Saturday, August 15, 2020

Quarantine, Week 22: Lost in Time

I think I had the hardest time this week remembering which day it was.  It was a big week: Kamala Harris was selected to be the next VP if Trump doesn't interfere too much, the US Postal Service has been attacked nakedly as part of Trump's effort to interfere too much, I made much progress in my online course prep, and my department had its pre-fall meeting.  Ok, the last one was not a big thing, but a long thing thanks to a colleague who likes to ask a lot of questions, block progress on stuff, and, yes, shirk.

Here's one I didn't use in the course.
But I had fun as one of the new "assessments" or assignments for the online class is meme of the week.  The idea is to have the students take a theory and make it into a meme to display that they understand the concept.  Oh, and the students will vote on the best ones with those winning the weekly contest getting extra credit.  So, yeah, I had to make some to illustrate and that was fun. Folks on twitter thought it was a good idea although some were already doing something similar.  My partner in this class, David Hornsby, and I have plans to meet next week to tape the segments of the class where we discuss (argue with each other) the implications of some of the theories.  It should be fun and interesting and engaging.  And, yes, I have put far more work into preparing this class this summer than any summer in the past, um, twenty years.  Online class prep is far more work, and the course management system, alas, makes it take more time.

Speaking of online course prep, I was interviewed by Dan Nexon's research assistant this week for Dan's course prep.  He is seeking to build a bank of interviews as a public good.  I was asked about NATO, civ-mil relations, and the IR of ethnic conflict.  I downloaded much of what I knew, with the interview lasting more than twice as long as expected.  Because, yes, I can talk, and I haven't been doing much of that this summer except to myself, our cat, and Mrs. Spew.  I am trying to do something more modest but similar--arranging interviews with a few scholars to ask them why they chose their particular approach and the obstacles they faced.  This is for the midpoint of my IR theory class as a change of pace and to provide alternative perspectives.

I haven't blogged about the assault on the postal service, but here's my basic take:
  • Trump and his folks moved too soon.  Democrats in and out of office have plenty of time to adjust: by negotiating pacts with Republican secretaries of state, like the one in Kentucky,  to have more early voting, more ways to vote; by mobilizing people to be poll workers so that there are more places to vote; by suing; by figuring out work arounds, and so on.  
  • This move may cost more GOP votes than Dems.  How so?  Because lots of folks rely on the postal service for more than just voting, including medicines and checks.  Oh, and during a pandemic, the mail matters even more.  While I fully expect the popularity of the USPS to go down because Trump is politicizing it, it starts at 91%.  No government institution in the US is as popular.
  • The media is not even-handing, false equivalencing this.  I don't know how Fox is handling it, but the rest of the media has found this to be appalling.  
  • And, yes, this is about as impeachable as it gets.  Abuse of power to stay in office, much more obviously so and much more destructively so than the crimes Nixon committed to stay in office.
 The core lesson of all of this for the US: if governance matters, folks should elect those who don't want to burn government down.  From the pseudo-hurricane that hit Iowa to the pandemic to the next hurricane that hits the US to the economic crisis and on and on, I doubt there has been greater need for governance in the US since either WWII or the Great Depression.  This time, we didn't get FDR but Trump.  We can look around and compare--from state to state, from country to country, and even from sport to sport--and see that competence and diligence simply matter.  The NBA, thus far, has managed to organize itself and execute its plan despite their bubble existing in the one of the hotzones.  The biggest crisis thus far has been a player who left the bubble to go to a funeral and happened to go by a stripclub for some chicken wings.... The league handled that well.  The NFL and baseball?  Shitshows.  Why? Because their owners hate their players.  No partnership, just animosity.  Kind of like how Trump feels about Americans.

To end this on a positive note, yes, I will be baking some more (and I still have two Nigella chocolate chip cookie dough pots stashed in the freezer for when I really need them).  The CDSN has its annual meeting with the Directors and with the Advisory Board, so it will be good to see those folks and get their take on how we are doing.  More on that next week.  While I lose track of the days, I am not losing track of what we have done thus far nor what we will be doing in the years ahead.  I am very grateful for all of the folks who have given so much of their time, their creativity, and their insights.

Be well!

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