Monday, April 29, 2013

Anonymous Sources

Below is a fabulous quote:

"In the United States, "revelations" about Noriega have at times been based on putative intelligence reports related by anonymous sources. In at least one case, according to an influential Panamanian opposition journalist, a U.S. congressional staff member with access to classified material on Noriega seemed to encourage him to embellish, telling him: 'Put down whatever you want and it will be true.'"

--John Dinges, Our Man in Panama (New York: Random House, 1990): x.

That was written 23 years ago, but fits many conservative accounts of Latin America today. Neither Mary O'Grady nor Roger Noriega could ever write much of a column without using anonymous sources to give them the juicy anecdotes they use to vilify what they don't like. I would guess that the sources themselves, along with their disseminators, figure it is worth it because the politician in question is so vile. If I think it could be true, then it is true.

Very often, of course, these sources need no encouragement because they are trying to get something they want, perhaps a prominent position after some sort of intervention. Those sources are especially insistent when it appears that intervention is imminent, reassuring policy makers that everything will work out fine.

I expect in the coming months we'll be hearing a lot from such sources about Venezuela. They will say lots of unverifiable things that will get picked up in the MSM and will confirm people's worst fears. There will be calls to do "something."


Audit Dispute in Venezuela

Henrique Capriles is mad about the audit, saying it is insufficient because it won't include examination of voter signatures and fingerprints. The government's response has several dimensions.

First, you are asking for something without evidence it is needed.

Second, even if we did what you wanted, the election outcome would not change.

Third, since we have the best system for going back over votes, there is no need to do so.

I previously argued that simply doing the audit would constitute enough of a concession that it would take the air out of the opposition. That could still be the case. But the government does itself no favors by saying the vote could never change, accusing Capriles of murder, and calling him a fascist (which is frequent to the point of being funny).

What matters now are perceptions. If the opposition successfully mobilizes, it will occur in no small part because of the government's aggressive reactions. Looking conciliatory would make it more difficult for Capriles and other opposition leaders to sustain the level of outrage necessary to mobilize.

UPDATE: here is the CNE's official response.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Brazil in the World

I'm quoted in this L.A. Times story on the differences between Dilma Rousseff and Lula in foreign affairs. Coincidentally, not long ago I had been revising my lecture on Brazil for my Latin American politics class--since I hadn't taught it recently, the slides on foreign policy had to be modified, especially with regard to the Middle East.

Rousseff still works to make Brazil a global power, but is much less flamboyant about it. Let's see if that yields anything from the Obama administration during a state visit, or if it matters at all.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Immigration Bill

Here is a really good summary of the Senate immigration bill from the Migration Policy Institute, comparing it to the 2006 and 2007 proposals.

Restrictionists bemoan the amnesty portion of the bill, but in fact it has enforcement mechanisms so stringent that they could conceivably never be met. It's basically what Charles Krauthammer wanted, and he is well out of the mainstream.

Along with massive and seemingly unrealistic enforcement, one of the biggest changes from past proposals is the reduction of family member visas (see page 12 of the summary in particular). If you want tons of enforcement, more workers, and fewer family, then this bill is for you. What we're seeing now, though, are arguments that it provides too much executive flexibility since it includes waivers. Tough call. Rigidity prevents you from responding adequately to unforeseen effects, whereas too much flexibility means watering the bill down.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Inflation in Brazil

Here is a good summary of how focused Dilma Rousseff is on curbing inflation. It is at 6.59%, which is higher than the government's stated upper limit of 6.5%.

The policy reaction is to help out domestic ethanol. Rousseff wants to ramp up ethanol production to get fuel prices down, so is providing tax breaks and expanded credit. Ethanol producers are annoyed that gas prices are artificially low, but raising them would also spur inflation.

After months of pressure and mounting losses at state oil giant Petrobras, the government agreed to allow a 6.6 percent increase in wholesale gasoline prices in January. However, analysts estimate local gasoline prices are still about 15 percent below international levels, allowing the petroleum-based fuel still to undercut ethanol's competitiveness.

The Brazilian government remembers the years of hyperinflation, as do many other Latin American governments. At the same time, though, research has shown that people are forgiving of moderate increases in inflation as long as they believe the government is encouraging growth.

It's funny, too, how fickle the media is. Just over a year ago there were all kinds of stories about how incredible the Brazilian economy was. Now the news is almost universally gloomy. Yes, the economy has slowed down, but there seems to be no middle reporting ground.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tweeting Academia

Jay Ufelder and Dan Drezner give tips for academics thinking of getting on Twitter. It's good to get some guidance, especially if you're unfamiliar with the medium.

However, I would add something else that I discussed some time ago in response to pointers about blogging, namely that you should not focus much on rules. This is supposed to be fun, and trying to keep a lot of rules in mind makes it less fun. I like the professional benefits that come from blogging and tweeting, but the real reason I spend time on them is because I really enjoy it (though Jay correctly points out that this is addicting, so maybe I enjoy them the ways addicts enjoy drugs).

As of this moment, I have 8,437 tweets. Many of these are not well thought out, may include dumb pictures, or reflect pure whimsy, while others were about ongoing events in Latin America and got lots of responses and retweets. All of them, though, were fun. So keep your eye on that prize.


Terrorists and Subversives

Rafael Correa said that the FARC should not be considered a terrorist group. It is just "subversive."

Más temprano, durante una entrevista concedida a periodistas locales sostuvo que las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), no son un grupo terrorista: “Yo no creo que (que sean terroristas), son un grupo subversivo, aunque no estoy en absoluto de acuerdo con ellos. Creo que son gente que lucha por ideales, totalmente equivocados, pero no son terroristas”.

"Subversive" refers to a group trying to overthrow the government, whereas a "terrorist" typically refers to an individual or group who targets civilians or "non-combatants." Correa's argument is that the FARC is fighting for the wrong ideas but their tactics are not terrorist.

It seems reasonable to argue that subversion need not automatically entail terrorism, though you're always going to be very, very close to it. However, I don't think it is reasonable to argue anything but that the FARC is both subversive and terrorist. Clearly it wants to overthrow the existing order and use tactics like murder and kidnapping. It's hard to call Ingrid Betancourt a "combatant."


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Election in Paraguay

I'm quoted in this Associated Press story on the Paraguayan presidential election, really just giving the big picture view. The essential point is that this election will allow the region to say they've moved on from the Fernando Lugo controversy. Paraguay can then participate in Mercosur and Unasur. It's like Mitt Romney's Etch-A-Sketch statement.

This is just like Honduras. The elites who overthrew Mel Zelaya were correctly confident that just having an election would calm everything down. Even Venezuela and Brazil moved on.

There was a brief experiment with tentative liftism in Paraguay, and elites closed ranks to end it. Now the party of Alfredo Stroessner will likely come back, and the new president may well be a drug trafficking homophobe. Back to "normal."


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chávez and the Latin American Left

Kevin Lees makes an interesting, though I think overstated, point at The National Interest that Hugo Chávez provided space for moderate leftists in Latin America who otherwise would've experienced greater antagonism from the United States.

In Venezuela, bitter partisans will never agree about what, if anything, Hugo Chávez created. But there's no doubt that by occupying a petrodollar-fueled perch on the radical left, Chávez created space for progressive leftism to become much more palatable throughout Latin America.

He uses the Brazilian example most effectively. At the time of his election, Lula was viewed very warily by the Bush administration, but he simply needed to show he wasn't as radical as Chávez. It's all a matter of perspective.

He brings in Chile but it doesn't really work. Michelle Bachelet never enacted anything even remotely radical. The right is pleased with that and the left is not, but the United States would not have paid it much attention even without Chávez as a counterexample.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Auditing Venezuela

Backing off previous statements, the CNE is going to do an audit of the votes it had not audited before. According to the government it will take thirty days.

Para este proceso de revisión se seleccionará una muestra que será auditada durante 10 días y al final de ese lapso se presentará un informe a todo el país sobre los resultados obtenidos. Este procedimiento se repetirá en ciclos de 10 días hasta completar 30 días.

And Capriles immediately accepted the decision, since of course he had asked for it.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles immediately went on television and said his campaign accepted the decision of the election council, thereby defusing for now a standoff with Maduro, who is to be inaugurated as president Friday.

My initial take is that this will take the air out of the opposition. After all the hot air and inflammatory rhetoric, the government is actually doing what the opposition wants. Well, not exactly after the rhetoric, because Nicolás Maduro is still trying to fulfill his personal pledge to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by saying the word "fascist" more in one day than anyone else in history.

In the meantime, of course, Maduro will be sworn in, so by the time the count is completed he will have been president for a month and people will be getting more used to that fact. At least as it stands now, this is a very uphill road for Capriles.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Recount vs. audit in Venezuela

Here is the list of problems that Henrique Capriles has presented to the CNE. What's interesting is that almost none of them require a ballot by ballot recount, which he has been told is impossible. A recount suggests that the counting was done incorrectly, which he's not exactly saying.

In some cases his concerns would entail an audit, such as checking to see whether dead people voted. In others it is an investigation into whether the constitution was violated, such as the charges of intimidation and harrassment.

Of course, what Capriles hopes is for the final count to change, but I don't think that is the same as a recount as generally understood. Either way, though, it's not clear to me how intimidation could be measured at the vote level. He may not care, as his goal is to cast sufficient suspicion over the process itself to undermine Nicolás Maduro's legitimacy.

Maduro has said he'll accept what the CNE decides, which is at least a shift from saying Capriles is a fascist golpista with unreasonable demands. There is not a tremendous amount of horizontal accountability in Venezuela, so he'll be sending plenty of signals about his preferences. If they reject a full recount again but accept something smaller, that may well take some of the air out of the opposition's sails.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Maduro vs. Capriles

I'm quoted in this story on Venezuela. The basic question was how the stand off would likely end, and what the political consequences would be. As it stands, Nicolás Maduro's strategy is to shout Henrique Capriles down and hurl a blizzard of accusations using the words "coup" and "fascist" in sometimes incoherent ways, along with blood, death, murder, etc. Even while Capriles was calling off a protest march (which Maduro had already banned) the government cut him off with a cadena, the forced broadcast of a government message. When Capriles called for peaceful banging of pots and pans, Maduro told his supporters to shoot firecrackers in response.Maduro has even compared the opposition to those in Syria and Libya, as if that was a bad thing.

My take was that at least in the short term this makes Capriles look more presidential than Maduro. The government keeps saying he is inciting violence without showing any evidence of it, while Capriles called off a march that almost certainly would resulted in violence in some way. This is Maduro's chance to find a face saving compromise--even dialogue without promises would calm things down. If he continues to dig in, then there is a much higher chance that protests will happen anyway. Perhaps that's what the government wants, as the violence could then be blamed more squarely on the opposition.

But this is no way to start a presidential term and will be counterproductive for Maduro. Venezuela can't be held together by force alone.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Majorities and Coups in Venezuela

In Venezuela there is apparently a new definition of "coup."

"Mayoría es mayoría y debe respetarse en democracia, no se pueden buscar emboscadas, inventos para vulnerar la soberanía popular (...) eso sólo tiene un nombre: golpismo. Quien pretende vulnerar la mayoría en la democracia lo que está es llamando a un golpe", dijo durante el discurso que pronunció Maduro en el acto de proclamación ante el Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE).

So a "coup" refers to questioning the majority, and that includes asking for a recount. We can hark back to the famous Federalist 10, written by James Madison:

Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

Henrique Capriles may have no case. But asking for a recount is reasonable, whereas the idea that merely asking for it equates to trying to overthrow the government is not.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Venezuela Election Aftermath

So that happened. Conventional wisdom was that Nicolás Maduro would defeat Henrique Capriles but by a smaller margin than what Hugo Chávez achieved in 2012, and that's what we saw, albeit with a really slim margin (50.7%-49.1%). Capriles is calling for a recount, but as yet I've heard no specific accusations of systematic fraud so it seems unlikely that a recount would change the outcome. Francisco Toro at Caracas Chronicles says otherwise, but as of now there's nothing specific. Stay tuned on that.

As for implications, the first thing that comes to mind is that this margin shows that Madurow will have to shore up support very quickly. I've argued at Americas Quarterly that he would have to downplay ALBA to focus resources more on his domestic constituencies. There are signs that he wants to normalize relations with the United States, but he will find it very hard to resist waving imperialist red meat to keep up nationalist enthusiasm. It's not at all clear how long he can milk the "son of Chávez" message.

Along similar lines, given the margin I have to figure the opposition will soon start talking about a recall. From Article 72 of the constitution:

Artículo 72. Todos los cargos y magistraturas de elección popular son revocables.Transcurrida la mitad del período para el cual fue elegido el funcionario o funcionaria, un número no menor del veinte por ciento de los electores o electoras inscritos en la correspondiente circunscripción podrá solicitar la convocatoria de un referendo para revocar su mandato. Cuando igual o mayor número de electores y electoras que eligieron al funcionario o funcionaria hubieren votado a favor de la revocatoria, siempre que haya concurrido al referendo un número de electores y electoras igual o superior al veinticinco por ciento de los electores y electoras inscritos, se considerará revocado su mandato y se procederá de inmediato a cubrir la falta absoluta conforme a lo dispuesto en esta Constitución y la ley.

Halfway through would be three years, so this isn't coming soon.

My hunch is that conventional wisdom (outside Chavista camps anyway) will shift toward the idea that this victory marks the beginning of decline, so in the long-term is more loss than win. Chavistas, meanwhile, will see the outcome as this, which is making its way all over Twitter (link to original tweet):

It's a landslide!!

For other election thoughts see Colin Snider, Boz, David Smilde.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Panama Canal Children's Book

I went to a book sale of the Friends of the Mecklenburg County Library and came across a children's book on the Panama Canal, by Bob Considine. I bought it without hesitation because I find it fascinating to read about how Latin America was portrayed in the past in the U.S. Normally it is a lot of superior tone and chest thumping.

So I was surprised when the book actually rejected chest thumping. Could America just go in there and do the job easily? Well, no.

The Americans who believed that the hacking out of a canal across Panama would be a simple task, easily solved by American cleverness and drive, had many disappointments in store for them (p. 95).

It talks about labor conditions:

Deaths were greatest among the Chinese (about 400). Many of the Chinese either bought or were supplied with opium, to make them forget the hardships of jungle and mountain grade. The Chinese produced the greatest number of suicides (pp. 35-36).

It talks about race, with even a baseball reference:

Because of Jim Crow laws, Panamanians were unable to get proper schooling, housing, wages and equal opportunities. These unjust laws also applied to people who were grouped into the "Panamanian" class by Zone officials--notably the large number of Jamaicans who did so much of the manual labor attending the digging of the canal.

The color line was extended even to the American Negro who found work in the Canal Zone or visited there. When the Brooklyn National League baseball team appeared in the Canal Zone in the late 1940s during a Spring training tour, their Negro star "Jackie" Robinson was not permitted to eat with his teammates." (pp.157-158).

Finally, it even has extended quotes from primary documents. I had not heard of Bob Considine before, but my hat is off to him. We need a kid's book like this for the Middle East.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Venezuela Numbers

On Twitter and in news stories over the past week or so, I've seen numerous references to a tightening of the Venezuelan presidential race. But I didn't see any numbers. I kept thinking of Mitt Romney and his supporters, who believed he was going to win without any empirical evidence for it.

However, a quick exchage with Frank Bajak alerted me to the fact that Nicolás Maduro's lead over Henrique Capriles shrunk to 7.2%. Meanwhile, Credit Suisse says Maduro has a 70% chance of winning, down from 95%. James Bosworth does his best Nate Silver impression by running simulations and determining Maduro has a 81.7% chance of winning.

What does this mean? It is very common for presidential races to tighten right at the end, and for lots of unsubstantiated assertions to follow, usually focusing on specific issues that people are "sick of" and so will change their votes in huge numbers (which also occurred with the Romney camp). Even after the polling shift, Maduro has a very large lead and it will be a huge shock if Capriles overcomes it. He lost by 11 points last year, and now is down by 7 or so. We might say the difference is the Chávez effect since Maduro does not generate the same level of devotion.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Latin American Politics Textbook

I just sent the latest draft of my long-simmering Latin American politics textbook to the publisher (Pearson). This process has been painfully long. Years ago I wrote a post about the process of getting my first textbook (U.S. and Latin American Relations) published. We're talking molasses. For this one the latest plan is a 2014 publication date, but these things are always subject to change. I am keeping my fingers crossed.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Impossible Goals in Immigration

This is just plain impossible:

Federal authorities would be required to establish vast new border fences and surveillance as part of a bipartisan Senate plan aimed at allowing the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants to earn permanent residency and, potentially, citizenship, aides familiar with the proposal said Wednesday. 
The provisions would call on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to increase surveillance to cover 100 percent of the Southwestern border and to apprehend 90 percent of the people who attempt to enter the United States illegally, said the aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private negotiations.

Requiring 100% of anything cannot work. If this is the required trigger then we'll never see immigration reform unless the numbers just get made up. If this is the case, then it will generate opposition and cynicism pretty quickly.

Advocates also have voiced concerns about tying border security to the path to citizenship, saying they feared that disputes over the effectiveness of the new measures could delay the process for undocumented residents.


Further, it is a dumb idea. We already know very well how poorly the fences have worked up to this point, so this will be an extraordinarily costly measure to achieve very little. But it is the cost of doing business with a nativist Congress.

Let's hope it is just a trial balloon. John McCain sums it up:

Asked if the provisions were strong enough to convince his GOP colleagues to support the bill, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the working group, said Wednesday: “Damned if I know.”


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Quote of the day: Central America

One bit of impact, however, is that just as Plan Colombia helped push the focus of criminal activity and presence north to Mexico, so has the impact of the Merida Initiative pushed the same activities into Central America itself.

--William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs speaking on Central America.

It is nice to hear officials acknowledge the balloon effect. In general, whether you agree or disagree with the answers, this speech seems like a good faith effort to address critics.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Debating ALBA

I have a short piece in Americas Quarterly on whether ALBA will outlive Hugo Chávez. I debate (indirectly, since we were unaware of each other) with Pablo Solón, former Bolivian Ambassador to the UN. His bottom line: there is a lot of solidarity and it will keep going. Mine: if he wins, Nicolás Maduro will focus more on keeping his domestic coalition in place. At whatever time the opposition wins, it is kaput.

This was an interesting exercise for me, since I was asked to make a one-sided argument. That's not typical for social scientists, who see the political world as complex and sloppy and therefore qualify everything. In that sense it was fun.  It also means it'll be much easier to see whether I was completely wrong!


Monday, April 08, 2013

Op-ed on CMS and autism

This blog focuses on Latin America, yet one of the most viewed posts was on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and how it utterly fails with regard to autism. I took my family's own very negative experience and boiled it down to an op-ed, which was just published in Charlotte Viewpoint. My son has truly blossomed in the months since we finally removed him from CMS. It is a terrible and even damaging environment for children with autism.


Sunday, April 07, 2013

Cuban Dissidents and U.S. Support

It is important for the credibility of Cuban dissidents to avoid getting assistance from the U.S. government. Tracey Eaton notes how incredibly savvy Yoani Sánchez has been in that regard, getting money on the fly from a very broad array of supporters in the United States for her trip.

This alone should give pause to those who support the current policy toward Cuba. Over the years that policy has become so morally bankrupt that the people we purport to help run away from us as quickly as possible. Ironically, many of the people Yoani Sánchez met up with also support a policy that makes her want to run away from it.

That brings up a question for which I don't have a good answer. As she met with hardcore hardliners, I wondered whether such meetings were essentially the equivalent of accepting money from the U.S. government. Is there a substantive difference between getting money to attend a State Department conference and meeting up with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen?


Saturday, April 06, 2013

Eva Golinger Jumps the Shark

Take some disparate facts, add some speculation, sprinkle in some ideology, then stir them together and serve up a tasty bowl of conspiracy theory. Eva Golinger, who is known for arguing at the far fringes of credulity, puts together a mashup of arguments to show why she thinks the U.S. government murdered Hugo Chávez by somehow giving him cancer.

I like this part in particular:

La naturaleza agresiva y desconocida de la enfermedad del Presidente Chávez, además de la inexistencia de una herencia de cáncer en su familia, apuntan claramente a la real posibilidad de que el líder de la Revolución Bolivariana haya sido asesinado.

The "unknown" part of the cancer, of course, is related to the fact that the Venezuelan government refused to tell anyone anything and lied constantly about the president's condition. The conspiracy, then, is internal. And aggressive? Every one of us knows someone who died tragically and quickly from cancer, even though just days before they were fit and healthy.

Go ahead and read the whole thing. At the very least, I believe she's managed to convince herself.


Friday, April 05, 2013

Jorge Dominguez talk

Jorge Dominguez came and gave a talk today on campus. He had a discussion framed as whether U.S. policy toward Latin America was irrelevant. He used that as a sort of provocative frame, but in fact wasn't really trying to argue that U.S. policy didn't matter. Instead, he was noting how in many ways U.S. policy achieves its stated goals quite well when there is less policy. In that regard he used the example of the U.S. working with Brazil and allowing it to take the lead in Haiti. He also mentioned the policy under Thomas Shannon to stop talking about Hugo Chávez.

In short, not doing things is often a good idea. Scholars of Latin America won't be too surprised by this assertion, but it bears repeating (especially with plenty of students in the audience, many of whom were unfamiliar with the examples he was giving). Let's do less!


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Digital Divide in Latin America

A ministerial meeting of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean yielded some interesting insights into digital development:

The components of the digital economy are the telecommunications infrastructure - particularly broadband networks, information and communications technologies (ICTs) (software, apps, hardware and ICT services) and the level of digital numeracy of users. According to preliminary measurements carried out by ECLAC using 2008 data, the digital economy represents an average of 3.2% of the economy of four of the region's countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico).  This is a significant figure if we compare the European Union average of 5%.

However, there is serious intra-regional and inter-regional inequality in this regard:

The ECLAC Executive Secretary cited the asymmetrical development of critical infrastructure with mobile broadband penetration in the region: the three most advanced countries have 15 times as much development than the ones lagging the furthest behind. Furthermore, the digital divide between Latin America and countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in terms of mobile broadband is getting wider (11% versus 55% penetration in 2011).

So Latin America is not well enough connected, and is not promoting enough industries that foster such connection. This represents another opportunity to reduce the region's dependence on commodity exports. It also is a way for governments to reach out more effectively to citizens and generate at least some more measure of efficiency and transparency.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Chávez Gives Maduro the Bird

Yesterday I saw on Twitter that Nicolás Maduro claimed that Hugo Chávez took the form of a small bird and blessed him. I was having a tough day, so the laugh was welcome. Then I wondered whether this was a joke, or residual April Fool's. But no. He was seriously saying this.

This particular personality cult is really unique, though the Guardian article gives the context of non-Catholic beliefs. One difference is that saints and spirits don't tend to be politicians (though in fact this would be an interest area of research).  Both in Latin America and around the world, dead presidents are just that. Dead. You might embalm them and put them up for people to shuffle by in a line and stare at, or you might just have lots of portraits around that people salute. But you don't often pretend that they're coming back to life in alternate forms.

So does this have legs? It's hard to see it. On the other hand, a month ago I wouldn't have guessed that things like this would actually be spoken by a presidential candidate.

On the other, other hand, it might disappear once the election is over and--presumably--Maduro is president and trying to govern. It's one thing to say it on the campaign trail, but another to be in a cabinet meeting and telling everyone to wait while you go chat with the pajarito.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Poli Sci & Blogging

Robert Farley on political science and blogs:

This article is a response to John Sides’April 2011 article “The Political Scientist as Blogger.” Core argument is this: Sides treats blogging (and what I tend to think of as associated “public intellectual” activities) as adjunct to a successful political science career.  I, on the other hand, think that we should take seriously the possibility that these activities should become the main course of a successful career in political science (and other fields).
I've been blogging regularly for over six years now, but I'm not ready to go this far. The essential question is of "blog as research" vs. "blog complementing research." I'm not sure how we would measure the former (Dan Drezner makes a similar point). On the other hand, I agree with this:

we have to take seriously the problem that career incentives in our field do not support the efforts of scholars to make significant, timely policy contributions early in their careers
That is absolutely true. What we need to figure out is what outcomes we want. However, blogging per se shouldn't be an outcome--you could write two lines of junk, add a picture of your cat, and that is blogging. Instead, it could potentially be one means of reaching broader audiences outsides academia, i.e. engagement. Individual faculty members could explain how their blogging and other such activities lead to external recognition of some kind that reflects well on the department and university.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP