A Radically Condensed History of David Foster Wallace’s Legacy


As a devoted reader of the late David Foster Wallace, when I first saw the trailer for the The End of the Tour, I was immediately filled with trepidation. The film is based on conversations between DFW and Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky during the waning days of Wallace’s Infinite Jest book tour. To make things worse, I got my first glimpse of Jason Segel’s Wallace impersonation and almost immediately wrote off the film. Since Wallace committed suicide in 2008, he has increasingly been lauded as a sad sage full of earnest bromides about self-awareness, compassion, and being present in the moment. Touching on these themes, his 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech “This is Water” … [Read more...]

Four Years Later: What Can We Say about Democracy in Tunisia?

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When major world events occur, observers and analysts are often quick to jump to speculative conclusions – aided by the ever-presentist media – about the meaning of the event and its long-term ramifications for international politics. So, in December 2010, when a Tunisian street vendor called Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated and sparked (sorry for the cheap pun) the so-called “Arab Spring,” quickly leading to the ouster of ossified autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya, there was an unsurprising glut of punditry offering what would ultimately amount to be a false prescience. While the shortsighted lauded the “birth” of democracy in the Arab world, more circumspect observers … [Read more...]

The Sad Decline of The Daily Show

Bullets over Benghazi

With Stephen Colbert departing for CBS to replace David Letterman in 2015, I’d like to preemptively ring the death knell for the great hour of Swiftian satire that Comedy Central gave us Monday through Thursday for nearly the past decade. The Daily Show (TDS) with Jon Stewart, of course, will be sticking around, but it’s becoming increasingly timeworn, even uninteresting. Conservative critics of the show predicted it would lose its poignancy with the election of President Obama and Stewart’s chief bête noire, the Bush administration, out of power. And while they seemed to have a point initially--Jon Stewart seemed to have a hard time finding his footing after the first Obama … [Read more...]

Making Analytic Rain in Today’s NBA: The Stat Revolution in Pro Basketball


If you’ve taken a course in the social sciences, you are well aware of the quantitative approaches that now dominate these fields—from political science to economics to sociology. For several decades this emphasis on empiricism has reigned supreme. In some ways, this fetishization of quantitative methodologies seems like a lot of social scientists protesting too much: “Hey! We’re scientists too!” And we all know how prescient and skilled political scientists and economists are at predictions and policy…But, we’ll leave that be for now. While these methodologies are now fundamental building blocks of social science, they have also begun to spread from sports to approaches to governance. … [Read more...]

Constructing Constructivist Change in the Iranian-U.S. Relationship


Despite the recent myopic attention paid by the media and the Obama administration to Syria, the Iranian nuclear program remains one of the most important issues in U.S. foreign policy—or so we are told. The challenge presented by the Iranians' putative quest to acquire nuclear weapons has been portrayed as the most important security challenge facing the United States, particularly this millennium. Torn asunder by the 1979 revolution, the relationship between Iran and the United has been consistently adversarial for over 30 years. While in the West commentators and government officials accuse Iran of nefarious meddling and intransigence, the Iranian leadership views, or at least publicly … [Read more...]

How Do We Know an Intervention Has Succeeded?

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We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans. – President Obama Back in late August of 2012, President Obama uttered words these in an impromptu press conference. At the time, it represented the most concrete and coherent statement of policy regarding the conflict in Syria. With the latest revelation that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on a small scale, calls for … [Read more...]

Syriana: Responsibility to Protect or Someone Else’s Problem?


If you’ve ever taken an International Relations Theory course then it’s likely that you’ve encountered the ubiquitous naysayer or two of IR Theory. “Why does this even matter in the study of foreign policy?” “Who cares what the Athenians told the Melians (FYI: 'The strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must')?” “Leaders don’t think about this stuff when formulating foreign policy!” Now, the last accusation may in fact be true. Sure, foreign policy elites are not necessarily thumbing through volumes of Morgenthau, Grotius, Kant, Wendt, and/or Waltz when deciding what to do about North Korea. But, these authors and the IR theories they construct provide useful analytical … [Read more...]

Desperate Characters: Best of 2012 Part II


As part of ToM's Best of 2012 our contributors reflect on books, movies, music, and other pop culture stand-by's that they discovered this year, no matter when their source of inspiration originated.  That's right, it's a vaguely "objet trouvé" Best of 2012.   Art historians everywhere are recoiling. ToM's Adam Gallagher serves up our second installment.  Click here for part I. Anyone that even pays a minuscule amount of attention to current events should be given a free pass to a certain type of quiet resignation. Here are a few salient reasons why: Climate change, gun violence killing children in American schools, drone strikes killing children abroad, abject poverty, and metastasizing … [Read more...]

Contesting Citizenship

Marlon-Santi-Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador CONAIE

The rise of indigenous movements in Latin American in the latter third of the 20th century has marked a significantly striking historical phenomenon. While the indigenous people of Latin America have organized to redress grievances in the past, they have rarely done so as part of an expressly Indian or ethnic enterprise. Indeed, Latin America has largely been viewed as an anomaly in the cultural pluralist literature because of the relative paucity of ethnic-based mobilization. However, this former perspective is no longer tenable in light of the manifold indigenous movements - many of which have achieved important successes - that have been operating within Latin American politics. In … [Read more...]

The Justice Cascade

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Author’s Note: I wrote this piece about a week before Liberian strongman Charles Taylor was found guilty Thursday of aiding and abetting grave human rights abuses and war crimes in a historic verdict by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Taylor’s conviction both reinforces the arguments offered by Sikkink (that are discussed below) and my criticisms of her argument. While Taylor’s conviction is important, it is indeed incredibly rare for a  head of state to be convicted in an international court, it also demonstrates the limited diffusion of the justice norm. No one can argue that bringing African human rights violators like Taylor, Omar al-Bashir, or even the now infamous Joseph Kony, to … [Read more...]


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