Duck

Science of Santa

by on 2014-12-17- 4 Comments

The following is a guest post by Tenacity Murdie, age 12.  

Dear Readers,

Every year on Christmas Eve, Santa, a fat and happy man, takes off in a sleigh full of presents to go deliver gifts to the good boys and girls. We spend millions of dollars in preparation for Santa, but is this reasonable, or are we just throwing our money down the drain? Although many think that it is possible for Santa to travel the world in less than 31 hours (not 24 since we have time zones)[2] and successfully deliver presents to millions of children without violating any laws of physics, it’s just not possible. If Santa were to do this, he would be breaking multiple laws of physics. Some examples are: there are no known reindeer species that can fly, the actual Santa (St. Nick) is long dead, and, most importantly, there is not enough time for Santa to get to all the houses in one day. Let me explain.

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Citizens, Beasts or Gods?

Citizens, Beasts or Gods?

by on 2014-12-16- Leave a reply

Keeping up with the current engagement with artificial intelligence (AI) is a full time task. Today in the New York Times, two (here and here)
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What’s Happening with Climate Negotiations in Lima?

What’s Happening with Climate Negotiations in Lima?

by on 2014-12-13- Leave a reply

The annual climate negotiations are wrapping up in Lima, Peru tonight or likely tomorrow. Negotiators are working through the night in overtime as they seek to hammer out a blueprint that will serve as the negotiating template for next year.  This is the meeting before next year's big meeting in Paris when expectations are high for a new climate agreement that will establish the targets and actions countries are willing to make for the 2020 period and beyond. So, what's going on? What's at stake? What are the key outcomes? Points of dissensus and consensus? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Here is one live negotiation tracker and what I believe is the proposed text that the chair proposed just as I went to bed.


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What Does the Rise of AI have to do with Ferguson and Eric Garner?

What Does the Rise of AI have to do with Ferguson and Eric Garner?

by on 2014-12-12- 2 Comments

One might think that looking to the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and the recent spate of police brutality against African American males, particularly Michael
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Torture as War Victory: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and the torture reports

by on 2014-12-10- 1 Comment

This post is the first of our 'Throwback Thursday" series, where we re-publish an earlier post on a topic that is currently in the news, or is receiving renewed attention or debate. This original post was published February 23rd 2013 (right before the Oscars) but the main arguments about the utility and rational behind torture expressed in the movie may be worth revisiting given the recent release of the CIA's 'torture report.'

"This is what winning looks like"

I have to confess, I was late to watch "Zero Dark Thirty" (ODT). I read a handful of reviews and blogs about the movie, had arguments with friends about its message, and even wrote it off completely--all weeks before I bothered to watch it. I wasn't interested in watching another American war movie, nor was I keen to see the lengthy torture scenes I had read about in the reviews. I figured I already knew exactly what the content was (are there every any real surprises in American war movies? and, didn't we all know how this story ended anyway?) and that there was really nothing left to say. BUT, I think there is something left to say about the film.

First, let's all be honest: most of us walked away from this movie saying to ourselves "did I miss something?" What about the film deserved all the Oscar hype, debate, and acclaim? By most standards, this was a classic, boring American war movie. In this case, the lack of plot and acting skills are made up with using violent torture scenes rather than expensive battle scenes. There is no emotional journey, no big moral dilemma that the characters are going through (I'll get to torture soon), little plot twist (again, we all know how it ends after all), and no unique or interesting characters (don't get me started on Jessica Chastain--what exactly about her stone-faced performance warrants an Oscar? perhaps she deserves an award for for 'most consistent blank expression'). So what gives? Is this just another "King's Speech"? Meaning, is this just another big movie that people talk about and get behind, but no one actually can put their finger on what was remotely interesting about it (never mind what was destructive about it)?

So I'm calling it. Not only was this movie soul-less, boring and poorly made, everyone seemed to miss the message (and it is easy enough to do). The real question about ODT is not whether or not it is condoning torture.
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The Danger In “Leading From the Front”

by on 2014-12-06- Leave a reply

Kerry ISIS

The conventional wisdom about the gradual U.S. ramp up for the military campaign against ISIS is just that, all too conventional. Blistering criticisms from the Right—that the ramp up was too slow and that the President is to blame for leaving Iraq too soon—have both proved hollow. They have been fading as the U.S. and its allies have been successfully degrading ISIS. During the last two months of their successful election campaign, Congressional candidates essentially dropped this criticism from their attack ads and stump speeches. But the notion that the U.S. displayed weakness in the gradual roll out of its anti ISIS operation persists.

However, there was and still is a danger that the U.S. ramped up too soon. One of the primary strategic problems over the last five austerity addled years has been the sizable reduction in defense spending by a series of western allies (although the capabilities reductions, which matter more, have been much smaller and in some cases augmented). As important as maintaining capabilities is, there is also the necessity of strategy, which includes the willingness to use force if necessary. The U.S. attempt to “lead from the middle”, which involves allies sharing security burdens, could be impeded if allies interpret the U.S. taking the lead against ISIS as “leading from the front.” The danger is that this could result in a new round of allies reducing their spending and/or capabilities, which would be a serious setback to American national security interests.

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Theory as thought

Theory as thought

by on 2014-12-05- 3 Comments

Recently a friend and colleague wrote me to say:

 

“The SS piece is actually really useful to me as a model for dealing with
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Friday Nerd Blogging: Star Wes Awakens

by on 2014-12-05- Leave a reply

The folks here are big, big fans of Star Wars, so we were most happy this week with the new teaser. Many parodies have/will ensue. Here is the Wes Anderson take:

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Clans

Clans

by on 2014-12-05- 2 Comments

Rutgers University law professor (and bloggerMark S. Weiner has been awarded the 2015 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order for ideas set forth in his 2013 book, The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom. The award includes a $100,000 cash prize and is administered by the University of Louisville.

The book makes a fairly complicated argument about clans, identity groups, liberal democracy, states, and national security. The press release ostensibly explains the highly readable book's main argument: 
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The Perils of a M/W/F Class

by on 2014-12-05- 5 Comments

Greetings, fellow Duck readers.  I realize I've been MIA this semester - DGS duties and ISA-Midwest stuff took too much of my non-research time.  Another factor in my absence, however: a Monday Wednesday Friday schedule. And, it sucked.[1]  Like large-tornado-near-my-hometown sucked.  Today marks the last Friday class of the semester – thank god.[2]  Even though I should be getting back to research this morning, I wanted to write a little bit about why I think 50 minute/3 day a week classes should be banned in our discipline.

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Not Surprised is Not Good Enough: what soldier atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan can teach us about Ferguson

by on 2014-12-03- Leave a reply

 

 

 

 

 

By some strange twist of fate I happened to watch the Kill Team, a documentary about the infamous US platoon that intentionally murdered innocent Afghan men while on tour. When, in 2010 the military charged five members of the platoon, the case drew international attention due to the graphic nature of the killings, evidence that the men mutilated the bodies and kept parts as trophies, and indications that the killings were part of a wider trend of 'faking' combat situations in order for soldiers to 'get a kill.' While the premeditated killing of Afghan civilians appears completely disconnected from the Ferguson grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed Michael Brown, there are several common threads that deserve unraveling. Rather than characterise 'Ferguson' as 'simply' a case of police brutality, or localised racism, or isolated misconduct, such a comparison opens up space for counter-narratives. In particular, the comparison A) highlights the systemic nature of racist, militarized, and patriarchal violence across multiple institutions, including the police and the military; B) addresses the sanctioned killing of non-white men and women as a consistent feature of the national narrative; C) indicates the desperate need to both demonise a racialised other and to measure individual and national masculinity in terms of the control and suppression of this demonised other.

So, with that pleasant list out of the way, here are 3 ways that civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are similar to the murders of innocent civilian African-American young men.

1. Creating a dark and dehumanized enemy.
Whether it is at home in the US or overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is ample evidence of a generalised trend for police, soldiers, and the public to hold deeply racist views about the people they are meant to be protecting.

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2015 OAIS Blogging Awards: Call for Nominations!

by on 2014-12-02- Leave a reply

Duckies

It's that time of year folks. We are now receiving nominations for the third annual Online Achievement in International Studies (OAIS) Blogging Awards -- aka the Duckie Awards.

We are asking Duck readers to reflect back over the past year to consider the best blogging contributions to the field of International Studies and to submit nominations for the awards. Post your nominations in the comments thread or drop us a note at duckofminerva2015 @ gmail.com. We will later ask readers to vote for the three finalists in each category. Last year's winners have generously agreed to judge the finalists and select the 2015 winners.

Also, once again we are thrilled that with the support of SAGE, Duck of Minerva and SAGE will be co-hosting the third annual IR Blogging Awards and Reception at the ISA Annual Conference to be held in New Orleans.    The reception is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, February 19, 2015.   Charli is again coordinating the program for the Awards ceremony and we'll have details on the program soon.

At this point, we need Duck readers to submit nominations -- we'll ask you all to vote on the finalists in January. Here are the rules and nomination and judging procedures for the 2015 awards:
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World AIDS Day 2014: Five Data Points, Four News Items, and Three Films

World AIDS Day 2014: Five Data Points, Four News Items, and Three Films

by on 2014-12-01- Leave a reply

Today is World AIDS Day, an annual day of remembrance and reflection on the global AIDS crisis held since 1988. Overshadowed this year by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we should keep in mind that this problem is not over even if it has receded from news coverage in recent years. Here are 5 facts and 4 news items about the state of the current epidemic to keep in mind, and 3 recent films - How to Survive a Plague, Fire in the Blood, and the Dallas Buyers Club, which help bring some context to understanding grassroots mobilization in the U.S. and internationally to combat the AIDS epidemic. 
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Ebola is Not Over

Ebola is Not Over

by on 2014-11-26- Leave a reply

The Ebola crisis isn't over. In the absence of new infections in the United States, Americans have moved on to other preoccupations (Ferguson anyone?), but the problem hasn't gone away even if Google searches have plunged. There has been some positive news out of Liberia with a decline in the rate of new infections from 80 new cases per day to about 20 to 30, but the news from Sierra Leone suggests the problem is far from under control, with the end of the rainy season potentially making transit easier and facilitating the spread of the virus further. More troubling still is the new hot spot of infections coming out of Mali, eight confirmed cases in all, 7 of them related to a single Guinean imam who died in diagnosed in Mali and whose body was not handled properly as one would a deceased Ebola patient.
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Meaningful or Meaningless Control

Meaningful or Meaningless Control

by on 2014-11-25- 1 Comment

In May of 2014, the United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) first considered the issue of banning lethal autonomous weapons. Before the start of
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Friday Nerd Blogging: Twitter Much?

by on 2014-11-21- 1 Comment

As a very frequent tweeter, I could only watch this SNL sketch/dance number (didn't make it to the show, just to dress rehearsal) with just a hint of shame:

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Privacy, Secrecy & War: Emperor Rogers and the Failure of NSA Reform

Privacy, Secrecy & War: Emperor Rogers and the Failure of NSA Reform

by on 2014-11-20- Leave a reply

On November 3, Britain’s head of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) published an opinion piece in the Financial Times, noting that technology companies, such as
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Friday Nerd Blogging: Princess Bride FTW

by on 2014-11-13- Leave a reply

Check out this set of tweets tying together feminism and Princess Bride.  My guess is that you check out #feministprincessbride you will find many more. 
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Some Book Publishing Tips

by on 2014-11-12- 4 Comments

Yesterday, I was part of a panel at Carleton organized to provide other profs/students with suggestions about how to get their stuff published in book form.  The Canadian process is different from the American process, so I spent my ten minutes on the lessons I learned from my experiences with American publishers.

What did I say?

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Historic Bilateral Climate Agreement Between the US and China

Historic Bilateral Climate Agreement Between the US and China

by on 2014-11-12- Leave a reply

Here was my Tweet the other day. Today we have an answer.

If you went to bed early on Tuesday night, you might have missed some very big news out of Obama-Xi meeting in Beijing, other than announcements on trade and regional security. I'm talking about the potentially momentous bilateral agreement on climate change where China announced for the first time a date -- "around 2030" -- for peak greenhouse gas emissions and the United States announced a 2025 emissions reduction target. This is big news, potentially changing the entire international dynamic going in to next year's climate negotiations in Paris (and interim negotiations in Lima later this year).

With the two countries responsible for more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions making a significant joint push, the pressure will be on other big emitting countries, namely India, Canada, Japan, and Australia to fall in to line and be constructive players themselves. It will be interesting to see how this changes the domestic context for the United States where President Obama may use existing regulatory authority and executive action to press the policy agenda, but it's unclear if that will be enough to meet the ambitious 2025 goals. China for its part may be on track anyway to meet that 2030 peak target, but the real question is, as I've written before (here and here), how far it can go to move away from coal. Read on for full linkages to press coverage, Kerry's op-ed in the New York Times, reflections from Brad Plumer, and the White House announcement that includes more detail on expanded technical cooperation.
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