There are a lot of interesting things out there, and here, talking about COVID 19. I have been listening to podcasts a lot lately, and Make Me Smart is one that has discussed some interesting aspects of the economic consequences of all this stuff. There are others, but this one has gotten my attention lately.
First, a very good piece about Sweden's approach to this whole thing, which has been unorthodox. This article provides a good overview of why Sweden has taken a different path and the reasons why people are listening to the government. The long section below (in italics) provides an interesting argument:
One key factor according to the Swedish minister for foreign affairs, Ann Linde, is Sweden’s politically independent public agencies—and the high level of public trust in them. For the last 400 years, Sweden has had a system with small ministries but big agencies, like the Public Health Agency, which explains why there is an epidemiologist and not a prime minister at the helm of this effort.
Next, there are two Guardian pieces that are long (I mean it) but worth reading. The first (link here) is about how the financial markets reacted to the COVID 19 and how close we were of a complete collapse of the world economy in March (as if we didn't have something else to worry about!). Here is one of the most impactful quotes from the article (in italics):
After five terrifying days of market turmoil, the weekend of 14-15 March was a moment for central banks around the world to coordinate their response. What everyone wanted was dollars, so it was above all the Federal Reserve that needed to take the lead. And as its chair, Powell did. He called an unscheduled press conference for the afternoon of 15 March. What he announced was remarkable.
The article above is long, but it is worth a read! The second article I am likely going to assign next year in my Intro to International Relations Class unless I find something else that tells the same story better somehow. This article talks about the World Health Organization (WHO) and why it cannot "solve" the COVID 19 crisis. Spoiler alert: states are self-interested, but not necessarily acting in the best collective interest.
There is a simple reason for this. For all the responsibility vested in the WHO, it has little power. Unlike international bodies such as the World Trade Organization, the WHO, which is a specialised body of the UN, has no ability to bind or sanction its members. Its annual operating budget, about $2bn in 2019, is smaller than that of many university hospitals, and split among a dizzying array of public health and research projects. The WHO is less like a military general or elected leader with a strong mandate, and more like an underpaid sports coach wary of “losing the dressing room”, who can only get their way by charming, grovelling, cajoling and occasionally pleading with the players to do as they say (Buranyi 2020)
I have also seen a few articles about the role of gender and leadership in dealing with COVID 19. Opinion pieces on Forbes (link here) and CNN (link here) both make the same argument and raise the question: women leaders have been the ones dealing with the pandemic most skillfully, so why is it that we don't have more women leaders? (My students from POLS 223 know the answer, but I feel what I said in class should not be recorded in writing...)
The last article from this roundup connects to the discussion on climate change that we were having in my POLS 121 class this past week. The collective action problem that arises from COVID 19 has similarities to the collective action problems that arise from climate change politicization. This Vox article written by sociologist Patrick Sharkey has a lot of interesting information, but this quote is the one that connects the most to our class discussions: "In fact, attitudes toward climate change are one of the strongest and most robust predictors of social distancing behavior. In the full model I find that an increase of 10 percentage points in the share of residents who do not agree that global warming is happening is associated with a 1 point drop in the county’s social distancing grade — which essentially means shifting from, say, a C to a B- in social distancing behavior."
This is it for the roundup of the week (or for now, I am not sure I am following days as a measure of time anymore). Let me know if you have any questions or comments!
Here are some of the most interesting/intriguing sources I have found these past days, in no particular order, except for the first one that is about mental health.
Notes from March 29
One thing that is becoming very clear is that supply chains matter. There is a lot of information out there about what it takes to bring supplies in, what states (and corporations) are doing to address shortages and the long term impacts of disruptions in trade. There are two articles that popped up on my feed that I think are worth sharing. First, Axios' Inside the start of the great virus airlift discusses what the US government is doing to bring the medical supplies needed. There is an interesting discussion about the nationalization of the supply chain:
"(Rear Admiral John) Polowczyk (working with FEMA) said many members of Congress "want me to nationalize this supply chain by using the Defense Production Act. They want me to do all the buying, all the distributing, and all the allocation." But he's been resisting that. "This medical supply chain, there's like six, seven big distributors who have like 600–700 nodes that push out product," he said. "I'm not going to re-create that. I'm looking to break down barriers ... to help them feed product where it needs to go." He said the federal government will buy some medical supplies but will try to feed them into existing supply chains. Polowczyk said he doesn't want to use the Defense Production Act, but he leaves the door open to using those powers to move supplies around the country if his current plan doesn't work."
The Texas Monthly article Inside the Story of How H-E-B Planned for the Pandemic focuses on the importance of preparedness inside the private sector, especially the grocery store sector. This was so far one of the most fascinating articles for me since it showed how private (non-state) actors may have been better prepared for the pandemic than local, state, and federal officials.
Moving to international law, the forum Just Security had an interesting discussion about "punishing" countries for pandemics. The article, COVID-19 and International Law: Must China Compensate Countries for the Damage? lays out the reasons why it is unlikely that China will be required to compensate other countries, arguing that "Claims that China has committed internationally wrongful acts and has an obligation to compensate foreign governments form part of a feature of this pandemic that is not really about international law." Moreover, the author states that "The most important consequences of the geopolitical aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic will appear after countries bring the outbreak under control in their territories." I appreciated this article for bringing some key international treaties to explaining what can and cannot happen based on precedent.
There were other interesting articles, here are a few links:
Notes for March 30
I am going to start this roundup with the first academic article I have seen on COVID 19. Adolph et al. (2020) wrote Pandemic Politics: Timing State-Level Social Distancing Responses to COVID-19 where they analyze state policies in reaction to the virus and the factors influencing such policies. In their analysis, "all else equal, Republican governors and governors from states with more Trump supporters were slower to adopt social distancing policies. These delays are likely to produce significant, on-going harm to public health" (p. 2). This is a provocative quote in the same article:
"We strongly believe that realistic assessments of decision-making by elected officials must take electoral motivations and career ambitions seriously – as impolitic as that may be. Elected officials, regardless of party, must be responsive to the concerns of their voters and party leaders. However, this essential feature of democratic representation does not inevitably produce the best policy outcome" (p. 13).
This Independent article is one of the many I saw discussing the role of the February 19 Champion's League game between Atalanta and Valencia (a Spanish team). The game was played in Milan (30 miles away from Atalanta's home Bergamo), and the movement of people and created what many are now referring to as a "biological bomb." According to the article, "At the time, few in Italy were greatly concerned about Covid-19. Two days after the match was played, though, the country saw its first confirmed death from the illness, and within two weeks Bergamo was reporting a sharp increase in its rate of coronavirus cases." I also wonder how many Valencia fans were in the Stadium and eventually made their way back to Spain.
I am also sharing here the link to a Tweet from Dr. Rama Dieng that highlights a number of written pieces about COVID 19 from a feminist (and mostly Global South) perspective.
Finally, two more interesting artifacts that are COVID-adjacent. First, this Planet Money episode about unemployment in the US in March explains why the system is not enough to address the economic depression that has started and will follow COVID 19. Next, this 10 Percent Happier Podcast episode about how to engage "corona-deniers" delves deeper into some of the ethics surrounding this whole situation. This was a very interesting piece, and I also recommend the 10 Percent Happier website (or other mindfulness apps and sites) to help in these stressful times.
Notes from March 31
I want to start this roundup with a great podcast episode from Brene Brown on grieving and finding meaning. Whether you realize it already or not, the world as we knew it is no more. This podcast was very provocative and provided some great insights on how to think about this pandemic and its consequences.
Now a quick tour around the world of COVID around the world.
Here I am compiling news articles about COVID 19 that connect in some way to things I discuss in my IR and comparative classes, or they are just articles that I thought were interesting. I am sharing these articles via email with students but thought I would also compile them here. There is little rhyme or reason for the articles, just things I stumble upon and think is worth sharing with my students. Below are the email messages copied and pasted to this blog.
I remember some time in the mid-2000s Michael Tierney came to one of my graduate classes at KU. While the focus of the conversation was, if I remember correctly, something about the principal agent model, the conversation eventually moved towards this IR Playlist he had been compiling. I think his visit was very early in this process, since according to Tierney's playlist page the original playlist came from Kate Weaver who was our IOs professor at KU at the time. This was early in my graduate school career (year one or two) but this idea sounded so cool to me that I kept going back to Tierney's website and using those songs when it fit my course schedule.
Fast forward many years, now I teach Intro to IR on a regular basis and Spotify exists. These last two years I have been trying to create a Spotify Playlist for all of my classes, sometimes I am more successful than other times. In last year's Global Gender Issues class I asked each student to share with me their "anthem" and I got introduced to A LOT of Lizzo, which was great for me! We started class with a song from the list and I asked whose song that was and why they chose it. It was not always related to the class, but it was a fun way to get introduced to "what the kids are listening these days" and get to know my students a bit.
This year I decided to do something more intentional in my Intro to IR, trying to make as many meaningful connections to the material as I could. I relied heavily on Tierney's playlist, but gave my own spin in some areas too. One of my colleagues asked me to share the playlist and the thought process for how the songs connect, so below I share the playlist and some of the rationale. Just like Tierney, I urge you to send me suggestions of other songs to add to the playlist, and other songs to connect to course material related to IR. I will add to this post as I use new songs and will include links to YouTube videos as I go (this is definitely procrastination from grading, so this will be a work in progress-probably forever).
So here are some of the connections (some of these connections are better than others):
I will update this list as I continue to "refine" my selections. I did not bring any feminist songs this year, but I have previously played various Pussy Riot songs, I would appreciate any other suggestions.
For my Global Gender Issues course this semester I created a page in our course management site with random thoughts of things that were on the news or things that reminded me of class, either directly or tangentially. I think it is important to make these connections to course work, even if some of these connections are really only happening in my mind. I don't think students really looked at this page much (it was somewhat hidden and the stuff here was not going to influence their grade). But I think for my next classes I want to do this more intentionally (even though it will likely still be occasional). I will dub these occasional posts "Shallow Thoughts," because it is a smorgasbord of things related to class in my mind, most with little thought beyond my first brain sparks that connect a thing to what we learned in class. This one is focused on pop culture, or culture that I end up consuming, not sure how popular it is...
I recently wrote a blog post for Red PROLID, a platform created to connect women in the public sector throughout Latin America. The post is about my research on gender quotas in Brazil, specifically the paper Dr. Kristin Wylie (James Madison University) and I wrote together published in 2016. Since the original post was published in Spanish, I decided to share the English language version of it here. Thanks to Andrea Diaz for inviting me to share my thoughts on an issue that I am deeply passionate about.
As of June 2017, 55 women are members of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, equating to 10.5 percent. This places Brazil at the bottom of the Interparliamentary Union’s Women in Parliament World Classification. The situation is not much better at the state and local level, where 11.3% of women have a seat in a State Assembly, and 13.5% of women hold a seat in one of the thousands City Councils in the country. The low number of women in legislative positions in Brazil is puzzling especially since the country has a 30% gender candidate quota law for these three positions. Why doesn’t the candidate gender quota law work in Brazil? The short answer is limited party support. But the full picture is more complex.
Established in 1995, the Lei de Cotas required every party running for a legislative seat (City Council, State Assembly, and Chamber of Deputies) to allocate 30% of their candidacies to the most underrepresented gender in their party ticket, which have always been women.
Pushed by the Bancada Feminina in the early 1990s, the Lei de Cotas was severely watered down by male party elites. The final law, signed and implemented without much fanfare, was full of loopholes allowing the party to continue to run lists with virtually no women. In a co-authored paper published in 2016, * my co-author Kristin Wylie (James Madison University) and I elaborate on the loopholes present in the law and the institutional structures that rendered the Lei de Cotas practically meaningless. We argue that the nature of the electoral system, the large number of parties, and the male dominance of party leadership made for a quota law that had limited impact on the number of women elected to office.
Brazil’s open-list proportional representation system is the first obstacle. Because voters chose an individual and not a party ticket (like the closed-list system present in Argentina), candidates are competing with both other parties and candidates within their own party, since candidates need individual votes to win a seat. Add that to the extremely high number of parties (35 as of this writing), and you have the recipe for one of the most competitive and expensive legislative elections in the world. So when party leaders are selecting their party list and selecting whom to provide support during the elections, they will likely rely on established politicians (overwhelmingly male) or individuals directly connected to the leadership of the party, who tend to be extremely male-dominated.
The loopholes of the law combined with a general unwillingness by local party elites to truly empower and elect women led to very disappointing numbers. Between 1994 and 2008 the percentage of women elected to the Chamber of Deputies rose from 6.6% to 8.8%. Parties were nominating more women as candidates, but very few parties reached the 30% threshold because of loopholes that allowed them to run full male tickets while still being compliant with the law. So in 2009 Congress passed a mini-political reform that, among other things, sought to close at least some of the loopholes present in the Lei de Cotas, namely the “reserved” clause of candidacy allocation (for a detailed discussion see Wylie and dos Santos 2016), * a five percent allocation of party funds to promote women’s participation, and a mandatory ten percent of the party’s allocated TV time to women candidates.
The mini-reform led to more women candidates, but still failed to increase considerably the number of women elected. Parties continued to find ways to undermine the law by nominating candidatas laranja, women candidates who were listed as candidates but did not truly campaign. The overwhelmingly male party leadership across the country continues to ignore the issue of women’s under-representation in order to maintain their status-quo.
Supporters of women’s representation in Brazil continue to fight for a stronger quota law and for increased women’s representation. I believe that, in order to significantly change the number of women elected to legislative positions in Brazil, electoral law needs to go beyond the candidate level, encouraging or forcing parties to include more women in party leadership positions. Until parties move away from the “all male clubs” mentality, women will have to continue to fight from the outside, severely limiting the impact of the Lei de Cotas.
* If you would like a copy of this paper, please email me at email@example.com
As you are reading this post, please keep the families of the police officers cowardly gunned down in Dallas in your thoughts. As President Obama said in the wake of this tragedy, “When people say Black Lives Matter, it doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter.” Senseless violence is not the response to senseless violence.
On July 6th, as I was driving south of St. Louis at night, a car cut in front of me as I was exiting the interstate. Both the guy who cut me off and I ended up driving on the wrong side of the road, going against traffic. It just happened that a police officer was driving on that same intersection at that time. He stopped his car, turned his lights on, and came see why in the name of all that is holy were these two cars going against traffic. He talked to guy in the other car first, and then came to talk to me. At this point my heart is beating pretty fast. I hope he understands what happened and lets me, my wife, and our 5-month-old daughter go easy. Maybe a ticket, I will be okay with paying a ticket. I just hope I come out of this unscathed. The officer approaches me, I tell him what happened (“officer, the other car cut in front of me and I followed him”). I wait anxiously for his response. He says, “Cool dude!” Then he tells me he will block traffic so we can turn around and drive on the right side of the road. No ticket, just a “cool dude!” and some help. I call that a win.
The day before my “cool” interaction with a police officer, Philando Castille was shot dead in St. Paul, Minnesota by a police office in a routine traffic stop. Two days before that, Alton Sterling was shot point blank and killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. To paraphrase what a friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday, this really makes me wonder if I could be the next hashtag.
I believe that context is important for everything, but especially in issues surrounding race. I grew up in Brazil (where we have our own issues with police brutality against black citizens), but in 2000 I moved to a sleepy town in Kansas to attend a small college. My first four years in the United States were pretty sheltered, much like the lives of many students at Luther College (where I teach Political Science). All my interactions with law enforcement were positive, even when I was, shall I say, bending the law like most college students do. I really didn’t think much about being a person of color in the United States for those four years. I also did not have a car.
After I graduated from college, I bought a car and moved to Kansas City. That’s where I was made aware that the color of my skin could get me in trouble. In a matter of months I was being pulled over almost every week, sometimes for going five miles over the speed limit (something all my white friends have always told me it was okay to do, that they never get pulled over for doing that), some times for whatever reason the police officer thought fit the situation. Then, in 2006, the scariest situation I have been through happened. I was pulled over because the light on the left side my license plate (a light I didn’t even know existed) was not working. The officer pulled me over, asks for license and registration. I told her that the registration is on the glove compartment and I was going to open it and get it. As I moved to get the registration the officer yelled at me “hands where I can see now!” and reached for her gun. She continued to yell at me for another minute or so, and it is not until she was somehow convinced that I was not going to try to harm her that she allowed me to reach for the glove compartment to get the registration. The situation escalated and de-escalated quickly, but it was enough to make me very weary of any interaction with police officers (I had at least three other stressful interactions with police officers after that, but this one was by far the worst). That is why I was anxious when I was stopped July 6th.
I know this does not sound like much, and I know many friends of mine, mostly also persons of color (male and female) had much scarier interactions with law enforcement.
This is my context when thinking about interactions with law enforcement. I never like to be pulled over because I was pulled over many times for dubious reasons, I try to avoid interactions with law enforcement as much as possible, and when I do have interactions I try to be as cooperative as possible. It works most times, until it doesn’t. Until something like what happened to Philande Castille happens to me, or a friend of mine.
My context reflects what some data has shown us. When tracking police stops in a number of major cities, The DOJ found that black citizens are three times more likely to be pulled over by police officers, even though they are less likely to have any illicit material in their car than their white counterparts (see report here). The pervasiveness of “driving while black” has been detailed in many reports, academic articles, newspapers, and personal accounts, including in the book “Pulled Over” by University of Kansas (my alma mater) professors Charles Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody, and Don Haider-Markel.
The Washington Post reports that Castille is “at least the 506th person shot and killed by police so far in 2016,” one of 123 black Americans killed so far this year. This year has also been an above average violent year for law enforcement officers, as officer deaths involved in shootings has gone up considerably in the first quarter of 2016 (according to another Washington Post article). The Officer Down Memorial Page reports that, so far this year, 21 (26 with the killing of five Dallas officers) police officers have been killed by gunshot, up 31% from (I assume) last year.
I share these numbers to express the fact that law enforcement officers experience violence. I know being a police officer is not easy and I respect anyone who is willing to do a difficult job that does not pay as well as it should. But as a person of color who has had a few tense encounters with police officers, it is difficult to see what happened to Philando Castille and Alton Sterling and not feel frustration and anger.
I know that many times the interactions law enforcement officers have with citizens are complicated. Police officers do not know what is going on inside a person’s head, and there are environmental variables that can lead to the escalation of such interactions. But, when there are 506 civilian deaths (123 of those black Americans) by a police officer in half a year, and 26 shooting-related police officer deaths during that same period, it seems to me that it may be more dangerous to have an encounter with a law than being a police officer.
I also know that not all police officers are racist. However, there is enough conscious and unconscious bias that we must question what needs to be done to change that. Moreover, not all police officers are violent, but when most of the police force sits silent or try to justify bad behavior, it is hard for me, in the context of being a law abiding person of color, to take the side of police officers in the arguments that ensue immediately after events like the killing of Castille and Sterling.
In the age of social media, we are now witnessing what has been happening for decades, if not centuries, in many black communities: the use of excessive force by a white dominated police force. In the context of a white person, I can see how you may have downplayed the protests of black Americans all these years, since you have not seen it for yourself. But since Rodney King (ESPN’s “O.J.: Made In America” does a superb job capturing the racial tension of that period), the white majority has had a number of opportunities to see police abuse (many times led by a racist and violent culture inside police academies and departments). The argument that one does not see how some law enforcement officers oppress black Americans is less credible today. I wonder how many more deaths like the ones we saw this past week will take for police departments to take a hard look at their training and their department culture to help minimize violence against persons of color.
I am not against police officers, but I am against the deafening silence (or worse, racialized rationalization) that follows videos like the ones that surfaced this week.
May the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille (and the many others who had the same fate in the last years) find solace in the fact that the lives taken from their loved ones will not be forgotten by those seeking social justice. And may we live in a world where we do not need hashtags to mourn the violent and untimely death of so many souls.
Early in the Fall of 2012, when I was still brand new at Luther, this sophomore approached me after my Global Politics class and asked: "I want to be your research assistant. Do you have anything that you need help researching right now?"
I didn't. I was prepping my first classes at Luther, I think I was still finishing up my dissertation, and was still trying to figure out which keys opened my office. But Emily clearly wanted to get involved in Political Science research, so I came up with some things that could get done and officially hired my first student assistant.
Fast forward to 2015. Instead of going to watch a panel at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference I was driving Emily to Urgent Care, so she could figure out if her foot was broken. It wasn't. Just a bad sprain. But she was still going to have to be on crutches for a few days. That did not stop her from, two days later, presenting the paper she, Jordy Barry (another great Luther alumna), and I wrote on how the U.S. media covered Dilma Rousseff's 2014 presidential campaign.
Now Emily works in Amman, Jordan. Before she left we were able to catch up and have a really great talk about her life before, during, and after Luther College. It was great to learn more about my first research assistant, talk about her time at Luther, about her adventures in D.C., and her plans for the future.
This is the first time I ventured out of College Drive and into the city of Decorah. My first interview of the year (since Todd Pedlar's interview is a later release of an interview we did this summer) was with Mike Blevins, Assistant Manager atJava John's Coffee House. If you know Mike as the Java John's barista but you do not know much more about him, get ready for a great story full of ups and downs and full of turns. We are privileged to have someone like Mike in the community, and I hope this interview helps some of you get to know him a little more. Here it is: