Monday, October 31, 2016

But the Screaming and Shouting

It is all over but the screaming and shouting.  Huh?  I return from a month in Japan, and I get hit quickly in my short visit to the office with questions about the US election.  Seems like Canadians are just as, if not more eager, than their American Liberal friends to wet the bed, as my favorite political podcast puts it.  As always, I focus on the fundamentals:
  • HRC has heaps more money and is using to buy good ads rather than lousy hats
  • HRC has a strong organization, so she can and already has gotten out the vote.  Trump can't spell GOTV.
  • The electoral college favors the Democrats in any year as of late.
  • Trump has alienated women, who are more than 50% of the electorate.
  • Same goes for African-Americans, Asian-Americans, disabled people, Latinos, Jews, and others who are not fond of white supremacists.
  • Really should mention Trump's misogyny one more time.
  • HRC has a first rate group of surrogates/allies--both Obamas, both Bidens, Warren and Sanders.  Trump's allies are as deplorable as a good chunk of his supporters--Gingrich, Guiliani, Christie, etc.
What about the latest email story?  Let confirmation bias be your guide--if one cared about the email stuff, one was already not going to vote for HRC.  If one didn't care, this is not going to change anything.

What about the tightening polls?  First, poll averaging!!! It ain't about the latest poll but the trends.  Second, this is mostly about the GOP voters coming home, more than Trump somehow attracting HRC voters. Third, lots of people have already voted--early voting and all that--and the reports seem to suggest that HRC has done far better than Trump, not surprising, but also better than Obama four years ago.

Which gets to the big question: what states can Trump win that Obama won four years ago?  Iowa... maybe Ohio.  Which states will Trump lose that Romney won?  North Carolina.   I would still bet on HRC winning Florida. 

And when folks say Brexit to me, I respond thusly: far more/better polls here; US is 2x as diverse as UK; Brexit was not gendered; not nearly the disparity in money and organization in the UK as in the US; electoral college, electoral college, and electoral college.

The good news: Dems don't have to worry about complacency.  It is all over but some of the voting and much of the screaming and shouting.  No need to panic.  The only real questions left are:
  1. Do the Democrats pick up the Senate?  Probably.
  2. Do the Democrats make big gains in the House?  No.
  3. Will Trump be a sore loser or a super-sore loser?  Yes.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tokyo, Trip Report #2: A Great Month

I meant to blog more often about the things I have observed over the course of the month in Tokyo, but I got busy with the research, with transcribing notes, and with showing Mrs. Spew the town over the last week.

What have I learned?
  • Pretty much everywhere I went, no matter where I looked, I could not but help thing of this quote.  It might seem like a stereotype, but the Japanese have style.  Nearly everything is done in ways that are aesthetically appealing.  From restaurants to signage to government buildings to kids' uniforms, and on and on.
  • Like Montreal, bad restaurants seem to be illegal.  While I didn't have any sushi, I had plenty of udon, ramen, gyoza, yakitori, and on and on.  I ate Chinese food a couple of times, Indonesian twice,and one pizza when I could noodle/rice/yakitori no more.  The food was simply great, whether a restaurant on the fifth floor of a business building, a basement of a department store, a hole in the wall (heaps of alleys upon alleys), or places just on the street. Only once did my lack of Japanese get in the way--a place right next to my apartment that I had been eager to try out.  English on the sign outside, but only chalkboard menus in Japanese.  Oops.  Otherwise, pictures on the menu or the machine (some restaurants have machines outside where you order and then give the slip to the waiter/waitress), English menus or both.  
  • The Japanese national security community is very generous with their time.  I had lengthy interviews with both active and retired military personnel, with academics, with Diet staff, and Ministry of Defense officials.  The interviews with politicians will be in January when I return for two weeks.  The only people who proved truly hard to reach?  The media.  Hmmm.  I learned a great deal, both for my project and beyond as my curiosity led me to ask questions beyond the project of the moment.  I will still have to transcribe about half my notes, and then I might figure out what I have learned.  Lots of conflicting information.... but that is where the fun is--figuring out the patterns.
  • I visited most of the sites I had planned to see, missing only a cemetery, Tokyo Disneyland, and a garden or two.  I wish I had gone out of town, other than to Mount Fuji (which was beautiful).  I didn't see much of Japan beyond Tokyo, Mount Fuji, and Yokosuka.  I did see Hiroshima and Kyoto during my brief visit in January.  I am tempted to go to Osaka in January as I happened to sit next to a Harry Potter performer at a gyoza place--he performs at the HP park at Universal Studios in Osaka.  But since their HP is about what HP Orlando was before the expansion, I probably will not bother.  But I should try to get out of town if only briefly over the weekend in between two very busy research weeks in 2017.  I did learn once again that the Beatles rock!
  • I learned some stuff about Japanese nationalism.
  • Anecdata and statistics are two different things.  I read plenty of stuff before I came here about how the population is aging, that people are not coupling, that they are not producing kids.  And then I saw plenty of kids, teens, and young couples.  Oh, and I kept walking into weddings when I went to shrines on weekends.  But, of course, the examples of young folks do not really prove that the trends are not the trends.  Likewise, the Japanese economy is supposed to be anemic, but I saw plenty of construction and cranes and virbrant businesses.  Still, the marco and the micro are two different things.
  • I learned of another declaration of independence.  There was a Dali exhibit at the National Arts Center near where we were staying.  Since our last day was a rainy one, this made for a fitting end to the trip.  The Arts Center is a pretty amazing building--just a very neat design.
  • I am so very glad I rented a phone--google maps made navigation possible.  Easy to use the subways, hard to navigate the streets.  So, thanks, oh powerful google gods! 
I am so very grateful to all those who helped me along the way.  The SSRC and Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership provided the Abe Fellowship which has made this month (and two weeks in January) possible, with Kevin and Tak at the SSRC HQ in Tokyo were most generous with their time and help (including the beautiful business cards).  The Air Staff College of Japan's Air Self-Defense Force was kind enough to host me (and will be doing so again in January).  I am most grateful to Lt.Gen. Ono for sharing his base, his insights, and his time with me, as well as Admiral Otsuka for helping me with a contact or two and by sharing his perspective.  General (ret) Koda was also most helpful with his take on my project and via helping us out along the way.  

LTC Junko Furuta went beyond the call of duty to make this trip successful.  Finally, Takako Hikotani was and will continue to be an excellent research partner.  It takes more than a village to do research like this, and I received so much help this month.  I am most grateful.

Keeing Japanese Nationalism Alive

I had to visit the Yasukuni Shrine during my month here.  It is the place where Japan's war dead are enshrined (their names are written down, so their spirits are essentially here).  Kind of like Japan's Arlington, except it got more controversial in the late 1970s when the names of several war criminals were added.  This meant that every visit by politicians now carries much more weight--that they are seen by the neighbors as paying respect to those who committed war crimes.  Not good. 

To make matters a wee bit more complicated, next to the shrine is a museum that is dedicated ostensibly to Japan's war dead.  What is it actually?  Well, its content has varied over time from being very nationalist, blaming FDR for luring Japan into the war, to being merely quite nationalist.  The challenge of documenting this is that one is not allowed to take pictures inside the museum (except right before the entrace--see below).  This is strange, since it is the only war museum I can remember with such a restriction.  It is not like there are pieces of art or artifacts that would be damaged.  So, I took extensive notes.

What did I note?

  • That the text that came with the Zero here was a bit much--best carrier fighter?  Maybe at the outset, but not by the middle/end of the war.

  • The museum featured a locomotive engine from Thailand/Burma.  I could not help but think that the museum was referencing The Bridge Over The River Kwai.

  •   Next to the locomotive was a howitzer that had served in a variety of places including the Philippines where this particular regiment "surpassed all expectations in the battles of Bataan and Corregidor." Uh huh. 
  • The texts in the first part of the museum mentioned unequal treaties (yep) and referred to the war as the "Greater East Asia War" which is like calling the US Civil War the War of Northern Aggression or the War Between the States.  The Pacific War is what less nationalist types call it. 
  • The war with China: an incident.  The Nanking Campaign/Incident was sanitized.  
  • The oil embargo was considered to be the cause of the war.  Almost fair, except the context for the embargo seemed a smidge off. 
  • Pearl Harbor?  Admitted it was a surprise attack that "succeeded in destroying the US fleet."  Oh really?  Guess aircraft carriers don't count.  Nor did the attack destroy the vital logistics features that led to a rapid rebound of the surface fleet and supported the submarine campaign that would destroy the Japanese fleet (the US subs get no credit in any Japanese exhibit I saw this month).
  • The discussion of the Special Attack Corps--the Kamikazes--was also presented in a way that was disturbing.  As was the pride in how the last remaining big battleship, the Yamato, went on a suicide mission with no chance of success to Okinawa.  Likewise, the text concerning the human torpedo project was just a bit off-putting. 
Outside the museum, there was some memorials:

To the merchant marine, lost in the war, I think.
To the widows and orphans
At other sites in Japan, I felt a fair amount of guilt--the various shrines and other buildings that had to be re-built after the firebombing of March 1945.  Here, not so much, as the attitude presented here was that the war was something that happened to Japan, rather than something that Japan had a great deal of responsibility in instigating.  Plus the major war crimes are entirely omitted--the Nanking "incident," Bataan, and on and on. The war was especially cruel, and both Japan and the US engaged in barbaric strategies and tactics.  I have to go to the WWII Museum in New Orleans one of these days to see how stuff is portrayed there.  I may not be entirely fair, but, to be clear, a fair amount of Japanese are bothered by how the stuff at this museum depicts the war.

Perhaps I would not have noticed some of the omissions and biased portrayals had I not been expecting it, as I was warned that this museum is fairly nationalist.  On the other hand, I noticed quite quickly at the Hungarian House of Terror the map of irredentism at the beginning. One thing is clear--I did not see anything like this in Germany, where only the fringe views World War II with any sense of pride.  Here, it is not so fringe.  And for the neighbors, China and South Korea in particular, any reverence for the past gives them carte blanche to harp on it rather than moving forward.  Europe and East Asia are so very different when it comes to how countries who were enemies in World War II view each other today (with US-Japan as the main and vital exception).

The Beatles! Live!

Mrs. Spew and I have not seen live music together in quite a long time, so we went to Abbey Road.  Tis a bar that hosts a series of Beatles tribute bands!  We saw the Jentles! 
They were delightful!  They played almost entirely early stuff: Penny Lane, Roll Over Beethoven, Please Please Me, I Want To Hold Your Hand, etc.  The guy doing John had the best imitation of the voice, the George was very good on guitar; including when he did My Guitar Gently Weeps; and Ringo was cuter than Paul (according to Mrs. Spew).  I requested Twist and Shout, and they rocked it nicely.

Kind of wish it was my birthday, as they sang to the birthday people in the crowd. 

Yes, this is what we did for nightlife, and I am not ashamed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Trump's Secret Plan

I have figured out Trump's secret plan--to deny political scientists the ability to understand why he lost (he is going to lose, might as well put it in the past tense already).  What is the problem?  He is doing EVERYTHING wrong, so it will be hard to discern what mattered the most--his failure is going to be over-determined.

Trump could lose because:
  • careless statements alienated key constituencies (veterans, women, disabled people, etc).
  • his campaign staff were third string at best and some (Bannon) seemed more focused on destroying the GOP.
  • he alienated the GOP establishment, attacking Kasich and thus losing the chance to turn out the vote in Ohio and other places.
  • he spent more money on hats than on ads.  Seriously, do campaign ads matter?  This would be a perfect time to draw the contrast since HRC has many more and much better ads, but the effect of this will be hard to discern due to the other stuff
  • he has no real Get out the Vote effort--I have been joking that Trump can't spell GOTV.
  • he is a misogynist and women happen to be more than 50% of the electorate.
  • Pence is just an awful sidekick.  Would be Palin-esque if not for Palin and Trump lowering expectations.
  • he didn't spend much money compared to HRC.
 I could go on and on, but you get the idea--Trump is a thoroughly craptastic candidate so political scientists will have a harder time explaining his loss than his rise.   Oh wait, there is Trump's Razor....

Monday, October 24, 2016

Down with Dynasties

I have been seeing this lately:
Image result for obama 2024 chelsea 2032

No.  No thanks.  As much as I would like to see an endless string of Democrats and women in the White House, I'd like for US politics to be more than about name recognition.  After all, where would Trump be without name recognition? 

One reason why I supported Obama in 2008 is that the idea of cycling between Bush Clinton Bush Clinton seemed terribly un-democratic to me.  Obama broke the cycle, and I'd like to see HRC serve two terms and then have another Democrat take over (unless the GOP can produce a reasonable moderate [sorry, I had to stop typing for a second because I couldn't breathe from laughing too hard].  I don't want Michelle Obama to run nor do I want the kids of either HRC or MO. 

And, in case everyone forgets, Michelle Obama is popular not just because she is a super, dynamic, sharp, charismatic person, but also because she has not taken too many political stances that would offend one group or another, besides her pro-eating healthy stuff.  So, if she were to run, her popularity would decline as she would take stances on issues.

I certainly don't want Michelle or Barack Obama to disappear from the public stage--they represent so much, they articulate so well key policy stances and all that.  But next President after HRC?  No thanks.

Call me a dynasty party pooper.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Trends in IR: Domestic Politics?

I have a broken computer so I can't do much right now to address a silly assertion about the state of IR--that we have long ignored domestic politics.  A simple approach, given that I can't make any cool graphs right now, is to simply display one key variable over time--whether a work is "second level" or not.  That is, are the key independent variables focused on domestic political properties:

year    No    Ye    Total
1980    52    81    133
1981    64    85    149
1982    49    93    142
1983    61    77    138
1984    51    75    126
1985    64    67    131
1986    40    101    141
1987    63    80    143
1988    65    64    129
1989    56    78    134
1990    58    74    132
1991    54    81    135
1992    54    95    149
1993    55    95    150
1994    52    91    143
1995    67    102    169
1996    54    101    155
1997    66    108    174
1998    51    123    174
1999    43    109    152
2000    46    101    147
2001    52    102    154
2002    46    119    165
2003    51    108    159
2004    41    128    169
2005    39    135    174
2006    46    144    190
2007    64    137    201
2008    61    127    188
2009    66    134    200
2010    71    147    218
2011    75    129    204
2012    83    155    238
Total    1,860    3,446    5,306

Note that the yes column is generally twice as much as every other kind of IR published in the major journals between 1980-2012.  Oops.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

When Critics are Lazy, Military-Academic Complex Addition

I go away for a little while and my school gets hit by the laziest of hit-pieces: that NPSIA is too close to government (see the Hill Times if you want, I refuse to give the outlet the hits/clicks).  "Too close for comfort" is the title.  I am surprised it didn't refer to military-industrial-academic complex since that is the usual go-to for folks making this argument.  But that is probably too long to type.

Yes, NPSIA has many sessional instructors (visitors) that have ties to government--folks who used to work at Foreign Affairs or elsewhere in the government.  Shocking?  No, we are a policy school, so it makes sense to expose our students to people who have experience doing policy.  Some of our tenure-track and tenured profs used to work for the government! Gasp!  My colleague Stephanie Carvin was mentioned by name.  If one were to read her tweets and her op-eds, or perhaps watch what she says on TV, one would not consider her a stooge of the government (I guess puppet is the more fashionable label, right?).

That gets to the heart of the problem: the author didn't read the stuff we write, watch our appearances on TV, or do any, um, work, other than do some modest research about the history of the place.  Many of us are critical of the government... perhaps not always, it kind of depends on what the government is doing and whether it is doing it well or not.  I cannot speak for all of my colleagues, but I get the sense we are not an ideological bunch nor do we see our job as always opposing for the sake of opposing (I blast that attitude in my, dare I say it, highly critical take of the Canadian government's performance during the Afghanistan mission).

The piece then goes after the usual targets--that the government has funded research (security studies is in scare quotes) via programs at Foreign Affairs and National Defence.  Those programs did give money, but did not buy support.  Again, LOOK AT THE RESEARCH.  Plenty of government funded research has been critical of the government.

The real conflict of interest might be at the Hill Times as they publish a guy who is flogging his ideological attack on the government and academia with a hit piece that actually has no real content.  Great job, editors.

PS  Yes, this might seem defensive, but when one is attacked, one has two responses--ignore or defend oneself.  Given that this accusations were made in a minor media outlet, a minor response is appropriate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I Love My Job Squared!

Today was a double or quadratic "I Love My Job" kind of day.  I spent the morning talking with a few officers of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.  I learned a great deal both for the Steve/Dave/Phil project and for potential spinoffs.

In the afternoon, I went to see Tokyo's oldest garden: Koishikawa Korakuen Garden. Much damage from both 1923 Great Firequake and 1945 Firebombings, but it was still a beautiful island of tranquility, sort of.

Why sort of?  Because it is next to the Tokyo Dome.  This is not only the big baseball stadium where the Tokyo Giants play but also a site:
  • off track betting--the crumpled betting sheets made it the dirtiest place in Tokyo
  • an amusement park with roller coaster (so much noise of shrieking reached the garden)
  • oh, and the Baseball Hall of Fame.  
Computer problems (windows 10 update has made it impossible to work except in safe mode--which disables most of my software and requires me to use web-based programs like google docs) are making blogging and particularly posting of pics harder--it may be easier once Mrs Spew arrives with her laptop.

Anyhow, I love my job and I love my job.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Trump is Unnerving

My first interview of the morning was spent reassuring Japanese military officer that Trump is not going to win.  But Brexit!  No, not Brexit, as US polling is more/better, as US is more diverse, as Trump can't spell GOTV, and on and on.  

Tis strange to be applying my sabbatical mission abroad--but easier to make the case now than a few months ago, even if this was pretty predicatable.  Still, it is striking that outsiders are still very nervous. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Onsen Sunset

Onsen Monogatari
The bright side of not getting any interviews lined up on a beautiful Friday in Tokyo is: more tourism!  I went to Odaiba Island, which is an artificial island (just like China but with way more style and for less risk of international conflict) chock full of malls, funky big buildings, beautiful views and an onsen.  On-what?  Onsens are bathhouses with warm/hot mineral water.  As my back is not engaging my apartment's not so ergonomic setup, I thought this would be a good time to soak and also explore Japanese culture.

I spent most of my time confused about procedure, although the setup was pretty clever--shoes in shoe locker, one gets a yukata from the front desk, changes in a locker room, and then can go to the bathhouse (separated by gender, just like the locker rooms) or into the hall for food, shopping, silliness.  I went to the bathhouse, where there was another locker room as one only takes into the bathing area a small towel and nothing else except the bracelets with the various locker keys.  One washes completely before going into the baths.  There were indoor and outdoor baths, a cold water one (I avoided that one), a more minerally bubble bath, one with jets and bubbles--mighty good for a sore back, and a variety of generic baths.  Off of this area was a room for massages of various kinds.  I opted for the cheaper (30 minute) scrub.  I have never been more exfoliated. 

Then I went to check out the food and shopping.  I wanted to take a pic of myself in the yukata with the cardboard cutouts of anime figures, and a group of Japanese needs decided I needed help.  So, one took this pic with one of his friends and myself.  It was fun, and they would say various Canadian cities instead of cheese: Vancouver!  Toronto!  I had told them where I was from.  They asked me if I enjoyed Japan's culture.  Yes, very much so.

Before leaving I noticed that they have a doggie resort at this onsen!  I may try a more traditional one later.  It was nice to ease into it with one with heaps of English instructions.  I still screwed stuff up along the way, but figured most of it out.

After grabbing a sweet dessert (I was saving myself for dinner in a couple of hours), I started walking towards the edge of the island that faced downtown Tokyo.  This artificial island is chock full of funky buildings including the Toyko International Exchange Center.


The good news is this area is defended by a giant superhero.

 Better to be lucky than good, example 418: Happened to be walking buy as the sun was setting.  Made Mount Fuji in the distance look even better.
Been playing with panoram

 Tokyo at dusk
 Sad bears about climate change.

I simply love my job:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How Not To Use a Pop Culture Reference

Having written about how to use pop culture to talk about politics, I am pleased that Mike Huckabee has provided us with a tremendous service:

How not to use a pop culture reference.  It is not just that he gets the ending of Jaws wrong.  He reverses the roles--the shark beat Quint, not the other way around.  It was only after the shark ate Quint that Brody (Roy Scheider) is able to blow up the shark.  If HRC is the shark, and Trump is Quint, then Trump gets eaten in a very painful way (is there less painful way to be eaten by a Great White Shark?).  So, I guess Mike has to hope that Paul Ryan or someone else is Brody, right?

Anyhow, the level of stupidity on the cable shows right now, defending Trump, is just astonishing.

One Percent Problems in Academia

When I was a callow youth in this business, I was thoroughly resentful of those who would pile up a series of post-docs after grad school.  It seemed like the best way to get a post-doc (a fellowship where one could focus on getting one's dissertation published and working on the next big project) was to have one already.  It seemed quite unfair that a few select scholars would end up getting the lion's share of this scarce resource based on the original assessment of potential.  The dynamic was mostly that getting one of these things would both improve one's cv and tell others that the person has already been vetted and found worthy, making it easier for the next foundation to say this person must be worthy.

As it turns out, this happens at the end of careers as well.  McGill's own Charles Taylor just got another lifetime achievement award, which makes his total of such stuff reach $4.5 million or so.  Again, concentration of awards. This is end of career lavishing of awards on the few is less important since it will not hurt the career chances of others.  And it is not based on some elusive sense of potential but a career-long track record.  But I still tend to react by saying FFS.  Mostly, perhaps, because it reminds me of what I observed nearly twenty-five years ago.  Partly because it seems wrong that so much would come to so few.  I am not going to get into race and gender as I don't know the track records of these end-of-career awards, but I do wonder.  It does make me feel the same way when one actor seems to get an annual Emmy, that others are deserving of recognition.

The solace I used to take when pondering such stuff is that more than a few of the serial post-doc folks flamed out--that they had more time than most to publish and yet didn't.  Of course, am I one to talk?  I am currently benefiting from a fellowship--that I am in Japan on the dime of the Social Science Research Council and Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and that received another prestigious fellowship.  But that previous one was 15 years ago, so it is not like these things are accumulating like snow in Ottawa in January.  

I do feel a bit less comfy about the shift in SSHRC (Canada's social science granting agency) from many smaller grants to a smaller number of bigger grants--I didn't think the old system was broken.  On the other hand, SSHRC is quite clear how much past performance matters in the evaluation of grants (not a majority of the weighting on the scores), and I had to take two whacks at it the last time. 

Anyhow, when I saw that Taylor got yet another award, I reacted differently from my friends.  They were happy for the guy, who I never met at McGill.  Me, I just wondered what philosophers would say about how this stuff distributed.

First Time For Everything: Cover Boy

I am on the front page of FPA Voices, a publication the Faculty of Public Affairs puts out on a quarterly basis.  I was asked a couple of months ago about what would a Trump Presidency would mean for Canada and the world.  My argument was not very nuanced--and ironically, I used Trump speak--it would be awful, awful, awful.  I didn't think then that Trump really had much of a chance because of the fundamentals I have been harping about.

The short photoshoot in my office led to the cover, with not enough photoshopping.  It is nice that the Dean and the folks under him recognize my contributions, including engaging the public.  I think I could have done a better job with the interview, but, well, the subject of it does not inspire much complicated thoughts about  the future--just holy @$*&*&#%%!!

Anyhow, probably the last time I will be a coverboy.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mount Fuji

I can't wait to talk about Mount Fuji for the weekly trip report, especially since there was so much time in the bus to think about how much I saw along the way.  So here's my day, as I skipped in and out of twitter and the debate as I had to preserve the batteries of my various devices to last the entire day. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Why This Trump-tastrophe Is Different

I cannot escape the US election, as Trump keeps being more and more Trump.  To be clear, we should have seen this coming.  One of my regular tweets has been "he doth project too much."  And what did Trump say about Mexicans and Muslims?   That they were threats to rape Americans.  It should have been a clue about his own pattern of sexual assault:
Why is this audio tape of his statements the supposed last straw?  To be clear, Trump was beyond the pale before he started.  Why?  When he announced his run last year, we knew that
  • he was a birther--which combines racism and conspiracy theory.  This should have been disqualifying on its own, but the GOP made this almost a requirement.
  • he was a serial business failure.  The idea that he is a smart businessman never held any water except for those who were desperate to buy the con.  We knew about his bankrupcies and the lawsuits.  Not so much that the lawsuits were about contractors being repeatedly ripped off, but heaps of smoke.
  • he had no political experience.  This should be a disqualifier--because we don't ask our neighbors to operate on our brains (unless they happen to be licensed brain surgeons).  Politics is like anything else--expertise is better than the absence of expertise.  Alas, the idea that politicians might have skills has become so poisoned that we forget the obvious--if you want to get some stuff done, someone with experience will be more effective.  Indeed, I fully expect, despite Hillary Derangement Syndrome, that she will be more effective than Obama.  She knows the system far better than he did.  
  • he was married three times, committed adultery on a regular basis in public.  Sure, that may not be a disqualfier, but if he was going to get the GOP nomination, one would think that some contrition on this might be handy to get evangelical votes.  Oops, they only value abortion opposition and pretty much nothing else.
But if there not enough, his announcement to run came with slurs against an entire group of people, one that the GOP had figured out they needed to win the presidency.  So, that should have been disqualifying.

I can go through the rest, but it is unnecessary.  We know the record.  But Republicans decided to stick with their party's nominee with a few notable exceptions, no matter whether he diminished veterans, attacked African-Americans, pal-ed around with white supremacists (puts that whole Bill Ayers thing of 2008 into perspective, doesn't it?), incited violence, gave fodder to ISIS, undermined US security, and, oh yeah, seemed to be operating with/by/for the Russians.

Why did so many leap off the bandwagon now but not before?  Mostly cowardice.  They didn't want to be the first, but with this weekend's events, they could see that they would not offend the party this time.  Also, to be clear, all of Trump's previous stuff was talk.  This weekend's audio was talk, too, but talk of a pattern of sexual assault.  So, misogyny aimed at Clinton or Megan Kelly or whoever else was not sufficient, but bragging about committing sexual assault seemed to do the trick.  Again, I think it is only partly that this was more offensive but also much about Republicans realizing that they would not be alone this time.  The NYT chart on the pattern of exits makes this pretty clear.  There are few profiles in courage--Ben Sasse and a couple of others were early and consistent.  The rest?  Late and waffling.

Maybe there can be some good that can came out of this--the discussion of groping spawned by Kelly Oxford on twitter is very important.  But damn, what a wasted year to have this guy suck up so much attention and do so much damage to the body politic.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Weekly Japan Trip Report #1

The first week here flew by.  It has been pretty productive with excellent conversations with my research partner, Takako Hikotani, some very useful interviews, great food, and some fun tourism.

What have I learned thus far?
  • Just like Captain Kirk and Spock discussed in ST II: Wrath of Khan, one needs to think three dimensionally (no time travel, so no fourth dimensional thinking required, Doc).  How so?  In most cities I have visited, stories and restaurants are mainly on street level.  Here and perhaps in the rest of east Asia, things are organized vertically with many businesses arrayed upwards.  So, one needs to look not just at the street level but the stuff above.  
  • Speaking of directions, it is pretty hard to navigate in a land without street names.  Making it harder still, the maps that they have in the neighborhoods are not always oriented with north on top and south at the bottom.  So, one has to double check where the N is pointing.
  • Subway stations, however, are super easy to navigate--lots of signs and many in English.  The exits are numbered and have tables indicating what each exit leads to.  Alas, train stations are super-complex. 
  • The town seems inundated with small sailors, but that is because the uniforms kids have for school seem mostly based on navy uniforms.
  • Halloween is definitely a thing here--at least for selling stuff.
  • I got to hang with the Air Staff College folks who are hosting me as they hosted a bunch of like minded Air Force folks from the US, Australia, France, and UK.  I now know what my name looks like in Japanese:

Some pictures to illustrate what I have seen and done:
National Defence Academy

Notorious Yasukuni Shrine

Meiji Shrine

Love a good funky name/sign

Ran into wedding at Togo Shrine

Shibuya, one of the classic mass
pedestrian crosswalks

Some interesting cafes

A Godzilla sighting!

From Skytree, Tokyo is dense
and massive

Thanks to the SSRC-Abe folks,
I have bilingual cards!

I went to the Nature and Science Museum and found
interesting stuff on earthquakes.
This displays intensity, location and depth

Beautiful shrine, photographer getting drenched.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The More We Know About Canadian Military Operations

The more questions we have, and that is why folks don't share much info most of the time.  I was unable to be on this phone press conference since I am 13 hours or so in the future, but the news story here is very interesting.

First, the Canadian Special Operations Forces in Iraq are not doing anything different under this more violence-averse government.  They are still advising at the frontlines, which can lead to combat.  It ain't called combat because politicians say it ain't combat.  What it is not: sustained combat operations.  What it is: violence conducted by Canadian SOF from time to time when they are near the adversary.  Lots of folks will get caught up in the definitional game, when we should focus on the central issues instead:
  • How much risk are the CANSOF being exposed to on a regular basis?
  • How efficacious is the training?
  • The larger political challenge--making the most effective force in the country more effective still may be problematic down the road when the Kurds feel a separatist itch.
The article does get at a big question--whether the mission will be renewed once again?  The folks mentioned in the piece seem to suggest that it will not be continued. This actually makes some operational sense (not just politics back home, not just budgetary/operational tempo stuff) if the Kurds and the rest of the Iraqis take Mosul between now and the exit.  If Mosul falls to the Iraqis, then there will be much less need for training/advising/assisting the Kurds as ISIS will mostly be ejected from Iraq and others can train the Iraqi forces how to patrol territory they own, rather than taking back territory they lost a few years ago.

Of course, this will raise a political challenge--what would Canada be contributing to the counter-ISIS fight after pulling out the CANSOF folks?   That is a challenge for the Trudeau government--to continue to stay in the fight against ISIS in some way that is recognized by those that Canada wants to recognize Canada.

There is another issue in all of this: Murray Brewster noted the lack of details.  Guess who is also not getting any details?  Parliament.  All of the parliamentary discussion about getting access to the secret stuff is about surveillance and not operations.  And, to me, this is a problem since that leaves democratic control of the military in the hands of the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister and no one else.  And those guys might just be tempted to hide questionable stuff.  Oops. 

Canada is not alone in this oversight oversight.  Which is why I am writing this from Japan.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Offset This!

Military jargon can be handy or it can be confusing.  Today, I sat in on a conference of Air folks--run by the Air Staff College that is hosting me with Japan's Air Defence Force, Australian Air Force, French Air Force, Royal Air Force, and US Air Force folks.  The speakers included people from all of these--majors to colonels.  I missed yesterday's presentations that were mostly about the threat these folks are facing in Asia-Pacific.  Today was about what each air force was thinking about in terms of responding, including new doctrine.  The big US theme--the third offset.

Whuck?  Well, um, hmmmm.  The official definition on the slide (they gave me a briefing book with all of the slides, and yes, death by powerpoint):
"Offset strategies are about technologically enabled operational and organizational constructs that provide the joint force with an advantage, strengthening conventional deterrence."  Or so says the Secretary of the Air Force.
What does that mean?  No idea.  However, we can figure it out by looking at the first and second offsets:
  1. 1950's: Need to offset Soviet Conventional Superiority, which led to Eisenhower's New Look strategy--massive retaliation and all that.
  2.  1970's: Need to offset erosion of US nuclear advantage.  So precision guided munitions.
  3. Future/now Technological advantage is eroding.  Adversaries (China) are innovating faster so US/allies will not have big lead in latest technologies.  
Ah, so offset means that the US/allies are trying to offset or compensate for the strengths of the adversary (used to be Soviet, now China and maybe some others).

But offset by itself does not really sing.  It does not really clearly identify what the basic stuff is about.  I am not sure about a better name.

What I am sure about is that this ain't the third one.  What this count above ignores, among others, is the 1960s, when nuclear supremacy gave way.  The Kennedy administration came up with flexible response, so that the US would dominate every rung of the escalation ladder.  But the big "offset" was political: teaching the Soviets about Mutual Assured Destruction, about Schellling, and about why defenses (ABM) were bad.

Which leads to the challenge of the present day--much work needs to be done so that the US/allies and China share a common language about the relationship and perhaps focus effort on mutual security rather than supremacy.  The recent news about the USAF pursuing a next generation bomber designed to penetrate Chinese airspace bothers the fuck out of me.  Sorry, but I cannot say it more strongly, but the idea of developing capabilities that undermine China's second strike capability is dumb and then some.  China may not accept mutual assured destruction, but it sure as hell will not accept being vulnerable to a disarming US first strike.  Haven't we learned the lessons of the past?  The USAF bomber plans suggests not so much.

While I do admire the folks I heard today, and I think the recognition that the US will not be out-innovating the Chinese, that the technological edge is not going to be as wide (although is China close to having rail guns and frickin laser beams?) is very important, it comes back to politics.  We need to get straight the relationships and what the US needs to do and to avoid before trying to build a plane that might undermine a stable equilibrium that fosters peace.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I Am Confused About Being Confused

One of my standard lines is "I am confused."  In twitter discussions, this is often treated as weakness--that I am a simpleton or somehow otherwise flawed because I don't see the situation as clearly as some advocate thinks I should.  But admitting confusion is, I think, an important step to learning and figuring something out.

That confusion is often created by others offering up contradictory statements--characterized by conflicting logics or by some form of hypocrisy or by some form of conflation of two different dynamics or by something else.  Recognition of contradiction can be met with all kinds of responses, but my "I am confused" is essentially suggesting that more thinking is required by me or by the advocate or by both.  Maybe that causes the advocate to be confused or to be upset.  Ooops.

Again, I think confusion is a healthy recognition that one needs to think more, pushing one out of one's comfortable cognitively closed boxes in one's head.  Indeed. when I taught Intro to IR, I vowed in my first class that the purposed of the course was to confuse the students.  That my job was not provide them with a single point of view, but with multiple ones with conflicting assertions about the nature of International Relations.  The idea was to provide the students with multiple tools to understand IR, so that down the road they could have multiple tools to understand events they observe. 

In short, I think too much confidence in the clarity of the world is a problem, as people refuse to recognize the complexities and as they refuse to acknowledge the tradeoffs.  Simple adherence to an ideology or point of view is far more comfortable than confusion--mostly by assuring the person that additional thinking is not required.

Am I being clear here or am I just making other folks confused?  If the latter, join the club.

PS  There is no deliberate subtweeting here.  Blogging today was inspired by a most friendly twitter conversation, but this is something I have been thinking about for sometime.  Or maybe it was inspired by my altered sleep cycle.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


NDA HQ building
Today, I had a very useful discussion with a former Ministry of Defense official before heading off to Yokosuka, the site of both the big US Navy base and the National Defense Academy.  It was the latter we sought as Takako Hikotani is a professor there when she is not guest professing at Columbia.  It was fun to see her students whom she made practice their English with me.  We toured the campus and met her colleagues. 

NDA is their military college--West Point, Annapolis, and Colorado Springs all in one.

Their motto, seen to the right, was most interesting. Courage, Honor, Propriety.  Definitely not an American motto.  The first two parts? Sure.  The last? Nope.

 I love a good Star Wars reference
 There was some drills we watched--they are rusty due to spending their recent time studying for exams.
The advantage of commuting with a research partner is that I learned that this ad and the average ad on the train are for companies that seek to loan money at very high rates. 

Twas a very warm day and no typhoon yet.  It as a good start to the month of research. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Shibuya and Ginza

I got to my apartment in the late afternoon yesterday, so I didn't have a chance to explore beyond my neighborhood until today.  To be clear, my neighborhood is chock full of restaurants (yea!) and clubs (whatever).  For today's tourism, I spent a very pretty but hot day walking around the Shibuya arrea in the morning and Ginza in the late afternoon with some recharging (multiple phones and myself) in between. 

The first stop was the Meiji Shrine where the Emperor who led Japan in the late 18th century is enshrined.  He was the one who was around when Japan made the big leap, rapidly industrializing thanks to the threat posed by the appearance of American ships.

One theme of this trip may be: pretty trees.  
This one is just to the right of the shrine.  Big and very round.

What better way to honor an Emperor than to provide many casks of sake and barrels of wine?

 Takeshita street is chock full of candy stories, dessert cafes, and teen fashions.  And this:
Not sure what Lovetoxic is about, but I had to take a picture since strange signs get my attention (a bar called Vandalism was another example).  Lovetoxic and might of Takeshita street was closed on an early Sunday morning.  I will have to go back and check it out when it is awake.
 Two different weddings at the Togo Shrine, named for the admiral who led Japan against Russia in 1905.
 This second party was in mid-wedding as I was checking out the shrine.  See the video of their entrance.

Godzilla likes to shop at Tower Records! 

 Strange cafes are a Tokyo specialty.  I was not expecting this one.  It seemed popular as there was a line of folks waiting for it to open on a Sunday morning.  I will have to come back and check out the Thunder Song... 
 In the Ginza area, two dogs had manes.  No idea why....
Apparently, Theory is for sale.  Not sure what kind of theory, but it would be a good complement to anthropology