Month: May 2016 (Page 1 of 3)

jolie

LSE, Angelina Jolie, sexism and the death of Expertise

Full disclosure, I didn’t come up with the phrase, “death of expertise”, thanks to Prof Nichols for that (Buy his book! Really!).

I am, however, fully sympathetic to the stand, that in this age of interdisciplinarity, expertise is usually dead. Education has turned to a business, and the more marketable a name, the more saleable a university or college is, regardless of what they churn.

But, giving the role of a professor to Angelina Jolie stretches the limit and as usual led me to this long twitter debate. On the plus side, it was a civil discussion, which is unthinkable, given the norm of Twitter discourse these days. On the negative side, it was maddening as only academic debates could be.

So, here’re the basic premise of the question.

  1. Why Jolie?
  2. Is it sexist to oppose Jolie’s position as a Prof?

The answer to the first question is here, by Drezner and Shepherd.

The answer to the second question is “are you F-in joking?!” 

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SasseRubio

Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio: Only one deserves reverence

On a day when Donald Trump took to CNN and refused to disavow the Ku Klux Klan, and behaved as though he was clueless as to who David Duke was, Ben Sasse penned an open letter to supporters of Donald Trump. The letter gained the young Senator a good deal of publicity, but it also garnered him a great deal of rebuke.

Please understand: I’m not an establishment Republican, and I will never support Hillary Clinton. I’m a movement conservative who was elected over the objections of the GOP establishment. My current answer for who I would support in a hypothetical matchup between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton is: Neither of them. I sincerely hope we select one of the other GOP candidates, but if Donald Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option.

The Nebraska politician ended his sobering letter with the following:

Conservatives understand that all men are created equal and made in the image of God, but also that government must be limited so that fallen men do not wield too much power. A presidential candidate who boasts about what he’ll do during his “reign” and refuses to condemn the KKK cannot lead a conservative movement in America.

TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT

Thank you for listening. While I recognize that we disagree about how to make America great again, we agree that this should be our goal. We need more people engaged in the civic life of our country—not fewer. I genuinely appreciate how much many of you care about this country, and that you are demanding something different from Washington. I’m going to keep doing the same thing.

But I can’t support Donald Trump.

In May, a few months after his initial statement, Ben Sasse wrote another open letter – but this time to majority America.

With Clinton and Trump, the fix is in. Heads, they win; tails, you lose. Why are we confined to these two terrible options? This is America. If both choices stink, we reject them and go bigger. That’s what we do.

Remember: our Founders didn’t want entrenched political parties. So why should we accept this terrible choice?

He has since continued to hold Trump accountable for his lack of policy, as well as lack of good character. 

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The US election alignments…DnD and GoT mix

It’s about time.

Everyone knows Game of Thrones…I hope? Well, seriously, if you don’t…you are not supposed to call yourself a Politics/IR/Econ nerd.

Now, all those knowledgeable with the Good/Evil and Law/Chaos alignment scheme from Dungeons and Dragons, must know how it goes?

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The two axes, one the Y axis, ranging from Good to Evil, and in the X axis, ranging from Lawful to Chaotic.

That gives us a range of 9 dimensions, Lawful Good (Crusader), Neutral Good (Benefactor), Chaotic Good (Rebel), Lawful Neutral (Judge), True Neutral (Undecided), Chaotic Neutral (Free spirit).

And, finally…the ones we need; Lawful Evil (Dominator), Neutral Evil (Malefactor), and Chaotic Evil (Destroyer).

Now, before going into the analysis part, Let’s dispense of the fact that no one among our three contenders, Hillary, Bernie, or Trump is Good, or Neutral. First of all, there are no Good, or Neutral in the world of Politics. If you think there is, I’m afraid, you don’t know how Politics works, or you’re too naive, gullible and idealistic to think one man or woman can or is able to change the World. There are forces of politics, economics, diplomacy which controls our actions, as individuals as well as leaders, and even the actions of politicians, diplomats, and leaders are bound by it, regardless of the bombastic rhetoric you hear from them during the campaigns.

So, if you’re a “loyal”, “unchangeable” supporter of Bernie, Trump or Hillary, go away now. This post is not for you, is not attempting to engage you or change your ideas, you’re too thick for that anyway, doesn’t care about your feelings, at all, and frankly thinks you’re too puerile to vote in a democracy.

For the rest, here’s what it brings me to… 

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Hiroshima

On Hiroshima and Apologizing

In the final year of his presidency, Barack Obama took the liberty to do what it had been speculated that he would do for some time: visit Hiroshima and give a speech on the atomic bomb. It should be emphasized that he “gave a speech” and didn’t “apologize,” but nonetheless, “apology” is the word of choice, especially across the right side of the blogosphere.

Nowhere did Obama take a stand on whether or not it was right to drop the bomb. That wouldn’t have been the place to do it. You don’t respect your allies by reasserting the righteousness of your might in the place where 60,000 civilians were incinerated. Even if that was necessary to end the war, it was a tragedy that it had to happen and that it did happen.

Acknowledging that tragedy was what Obama did. “We come to mourn the dead,” Obama said. He included the victims of the Nagasaki bombing, too, in reciting the death toll and made specific note of the one dozen American POWs killed (and made no mention of the British and Dutch POWs).

“Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction. How the very spark that marks us as a species, our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction,” he said.

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The lying, impotent rage of Sanders supporters as they flail to their conclusion

By now Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is a desperate cry for help. Losing by a logistically insurmountable margin even before the final six states—California and its 475 pledged delegates amount them—vote on June 7, Sanders has gone so far as to challenge Donald Trump to a debate. (Trump, after pledging to do the debate, backed out when a Silicon Valley company offered to raise $10 million for the debate.)

Left with the growing knowledge that they won’t—and can’t—win the nomination, Sanders fans are lashing out in anger against the process, the Democratic Party, and the voters.

The Daily Beast’s columnist Keli Goff, who supports Clinton, wrote on May 26 about the vicious attacks she and other blacks backing Clinton have endured for backing Clinton. As she wrote in February, “[N]ot caring about which candidate is actually electable might be one of the greatest forms of privilege there is.”

For Sanders supporters, Sanders isn’t losing because voters like Goff rationally chose the more qualified, more electable candidate who could actually have a chance to get her agenda implemented as president. No, those who admit Sanders is losing the votes say, Clinton voters are stupid and need to get “educated,” but another vast coalition of Sanders voters don’t even accept the reality that Sanders is losing.

You might call them postmodern or “metamodern.” Those are the words “experimental journalist” Seth Abramson of the Huffington Post used two dozen times justifying his inaccurate reporting on the Sanders campaign. It’s the kind of commentary that writes, “Make No Mistake, Sandersism Has Defeated Clintonism” when Clinton is leading by 3 million votes.

Now he has summed up his style in a post charmingly titled “On Bernie Sanders and Experimental Journalism.” His style can best be summarized as making shit up. After you get through five turgid paragraphs about “experimental journalism,” “postermodernism,” and “metamodernism,” you get to where Abramson tries to connect it to the 2016 election.

Journalism is based on “master narratives,” he asserts, and master narratives necessarily influence the outcomes of what journalists report on. Two narratives emerged for the two primaries: 1.) that Jeb Bush would win the GOP nomination, and 2.) that Hillary would win the Democratic nod. Well, we all know how those narratives turned out.

Of course the fact that “narratives” existed is, to a Sandersnista, clearly an example of media bias. It couldn’t be because of the objective facts that Bush had $100 million behind him, a powerful family, and was, in the spring, leading in the polls. No, because there is no place for objective reality in this new postmodern world of Trump and Sanders. As Abramson wrote, “[T]his is the first metamodern political campaign, and not only have all the old rules of politics gone out the window, so too have all the old modes of thinking about the Real.”

Clearly if one looks at Sanders’ agenda, that would appear to be the case, and not in a good way…

Abramson admitted in his own words he covered the election with an intentional bias to skew the results:

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Trump continues lying about Muslim ban

Presumptive Republican nominee for president Donald Trump gets credit from his supporters–and even some of his detractors–for being “politically incorrect,” but now it looks like he is backing down from his controversial statements in the face of pressure.

In an interview on Fox News radio, Trump denied that he had made a proposal for a Muslim ban, calling it a “suggestion,” instead: “We have a serious problem, and it’s a temporary ban — it hasn’t been called for yet, nobody’s done it, this is just a suggestion until we find out what’s going on.”

Walid Phares, a Christian who immigrated from Lebanon and a policy advisor for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign as well as for Trump, also downplayed Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from enterring the country, saying, “Right now the ban is just a few sentences in a foreign policy announcement and a tweet, it’s not like he’s written books or published articles or delivered lectures on this.”

Both of them are lying. Trump has proposed banning Muslims and put out a press release “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” and he featured his proposal in his first television ad, as well as in speeches and interviews.

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In fact, Trump’s opposition to Muslims entering the country has helped win him votes in the Republican primary. Polls show a majority of Republicans support the proposal. 71 percent of Republicans, including 84 percent of Trump supporters, but just 48 percent of Kasich backers and 65 percent supporting Cruz, according to a Morning Consult poll in March.

Still, it’s not the first time he has cowed to political correctness and lied about his positions in an attempt to moderate himself.

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Niccolò-Machiavelli-

The Realist civil war and Donald Trump

I’ve covered elections since 2008, both as a blogger and journalist. As a blogger, writing about two US elections of 2008 and 2012, and the Indian general election and the UK election. As a journalist and correspondent, New Zealand elections and Fiji elections. Never in my life, have I encountered an anomaly like Donald Trump.

Now, as a foreign policy researcher (and as my publications show, I consider myself to be a neorealist) and I have written enough about why neither Trump, nor Obama are realists of any sort. Other realists have written similarly as well. (Walt on Obama, Walt on Trump, Joffe on Obama, Blatt on Trump)

But that debate suddenly just got vicious.

As readers remember, Daniel Drezner first wrote about how Trump is/will be accepted as a foreign policy realist, because of how he sounds realist, has specific policy proposals similar to the stark realist world even some realists shudder to think about. I flinched at the thought then. But it is no shame to write now, perhaps I was wrong, and I underestimated Trump’s legitimisation within the realist foreign policy community.

The recent episode was the firing of a fellow of National Interest, who like a lot of realists, opposed this legitimisation of Trump by hosting him and correctly pointed out in an essay for the War on the Rocks, (where I write occasionally as well, which I must mention here for the sake of balance), that Trump is a charlatan and is too incoherent to be a realist president. Of course National Interest justified the hosting of Trump but it was not convincing, to say the least.

So where does that leave realists now?

I believe, this is what we see,

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Black Lives Matter activist sex trafficking story makes Facebook trending stories

Two days after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with conservative media leaders concerned about allegations that Facebook skews its news against conservatives, a negative story about Black Lives Matter is in the top three trending spots on Facebook.
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Charles Wade, a black activist involved in Black Lives Matter, was arrested and charged with trafficking a 17-year-old girl for sex, as The Washington Times reported. Among the allegations against Facebook was that the website often promoted favorable stories about Black Lives Matter through editorial decisions. Zuckerberg himself has been personally outspoken in defense of the #BlackLivesMatter message.

Could this be a response by Facebook to show they are taking conservative concerns to heart? Or is it evidence that Facebook wasn’t biased against conservatives in the first place?
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The choice of news outlets Facebook linked to as their top two sources included one journalistic outlet that featured original reporting, The Washington Times, at #2, but the top ranked result was for DeneenBorelli.com, a conservative opinion blogger who merely copied and pasted from a Fox News report and then added a tweet by Wade defending himself.

Clearly Fox News should have had been the featured link, as it was the actual source of both the news and the two paragraphs of the text that Borelli copied and pasted in blockquote. But it could be that Facebook was convinced that “conservative news” means opinion. I argued in my original post on the matter than some conservative websites featured in the allegations–including Breitbart and Red State–are focused on adding comment or opinion to news articles and not on reporting.
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Zuck vs Con Media

The conservative witch hunt against Facebook and the truth about liberal bias

Earlier this month U.S. Senator John Thune sent a letter to Facebook demanding the company answer questions about the procedures behind its news aggregation. What is a U.S. Senator doing demanding information, which he considers “just a matter of transparency and honesty,” from a private-sector company?

This all goes back to an anonymous source in an article from Gizmodo on May 9 who claimed conservative news was suppressed on Facebook’s trending news items list. Facebook sends huge numbers of readers to news outlets and blogs. Last year, it was reported that Facebook had surpassed Google as the #1 source of referral traffic for websites tracked by analytics firm Parse.ly and accounted for close to 40 percent of referral traffic. With much smaller traffic numbers than any of the big outlets CEO Mark Zuckerberg invited to meet with him recently, Bombs and Dollars still knows the import of Facebook, as we get a large share of our traffic from users sharing our articles on Facebook. Conservatives have long believed the mainstream media is biased in favor of liberalism, so it isn’t surprising that many would be outraged about the report.

But before even getting to the veracity of the allegations, consider for a moment if it was true that Facebook slanted its news aggregation in favor of liberal outlets, what would the proper response be? What should the government do about it? What could the government do about it? Facebook is a corporation operating in the free-market system. Why should the government or anyone else have control over how it decides to publish content? If the media in general is biased—and certain outlets transparently are, like MSNBC and Fox News, and indeed all the conservative outlets invited to meet with Zuckerberg—then should they be investigated for slanting their news?

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Rage Monsters

The rise of Bernie and Trump: The issue of causality

Everyday there’s a new argument on the rise of Trump, or Bernie, for that matter…to a political scientist both are same, populists. There’s no qualitative difference between two old male, proposing free stuff to everyone, feeding on rage and nostalgia for a past that never existed, and blaming free trade for everything that’s ill in modern America. But is it prudent to attribute a chain of causality? Is the Rise of Trump and Bernia even monocausal?

It is interesting to see journalists, historians, and media pundits trying to draw parallels but as a political scientist, I have my doubts. First of all, it’s easy to call Bernie a socialist, he has fixed economic and social ideas, no matter how senile and craven they are. But to assert Trump is a fascist, or a racist, or a realist, or a mercantilist, is to ascribe a logical coherence, when there’s none.

It is not prudent as a political scientist to decide what factors gave rise to what, when the situation is ongoing, that’s why we don’t do research on current events. Deng Xiaoping once joked, when asked about the effect of the French revolution, and he said, we are still trying to find out. Imagine someone in 1970s thinking about if US won or lost in Vietnam, trying to imagine that in 2016, Vietnam and US would be in talks to balance against China? My point is, it is impossible to understand what might happen in future, and it will be foolhardy to ascertain why Trump chose to run this campaign and what was on his mind.

Does he feed on racism of a certain section of American population? Most definitely. Is he personally a racist? Maybe, anecdotal evidence might lead to that conclusion. Does his campaign strategy involve feeding on the rage machine including extreme xenophobic, insular, anti-semitic rhetoric? Absolutely. Is he an anti-Semite? We don’t have direct evidence, but we know his daughter married a man of Jewish faith. I don’t think David Duke would have allowed that. Is there a section of left, which blames Israel and Zionists for everything? Ofcourse. Is Bernie an anti-Semite? You must be joking.

It’s extremely contradictory, and fluid, and difficult to answer.

My hypothesis is Donald Trump is bigoted, yes, but he is more of an unhinged buffoon and a demagogue. He can say anything to win votes (or sell his book after election), but there is no logical coherence or principle in any of his policy, domestic or international. As of Bernie, he is stuck in a 1960s obsolete worldview. And his young supporters don’t care, as long as he promise to make everything free.

A far interesting academic challenge, and I am planning to build up on that later, is to find out the causes which led to the rise of this phenomenon, this perfect storm, obviously avoiding the trap of monocausality.

I came up with these three factors. 

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