Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: The Longest Year of Our Lives

Time for another year in review post--the Spew of 2017.  I blogged less this year, averaging 2/3s of a post a day, which is continues a decline.  Why?  Partly because I express much of my anger on twitter these days, partly because what I want to say I have said before, whether it is about #voterfraudfraud, the tyranny of low expectations, or the politics of academic departments, so I re-post, rather than re-write. 

Anyhow, even though I wrote less, the year felt incredibly long as living in Trump world means responding not to a crisis every few weeks but one every few hours, and that is exhausting.  Which is probably the best explantion for less blogging--it has been a very emotionally exhausting year.  Predictions ahead by folks seem to suggest it will get worse as we get the real Trump.... or nuclear war.

Anyhow, looking back, it was a great year for me despite what was going on elsewhere with record travel, meaning great food, really interesting stuff learned along the way, and, yes, selfies in new places.  I do these yearly summaries because they help to remind me what happened and they also serve as handy places to find key posts.  I hope you enjoy the bath in my nostalgia.


Japan a second time was just as lovely as the first. Ok, it was the third trip but the second research trip, which included travel to the other side of the island (took less time via bullet train than travel across Lost's island the first season but not the sixth) for a conference and more snow than I have ever seen.

2016 was a lousy year for predictions.  2017 was much better despite a vow not to make them (pie crust promises are a long tradition here at the Semi-Spew).  Perhaps the best one was when I referred to Trump's cabinet and other advisers as Arsonists.  That and my response to a question in Japan about the future of the Trump administration--nope, impeachment is not going to happen.


I was accused of being hysterical about Trump.  I guess if one considers the % of posts about the President, maybe.  But I think 2017 shows that I was right to be very, very concerned.  On the positive side, it was nice to see a man being accused of this largely gender-biased term.

Trump's continued and seemingly deliberate ignorance at NATO gave me much fodder for the year, correcting the dumb yet unkillable myths about the alliance and 2%.

I had a book workshop in Irvine that I turned into Anniversary Fest.  We were married 25 years ago in San Diego, so we returned to the scene of .... where it was supposed to happen.  We got rained out and forced inside.  And the amazing thing... I didn't blog about it.  Turns out Mrs. Spew can be super distracting ;)

My favorite idea of 2017--fighting #voterfraudfraud by getting Dems and others to get folks id's.  Voterfraudfraud needs to be fought in every way possible--in the courts, in the statehouses and in the streets. While we should fight efforts to require folks to get voter id's (always aimed at the real threat of folks voting for Democrats despite the claim that these are to fight the imaginary threat of voter fraud), getting people gun permits, drivers' licences, whatever is another way to fight.  Increasing the franchise and fighting voter suppression is a multidimensional effort.

Twas an early and very good International Studies Association meeting.  I got a Duckie for special achievement, I got to visit a really cool pop culture museum across the street from the hotel, I met up with my best friend from summer camp who I had not seen since College Spew was a toddler, and there were protests against the Muslim ban, which, alas, kept one of my students away despite her receiving an award.


I do much academic engagement from home--skyping to tv stations around Canada, so I felt Robert Kelly's pain. I know him as he was a Duckster for a while.  So, this resonated in multiple ways.

I got to go to India for a few talks and roundtables in Mumbai.  It was great to get perspectives from a very different part of the world and to see such an amazing city of contrasts.

One of the recurring themes on twitter in 2017 was how brutal the academic environment can be, so I jumped on the theme of academic kindness when it came up.  It helped me remember how many folks were so very good to me over the years that helped me get to where I am and to make the journey a mostly fun, engaging, and positive one.


A friend of mine started a great podcast on US National Security--Bombshell. I have been thinking of starting one, and now have much to learn from this one.

Will Moore shook the discipline, especially those who study repression and internal conflict, when he killed himself.  The irony of this act is that he felt alone in many ways despite creating an amazing community of scholars who loved him and each other.  They provided much solace for each other in the aftermath.  I am still angry and sad and frustrated, but I know I am in good company. 

I started referring to Trump as an uncertainty engine, but needed to plant my flag on it, so here's the definitive post where I explain how Trump generates uncertainty and why this is so bad.


While I have tenure at Carleton, my endowed chair is renewable. And, yes, I have been here long enough for it to be renewed.  Getting the notice allowed me to look back and be very thankful for everything the chair has done for me.

The Dave/Phil/Steve project took me to Brazil!  I spent two weeks in Brazil asking about their civ-mil relations and specifically the role of their legislature in overseeing their military.  I had so much help from a great team of Brazilian research assistants in Brasilia and Rio, and the Brazilians I met were very interesting and informative.  I did miss the political crisis in Brasilia by a few hours thankfully.  Rio was beautiful but wet.

I got plagiarized in a good way: a conversation with a producer in Hollywood led to some of my words making it into Brad Pitt's movie that tried to satire the US war in Afghanistan and Stan McCrystal's experience.


I finally got my hands on the long hidden Lessons Learned report by the Canadian government regarding the Afghanistan experience.  I was not impressed.  The good news is that Adapting in the Dust didn't get scooped.

Asia?  Again? Yep, after having spent only a week or so in Afghanistan in 2007, 2017 became the year of much Asia with another trip to Japan (instead of South Korea due to their impeachment getting in the way of interviews--which led me to ponder if I am the Impeachment Fairy)--a fourth time in the past year and half--and presenting in Hong Kong!

A regular theme here is griping about Canadian civil-military relations and the lame public debates we have here on the subject.  I had ample opportunity this year.

Five years in Ottawa! Wow!  I marked the anniversary via blogging about the many things I have enjoyed in the fast five. Oh and my sabbatical ended. Sob.


Canada turned 150 on the 1st.  Twas a big deal.   Did I list 150 reasons why I love Canada?  Um, close.

I had fun thinking about how the various players in the GOP would fit into the D&D world.  Yes, intelligence and wisdom are distinct attributes...

A key theme in 2017 and will be one in 2018: not any decent military options re North Korea.


I left PSR.

The Alaska trip went great--but getting to the port of origin (Seattle) was quite the learning experience.

US is not alone in having an ugly affair between white supremacist websites and right wing parties--Canada, too.

Another repeated theme this past year: let's not adore the military.  It is a bad look for a democracy and even worse for civilian control of the military.

APSA did doth rock with my cohort plus getting together.

Favorite documentary of the year?  Flatball.  Because it was about ultimate, duh.

The US won't protect Canada?  Please, let's not panic since Canada has never been protected by defenses against nuclear weapons, but rather US's commitment to respond to an attack on an ally.

Steve's world tour in 2017 continued with Latvia, as that is Canada's next NATO mission.  Tripwires can be fun!

Another recurring theme?  Mattis is overrated.

Shortest trip of the year was to see a former student, Aisha Ahmad, get the award she was supposed to have received at the ISA.  Super proud and impressed.

Sexual harassment was not just a Hollywood thing, but also a recurring theme at the Spew since universities tend to care about protecting themselves more than their students.

Secession is hip again, so my old work is relevant anew.  Actually, secession is not really more prevalent now than in the past, but let's not tell anyone that.


I thought about permission structures and cascades: that the Weinstein news changed who had permission to do what.  Now, at least temporarily, sexual harassers don't have permission to predate and survivors do have permission to come out and be believed.

The war on universities continues, so I ranted back at a journalist who was poo-pooing the grants we receive in the most annoying way possible.

A basic pet peeve for this dual citizen in Canada: when Canadians get US politics/history very wrong.

Trump as President has meant a lot of revisiting Intro to IR since the folks around him don't seem to understand the basics.  This lesson?  Pre-emption and preventive wars are two different things.

What magical creatures live in the academic universe?  A rare chance to be playful this year.

The year ended with my dad learning that he is dying, leading to the family seeing him and downloading his memories as much as possible.

In my scanning of the year, I see that I was focused on the same stuff over and over again.  I blame Trump since he had no learning curve.  But I will try to be more inspired next year by non-Trump stuff.  There will still be heaps of travel to new places although perhaps not as quite as much as in 2017.

May you and yours have a very happy and nuclear war-free 2018!

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