Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Race is On!

Now that it is all official, the big question we are all asking ourselves is:
will Steve and Mrs. Spew get their citizenship in time 
for this election in late October?

I think not.  These citizenship ceremonies apparently happen often in November.  Getting to the test stage was far faster than I expected, but I am doubtful that the processing will proceed so quickly.  Still, it is possible.

How would I vote? Well, as the Citizenship Test Guide told us all, I don't have to tell you.  Besides, if you cannot figure it out from ye olde Semi-Spew ....

Oh, and if we miss it, that's ok.  Given that the likely outcome is a minority government a shorter life span than the most recent minority governments, we will be at the ballot box before too long.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Unbridled Curiosity or Arrogance: You Make the Call

As I start into the new project, comparing the civil-military relations of many of the world's democracies, I realize I am once again entering an area in which I have little expertise.  This is not a new feeling, as each major research project of my career has me walking into countries/areas in which I have no experience.

This started with my dissertation which focused on secessionist crises in Africa and South Asia, two parts of the world I had studied the least.  While my second book focused on an issue that I had studied in my dissertation, irredentism, it meant doing fieldwork in Hungary and Romania.  I had not studied or been to either before.  The third book on NATO could have been a bit more familiar to me, as I had been to many of these countries as a tourist and I had lived the NATO life from the Joint Staff.  However, I had never studied the domestic politics of most of the places we studied, a key ingredient in understanding the civil-military dynamics of each.

Why am I thinking about this?  Well, the current project would not seem to be that off the paths I have trod--looking at legislative oversight of militaries.  While I am not nor have ever been a legislative oversight guy, the basic question is an extension of the previous book.  However, in the distribution of labor for this project, my co-authors are getting the cases they know best (and I know best), and I am getting the coolest travel but also the cases I knew the least: Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.  While most of the fieldwork will not commence until my sabbatical a year from now, my fellowship applications (to fund part of my sabbatical) have me thinking about this now.

And I realize that my unbridled curiosity might be facilitated by arrogance.  How dare I think that I can understand a place I have never studied before?  Especially those countries where the English-speakers are not so prevalent.  Writing about Canada despite never studying the place before 2007 was not as chock full of hubris (despite offending one reviewer).  Navigating in a country where the language is so different that I cannot understand the signs?  Now I am intimidated.

I guess my confidence, such as it is, is driven by the perception that my lack of knowledge has not stopped me before.  That I only seek to know a small part of a country's history and political processes.  I am not an expert on Danish politics, but I learned enough to figure out what I needed to figure out--why the Danes were among the most forward leaning and least restricted troops in Afghanistan.  I learned enough about African politics to understand why countries took sides in two secessionist crises, but didn't learn much more than that (that I applied for African Politics jobs as I was leaving grad school was more about desperation than arrogance). I learned enough about Somali politics to have a decent grasp on its inconsistent irredentism from 1960-1990, but not enough to understand what is going on today, except as a product of the consequences of the past.

But this tendency to tread where I know not has fed a case of imposter syndrome that someone will find out that I missed a huge hunk of something along the way.  However, so far, so good.  I do know that there are other costs besides being found out.  That if I spent my time focusing on the same few places, I would develop some serious expertise, which could be damn useful.  But my mind does not work that way.  I just keep seeking the questions that intrigue me most, and they keep leading me away from that with which I am most familiar.  Maybe I am easily bored or have attention deficit disorder. 

All I do know is that I have enjoyed the ride that my curiosity has taken me, and it is that curiosity that got me in this business in the first place.  Still, I wonder about the advice of a key role model:

Friday, July 31, 2015

How to Lose Thirty Years Without Much Effort?

Ta da:
Why did I shave off my beard?  'Lil Steve wants to know.  And since this blog has always been an outlet for my narcissism, Spewing about my shaving seems like the least I could do.

The timing seemed right:
  • I just hit a near-round number so I wanted to see what I look like in my youngest form possible (that is, without doing the necessary dieting and exercise to get me back to my wrestling weight class of old);
  • I had arranged a small party with my family (including Displaced Intern Spew!) and friends to celebrate both Steve-fest and the passing of the Canadian Citizenship test.
    • The last time I set up an event on the same day as a test was when I had my first car date the evening of the day I took the test to get my driver's license!  I am pretty sure that my relationship with Canada will work out better than my relationship with that young lady.
    • My Ottawa friends had never seen me sans beard so it was fun to watch their reactions.
  • I am going to be seeing my mother soon, and she prefer her baby to not have gray all over his face.  Makes her feel younger.  So, the very least I can do for her.
So, 'lil Steve, that's the story.

Oh, and the two-fisted drinking?  I love a good sampler at a brew pub, especially when they let me choose the four to six beers that go into the sampler.  Thanks, Mill Street!  If only their schnitzel came on a stick!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cartoon of the Week

I saw this on twitter and had to post it here so that I can find it again--advice conservatives never give themselves:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Canadian, eh?

Today, my family took the Canadian Citizenship test, and we all passed.  We got notice about 17 days ago or so, so we have been cramming from the Discover Canada guide quite seriously.  I figured I would do fine, but I did get tense and butterfly-ish as the exams were being handed out. 

I cannot say what the questions were--the warnings about not posting such info on social media seemed aimed directly at me--but the intra-family comparisons indicated that I got the harder questions.  Maybe, maybe not.  But I got all the questions right and so did Mrs. Spew.  College Spew did fine, but did not study nearly as much.  I didn't mind the studying since I learned some stuff that I didn't know.  It was also fun to come up with ways to remember things like:
  • the Northwest Territories are not the most Northwest--that would be Yukon.
  • Yellowknife is the capital of NWT because there is no Y in Northwest, and Whitehorse is the capital of Yukon Territory because there is no Y in Whitehorse.  
  • the question that gave me the most concern was one about ... hockey.  Really.  I had not really read the guide carefully with regard to hockey since I was cocky about my hockey knowledge. 

After the test, we had to wait to get our results from the interviewer.  I thought the interviewer was going to test our ability to speak in one of the two official languages, but he was more concerned about my work--that I had proof of my job.  Which was not part of the documents I was required to send last fall nor listed as among the docs I needed today.  I guess I could have got online on my phone to get to my salary stubs.  Other than that, I just had to sign a form saying that I am not a war criminal or any other kind of evil-doer.  Well, indicated/convicted evil-doer. 

All we have to do now is wait for the invite to the ceremony.  At the ceremony, we get our Citizenship certificates and swear an oath to the Queen. This really is the hardest part of the process besides the $ and the effort to identify all the times we have been out of Canada over the past five years (my research and talks came back to bite me on that).  Why is it hard?  Because as an American, the idea of swearing allegiance to a monarch is, um, icky.  However, it is easier if I buy the idea that it is not swearing allegiance to the person but to the symbol, to the Canadian nation.  And, yes, I would be swearing to Queen Elizabeth of Canada, not QE of England.  And, yes, much better than swearing to Charles.  I would, of course, swear allegiance to Kate, but that is something else.

Anyhow, time to celebrate our near-Canadian-ness!  Woot, eh!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Measuring Progress is Difficult

It is often very hard to figure out what an event means.  Today, there is a report of Canadian Lt. Colonel being prosecuted for sexual assault.  But the assaults took place from 1998-2007.  So, is this delayed justice showing how slow, bureaucratic and broken the process is?  Or is it a sign of new times?  That the decision (or the announcement) happened very shortly after a new Chief of Defence Staff took over?   With a message of taking this stuff seriously?

The reality is it is probably a mix--something should have happened long before now, but a new boss with a clear priority on this might be pushing the case forward.  And yes, the CDS has a role in this because he has the job of enforcing discipline with the Canadian Armed Forces, not the Deputy Minister and not the Minister of Defence.  This is squarely in General Vance's area of responsibility. 

If we see more prosecutions in the next month or two (and announced via David Pugliese), then it will be clearly a sign that a change is underway.  

A Pander Bear?

Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democrat Party and leader of the opposition (one question I will get right), is getting flak today for calling Toronto Canada's most important city.

Why is this problematic?  After all, Toronto is the biggest city by far, it has the most economic weight, it has a heap of cultural weight, and on and on.  But since he is running for Prime Minister (yeah, I know, there is no vote for PM but for individual MP's but tell that to all of the relevant political actors in Canada--the voters, the candidates, the media), saying such a thing does not play well in any other place that might see itself as a most important city.  Since all politics is ultimately local, that means everywhere else that is not Toronto.

My bigger problems with Mulcair's pandering without restraint are on Quebec and supply management.
  • The NDP's stances on Quebec have been most problematic since they tend to want to give Quebec the easiest out possible--50% plus one--with none of the Clarity Act standing in the way.  Why? Because NDP's base is in Quebec.
  • While all the parties are pandering to the overly entitled dairy industry, Mulcair's stance has seemed to indicate that he would not reform at all, even at risk of Canada getting kicked out of the big trade negotiations.
The lesson, as always:

Monday, July 27, 2015

More on Supply Management

I went shopping today, which is enough to deepen my hostility to supply management.  How so?

First, $4 a liter for milk.


$10 for a big block of monterrey jack.... or any other cheese.  Two problems with this: the price and the selection.  $10 is way too much.  But most of the cheese is in this very big size, so that means that I have to pay a lot and then use about half or a bit more and then the rest turns blue before I can finish it.

And that is the problem with cartels--they limit price AND selection--as they game the products to maximize their profits without the fear of competition.  With competition, I might get a better selection of sizes and I might get a better price.  With a government sanctioned cartel?  Neither.