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What CEU Means (to Me)

Not good. Ignoring an international outcry and over 50,000 protesters in downtown Budapest, Hungarian President János Áder has signed a bill intended to force the Central European University from Hungary. As I write, students are marching to Fidesz headquarters to protest the decision. This is a critical juncture for Hungary—and a personal moment for me. I started my academic career...

A Presentable Enemy (on the future of U.S.-Russian relations)

Andrei Kozyrev, Boris Yeltsin's foreign minister from 1991 to 1996, was in Madison Thursday for a talk on the future of U.S.-Russian relations. We covered a lot of ground at the public seminar and later at our house for dinner—a thrill for faculty and grads alike. What a moment to be discussing such issues, with a U.S. president under...

What’s Next for the Study of Nondemocracy?

I'm back from a stimulating workshop on autocracy at Indiana University. Regina Smyth, Armando Razo, and Michael Alexeev have some exciting plans to institutionalize the study of nondemocracy at IU, and as part of the planning process they asked Konstantin (Kostya) Sonin and me to provide some perspective on the field. Armando joined us for a freewheeling discussion at...

Is the Trump Presidency at a Tipping Point?

A friend posts the following observation on Facebook: With multiple stories breaking about Trump-Russia, we may have hit a tipping point, from which the meltdown of the 45th presidency accelerates. Part of me wants to think it's true—the sooner the presidency is transferred to competent hands, the better—and part of me is worried about the meltdown. But let's step back for a...

#PutinPresser

Hannah Chapman (Ph.D. student at UW) observes that Trump's news conferences look a lot like Putin's: Under Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer, the near-daily White House news briefings have changed from routine interactions with a professional press corps to a high-profile media spectacle. The briefings frequently beat soap operas in daytime TV ratings...

Donald Trump as Lightning McQueen

Watching Donald Trump struggle to make good on his extravagant campaign promises, I am reminded of the opening scene in Pixar's Cars. Hot rod Lightning McQueen attempts to win the Dinoco 400 by ignoring the advice of his "expert" pit crew, who demand that McQueen change his tires. Announcers Darrel Cartrip and Bob...

Imagining Trump’s End

I'm teaching Socialism and Transitions to the Market this semester, and we're reading Francis Spufford's excellent Red Plenty. Here he is on Khrushchev's end: e was starting to frighten them…He had made alarmingly specific, alarmingly verifiable economic promises…He had tried to stick his thumb in the scales of the strategic balance by putting the...

The Parable of Vladimir Meciar

I received a message this morning from a friend unable to start the day, so in despair was she over recent events. My response was curt: "Get out of bed and write a check to the ACLU. Then find a protest to join or a refugee center where you can volunteer. This is no time to be defeatist. This...

Sean Spicer is no Joseph Goebbels

Donald Trump's first full day in office was marked by an all-out assault on the press. Standing in front of the CIA's memorial wall, the president called journalists "the most dishonest human beings on earth" and made false claims about the size of...um, the crowds at his inauguration. White House press secretary Sean Spicer continued the theme, telling reporters...

Lin-Manuel Mayakovsky

Blogging took a back seat over the holidays, but I'm back and ready to talk...Hamilton. I've been hooked since hearing the soundtrack for the first time last summer, and earlier this week we saw the show in Chicago. Seeing Hamilton on the stage definitely brought out a few elements not obvious from the...