Sunday, December 29, 2019

Spew in Review, 2019: It Always Is Darkest Before the Dawn edition

Oy, we thought all those great folks dying a few years ago made that year a bad one, but 2019 has been a pretty miserable one.  Great for me, but bad for Canada, bad for the US, and bad for the planet.  Pretty sure 2019 will be remembered as the year climate change became quite a real, present thing and not a future problem thing, and, yet, regression was the theme on that front given the politics in many countries including Trump's love of coal and the role of pipelines and such making Canadian politics on this issue so very screwed up.

So, on that cheery note, I want to look back at the year of Spew.  This helps me figure out what happened, and also helps me find key posts years later.  So, enjoy or ignore this yearly exercise in narcissism. 

Teaching has been one of the sources of inspiration for the Spew, and so one of the more popular posts of this year was when I ranted about something I had observed in class: folks being more focused on selling their project than on the project itself.  How is it a puzzle?

I explained my "don't count on impeachment" meme in a year where impeachment eventually happened.  I acknowledged that with a change of control in the House of Representatives that the House could vote to impeach Trump, but that would not solve our problems as the Senate would surely not convict.  Nothing has changed my view on that.

I pondered the roles of bullies in international relations and in the field of IR--both got some play on twitter and even some comments on the first post.

Thanks to Sara Mitchell, I thought about planning.  It turns out that I don't have a 20 year plan (that would take me past retirement, whether I retire on time or a smidge late).  Most of my planning involves keeping the cycle going--from project to project, from grant to grant.  I can't commit to anything longer because my research agenda moves all over the place.

Thinking about Israel and anti-semitism became a thing for me in 2019, culminating in a trip to Israel where I asked damn near everyone whether Netanyahu was the most anti-semitic Prime Minister in Israel's history.

Outrage was definitely a thing in 2019, and my outrage at Elliott Abrams being upset about being challenged on his awful record while working in Republican administrations was quite intense.

The Canadian political scene was dominated by a scandal that ultimately cost the Liberals their majority, which I juxtaposed to the Conservatives facing the pull of populism here.

One of the big boons of recent times, and especially so in 2019, was the development of civ-mil twitter.  Jim Golby is one of the key actors there, presenting a number of long threads addressing key issues, and this post, on the various gaps between civs and military folks, was one where I built on his thread. 

One of my professional recommendations--how to be a successful scholar--do not put "do not cite" on your conference paper.  This got a lot of discussion on twitter and facebook, with one of the realizations being that women fear (rightly so) having their work stolen.  I still think the best way to prevent theft is to stake a claim loudly and clearly.

The month concluded with the ISA which had a heap of affirmation which I greatly appreciated.

Most of the blogging focused on a Game of Thrones game--who would live?  I did this before with Breaking Bad and Lost.  Not sure if there will be anything in the future that can be discussed at length like this show.

I didn't play as much ultimate due to injuries, but this survey reminds me of how much this sport has meant to me.  And I recovered, so there will be more ultimate, which is ... more ultimate.

I volunteered to help fill sandbags as Ottawa was facing some flooding.  It was a pretty amazing, touching experience. 

I marked ten years of blogging by ... blogging.  I am blogging less, but it still is an important part of what I do--thinking half baked stuff about the profession, about politics (US, Canadian, international), about pop culture, and more.

I went to a concentration camp near Berlin--Sachsenhausen--which haunted me for much of the year.  The deliberate creation of illness-inducing environments at these places struck me again and again as the US did its best to do its worst to those immigrants put in cages.  Flu vaccines?  No?  FFS.

Speaking of war crimes, Trump pardoning and embracing war criminals became a thing in 2019, an awful thing. 

One of the most popular posts of the year was when I used my knowledge about separatism to ponder the aftermath of the Game of Thrones.

We got funded!!  The Canadian Defence and Security Network became a real thing, complete with staff, logo, and, yes, a podcast!  For links to our episodes, go to:

As we headed into election season, I got a heap of crap for being a Canadian yet daring to discuss American politics.  Here, I reply to that lame criticism.

One of the basic academic questions is what to research.  I got asked: how do you decide which project to focus on.  My answer: focus? What's that?

Going to European conferences was a thing in 2019, with ERGOMAS as the first one and the first where I taped a heap of interviews for future Battle Rhythm episodes.  Oh, and Lisbon! I had then hang out in Barcelona before the next conference in Paris--yes, a tough job.  And before the conference in Paris, I got to spend a day at a number of sites on and near the Normandy beaches.  I learned a great deal despite having a decent background beforehand.

One of the few journalists covering Canadian defence accused me of being too close to the military, which was a concern for some joining the CDSN.  How do we make sure we don't become a cog in the military-industrial-academic complex?  By being critical.  So, yeah, I criticized this journalist for questioning my integrity. 

Going to Israel was a big highlight for me.  I learned a lot, got to hang out with a bunch of super-smart academics, ate well, and questioned my identity.

I joined the discussion about whether academics should curse on social media.  Well, FFS!

Well, I predicted the 2019 Canadian election better than the 2016 US election...

Once again, I invoke the logic of invidious comparisons and social identity theory to understand ethnic politics.  This time, the American situation as people seemed more upset than they should be about the NYT 1619 project.

Yes, when folks say they are friends of Jews, beware.  Yes, Trump is anti-semitic.

I ponder whether International Organizations can be funny as I heard of a new proposed program that would attempt to do so.

Mattis resigned, and I will always call him former SecDef Mattis, not General Mattis, just to spite him since he never took the uniform off, making one of my early Trump-era predictions dead on.

While the CDSN had a variety of things kicking off over the summer, the first research workshop--on defence procurement--was a nice way to start the research side of the project. 

More evidence that the civ-mil twitter community is super-helpful at clarifying much confusing and making sense of a complex set of dynamics.

Another highlight of 2019: I got to participate in a military exercise... one aimed at engaging the Canadian public.

The tweet of the year: where I suggest that we ought not to confuse rank with intelligence, wisdom, integrity, or patriotism

Returning to a recurring theme this year, does the aforementioned military exercise mean I am too close to the military?

My take on the foreign/defence policy stances of the competing Canadian parties, and then the post-mortem on the election.

No, I am not a fan of the "new" Syrian mission.

A talk at Tufts led to my thinking about my method--medium N analysis.  I know a little about many policies, but not a lot about any of them.  This can get me into trouble (the wreckage of various early versions of papers probably are the product of such arrogance), but has mostly been good to me.  My books, with one notable exception, compare a number of countries, taking thin slices to see what is general and what is particular.

An old topic returned--what do academics do?  And what happens when they commit to too much?

One of the dark themes of 2019: the damage done by Trump to American alliances.

There is no deep state.  Please move on.

While it has been true for some time, 2019 made it clear that the GOP is the Party of Bad Faith.  The arguments used to defend Trump from impeachment, along with other stances, made that abundantly clear.  It really does not pay to argue with those who are operating on bad faith.

One of my favorite posts of the year built on my favorite SNL sketch of the year: NATO as a high school.

Overall, I had a great year--lots of travel, the launching of the CDSN, hanging out with Stef VH on Battle Rhythm every other week, and more.  I wish the world was doing better.  Hopefully, 2020 will have more good news for me to blog about.  Alas, I am sure I will be ranting about the election and its coverage for much of it.

Happy New Year to all, and thanks for inspiring so many of my posts via conversations on twitter and facebook and in the classroom.

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