347 Schaeffer Hall
Fall 2017 Office Hours
Tue & Th: 4:45-6:15
Dept of Political Science
341 Schaeffer Hall
20 E. Washington Street
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa 52242
New book, Iowa Votes, published for Kindle devices and computers with Kindle reader.
Iowa Voting Series Paper 11: This paper examines early voting in Johnson County, updated with 2016 data.
Posted New book in What I'm Reading.
Iowa Voting Series Paper 8: This paper estimates the distribution of No Party votes in general elections, data now from 1982 to 2016.
Posted Book info for Fall 2017 courses.
Iowa Voting Series Paper 7
This paper looks at voter distributions by party, age group, and sex, data now from 1982 to 2016.
Iowa Voting Series Paper 6 This paper looks at absentee voting by party, age group, and sex, data now from 1988 to 2016.
Iowa Voting Series Paper 5 This paper looks at voter turnout by sex, age group, and party, data now from 1982 to 2016.
Posted Fall 2016 teaching evaluations.
I'm sometimes asked what I'm reading for alumni newsletters or biographical pieces. I used to read a lot of science fiction, but these days it tends to be more along the lines of political non-fiction. I also tend to have several books going at the same time (partly, but not entirely, due to having a Kindle on several devices). I'll start this list with some of the books I've read in the last year or so and will add to it as I go along.
The Guns of August: This book is a Pulitzer Prize winner and quite famous so I thought I should get around to reading it (though reading a series of pretty depressing books had gotten to be a bit much). As the name of the book suggests, the author takes a very close look at the first month or so of World War I. I didn't know all that much about WWI, so the information was interesting, but the detail was a bit hard to follow without knowing more about the overall themes. I think part of my problem was that I read the book in fairly small chunks that made it harder to follow the people involved. Still, three interesting take aways were the importance of logistics, the problems with communications, and the conflicts among the generals.
Gulag: A History: As the title suggests author Anne Applebaum traces the history of the Soviet gulag system from the start of the Soviet Union until its fall. As much as we might know that millions died or were killed in the gulags, millions also survived and Applebaum devotes chapters to aspects of life in such horrible circumstances. As depressing as this history might be, and one which some would prefer to forget, it is important that we remember what was occuring in these camps. This is especially so as we approach the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union. The book was a Pulitzer Prize winner.
The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II: As the back of the book notes, "In December, 1937, the Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking. Within weeks, more than 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldeirs were systematically raped, tortured, and murdered. . . ." The details author Iris Chang chronicles are horrific,but the book more is more than just a recounting of what happened during the rape. She also provides details on what led to the incident, what happened during the events, and how the survivors fared. Importantly, she also explains why the Rape of Nanking seems to have been "forgotten" and why Japan and Germany were treated so differently after the war. Not surprisingly, parts of the book are hard to read, but it's an important aspect of the war that deserves more attention.
Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception: This is an interesting book. The authors caution readers that the book won't make them human lie detectors. They also note that one has to have some familiarity with a particular person to know where some behavior that might be an indicator of deception in one person isn't just a personal habit of another. That said, the authors run through several behaviors, physical and verbal, that tend to indicate that a person is being deceptive. Such indicators don't necessarily indicate that the person is lying, but may indicate deception requiring additional follow up. The authors provide examples from real life, and often famous, interviews as well as lists of suggested questions for different situations. I recommend this book, but be aware that after reading it you will have difficulty listening to any politician again!
The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War AGainst Radical Islam and Its Allies: The lead author of this book is Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, who was the Director of the Defense Intellegence Agency, among other positions. As the subtitle of the book suggests, Flynn has been an advocate for a more robust effort to defeat radical Islamism. Although one can expect that Flynn has to be careful about revealing too many details, the book still seems to lack much that's new in the way of information or insight. This is particularly true when compared to Hayden's book Playing to the Edge. On the other hand, perhaps that's the point. Flynn, and his coauthor Michael Ledeen, remind readers of who we are fighting against and the failures of leadership the brought us to the present situation. The "how we can win" portion of the book isn't all that unusual, but requires a strength of leadership that Flynn doesn't believe the current (Obama) administration possesses.
Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience With Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate: As the subtitle suggests, the selling point of the book was the extent to which the author was able to shed some insight into the character of the Clintons during Bill Clinton's presidency, and particularly that of Hillary Clinton. For those who were around during the 1990s the book doesn't really add to what we already know about the problems during the Clinton administration. Some new ground is covered when the author describes how the investigation of Bill Clinton's activities affected nonpolitical White House staff and how this continued for him after he was no longer part of the White House detail. The author also discusses several other jobs he had, including some events that occurred when he served as an air marshall. Those aspects are interesting, particularly from a bureaucratic perspective, but weren't really part of why most people probably bought the book.
In terms of style, the writing is rather choppy. By that I mean that the events the author is describing seem to jump around a bit. The author notes that he has dyslexia and ADD, but a good editor should have been able to clean it up a bit. Despite this problem, after a few chapters is doesn't seem as noticeable. Overall, the book has some interesting aspects to it, but less because of additional inside information on the Clintons than the author's experiences with several government jobs he held.
Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion: Although this book was first published in 1997, I just happened on it last year. Given that I teach about the Establishment Clause in my undergraduate constitutional law course, and I'm a fan of the movie Inherit the Wind, I thought this would be an interesting read. It was, but it was also more on the academic side than I expected. Although the main focus is on the famous Scopes trial, the author begins by reviewing the political climate regarding science and religion. This provides some important context to the Scopes trial. There's an extensive discussion of how the trial came about and how it was essentially both a test case and show trial. The author provides a lot of detail regarding the trial itself, though probably more than was necessary to tell the story effectively. I was particularly interested in what occurred in the years following the trial. This included the movie Inherent the Wind as well as the Supreme Court's decision in Epperson v. Arkansas, which ruled on the Arkansas version of the "monkey law" that was at issue in Scopes. Although probably not for a more general audience, the book is worthwhile for those with interests in Establishment Clause issues and famous trials.
Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror: This book is written by Michael V. Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA. I thought that this book was a good primer on intelligence gathering and some of the issues surrounding it. Hayden obviously couldn't reveal any "secrets" of US intelligence gathering, but I thought he did a good job of putting a lot of the material we see in the news into context. Hayden obviously has a particular point of view regarding intelligence gathering, but the book was generally nonpolitical. From Hayden's point of view this would also be true at the end of the book when Hayden expressed concerns about the Obama administration's weaknesses though others might suggest otherwise. I liked the overall structure of the book. Rather than a strictly chronological approach to this time period (mainly1999 to 2014) he used each chapter on a particular topic (e.g., certain programs, working with allies, Snowden). Thus, although that meant that the chapters sometimes overlapped chronologically they weren't confusing. One particular point he made that I sometimes mention in my criminal justice course is that there is a big difference between intelligence gathering to prevent some terrorist event and evidence gathering to convict someone of a crime. In other words, law enforcement models cannot be applied to intelligence gathering. I must admit that I also liked the book because Hayden made frequent references to movies and TV shows to illustrate his points, something I do in my courses. I enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it.
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win: The essence of this book is how principles the authors learned as Navy SEAL officers fighting in Iraq can be applied in business and management situations. This includes principles such as the title of the book, extreme ownership. The idea of this principle is that leaders have to own failure of their team and not try to pass it off on others, basically a form of the buck stops here. Each chapter presents a principle in three parts. The first part is how one or both of the authors lived the principle in combat. The second part is the statement of the principle. The third part is then how they helped some business apply the principle. The most interesting part of the book for me was the descriptions of the various operations in which they were engaged. The principles and their applications were interesting too, though I sometimes had the feeling that one had to have a solid understanding of when one principle or another might apply. As it turned out, the authors understood this too and noted as much at the end of the book. Although the authors spoke of applying the principles in a business setting, I kept wondering the extent to which they might apply in public administration. The military is highly bureaucratic, but also not like other governmental units. I suspect that the next time I teach public administration I'll assign this book or parts of it as a discussion topic.
13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Behghazi: The events in Behghazi when four Americans were killed have become so politicized that it may be hard for some to read this book with an open mind. That would be a shame as this book tells the story of what happened that night through the eyes of the men who fought in the battle. Except for brief acknowledgement, the author stays away from the political side of things. We are told that the operators were kept from the fight longer than they desired, but blame for this in the book goes no higher than their immediate handler. The book is a fast read because it's hard to put down given how quickly events moved. As I write this I have yet to see the movie, but I certianly recommend the book.
The Crimean War: A History: Given what happened with Russia and Ukrania in the Crimea I thought it would be a good idea to learn a bit more about the Crimean War. The author spent a fair amount of time describing events that led to the war. That turned out to be good as it provided helpful context for current events. I probably didn't get as much out of this book as I should have, but it was an interesting read nonetheless.
Very Short Introduction series from Oxford University Press: During the summer of 2014 there was a promotion on this series and I purchased about 50 of the short volumes. (Each ranges from about 95 to 140 pages of text plus additional reading and often an index.) As I write this there are volumes on about 400 topics. I used the promotion to buy books on philosophy, science, and religion. The books are not of the "for dummies" variety. Although introductions, some of the books move along quite quickly and one must often have a grounding in the general subject matter to really understand the material. The link below is to the one I'm currently reading, Science and Religion, which I found particularly interesting given Supreme Court cases I teach involving the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.
Until Proven Innocent by Stuart Taylor, Jr., and KC Johnson: This book tells the story of the Duke lacrosse players falsely accussed of rape. They examine all the factors and people who refused to question the accusations or purposefully exploited them for their own ends. This book charts one of worst examples of the criminal justice system being misused in a political setting. I recently reread this book before assgining it as recommended reading in my Criminal Justice course. Strongly recommended.
This Kind of War: The Classice Korean War History by TR Fehrenbach: The war in Korea is sometimes called the "forgotten war." I ran across this book after reading the book below on the French involvement in the Vietnam War. Like many people, I knew little about the Korean war, so I decided to read it. It's interesting in a variety of ways, not least of which is how decisions early on have dramatic consequences.
The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam by Martin Windrow: I don't recall how I happened on this book, but the idea of reading about a critical battle of involving the French in Vietnam seemed interesting. This was particularly so given that it seemed to be indicative of the later problems US forces faced. The importance of some of the military decisions was likely lost on me, but the many maps provided helped to give a sense of what was happening.
Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror by Erik Prince: Blackwater came to have a very negative connotation attached to it. I thought it would be interesting to read how Prince came to found and operate Blackwater, as well as how it ended up as it did. I suppose one can easily dismiss Prince's version as what one would expect from the person whose company was thrust into such a negative spotlight. On the other hand, Prince provides an interesting explanation of how such military contractors came to be such an important part of the US effort.
Millenium Series (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) by Stieg Larsson: I suspect most have heard of the first book in this series or at least the movie version of it (either the original in Swedish or the English language remake). The first book stands alone as a story. The second and third contain many of the same characters, but essentially form a separate two-volume story. I enjoyed the first movie in the series (all three books were made into movies, which I'll eventually list on the movie page) and wanted to read the books before watching all three movies. It wasn't really necessary to do so to understand what was going on in the second and third movies, but the books were certainly an enjoyable read.