Author Archive

New Pi Sigma Alpha Inductees

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the highlights of the academic year is welcoming new students to University of the Pacific‘s chapter (Alpha Delta Zeta) of Pi Sigma Alpha. the national political science academic honorary society. To be eligible for membership in Pi Sigma Alpha, a student must have excelled in their work in a number of challenging political science courses. Recently Faith James (International Relations, 2014) and Yeni Gutierrez (Political Science, 2015) became members of Pi Sigma Alpha.

Professors Dari Sylvester and Brian E. Klunk welcome Faith James and Yeni Gutierrez to Pi Sigma Alpha.

Professors Dari Sylvester and Brian E. Klunk welcome Faith James and Yeni Gutierrez to Pi Sigma Alpha.

What Do Pacific Political Science Students Do?

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

University of the Pacific junior Kyle Sasai, center, has August School eighth-graders write down his email address Wednesday during a visit to the east Stockton school. Sasai founded the HopeStreet Backpack Outreach program, which mentors Stockton middle school students as they make the transition to high school and encourages them to consider college.

Sometimes they help at risk students see the possibility of a successful future:

On Wednesday, Sasai, along with 11 other Pacific students, went to August School in east Stockton to start mentorships with soon-to-be high schoolers as part of his HopeStreet Backpack Outreach, a program Sasai founded in 2011.

The middle school students received backpacks for starters. But the most valuable gift is perhaps the mentors themselves.

They’ll be responsible for giving the August students advice throughout their upcoming high school careers about peer pressure, homework and even how to ask a girl to prom.

“Don’t ask a girl to prom over text,” Sasai said, and giggles followed. “It makes it awkward.”

Sasai offered the younger students Pacific campus tours when they’re ready and provided his contact information. “I want you guys to ask me anything,” he said.

The ongoing contact is a much appreciated resource at August, which has a largely disadvantaged student population, said Principal Lori Risso. All of the children receive free or reduced-price lunches.

“A lot of the kids think they can’t afford to go to college,” Risso said. The Pacific volunteers, she said, can relate to the kids and encourage them to seek scholarships and other financial aid.

“It makes the vision of going to high school and college possible.”

Kyle who excels in the classroom as a political science major and a member of the Pacific Legal Scholars program, has proven that academic excellence can go together seemlessly with community leadership.

Sasai . . . founded the program his first year of college. Since then, he has gathered volunteers to fill backpacks, write the kids letters and train for the continuing interaction.

Pacific mentors are each assigned about five students to befriend and help guide.

With the students they reached this year, they have connected with 500 middle school students since 2011.


Senate Rejects a Treaty Recognizing the Human Rights of People with Disabilities

December 5, 2012 14 comments
A map of parties to the Convention on the Righ...

A map of parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Parties in dark green, countries which have signed but not ratified in light green, non-members in grey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 4, 2012, by a vote of 61-38 the United States Senate failed to consent to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It takes 66 votes to consent to a treaty, so at least for the time being the United States will not be a party to the latest global treaty extending international recognition of human rights.

The treaty, already signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, states that nations should strive to assure that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens.

The vote was essentially partisan. Every Democratic Senator plus eight Republican Senators, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) who has arguably been the most important Senate Republican on foreign policy issues for decades, voted to consent to the treaty. For the record here are the 38 Senators who voted against the treaty:

Senator Cochran initially voted for the treaty, but changed his vote when it became clear that the treaty would fail.

Treaty supporters argued that the convention is based largely on the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. Negotiations for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were begun during President George W. Bush’s administration. It had the support of many prominent Republicans, including the first President Bush, former US Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, and one-time Republican presidential nominee Robert Dole, who watched the vote from his wheelchair parked on the Senate floor.

Those who voted against the treaty offered an interesting array of explanations for their votes. Several opponents argued that joining the treaty would make the US less sovereign in how it deal with disability rights policy. In some sense, this is true. Every time a country makes a treaty obligation it agrees to limit its sovereignty. The fact that the treaty is a UN-sponsored treaty was another objectionable point for some Senators. It is an article of faith for many conservatives that the UN is an evil institution that seeks to control the world and subvert the American way of life. This may not be a mainstream point of view, but it could be a factor in Republican primary elections when turnout is much smaller than in general elections and insurgent candidates representing the ideological extreme of the party have had considerable recent success defeating more moderate incumbents. After all, that is why Senator Lugar is leaving the Senate (and why the newly elected Senator from Indiana is a Democrat).

Opponents of the treaty also offered arguments based on what seem like narrowly tendentious interpretations of the treaty. Former Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum used his PAC to spread the fear that the treaty would give Geneva-based (that’s in Europe, so you know it’s really bad) UN bureaucrats the ability to dictate to the parents of children with disabilities how they should provide for those children. This was apparently very alarming to families that home school their children.

“I am frankly upset,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., “that they have succeeded in scaring the parents who home-school their children all over this country.” He said he said his office had received dozens of calls from home-schooling parents urging him to vote against the convention.

Abortion opponents also seized on language in the treaty guaranteeing the disabled equal rights to reproductive rights could lead to terminated pregnancies.

So what can we learn from this episode?

  1. The Republican party has generally repudiated the generations of internationalist foreign policy leaders who held sway from the Eisenhower administration. This Republican party internationalist tradition, which can even be traced to the 1920s and Herbert Hoover, has long been in tension with both an isolationist wing and an imperialist wing of the party. The potential power of Tea Party voters brimming with UN conspiracy theories has either driven out or silenced Republican internationalists, many of whom now find Democrats more reliable stewards of US foreign policy. They are reinforced by scholars and policy makers, often referred to as “New Sovereigntists” who fundamentally reject global governance. While foreign policy issues rarely determine national elections, the repudiation of a tradition embodied by Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George Bush (both of them), Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Richard Lugar, and I could go on and on, will make it harder for Republicans to present themselves as reasonable potential presidents.
  2. President Obama and presidents who follow him will be more and more inclined to conduct diplomacy and reach agreement with other countries in ways that avoid the Senate.
  3. On the other hand, the inability of US presidents to deliver the Senate on practically any international treaty of consequence weakens the standing of the US in global affairs. Why, after all, should US preferences be treated seriously in the negotiation of international agreements if nobody believes the US will ultimately become a party to the agreement? The foundation of US foreign policy strategy since World War II has been the creation, articulation, and defense of a liberal international order based on institutions and rules that largely reflect US values and preferences. One of the most important values promoted by the US has been human rights. Even if US relative power in the world should decline, which really seems inevitable, a robust liberal international order would mean that the world would still be congenial for US interests and values. The failure to approve the Disability Convention and other agreements makes the US look like it has lost faith in the values it once asked the rest of the world to embrace. Not necessarily a death knell for the liberal international order, but not a sign of robustness either.


Farewell, Dave Brubeck

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

We interrupt the usual commentary about politics and political science featured in this blog to mark the passing of one of Pacific’s greatest sons, the monumental and ever joyful Dave Brubeck.

November 8, 2012 16 comments


No post from our assigned faculty member, so how about this reblog for fun.

Originally posted on abrahampenrose:

A tribute to the mathematician who predicted the outcome of all 50 states correctly in 2012. Nate Silver, of

Nate Silver is my statistician; I shall not fret.
He maketh me to lie down in blue states:
He leadeth me beside the bicoastal urban elites.
He restoreth my faith in the electoral college:
He leadeth me in the path of accuracy for his name brand’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of Diebold,
I will fear no recounts: For he is with me;
His blog and his stats, they comfort me.
He preparest a table of odds before me in the presence of partisan hacks;
He filleth my head with possible outcomes; My brain bloweth up. Surely middle class tax relief and affordable health care shall follow me all the days of my life,
and Obama will dwell in the House of White for the next four…

View original 263 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

Does It Matter If Political Scientists Publish Great Blogs?

October 23, 2012 9 comments
Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Two things happened yesterday that have me thinking about the multifaceted relationship between Political Scientists, our students, colleagues, and larger audiences, and the world of politics, government, and public affairs that we study.

The first is that Time Magazine’s Technologizer blog published its annual list of 25 best blogs. Technologizer recognized two blogs written and published by political scientists among its “25 Best Blogs 2012.”  There among blogs devoted to Bookshelf Porn and What Kate Wore you will find The Monkey Cage and Daniel W. Drezner, two of the most prominent blogs produced by members of the political science profession. Technologizer heaped great praise on The Monkey Cage:

 Sharply written and often well illustrated, The Monkey Cage provides a valuable service that’s remarkably rare even in the age of information saturation. It flags publicly available social-science research that’s relevant to the news of the day, presenting theory and data in easily digestible bites. Launched by George Washington University political scientist John Sides in 2007 to publicize his field, the blog has evolved into a hub for academic myth busting of overhyped campaign coverage and is a useful resource for anyone who wants to understand the cogs of democracy.

As far as Drezner, who teaches at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and blogs at the Foreign Policy website, is concerned, Technologizer is just as laudatory:

You don’t need to be an expert on the subject to find his work rewarding. He’s adept at explaining tricky matters in a clear, concise and engaging fashion. He also links to worthwhile posts elsewhere, whether he agrees with them or not. And his far-flung approach to his topic even lets him review bad prime-time TV shows.

The Monkey Cage and Daniel W. Drezner are just two excellent political science blogs. You can find others in the list of links on this blog’s sidebar.

The other reason I have been thinking about the importance of blogging for political scientists was a comment that I saw on Twitter after last night’s foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. (By the way I was live tweeting the debate @ProfessorBly.) It’s now common for journalists, including journalists like Andrew Sullivan who are primarily bloggers, and the campaigns to tweet instant reactions to the debate, do on-the-fly fact-checking, and spin the results when the debate is over. During the post-debate spinning, which is now a ritual at these events, one journalist tweeted that he didn’t know why the campaigns bothered having surrogates spinning the results in person when everybody was watching their Twitter feeds to see how the debate was being spun! In fact, that’s just what I was doing, partly so I could turn the TV to the top of the 9th inning in the NLCS, but mostly because Twitter allowed me to sample more reactions, points of view, and spin arguments faster than I could possibly have done by channel surfing between FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC, and the rest. Plus, being able to avoid Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews must be counted a plus.

So here’s where I make my pitch that, yes indeed, it does matter if political scientists are producing great blogs.  I’m indebted for much of what follows to an article that Charli Carpenter of University of Massachusetts Amherst and the unavoidable Drezner (that’s right, the zombie guy) published two years ago in International Studies Perspectives. The article is called “International Relations 2.0: The Implications of New Media for an Old Profession.”

Social media like blogs and podcasts are increasingly becoming a way for political science scholars to share and test their ideas before presenting them as conference papers or publishing them in professional journals. Not only does this mean that scholars will have to develop new skills in developing and sharing their research, it can also open opportunities for a wider spectrum of scholarship in political science to get into public circulation. See for example the provocative blog The Disorder of Things, which is devoted to critical inquiry of global politics, and Front Porch Republic, a blog of communitarian political theorists who are devoted to recapturing civic space for the “overlapping local and regional groups, communities, and associations that provide a matrix for human flourishing.” Both of these blogs carry on interesting, serious conversation that enrich political science.

And as Technologizer points out, blogs like The Monkey Cage, Daniel W. Drezner, and others are particularly good at showing how what political scientists have learned can help everyone better understand politics, government, and public affairs.

Social media are also changing the ways instructors and students work with one another. As blogs become a more established part of political science literature, students will have to learn both how to read blogs and other social media formats and how to write for them. Outlets like PolicyMic have been established to give students a platform for producing blog content, YouTube style videos and other social media output about public affairs. To be relevant to their students’ lives and careers, college professors will need to be nimble in learning how to evaluate, use, and teach others how to use blogs, Twitter, YouTube, and platforms that have not even emerged yet.

Finally, social media are becoming an increasingly important part of the world of politics and government that we study. One of the most contentious foreign policy questions during the current presidential campaign is the hypothetical relationship between an inflammatory anti-Islam video posted on YouTube and the terrorist attack on U.S. diplomats in Libya. Did the video provide a pretext for a carefully planned attack? Did it lead to a fairly spontaneous reaction that provided terrorists an opportunity to attack? Did the video have any significance at all? Questions like this are becoming important for political scientists to study.

Or to bring things closer to home, watch The Digital Campaign, an online documentary from the PBS Frontline series that explores how political campaigns use information about voters mined from Facebook and other online sources to precisely target their messages to individual voters.

Blogging and other social media production will be more and more important in Political Science, a fact recognized by the International Studies Association (mostly political scientists who study IR). ISA has decided to give an annual prize for the best blog in the International Relations subfield. Now that’s serious.

Money Is Speech

October 17, 2012 Leave a comment

I explained this in class today, but the video is more entertaining.

Categories: Uncategorized

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