Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Injustice or Entitlement Syndrome: A Little Self-Awareness Is Required

 I got some push back yesterday after tweeting this:

 MG Danny Fortin has had a tough couple of years.  He was the senior military officer helping the government with the vaccine rollout when he lost his job and was put on ice while an accusation of sexual misconduct was investigated.  It was ultimately sent through two procedures--civilian courts and military administration.  He was found not guilty in the first and essentially the same in the second.  And now he wants his job back.

This is where entitlement comes in.  It may have been unfair for him to lose his job due to an unproven accusation, but fairness at this stage has little to do with it.  He will always be tainted by the accusation, especially when the CAF itself has had so many general and flag officer (GOFOs) credibly accused of abuse of power and sexual misconduct and when the various justice systems have tended not to handle this stuff well.  What job could he have in the CAF now where there would not be significant concern?  Could he be chief?  Before all of this, maybe. Now?  No.  Could he be chief of the army?  Ditto.  And on and on.

This is where the entitlement syndrome that is a key part of the abuse of power problem resides--no one is owed a GOFO position.  No one is entitled to such a lofty spot.  To serve now one has to have avoided all appearance of impropriety.  When Admiral Art McDonald was suspended due to an accusation of sexual assault, once the investigators chose not to pursue the matter further, McDonald sent a letter to all of the GOFOs saying he was coming back.  That was a far clearer case of entitlement syndrome and poor judgment. 

So, Fortin's situation is not as clear.  Still, if Fortin truly believes in service before self, then he should realize that he is doing the CAF a disservice by insisting on returning to a significant position.  He is not indispensable--no one is.  He served a long career and is going to get his pension.  But another general officer billet?  No, that is not going to happen.  He doesn't have to like it, he can consider it all an injustice (his accuser continues to consider this a case of injustice), but that is just where things are now.  

What is best for the CAF?  This is difficult stuff as there needs to be a road back for those who have been accused and for those whose transgressions were relatively minor (the accusation here is not minor, to be clear).  But it also needs to be led at the highest levels by those who are above reproach.  None of this is easy, but if we combine self-awareness with a focus on service before self, we might have a shot at eroding the entitlement syndrome that has plagued Canada's armed forces.


Mama, Don't Let Your Kid Get PhDs in Poli Sci

 One could look at this figure and say things are getting back to normal.

Woot?  Well, maybe, but the old normal was awful.  The academic job market has been bad, really bad, for a long time, with a few bursts of good years.  We have been overproducing PhDs for a long time.  I wish that figure had included a line for number of PhDs produced as I am pretty sure it would exceed the line of jobs by quite a bit.  

Of course, folks will say: hey, that does not count the number of non-academic jobs that poli sci PhDs get, and that people should look there.  My responses to that are as follows:

  • Most of the folks going to academic PhD programs want academic jobs (and so too do a number of folks going to policy PhD programs).  
  • How much added value do folks get from academic PhD programs that help them get jobs in the non-academic sector?  Do the five or more extra years give them a leg up over those who just get MAs?  Is that leg up = or > the five+ years of opportunity costs?

I teach at a policy school where our aim is to train folks for the policy world, not the academic work.  In Canada, alas, there is not that much of a market for policy-oriented PhDs.  We don't have much in the way of think tanks, there are only a few govt jobs that either require PhDs or where the PhD gives one an advantage over an MA, and, the govt does not pay someone more if they have a PhD.  So, I have spent my time here wondering why we have a PhD program.  It may be a bit different in the US where there are more job opportunities for policy Phds--more think tanks, etc.

So, I have spent the last twenty plus years discouraging students who approach me about PhDs.  How many have I discouraged?  Pretty sure the answer is between zero and two.  They tend to think that what may be true for other folks is not true for them, that their interests are in demand and super-interesting.  Why am I posting this today?  Because I have a bevy of folks reaching out to talk to me about PhD programs this month.  It must be the season.

I haven't tracked what has happened to all those for whom I have written letters of recommendation.  I do know that a couple of the MA students I had at McGill got great PhDs and then great academic jobs.  I do know that all but one of my PhD students in my previous stops (McG but also TTU) have gotten tenure-track positions, and I am old enough now that all of them have gotten tenure and are either Full or Associate Professors (one is still in the tenure decision process). Oh wait, those are the PhD students who completed their PhDs.  Most did, but some did not.  One thing I have gotten better about is telling those working and flailing at their PhDs to move on.  

At Carleton, I have been asked by students: what happens if I get a policy job offer before I complete my dissertation?  I say, "TAKE IT!"  They say "but it might mean I don't finish my dissertation."  And I respond "Take the job!"  Jobs are not street cars.  So, the percentage of my PhD students who finish here is not as good as it was in the previous spot partly because these students are looking at the policy world and being done is not quite as crucial.  My ego here is not as invested in having students finish--I just want them to be happy and getting paid by someone who is not me.  

I will post this and then folks will ignore it and apply anyway.  Why bother posting it?  Because spewing is venting.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The Humiliation Fetish Index

Watching the Speaker of the House votes that have repeatedly rejected Kevin "I deserve it" McCarthy has led social scientists to ponder where he fits on the humiliation fetish index.   After much work and data analysis, the social scientists have left their lab, producing this:

As you can see, at this moment in time, McCarthy is near the top of the spectrum.  He may be approaching Lindsay Graham levels of self-chosen humiliation.  He has definitely exceeded that experienced by the average comedian, even beyond that by most prop comics.  He has matched those most cringe-y stars from 1960s and 1970s sitcoms.  It really is a stunning effort by McCarthy to embarrass not just himself and his party, but his country and democracy itself.  That he is being blocked by the most unsympathetic, most extreme, most moronic members of his own party just deepens the humiliation.  Yet McCarthy says: please, sir, can I have some more?  You would then an aspiring Speaker of the House would be more dom than sub, but McCarthy shows that the weakest, most craven can still potentially rise to the third highest spot in the land.  He has done it before, but this time, he needs to be especially craven.  

If humiliation put out energy, we could power the country for days from the fifth vote along.  Good thing it is not, as the potential for a meltdown would be significant.  I am not sure where this ends for the Republicans, for the House of Representatives, or for the United States.  But I am pretty sure that McCarthy will be bumping into Prince Humperdinck as they live in ignominy.