What Am I Reading? Inaugural Feature on Global Health #1

I’m on leave this year so my regular blogging might be a little scant, but I thought I’d introduce a new feature which is a periodic series “What Am I Reading?” I’d like to flag what I’m  reading on different topics, namely health, the environment, and foreign policy. This first one is on health.

Zika

  • Last week I had a piece on the Monkey Cage in the Washington Post on the Zika virus, presenting some empirical work on what frames might generate public concern and, in turn, more impetus for Congressional funding for Zika control
  • My colleague Abigail Aiken finds a potential increase in demand for abortion in the Americas
  • There is growing pressure on Congress to fund efforts to combat Zika which have stalled
  • In addition to a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, there is now local transmission of Zika in Miami. CDC director Frieden suggests pregnant women stay away from Miami Beach and possibly Miami as well
  • Here a pregnant mother who lives in Miami pleads for action

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We Need More Metal! The Political Economy of Heavy Metal

The following is a guest post by Dr. Robert G. Blanton, Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

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For as long as it has existed, heavy metal music has been associated with controversy – the aggressive nature of the music and lyrics arouses seemingly constant suspicion and often deep dislike, and metal bands have long been the target of controversies and even legal actions (some unfounded, some not). Somewhat ironically, there is an increasing awareness of the beneficial impacts of heavy metal for emotional well-being and possibly governance. Indeed President Obama famously noted, “Finland has perhaps the most heavy metal bands in the world, per capita…and also ranks high on good governance. I don’t know if there’s any correlation there.” Given these benefits of metal, the important question for scholars and policymakers is obvious – what factors facilitate the creation of heavy metal bands within a society?

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The Anglosphere, Dominance in Global Finance, and the Consequences of Brexit

 

This is a guest post by Jan Fichtner, Postdoctoral Researcher in the CORPNET project at the Department of Political Science of the University of Amsterdam.

So far, International Relations and International Political Economy have not dedicated much attention to analyzing the group of the Anglophone countries together (notable exceptions are Andrew Gamble, Jeremy Green, Kees van der Pijl, and Srdjan Vucetic). Instead, the vast majority of IR and IPE approaches treats the English-speaking countries and jurisdictions solely on the grounds where they are located geographically: the Unites States and Canada are grouped as ‘North America’, Australia and New Zealand are seen as part of ‘Asia-Pacific’, the British dependent territories of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands (which all act as important offshore financial centers) are usually categorized under the heading ‘Caribbean’, and finally most analyses treat Ireland and the United Kingdom as part of ‘Europe’ or the European Union. The latter is going to change in the coming years as a slim majority of Britons has voted for ‘Brexit’. Therefore, the UK will eventually leave the EU, although the details of this historic divorce are far from clear. This comes after many years of widespread skepticism against the EU and continental ‘Europe’, which has been fueled constantly by many British politicians and certain Australian-American-owned media outlets.

In a recent article in the Review of International Studies (free access through August 2016), I have argued that the Anglophone countries generally have much more in common with the other English-speaking states than with neighboring countries – Peter Hall and David Soskice as well as Bruno Amable have found indications that the Anglophone economies form one distinct socio-economic model. Moreover, the English-speaking countries are deeply integrated by their extremely close cooperation in the highly sensitive field of signals intelligence (the so-called ‘Five-Eyes’), which is unparalleled in the world. Thus, it makes sense to analyze the Anglosphere countries together. This is especially pertinent in the pivotal field of global finance.

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Gearing up for the Academic Job Market: Don’t Dabble

There are many things worth dabbling in: Pokeman Go!, the arts, alternative medicine, old films, astrology, gourmet cuisine….the list could go on and on.  I really like when people, including graduate students, tell me they are dabbling in these things or other hobbies.  It’s probably going to help both their productivity and their overall happiness.

As much as I like “dabblers” in those types of things, here’s one that I’m really tired of graduate students saying they’re dabbling in:

The Academic Job Market

Every year, I get students that contact me saying that they are planning to “dip their feet in” or “dabble” in the tenure-track academic job market this year. And, every year, I’m left wondering why the heck they would even bother.  This blog post is a sort of plea to graduate students: DON’T DABBLE IN THE JOB MARKET.[1]

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Retired Generals are People Too!

This is a guest post by  Christopher Gelpi, Chair of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution and Professor of Political Science
Mershon Center for International Security Studies at Ohio State University

 

The appearances of retired Generals Michael Flynn and John Allen at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, respectively, have created quite a stir among those concerned with civil-military relations in America.  In one sense, the attention paid to these military endorsements is surprising, since the best available evidence suggests that the support of military officers has a substantial impact on the public’s willingness to support military operations, but little impact on their voting choices.

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Could the Olympics Help Human Rights?

Grab your popcorn – opening ceremonies for Rio 2016 are tonight! It’s my favorite part of the Olympics; I really could do without the whole “sport” thing that comes after.  And, one of my favorite parts of tonight’s opening ceremonies are when the various country teams get to be announced: the parade of nations. I love the outfits, the flags, the background stories, the family members crying, and the look on the faces of all the athletes who are in the midst of a dream realized. It’s too much and, much to my family’s chagrin, I probably will be crying by the end of it.

Until quite recently, I hadn’t really thought about all the interesting international relations topics that are connected to the Olympics.  As someone who isn’t athletic and has never really paid attention to any competitive sporting event, the Olympics were just something that took over my regularly scheduled programming.  However, I’m now coming to realize that there are a myriad of IR puzzles and possible research questions connected to these sporting mega-events and to the international sporting organizations (ISOs) that run them.

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A General Arms Race in US Conventions: Not Great But Unavoidable

LTG (retired) Mike Flynn has become a Trump advocate and appeared at the Republican National Convention.  General (retired) John Allen surprised many by not just speaking at the Democratic National Convention but giving such enthusiastic support to Clinton.  The big question is: is this problematic to have recently retired military officers take such public positions in the middle of a national election?  Yes.  But what can you do?

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Trump, Brexit, and nationalist authority

In this, the first of a sequence of posts addressing Brexit in one way or another, I want to take a look at the shifting systems of authority in the current political climate and comment on how they might impact international relations into the future.

At the time of the Brexit vote, commentators and news reports drew parallels between the British decision to the leave the EU and the tumult of the US elections, particularly the rise of Donald Trump. Many pointed to the resurgence of nationalism, but here I want to argue that while the concept of nationalism as a practice of identity certainly sheds light on both Brexit and the rise of Trump, it also obscures some importance differences. In particular, part of nationalism is an aspect of governance, and in particular an embodied system of authority. In the case of Brexit, authority remained at the institutional level but shifted in aggregation, from the supernational to the national level. Continue reading

A (Un)Dead Letter?: Zombies, Feminist Theory and the IR Classroom

It’s always exciting to see articles on pop culture gracing the pages of mainstream political science journals. And it’s always good to see international relations scholars being encouraged to engage more deeply with questions of gender in the course of their teaching. This issue of PS: Political Science and Politics gives us both: an article by Rebecca Susan Evans, taking Daniel Drezner to task for excluding feminist theories of international politics from his 2011 Theory of International Politics and Zombies:

[Drezner’s] light-hearted use of popular culture appeals to students, who appreciate his concise and witty summaries. Yet Drezner dismisses feminist perspectives on international relations theory in a way that indicates he does not understand them. Consequently, students are trained without any knowledge of feminism and with the impression that they do not need feminism.

If we were living in 2011, I’d be the first to say it’s a fair argument.

There’s just one massive problem however: Drezner already fixed this mistake a full two years ago in TIPZ: Revived Edition (2014) which already does everything Evans is criticizing him for not doing. 

Indeed, both the revised product and the process of scholarly engagement behind it actually demonstrate best feminist-friendly practice by a conventional mainstream scholar, not the reverse!  Continue reading

The Chilcot Inquiry on Civilian Casualties

The publication of the long-awaited Chilcot Report on Britain’s role in the Iraq War last week produced a flurry of activity, with journalists desperately skimming through the 2.6m words within the three hours they were allocated prior to full publication. Perhaps not surprisingly, much of their attention was focused on whether or not Tony Blair could be held legally and morally culpable for the chaos that has ensued since the invasion back in 2003. And despite fears that it would be a whitewash, the report was pretty damning in its assessment of both the justifications for war and its execution. Amongst its key findings, the report found that Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, the case for war was presented with ‘a certainty which was not justified’, the intelligence was flawed and often went unchallenged, advice about the possibility of sectarian violence was ignored and post-war planning was described as being ‘wholly inadequate’. Crucially, the report also concludes that the ‘peaceful options for disarmament had not been exhausted’ and the war was ‘not a last resort’.

Reactions to the report have been pretty incredible, with The Guardian describing it as ‘an unprecedented, devastating indictment of how a prime minister was allowed to make decisions by discarding all pretence at cabinet government, subverting the intelligence agencies, and making exaggerated claims about threats to Britain’s national security’ and The New York Times arguing that the ‘inquiry’s verdict on the planning and conduct of British military involvement in Iraq was withering, rejecting Mr. Blair’s contention that the difficulties encountered after the invasion could not have been foreseen’. But what has been largely ignored in all the furore is the inquiry’s scathing critique of the government’s attitude towards civilian casualties. Given that the discussion on collateral damage is the last section of a twelve volume report, nestled between a chapter on the welfare of service personnel and an annex on the history of Iraq from 1583 to 1960, it is perhaps not surprisingly that there has been little discussion of its findings. But it is well-worth looking at its conclusion because they reveal a lot of about how civilian casualties were framed, why the government was so reluctant to count the dead and how it perceived the data collected by other organisations, such as the Iraq Body Count.

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Improvised Explosive Robots

A common argument made in favor of the use of robotics to deliver (lethal) force is that the violence used is mediated in such a way that it naturally de-escalates a situation.  In some versions, this is due to the fact that the “robot doesn’t feel emotions,” and so is not subject to fear or anger.  In other strands, the argument is that due to distance in time and space, human operators are able to take in more information and make better judgments, including to use less than lethal or nonlethal force.  These debates have, up until now, mostly occurred with regards to armed conflict.  However, with the Dallas police chief’s decision to use a bomb disposal robot to deliver lethal force to the Dallas gunman, we are now at a new dimension of this discussion: domestic policing.

Now, I am not privy to all of the details of the Dallas police force, nor am I going to argue that the decision to use lethal force against Micah Johnson was not justified.  The ethics of self- and other-defense would argue that the Mr. Johnson’s actions and continued posturing of a lethal and imminent threat meant that officers were justified in using lethal force to protect themselves and the wider community.   Moreover, state and federal law allows officers to use “reasonable” amounts of force, and not merely the minimal amount of force to carry out their duties.   Thus I am not going to argue the ethics or the legality of the use of a robot to deliver a lethal blast to an imminent threat.

What is of concern, however, is how the arguments used in favor of increased use of robotics in situations of policing (or war) fail to take into consideration psychological and empirical facts.  If we take these into account, what we might glean is that the trend actually goes in the other direction: that the availability and use of robotics may actually escalate the level of force used by officers.

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NATO Summit Ahead!

Tomorrow, the NATO summit in Warsaw starts.   What do we expect, other than jet-lagged Steve being more incoherent than usual?

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Persuading Republicans to Dump Trump

I have one more Trump post I have to write. My first bemoaned how Trump could possibly be competitive in the presidential race and the second lambasted Trump’s positions on domestic and foreign policy. I have no illusions that I’m convincing anyone who isn’t already convinced he is a danger to the republic. However, should you read this and have friends in your orbit who are flirting with supporting Trump, here is some ammunition for your Facebook feed, dinner conversation, passenger pigeon, what have you.

Basically, my hunch is that people will listen to you because they know you, but they also might listen to you if they trust the information sources you rely on. Republicans might only listen to other Republicans so I’m going to pull together the most persuasive quotes from prominent Republicans who have said never Trump.

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Trump on Policy: Consistently Self-Serving

In my last post, I lamented that Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, despite his outrageous series of slurs against different groups, his lies, and unscrupulous business practices. Before exploring what arguments might persuade Republicans and undecideds to vote against Trump, what other substantive objections are there to Trump?

Trump has policy stances and utterances, based on some gut check about what outrageous thing might rile a receptive audience and keep him in the news so that he doesn’t have to pay for TV ads. His style is based on improvisation and pandering, so he flip-flops as needed. It’s unclear that there is a core belief other than Trump will do or say what he thinks is necessary to benefit Trump. There are signs on foreign policy that he has a consistent take on the world which is America is a sucker and should stick it to the other guys. Continue reading

Emotionally Trumped

Is there such a thing as blogger’s block? I suppose there must be. I’ve found the whole Donald Trump saga to be emotionally exhausting. It’s hard to write more than 140 characters about this presidential race. How is it possible that he could or will be the nominee of a major party?

Which groups has he not offended?

This weekend it was the Jewish community’s turn after Trump retweeted an anti-Hillary picture that featured a six-sided star and a background of dollars. A news organization tracked down the origins of the image on a neo-Nazi thread on a message board.  This is not the first time. On Facebook, we debated whether it was incompetence or anti-Semitism. Probably both. Continue reading

The True Costs of Brexit

Brexit 3

British elites have been wondering for decades whether the UK still had clout on the global stage, and now they know:  indeed, the country has an outsized influence on world affairs. But what a way to find out, sowing instability far and wide and suffering a never ending series of self-inflicted wounds. It is tragedy bordering on farce. And none other than Vladimir Putin is having the last laugh.

The UK is counting the costs of this fateful vote: in the plummeting value of the pound and large-scale stock market losses. Foreign direct investment in the UK will dramatically dwindle; multinational companies will move their headquarters; and a brain drain will ensue. British banks are likely to lose their “passport” to the rest of Europe. All of this will lead to less growth, higher unemployment, and reduced living standards. Prime Minister Cameron’s even worse sin was to subject Britons to several rounds of harsh austerity policies–they had to vote the UK out of the EU to get rid of him.

The major long term loss for Britain, however, will be its reduced influence as a world leader–its military capability being one of the chief casualties of unnecessary austerity. It has long punched above its weight globally speaking, remaining a fairly major world player long after Britain lost its empire, with the special relationship with the U.S., impressive military capabilities, financial leadership, and first-rate diplomatic skills. The UK was also an EU leader, one of the top three along with France and Germany. England could be left alone, with Scotland leading the way by leaving the UK and rejoining the EU. Continue reading

Brexit Hottake

We will have much, much time to ponder and study what happened yesterday… whether it was the weather that made the difference in London, why Cameron was such an idiot, and on and on.  I have a few quick reactions guided by and due to my faith in confirmation bias!

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The UK and the EU Referendum

The UK’s vote on whether to remain in the European Union is tomorrow. I’m having trouble squaring a fearful nativist UK with the country I knew when I lived there from 1993 to 1995 completing a second undergraduate degree in international development.

The UK I knew was eclectic and increasingly multicultural, with its cultural scene perhaps even more comfortable than the United States in drawing on diverse influences to produce fantastic art. This was pre-Cool Britannia and pre-Tony Blair (and also before the Iraq War and the global recession), and there was an undercurrent of optimism that something great and better was in store for the country.

The UK had turned the country’s imperial history in to a source of advantage, with immigrants from former colonies bringing new influences in music, literature, food, and more to enrich the country. The willingness to mash-up, fuse, and experiment traditions of old with new tastes struck me as such a positive approach to life in a globalized world.

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Kill Webs: The Wicked Problem of Future Warfighting

The common understanding in military circles is that the more data one has, the more information one possess.  More information leads to better intelligence, and better intelligence produces greater situational awareness.  Sun Tzu rightly understood this cycle two millennia ago: “Intelligence is the essence in warfare—it is what the armies depend upon in their every move.” Of course, for him, intelligence could only come from people, not from various types of sensor data, such as radar signatures or ship’s pings.

Pursuing the data-information-intelligence chain is the intuition behind the newly espoused “Kill Web” concept.  Unfortunately, however, there is scant discussion about what the Kill Web actually is or entails.  We have glimpses of the technologies that will comprise it, such as integrating sensors and weapons systems, but we do not know how it will function or the scope of its vulnerabilities.

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Keep Your Political Interference to Yourself: A Case for Academic Freedom and Shared Governance

Hi, Ducks!  It’s me, Amanda.  It’s been a long time.  I’ve not blogged in awhile. There were many reasons for the break.  First, it was a busy spring: I finished up being the ISA Program Chair, got a new position I am excited about, and continued working on projects that I love.

It’s also been a very sad spring.  In fact, it was a pretty sad year at the University of Missouri, where I’ve worked for the past 4 years.

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