29 January 2008

That's It!

As of 8:01 EST, 29 January 2007, I am officially declaring that Rudy Giuliani has drawn ahead of Ron Paul in the state-by-state race for the Republic nomination for president!

That's right; though Paul had defeated Giuliani in Iowa, Michigan, and South Carolina, Giuliani had fired back (with aplomb one might add) in Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Nevada. But now Giuliani is one up, as I am projecting that Giuliani has decisively defeated Paul in Florida.

Giuliani. Third in Florida. First in his race against Ron Paul. 9/11.


A Coup for Canada?

So Harper and the Canadian Armed Forces are not exactly seeing eye to eye these days. Is it time for General Hillier to take matters into his own hands; to save Canadian democracy from the Conservative Party of Canada?

That would certainly make it onto the very very long list of things that social scientists cannot claim to have predicted. Unless, of course, I make the prediction here.

Therefore: I can say with 95% confidence that there is a 1/10,000 chance of a military coup of the Canadian government in the next 90 days.*

*Unfortunately, the model I have used to derive this prediction is classified.


22 January 2008

The Manley Report

I'll just go ahead and call it that. The high profile Liberal (well, in Canadian politics everything is relative, right?) and his team have delivered their report on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan to the government (the full text is available for download here).

My foreign policy calls are either nonexistent or about as poor as they come (I supported the invasion of Iraq, have absolutely nothing to say about what NATO should do about Kosovo besides accept the inevitable, and on the very pages of this blog have suggested that the U.S. should proliferate nuclear weapons to all Middle Eastern states). Nonetheless, my knee-jerk reactions:

As the Globe and Mail article points out, almost from the start the panel was faced with the government's resolve to maintain the mission through 2011. I also believe - whatever that's worth - that in Manley Harper found exactly whom he needed: a Liberal, out of politics, thirsty enough to do something for his country (or just after the limelight, if you're cynical), with an avowed liberal-internationalist outlook, and no particular disloyalty towards Dion (so that the appointment could hardly be smeared as unfair, political, or whatever). That the panel wouldn't recommend withdrawal in 2009 - or anytime before 2011, or at any specific date - was a foregone conclusion.

What is somewhat noteworthy - though also unsurprising - is that the report recommends that the government make contingent its continued commitment to Afghanistan on an escalation of support from NATO allies, in the form of an increased commitment of 1000 troops to Kandahar. This is in line with the Harper and Bush administration's efforts to secure a greater allied commitment to fighting in the civil war in Afghanistan. It's intended, in part, to put pressure on the allies to put up or risk Canada's withdrawal.

One major problem with this is the possibility that the NATO allies, who aren't good international boy scouts like John Manley, don't care enough to make the commitment. The report's recommendations leave two options: stay in with increased support, or get out (or at least, stop fighting the war). Now, option A is the best-case scenario for the Harper government (and the Americans). Option B is exactly what the NDP and Bloc want. Option A would be what the Liberals would want if they were in government; since they're not, they have to support something else. I've never been convinced that option B reflects the Liberal party's core values and policy preferences, especially since they initiated Canada's involvement in the first place. Maybe it's time for the Liberals to try to fill this policy vacuum?

The report is also a great safety valve for Harper. It presents an opportunity to defuse the electoral impact of the Afghanistan problem: adopt the recommendations, lobby for increased NATO support, and switch tack on the commitment if he doesn't get it. With the help of the Conservative Party's proficient spin doctors, it won't look like the PM is retreating with his tail between his legs: he'd just be following the sound advice of an independent panel headed by a Liberal. And he can claim an honest effort to mitigate the inevitable disappointment of the Bush administration, which is on its way out anyhow.


17 January 2008

Size Matters

The New York Times reports further on what's next for the Met after de Montebello's retirement. Interesting enough, but even more noteworthy is the image juxtaposing Damien Hirst's preserved shark and the Met's (relatively-recently-acquired) Duccio:

Is the Times conspiring with the Met to make their Duccio seem larger? Because, next to the Hirst piece, that sure looks like one giant Duccio!

This brings me to the Macbook Air and the visual effect of removing a laptop computer from a manilla envelope. Except, unless they've used an oversized envelope and hand, that's actually one thin computer.


At least Hilary can drink...

...a bottle of Pinot Noir, perhaps?


15 January 2008

Seriously, Another Post about Polar Bears

Predictably, some biologists and animal rights activists are decrying the Nuremberg Zoo's decision to hand-raise its newest, youngest polar bear (dubbed "Snowflake" in anticipation of a democratic christening by her adoring public). The reasons for their outrage appear to include the following:

  1. It being unnatural to hold polar bears in captivity, we should not be surprised that it is so difficult to rear them in captivity, and we should accept the "natural" rate of failure here.
  2. This is in part because polar bears in captivity live a cruel, anxiety-riddled existence which disturbs their innate capacity to care for their young. (Implicit claim: we should not raise any more polar bears in captivity, since it only multiplies the cruelty).
  3. Raising polar bears by hand somehow constructs them as "asocial" or "psychopathic" - Knut is already developing symptoms.
While I'm no impassioned proponent of it, I also don't lose much sleep over animal cruelty. I think it's somewhat bizarre that we raise wildlife for the sole purpose of public display, entertainment, and adulation. But I also think that our (characteristically human) inclination to judge what is "natural" for animals (and therefore good) and what is "artificially imposed" on them by humans (and therefore bad) is a contradiction in itself. By making such a decision we are already artificially imposing an anthropocentric vision of what is "right" for animals on them; this is exemplified by the ascription of pathologies to animals raised in captivity by humans. We can't see animals without imposing our perceptual framework on them.

I thought that in moral philosophy we have gotten passed a fixation on seeking truth in "nature."


14 January 2008

Best Assigned Academic Book Title of the Quarter

Elbe, Stefan. 2003. Europe: A Nietzschean Perspective. London and New York: Routledge.

Haha it works on so many levels! I'm sure that John or Luke* can top that, but given the normal practice of publishing in Political Science, this is a pretty good contender.

*I don't list Nick here, since (a) he rarely even posts on this blog and (b) Cherubs: Angels of Love doesn't count as an academic book.


13 January 2008

Even More on Mims

For those few among our readers who don't also read Matthew Yglesias regularly.


11 January 2008

New Knut?


10 January 2008

Even Robin Brooke-Smith was not this pastoral

Two faculty in my department own sheep. (That's two separate, not-married-to-each-other faculty, living in different houses, or rather, gentleman farms outside Princeton, each with their own flock of sheep).


08 January 2008

Game Day and Game Time

1. Yesterday the percentage of undergraduates donning Buckeyes paraphernalia was up significantly* on campus; this did not help an overmatched OSU team in New Orleans, however. For the record, neither my person nor my property were damaged. Perhaps accounts of football rioting have been exaggerated?

2. Today a tiny, mostly caucasian, Northeastern state helps decide the candidates for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election. The Clintons are going strongly on the offensive, while the Obama campaign is relying on momentum and platitudes to make a strong showing. And it seems like everybody's "campaigning on change" these days, while I don't even know what that's supposed to mean. (EDIT: Der Spiegel has an interesting take on the meaning of all the "change" rhetoric.)

*How significantly? I'm uncertain... sorry, methods joke.


03 January 2008


As I occasionally refresh the NY Times website, watching Barack Obama's numbers slowly creep up, I reflect that it would be much better to inaugurate the presidential-nomination season with a state where corn is not quite king. Say, Alaska or Vermont.


02 January 2008

Columbus: The Return

Sidewalks: not cleared (lack of civic virtue)

Hand-drawn (marker) neon bristol board at supermarket entrance: "Flu Shots $10" (absence of socialized medicine)

Upcoming BCS National Championship Game: Ohio State a 5 point underdog (dearth of football talent)

Hello, Columbus.