Tag: humor (Page 1 of 2)

A Drinking Person’s Guide to the Resistance

A guest post by Layna Mosley,* Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

(*with contributions from Jeff Colgan, Beth Copelovitch, Mark Copelovitch, Artie G, Anna Grzymala-Busse, Roger Halchin, Andrew Herring , Steph Jeffries, Julia Lynch, Jon Pevehouse, Milada Vachudova, Erik Voeten and Christopher Zorn)


President Trump’s proposed economic policies may be bad news for some businesses, like US firms with international supply chains, but if my behavior is any indication of broader trends, Trump has generated a boom for the beverage industry. While I’ve so far stuck to whatever happens to be on hand at home – IPA, stout, rosé, lighter fluid – it promises to be a long four years (hopefully, the 21st Amendment will endure, even if the rest of the Constitution does not).  It’s time to diversify one’s drink choices.

Continue reading


Who’s on Duck?

Having been newly promoted to permanent contributor, I’m delighted to join the esteemed Duck blogging crew (pictured above) on a more long-term basis. I’m looking forward to more lengthy substantive blog posts beyond the Thursday updates. I feel like I’ve been trapped in reviewer hell for weeks, just as it looked like I was clearing my inbox of book and article reviews, I kept getting another one in and the pieces always looked vaguely interesting. Taking note of Dan Nexon’s recent post about the difficulty journals have in getting reviews (let alone quality ones), I determined that I had to do my civic duty. Continue reading


The New Political Science Game

As the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association may face cancellation due to Hurricane Isaac, there is only one thing to do: wildly speculate how APSAHungerGames would play out in 2012.*  Spawned on twitter by @whinecough, an ABD (all but dissertation) on the job market, the idea is that in a hurricane-swept New Orleans, the APSA convention-goers must compete to survive.

* We honestly hope that all folks make it to and from New Orleans with the smallest amount of tribulations as we violate the classic comedic equation of pain plus time = funny.

The best line of the night, but the most inside baseball might be this one:

#APSA2012HungerGames Short break in carnage so everyone can agree that Thomas Friedman has no idea what he’s talking about.
— W. K. Winecoff (@whinecough) August 27, 2012


Ken Waltz thinks #APSA2012HungerGames wld be more peaceful if we gave *everyone* poison darts.
— W. K. Winecoff (@whinecough) August 27, 2012

While some would think the Neo-Realists would do well, since they focus on security or power (depending on the time of day), they might get distracted by blaming some heretofore ignored domestic actor for the policy failures.

Much of the money by the “sharps” in Vegas moved to favor the comparativists who have fieldwork experience and study contentious politics.  Will Reno, with much experience hanging out with warlords, working in places like Somalia, and known to have the biggest biceps in the profession, is currently the favorite at 4 to 1. But he does have some challenges as there is a whole new generation of hip kids who not only study insurgency and have done fieldwork in Afghanistan, but also have survived the worst academic job market in history.  And they do not lack confidence:

@texasinafrica @danatgu @smsaideman I have 2 kids under 2.5 years so I’ve been training for #APSA2012HungerGames for years. Reno is mine.
— Jason Lyall (@jaylyall_red5) August 27, 2012

The longest odds? Post-materialists.  They will find that in the Hunger Games that it is not so much the intersubjective meanings applied to arrows and bullets but the accuracy and power of the weapons launching them.  Blood may have all kinds of symbolism, but when it drains out of a post-modernist, the logic of consequences will dominate the logic of appropriateness.

Alas, the formal theorists will be killed first.  Why? Because they will have very difficult time getting their LaTex to work in all of the rain and wind.  Plus they will find that working on complicated appendixes is a dangerous distraction.

I am not going to the conference, so I can only grieve the losses and then participate in the next twenty years of study, where we fight about:

  • whether the games being played were chicken, stag hunt, prisoners’ dilemma, or deadlock;
  • whether the actors were pursuing relative or absolute gains;
  • whether the rational actor assumption is useful or appropriate (the Phil Arena fixation);
  • which element pop culture best describes the games, and, yes, many will argue against the conventional wisdom that the Hungar Games books best apply.  Indeed, Drezner-ites will insist that Zombie movies and books provide the most insights into APSAHungerGames 2012.  Somehow, Charli Carpenter will blame The Machines instead.
  • the scholars of civil war will debate about whether the Hunger really mattered, as grievances are over-rated. 

So, the bad news is that the profession may lose some of its best and its brightest in #APSA2012HungerGames.  On the bright side, the next job market might be a bit better and there will be new cottage industries of scholarship.


The World Does its Duty & Conforms to Social Science: More on Korea & Japan

If academia’s taught me anything taught me, it’s that the real world is flawed, not theory, and that facts should change for me, not the other way around. As Marxists would say, ‘future is certain; it’s the past that keeps changing,’ and Orwell famously quipped that academics would love to get their hands on the lash to force the world fit theory. (I guess Heinlein agreed; check the vid.) So I am pleased to say that the world meet its obligations to abstraction this week a little: Japan and Korea edged a little closer toward a defense agreement (here and here). A little more of this, and I can safely ignore – whoops, I mean  ‘bracket’ – any real case knowledge…

Last week I argued that Korea and Japan seem like they’d be allies according to IR theory, but weren’t. I wrote, “Koreans stubbornly refuse to do what social science tells them;” obviously they don’t realize that abstraction overrules their sovereignty. I thought this was fairly puzzling, but I got an earful from the Korea/Asia studies crowd about how I was living in the clouds of theory. I also learned that area studies folks don’t really like it when you throw stuff like ‘exogenous’ and ‘epiphenomenal’ at them. Once they figure what ‘nomothetic’ actually means, they think you’re conning them. D’oh!

So for those of you argued I didn’t know anything about Korea or Japan (a fair point) but was just blathering on about theory that had no necessary time-space application to this case, I thought I’d put up this bit from Starship Troopers. It’s hysterical – when PhDs rule the world, apparently the military has to step in to prevent us from running it over a cliff. Didn’t Buckley once say he’d rather the first 2000 names of the Boston phone book run the US government than the faculty of Harvard?

Cross-posted at Asian Security Blog.


BREAKING NEWS: Brian Ratbun Exposed As Secret Mastermind Behind Recent Rockumentary; USC Concerned About Contract Violation, Mental Health


“All the fake news that’s fit to print.”

— Los Angeles*

A political science professor at University of Southern California came under fire this week for the role he may have played behind-the-scenes on a recent documentary about the heavy metal band Metallica. Administrators at the university are investigating whether Professor Brian Christopher Rathbun’s participation in the project may have violated rules permitting faculty to consult no more than one day a week on projects outside the university.

The film in question, Some Kind of Monster, is described by Rotten Tomatoes as

“a documentary about rock stars in therapy… the band works through difficulties in group dynamics, personal demons, and relationship issues.”

Although the film portrays the supposed relationship between Metallica and psychologist Phil Towle (who they hire to help work out some group tensions during the making of their album St. Anger), Rathbun is alleged to have convinced the producers to invent this storyline to make the documentary more appealing to 80s-era metal-heads who are now themselves raising children and struggling with identity issues.

An anonymous source formerly associated with the production process on the documentary corroborated this story in an exclusive interview to the Canard:

“We were originally going to just do a film on the history of the band, you know, a concert film. Then Professor Rathbun approached us with the concept of a psychologist who would help former metal icons working through mid-life crises. He said a film like this would resonate with the ‘disillusioned-former-metal-head’ market. It seemed like the perfect angle for the documentary, plus he’s a professor of political psychology specializing in trust, so we went with it.”

Rathbun’s involvement undercover with the film came to light after his recent confession to having been a “metal-head” in high school. The post was read by a former student who contacted the Canard after putting two and two together, recalling Rathbun’s near-obsessive interest in the documentary and his frequent Metallica references in an international relations class she took with him in 2005.

“He knew a lot about metal, about Metallica and about the film, which was kind of hot. When I saw the film, and how it was about a psychologist helping the band through a mid-life crisis, I sort of connected the dots, you know, between Prof Rathbun, metal and psychology theories. Then when I noticed the ‘consultants’ in the credits, I realized that he was probably just working under a pseudonym, probably to avoid getting in trouble with his department for taking on extra-curricular activities. But he’s tenured now, so…”

Although the Canard has not been able to reach Rathbun for comment, colleagues in his department spoke anonymously about his potential motivations in working on the film.

“He’s always loved the metal subculture, students say he plays Iron Sabbath or whatnot at the start of every IR class, and he has a gift for seeing the connection between culture and politics. But I think this was also about doing something edgy and pop-cultury as a social scientist without attracting the nerd label. So many IR types who study pop culture just deal with geeky topics like sci-fi. I think it was really important to Brian to engage with this kind of subject matter in a way that avoided that kind of label and that kind of crowd.”

Indeed this view is consistent with Rathbun’s own recent blog posts on the subject, in which he both described his mid-life angst over his heavy metal past and reiterated his radical anti-nerd agenda.

“I am not a nerd. I have tried to make this abundantly clear. My anti-nerdishness in high school expressed itself much differently – I was a metal-head… We didn’t like you and you didn’t like us. Don’t pretend otherwise. There were 1800 people in my high school and a total of 20 owned the “Blizzard of Ozz.” If you don’t know what that is, you have proved my point. Now go play your Duran Duran albums and get out of my face. NEEERRRRDDDDSSSSS!”

Sociologists, however, counter the idea that nerds and metalheads are actually distinct and oppositional subcultures. According to Dr. Aya Nohsalot, Associate Professor of Adolescent Sociology at Trewth University, nerds and metal-heads are birds of a feather:

“In fact members of both groups share a common lack of conformity and disregard for the social norms of more popular peers.”

Though Nohsalot’s research on this topic is as yet unpublished, evidence abounds on the Internets to support her theory. The Urban Dictionary’s definitions for “metal-head” (persons who ‘tend to have a powerful dislike towards the close-minded and mainstream’) are similar to “nerd” (a person who does not conform to society’s beliefs that all people should follow trends and do what their peers do). Uncyclopedia also describes “progressive metal-heads” as “typically tall, skinny, white and usually long haired and extreemly nerdy” [typo in original]. “Nerd/Metalhead” is also a specific social category in itself one can achieve by answering certain questions on an online quiz. And according to the popular Facebook page “Metalhead Nerds”:

“Metal and being a Nerd goes together like Han Solo and Leia. Being a Nerd is like a nice cake frosting on top of death.”

Hence, as an avowed metal-head, Rathbun’s anti-nerdism is puzzling to some. Noted IR scholar, former metal-head and self-identified geek Alex Montgomery, who was recently seen in full Colonial dress at an ISA panel on Battlestar Galactica, commented:

“That’s funny: I, too, had a mullet in high school and my music was later used by PsyOps teams to torture Iraqi POWs, but some of my best friends are nerds.”

One possibility is that Rathbun has been watching too many YouTube videos. But according to Professor Nohsalot, he may instead be suffering from a syndrome identified by Freud by which a person expresses outward hatred toward things they secretly love, but believe are bad. A recent study reported in Psychology Today invokes this theory to explain relatively high rates of sexual arousal to gay porn in homophobic men. (It also explains the particularly virulent anti-cyborgism of Cylons hiding in the Colonial Fleet.) “It’s entirely possible that Rathbun is actually a self-hating in-the-closet nerd, who is projecting his own fears of ostracism on the wider nerd community in order to avoid acknowledging his own inner nerd,” says Nohsalot.

Rathbun’s co-bloggers at the Duck of Minerva find this theory at least plausible. When asked how nerdy Rathbun actually is, Steve Saideman pointed out:

“Well he did join the Duck of Minerva. That says something.”

Charli Carpenter commented:

“It’s true that every time I’ve spoken to Brian he’s been wearing loafers with his collared shirt perfectly pressed and every hair in place, but on the other hand he does watch Game of Thrones…”

Dan Nexon added:

“I’d say his nerd credentials are pretty solid, he just likes to dress well and watch football. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

The Canard caught up with Stephanie Carvin on a transatlantic flight from Britain to Canada and was told over a hot toddy:

“Poor Brian, he’s brilliant but so complex, dark, so tormented. If only he could embrace his own nerdiness. It can’t be easy living in the closet. Too many mothballs.”

It remains unclear whether Rathbun will be able to invoke his psychological condition in his hearing with the University Ethics Board, or how he would score definitively on a “Which Stereotype Are You?” test. One thing is certain however: the world is better for thirty-something former metal fans thanks to this documentary. Rathbun’s co-bloggers have offered to testify on his behalf, if necessary, ‘anti-nerd’ or not; and are reportedly considering an intervention to help him accept his true identity.

*Illustration created by Alexander Montgomery.


Friday “I Really Am Just a Nerd” Blogging

I was shocked, shocked to read Brian Rathbun’s characterization of me in a recent Canard as a “robot” who has only been posing as a Battlestar Galactica addict as part of my cover (!):

The academic and foreign policy worlds were rocked today by the news that Charli Carpenter — prolific academic, policy wonk, and mom — is in fact a robot. An anonymous source told this paper: “There were the academic writings, then all the policy work, the grant writing and management. She never missed her son’s soccer games though… it was just too much. Her makers made a mistake by not giving her any weaknesses.”

The revelation replaces the previous rumor among academics that Carpenter was actually an alien from the series Battlestar Galactica that she loves so much. That appears to have just been a hobby for the robot… Our CIA source said, “There is no room in this country for relentlessly hard-working academic robots raising well-adjusted families, no matter who it turns out they work for.”

This bit of yellow journalism, peppered with conjecture and misinformation, regurgitates a malicious leak from the alleged intelligence community without corroboration, and ill-befits a blogger of Rathbun’s caliber. The saddest part is that colleagues I know and love (to watch sci-fi with) have apparently taken these rumors at face value and are now doubting my status as a bona-fide nerd:

Friends were shocked, but not necessarily surprised. Dan Nexon, a professor at Georgetown University, said, “We always joked that Charli was a machine. She writes like a book a week. And good ones, too. Not the usual schlock we turn out.” He added, “She was always so good with technology. And she really likes science fiction. We all hoped she was just a nerd though. I guess we were fooling ourselves. I feel so betrayed.”

Well, to Dan and to anyone who has fallen victim to this conspiracy theory, I offer up the following as proof of both my humanity and my authentic nerd-dom:

1) Rathbun’s source is mistaken in claiming that I never miss a soccer game. In fact, I missed one in April 2011 to attend a panel on Zombies and International Relations and one the previous year to attend a panel on Battlestar Galactica, both at the yearly geek-fest known as the International Studies Association Annual Convention and both about as nerdy as one can get.

2) Rathbun erred in taking Dan’s statement that I write “good” books (that is, serious works of political science) every week at face value. A quick fact-check would have shown that I’ve written exactly three books since 2006, and one of those was only an edited volume – a weekly book-production rate of only .0096 even if you consider an edited book a book. In fact a comparison of my publishing record to those of my Duck colleagues suggests that if I’m an academic robot, they probably all are too, especially Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and Rodger Payne (and these numbers do not even include their ‘other publications’):*

Note however that my publications in the less-than-serious area of science fiction and politics outweigh those of several Duck colleagues, placing me firmly within the Duck nerd block – PROOF OF MY NERD CREDENTIALS.**

3) Regarding the robot conspiracy, nothing could be farther from the truth. While Rathbun unblinkingly echoes the CIA’s claim that I’m heralding a robot takeover, I have in fact been constantly at the vanguard against such a threat, studiously tracking developments in autonomous lethal systems, training my son in weaponry and small-unit tactics in preparation for Judgment Day, and even sounding the alarm when powerful members of our own profession exhibit cyborg-like tendencies.

4) Additionally, I most emphatically dispute Rathbun’s claim that “Battlestar Galactica is just a hobby” for me. This would be like saying that Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly or Game of Thrones are “just hobbies” for me, or that Harry Potter is “just a hobby” for Dan Nexon. Perhaps if Rathbun would spend more time watching Portlandia and less wasting brain-cells on Downton Abbey, he would understand.

5) Finally, Rathbun might have thought twice about his source’s credibility when s/he referred to my children as “well-adjusted.” Clearly this is not a person who has ever had a look at my Friday Nugget Blogging posts from my days at Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Indeed this piece of writing is so far beneath the quality of Rathbun’s usual astute investigative journalism that one wonders whether Rathbun himself is actually the author. I suggest instead that this particular Canard may be a politically motivated attempt by actual undercover robots within the (artificial) intelligence community to divert the general population from their impending takeover.

Note how the author of this post (whoever it is) makes it sound as if the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica are mere “aliens” rather than themselves lethal autonomous robots. I suspect government elements (including possibly Dan Drezner, a known CIA schill), are behind this blatant attempt at misinformation and mass distraction. I urge my good friend and co-blogger Brian Rathbun to check his anti-virus software, reinforce his fire-walls, and change his passwords. Networked computers will be the death of us all, and this Canard is likely just one more sign of the looming apocalypse.

*Data includes only those Ducks whose complete CV I could find online; it excludes those who list only ‘selected publications’ on their websites.
**Of course, I’m clearly not as nerdy as Dan, but remember this is someone who named his child after a character in a fantasy novel so frankly I’d be out of my league trying to compete with him.


Identity Under Threat

Blackwater, the infamous private security contractor (that is, 21st century mercenaries), changed its name to Xe, but that didn’t work.  So now: ACADEMI.  Really.  I am not kidding.  This seems to be a focus group mistake.  After all, if you want to have the image of being decisive, forceful, reliable, and assertive, do you really want to identify yourself with academics who dither, passive, and cannot meet a deadline to save their lives?  Sure, we are good at attacking strawmen (strawpersons?), but real people with guns shooting back?  I didn’t think so.

So, let’s ask the interwebs: what should be the new name of Blackwater Xe ACADEMI?

Here are a couple of suggestions to get us going:

  • Mercs’ R Us
  • Xarbucks
  • TMI [The Military Inc.]
  • Xpendables
  • The Starks
  • The Knights Who Say Ni!

What say you?


The Political Science Store

The other day I briefly pondered what a Political Science Store would look like, after hearing about Anthropologie–a national chain of clothing stores.* 

I received a bunch of ideas via facebook, twitter, and my blog, so I had to come up with different sections of the store:

  • Used:  
    • Tables (mostly in 2×2 dimensions);
    • old Prisoner Dilemmas; 
    • Linear Regressions with several assumptions already violated; 
    • Political Culture arguments that come with “Racism Within” warning tags; 
    • Old Wine in New Bottles;
  • Canadian goods: 
    • Crowns;
    • a barren shelf labeled Oversight;
    • lots of oui’s and non’s at a steep discount;
  • Comparative Politics
    • a bin full of apples, oranges and frisbees; 
    • one bowling ball; 
    • checks and balances; 
  • Policy: except for some windows, this section is mostly empty.
  • International Relations
    • Heaps of Images and Levels, some games with multiple levels; 
    • some play-doh (it is what you make of it);
    • international organization kits–most require consensus to be added;
    • a random collection of alliances–but be warned they bind both more and less than expected;
    • War: there are less than there used to be, but still not entirely out of style.
  • Saideman’s Spew Sauces: Ignorance, Perspective, Denial, Secret, Distraction, Awesome.  I am thinking of adding sarcasm sauce to the collection, but seven is an odd number.  I will have to figure out another one to round it off at an eight-pack.

*  Yes, I usually let Brian take the funny Monday slot, but figured we could share the post-Thanksgiving silly slot just this one time.


Stuff Political Scientists Like to Obsess About

 Not to step on Brian‘s territory, but I just wanted to cross-post here something that I wanted to propose.
One of the recurring themes on my blog and at the Poli Sci Job Rumor site is that of rankings.  See here, here, and here for a taste of my fixation.

Anyhow, I am always reminded of a simple fact when I see any political science ranking of journals, presses, departments whatever: that whenever a ranking is suggested or revised, it is always suggested by someone who benefits from the new ranking.  Nobody ever proposes a ranking that puts their department lower.  So, Godwin’s Law–that the longer any internet discussion, the probability of Hitler/Nazis/Holocaust being mentioned approaches one–has inspired me to propose a new law.

What would we name the following law: Any ranking of any aspect of the academic enterprise will produce revised rankings that improve the standing of the folks who produce the revised rankings?  In honor of a semi-anonymous person who published amusing pieces at PS (see here for an example if you can–gated),* so how about Wuffle’s Law?
* A scholar.google search of Wuffle will produce many more contributions than I had remembered.

The standard foreign office response in a time of crisis…

Snow day again — I watched Al Jazeera, read up on the current US debates about whether or not (and how) to support the democratic revolution in Egypt, and then turned to watch one of my favorite episodes of Yes Minister, “A Victory for Democracy.”

Classic and informative — on so many levels. The real fun starts at the 4:00 minute mark and runs for the duration:

You can watch the whole episode — parts 1 and 3 here and here. It’s a great break.


The Promise and Perils of Book TitlesBecause I’m Way Too Busy With the Start of the Term to Blog About Anything Useful.

Thanks to Erik Voeten, I have just discovered a fabulous blog, Better Book Titles:

This blog is for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. I will cut through all the cryptic crap, and give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Now you can read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!

Some of my other favorites from the site:

the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime
the very hungry caterpillar, and
the elements of style.

And both Erik and Jeff Ely have a little more to say about the political economy of book titles, especially in academic publishing.

And Kieran Healy is collecting suggestions for a political science contribution to the Better Book Titles site, where Friday entries are submitted by readers. I’d love to come up with a snappy version of Dan Drezner‘s new Theory of International Politics and Zombies, which I’m supposed to roast at the International Studies Association Conference in March. [“I Am Too Funny For My Half-Eaten Shirt,” perhaps. Or “I Will Claim To Describe IR Theory While Completely Ignoring Feminism, Post-Colonialism and Critical Theory. Bwa Ha Ha!!”]

Add in your own suggestions for this or other books below.

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