for technical failure.  Have a printout.
  • Don't make the slides overly busy with noises, things sliding dynamically, etc.  The focus should be on you and your message and not anything fancy. Also, large fonts, please.  Keep the tables of stats clear and big and use color.  Really!
  • Not too many slides--if you cannot present all the slides in an unhurried manner in 30-40 minutes, you have too many slides.  Keep to the time limit or even a bit short of it.
  • Ignore Axelrod's advice about asking people not to ask questions.  They will if they want to.
  • Damn near every place expects the talk to be about your current/recent research.  Pick one project and talk about it, maybe putting it into the context of your larger research program.  Don't talk about your entire research portfolio.  You need to demonstrate that you can speak about a question and how you handled it.
The Big Stuff:
  • It is kind of like a first date but with much bigger stakes--so be the best version of yourself.  Be confident but not arrogant.  But don't be someone else.  Don't lie about who you are, what you do, what you plan to do, but shape your presentation to fit the school/program/department (try to get students directly engaged if it is a liberal arts college--another lesson learned the hard way).
  • Nobody in the room knows as much about your stuff as you do.  But many will think that the they do.  Stick to what you know and don't offer up examples that you don't know about (that killed me in my second talk).  Oh, and Saideman's rule of dissertations applies here as well: just because you learned something does not mean it belongs in a job talk.
  • Make it interesting to someone who does not work in your subfield or even field.  I had someone ask me during one of my talks: so, you explain why war happens under certain conditions, so what?  Um, because war is kind of important, right?  Good thing I really screwed up other parts of that talk so that this did not matter so much.
  • Practice, practice and practice including among friends who can pretend to be hostile audiences.
  • The Q&A is key: anticipate the likely questions, perhaps even have slides that might address likely questions, answer what you can by staying within your theoretical approach as much as you can.  If they ask you to talk about a current event, show how your approach makes sense of it.  Acknowledge the limitations of your approach.  It is ok to say "I don't know" once or twice.  Don't be defensive but don't agree to every criticism of your approach either. It is a balancing act.
  • Getting the job or not is often very idiosyncratic.  Don't take rejection too personally--if they are interviewing three people, the odds are against you.  
  • Try to figure out what you could have done better.  If you have friends or contacts in the places you have interviewed, ask after it is all over what you could improve.  

This is all basic stuff, but it is amazing how many people screw up the basics ... including this guy.

*  I wrote a while back that academics are not so great judges, that the process seems as random as drafting good NFL or NBA players.

When Politics Imitates Art Badly: Monty Python Edition

One of the classic Monty Python bits is this:

What has Putin done to be so appealing?  Economic disaster?  Check. Journalists being killed?  Sure.  The courts being used against Putin's enemies?  Sure, but apart from that?  Oh, yeah, produced greater self-encirclement via annexation of Crimea and intervening in Ukraine.

I can go on, of course.  Putin might, indeed, be "strong" (if we define strong as making the country less democratic) but successful?  Sure, Trump's sole metric are polls/ratings.  Is Russia better off now than four years ago?  Nope, not domestically as it is less free and the economy is in recession.  Internationally, Russia is much more alone, and has had to make deals with China from a position of weakness.

So, keep on admiring his squelching of democracy and his trolling foreign policy.  It might make him popular, but that does not make him admirable. 

Oh, and that weak Obama fella?  How about this:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Testing for Anti-Canadian Values

One of the contenders for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, Kellie Leitch, has argued that potential immigrants should be tested for anti-Canadian values.  This raises all kinds of questions, including: what is an anti-Canadian value?  Here are some ideas (with the implied conclusion that it is a good thing these were not on the citizenship test I took):
  • Preferring a US-based NHL team to Canadian ones (unless Gretzy/Crosby/Howe play on the team--the Usher exception).
  • Disliking Tim Horton's.
  • Not being smug about the Canadian health care system relative to that in the US.
  • Not wearing a toque when it is super-cold.
  • Not bitter about 1994 Expos.
  • Being hostile to the fur industry.
  • Cutting into a lineup (breaking the queue as the Brits might say).
Of course, the real anti-Canadian value is being hostile to multiculturalism since the multicultural mosiac that is Canada is so very Canadian.

If you have more anti-Canadian values that immigrants need to prove that they don't have (it is even more awkward to say than it is to do), share them here.  But only mock ones.  No barbaric cultural practices unless one is referring to Montreal driving or road construction.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Grading on a Curve?

Dan Drezner does a nice job of explaining grading on a curve and how it applies to the election, but I don't think it was clear enough.  What needs to be clear?

When one speaks of a normal curve or distribution, one is usually thinking of a relatively standard bell curve:
The essential assumption for grading (and for other stuff) is that there are some people who are better at the task than most, and that some people are worse than most.  One can set the curve--how one moves up or down the grade scale, so that the center is a C (the good old days that most people don't really miss) or a B or whatever. 

The thing about grading on a curve is that there is still a distribution with some high, some medium and some low.  Grading on a curve does turn a mediocre grade into a somewhat less mediocre grade.  With a sharp policy wonk like Hillary Clinton in the race, Trump will never get an A as she sets the top of the curve.  The real question is where does curving really put Trump?  And my problem with his analogy is this: no matter how much curving is done in a typical class, an F student who does not attend class, does not do the reading, does not complete assignments, fails the tests, and occasionally punches the teacher does not get curved up to a B or B+ or a C-.  They stay an F.  Because a hyper-low performer sets the bottom of the curve just as a hyper high performer sets the top. 

So, the press really has been doing something to keep Trump in a state of false equivalence with Clinton, but this pedantic prof says: it ain't curving the grade.  It is something else alright, but a student at the bottom of the class remains there, curve or no curve. 

Some to Many, Much to Few

The Canadian government just handed out $900 million to 13 universities to help jumpstart big research programs.  This is the second round of this particular program, and, as always, raises the question of whether it makes sense to give that much to so few.  I am not sure, and I am one of the folks who have benefited from similar programs. 

The Canada Research Chair program was an effort, like this one, for the federal government to get involved in higher education, which is run by the provinces.  It was an effort to reverse the brain drain by keeping Canadians, attracting lost Canadians (those who moved to the US or elsewhere) and random foreigners to replace the lost Canadians (my category).  The sums here were not so outrageous--$100k per year for five years (renewable once) for the junior version, $200k per year for seven years (renewable forever)--as they barely or fell short of matching salaries/benefits/research funding for regular positions. 
There is a newer, more expensive version of this: the Canada Excellence Research Chairs, which gives $10million over seven years (as opposed to $1.4m) to universities to attract a hot scholar.  The original CRC program had plenty of chairs and funded spots all over Canada.  The CERC program is much smaller, which means focused efforts on a few.

The Social Science and Humanities Research Council recently moved from giving some to a lot for three years (40% or so rejection rate) to giving a lot to some for five (20%).  I received the former, and am now enjoying the latter.  The bigger amount definitely encouraged this current project to be more ambitious.  I am ambivalent about this change as two of my three grants from the prior version got approved the first time BUT I had to go through the grant spin cycle every 3-4 years.  It took two tries to get this new version of the grant, but now I don't have to apply again until 2020 or so.  And the money is helping me pursue a big project. 

I don't know how to adjudicate the more for a few/less for money tradeoff.  I do think the switch that SSHRC made recently should prove to be testable--whether the old program produced more publications/more cites/more social science than the new. 

I will say that the recent moves of concentrating resources runs against Canadian instincts towards equity.  As an American, I am not so fussed.  As someone who would prefer to be funded than unfunded but prefers not to apply for a ton of grants (despite, well, applying for a ton of grants), I am ambivalent. 

I am not sure there is a right choice, but I do wonder about nearly a billion dollars going to 13 places.  The good news is that the big partnership grant that I am writing right now is all about partnership, so it would mean getting a bunch of dollars and then sharing them.  Maybe that will happen with the $900 million, or not.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Trump Campaign: Funniest Unintentional Comedic Moment?

Our memories are short, and there is still more than two months for something new to happen.  But I cannot help but ask: what is the funniest moment thus far, unintended, of course?

The top three contenders are:

"Taco Trucks on Every Corner!!"

"Says Who?"

Trump's Doctor's Letter.  Especially the doctor saying that he likes Trump because he thinks Trump likes him.

I did ask about this in a twitter survey when I could only remember the first two.
So, my question to my readers: is there another moment funnier than these three?  If not, which one is the funniest?  I will suggest mine in inviso text: Says who?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

APSA: Woot!

Tis that time of year to assemble, avenging Political Scientists at the American Political Science Association.  #notallpoliticalscientists, of course, as Labor Day weekend is viewed by many as family un-friendly.  Because it coincides with the last summer holiday, attendees lose the chance to spend one last long weekend with the family before school starts.  And it also means that faculty might miss the first day of school for their child.  These are reasonable concerns, and so a political movement was organized to change the date.  It worked, with APSA eventually moving to later in September down the road.  It cannot happen instantly as APSA has contracts with hotels for the next five years or so.

I get those complaints.  Other folks complain about APSA meetings because they are too big, too much the "wrong" kind of IR or whatever, or what not.  I disagree as I am a fan.  While the International Studies Association meeting every winter gives me the chance to meet with most of my co-authors and IR friends, APSA allows me to meet those folks and more--the people I used to go to school with who don't do IR, the people I worked with in previous jobs, people in other fields that I met via a variety of encounters (past conferences, their job talks or mine, etc).  And, yes, I am extrovert, so meeting more people, renewing connections with friends and colleagues, losing/winning a modest amount of money at the annual poker game, these are all good things.  I chaired a panel yesterday that brought me back to my earlier work on the IR of ethnic conflict, and found all of the papers to be both sharp and stimulating.  Today, I will discuss a few papers for a panel, and I found those to be very interesting as well. 

Pennsylvania State House, where Declaration/Constitution were both drafted/passed

And Philadelphia has been mostly mighty fine this time around.  As it is my hometown, I got to see my parents, have/will dine with friends from high school, and finally quenched my desperate hunger for a steak sandwich.  I did some history as well--Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  I hadn't visited either since I was 10 or so.  Post-National Treasure, it is fun to see this stuff again.  With the current election, the timing was also good to be reminded about the very basics of what it is to be American.  Oh, and this particular park ranger had a voice somewhere between a bullfrog and a drill sergeant.  The food, thanks to Michael Horowitz's guide, has been terrific.

So, yeah, woot for APSA and for APSA in Philly despite the nearby tropical storm.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Wrong Billion

I have been at the APSA this week, so blogging has been light and I have not really read much on Trudeau's China trip.  I have seen some tweets wondering if Canada is bending too much towards China and away from US. 

My first reaction is that trying to do some deals with China does not mean Canada is dumping the US or moving away from US.  The US will always come first and foremost.  Other allies have engaged China in ways that do not fall 100% in line with the US, and it has been fine. 

My second reaction, however, is that this Prime Minister will learn what previous PM's have learned: China is a crappy partner.  The Chinese don't like the rules of the international order that have long benefited Canada, and tend to do stuff that cuts at that international order.  At the more micro-level, firms are seduced by attraction of large market to do business in China and then find out it can be very Soprano's like--having to share profits, having to spend money on employees that don't work, etc. 

So, my third reaction is this: if you want to improve access to a market with a billion people, how about focusing on the one where the shared values/interests are much higher (even if the country has flaws like an ethnonationalist leader, not perfectly handling a secessionist region, etc).  That is, why focus on China and not India?  India is more likely to pay benefits down the road, and working with India is less likely to help perpetuate an authoritarian regime that is actively engaged in challenging the international order. 

Canada can try to improve relations with China, but there are real reasons why Canada and others have a hard time doing business in and with China.  And those real reasons aren't going away.  So, manage the China relationship, but build a better India relationship.*

* No, these are not entirely mutually exclusive options, but they kind of are.  More on that some other time.  Back to APSA.