Update to Qualtrics JavaScript Conjoint Randomization Code

Are you using the standard JavaScript code written by Thomas Leeper (Git) in your conjoint project? Wondering why your traits1a variable is no longer storing the piped traits? The answer is straightforward. You need to change your embedded variable names and the command you’re using in JavaScript to save the traits. (Here’s the random forum post that helped me understand this; apparently, it has to do with the migration to Simple, but maybe it’s deeper. User Tom_1842, you da real one.)

First, your traits embedded variables need to have this prefix (no quotes): “__js_”.

Second, you need to change your code block:

Qualtrics.SurveyEngine.setEmbeddedData('traits1a', traits_a.join("|"));
Qualtrics.SurveyEngine.setEmbeddedData('traits1b', traits_b.join("|"));

To instead be
Qualtrics.SurveyEngine.setJSEmbeddedData('traits1a', traits_a.join("|"));
Qualtrics.SurveyEngine.setJSEmbeddedData('traits1b', traits_b.join("|"));

The Moderately Skilled Person’s Guide to Making a Bluesky Feed

In this post, I’ll lay out the basics of how to create a curated Bluesky feed–that is, a feed for a list of approved posters, like the Polisky feed. With a couple of deletions, this is also a guide to how to create an uncurated Bluesky feed, although given the nature of the site this is not an appropriate solution for all users.

This is not difficult, but it is just a little intimidating at first.

Continue reading “The Moderately Skilled Person’s Guide to Making a Bluesky Feed”

How to Use Polisky

Attention conservation notice: If you’re a political scientist or IR scholar on Bluesky,

  1. Like (and pin) the Political Science feed to make it easier to find relevant content.
  2. Tag @profmusgrave.bsky.social in a post asking to be added to the Polisky list (make sure your bio has something to do with political science or IR). When you’re added, your request will be “liked” (no further announcement needed!)
  3. Update your settings to show posts from your feeds in your home feed.

What’s Bluesky?

Bluesky is a new, so far invitation-only social media network that functions a lot like pre-Musk Twitter. There are some key differences, however. For one, there aren’t (yet!) hashtags in the same way Twitter had them (although, notably, Twitter didn’t have hashtags at the beginning, either). This means that organizing posts takes place via feeds.

Feeds offer some of the same functionalities as hashtags, lists, or communities. A feed is simply a curated list of posts on Bluesky. The curation can be done fully openly, as with a feed that searches for any keywords and automatically indexes them. (This can approximate hashtag behavior and some feeds are keyed to hashtag-looking keywords, like #LandBack.) Feeds can also display all posts from some users or some posts from a pre-screened list of users. There are other varieties, too, but these are the ones most relevant to us right now.

The purpose of a feed is to make it easier to find information in the jumble of Bluesky. Posting privileges means that a user can choose to broadcast a post to the feed, where it may have greater reach than on the user’s timeline alone and where it will also be easier to find than on the main timeline.

What’s Polisky?

Polisky is a feed in Bluesky. It is also, as of this writing, one of the largest science communities and one of the very largest feeds on Bluesky altogether, although I do not expect either of those distinctions to endure forever.

Polisky is the political science feed for Bluesky. More accurately, it is a feed about academic political science and related topics comprised of user-nominated posts from a closed list of political scientists, international relations scholars, journalists, think tankers, and associated others.

To post, users must be added to the confusingly-named mute list “PoliSci List”. (Mute lists are, so far, the only way in Bluesky to organize large lists of users; their original function was to share lists of users to be muted, but feed organizers also use them to create lists of users to populate feeds. It’s not confusing at all if you ignore the technical name.)

The list is maintained by me. It is open to anyone within those broad, if subjective, parameters, including faculty, Ph.D. students, and so on.

Polisky is not just an attempt to provide a replacement for hashtags: it’s an effort to democratize the discovery and promotion of academics, experts, and work relevant to that community. If you’re a member of Polisky, you can reach a much larger audience than your follower list alone. The core principle of Polisky is that your follower count shouldn’t determine your ability to reach the discipline.

You may be wondering why there is an approval list for people to post to Polisky. In that case, you are probably new to Bluesky. (What does he mean by that? you wonder. It means you are probably new to Bluesky.)

What’s on Polisky?

Polisky only displays posts (not replies!) that users on the list have marked with “polisci”, “polisky”, or the globe emoji 🌐 . That means it is not a feed of everything that people on the list say, but it is a feed of everything that one of the users with posting privileges has tagged with one of those phrases. Those posts can include users talking about their own or others’ works, or it can include relevant posts by other users that a poster has quote-posted with one of the keywords. (By the way, it can take two to five minutes for a post to appear, so don’t expect it to appear instantaneously.)

How do I Join Polisky?

Anyone can like and follow the Political Science feed–unlike Twitter communities, these are not closed.

Being added to the list does grant permission to post to the feed, but to follow the feed requires liking (pressing the heart icon for) the Political Science feed itself. Liking the feed adds it to the “My Feeds” section of Bluesky (app or Desktop). The next level up is to pin the feed, which makes it easier to find within the My Feeds section.

How do I Use Polisky?

A good way to use Polisky is to follow the feed and see what’s happening. The best way is to contribute to Polisky and its subfeeds.

You might be wondering: is it rude to share your own work to polisky? Absolutely not. Self-promotion is encouraged. As Rabbi Hillel never said, if you are not for your work, who will be for your work? Promote! And if someone else’s work is relevant, promote that too. Aside from usual norms against hate-criming and other abuses, the only thing that would be discouraged would be overly monetizing behavior–but book promotion is okay as long as it’s not spam.

Other Feeds and Subfeeds

Polisky is for a broad audience, but you don’t always want to communicate with such a broad audience–or sometimes you want to communicate with different audiences.

Professor Tim Ruback and Maaike Verbruggen have collected a list of political science expanded universe feeds and subfeeds. (Thanks, folks!!) Some of these are feeds in their own right; some are Polisky subfeeds. (A subfeed is something that uses the same closed list as Polisky.) Check this out! You might find that you want to get active in the Authoritarian Regimes feed or in the Visual International Relations subfeed.

Can I Make My Own Feeds?

Yes! See this explainer.

How Can I Use the Feeds Most Effectively?

To see what’s in your feeds, go to the # (hashtag) icon in the app / desktop version of Bluesky. (If you’re using other apps to access this, I’m going to assume you’re technically competent enough to figure out the corresponding steps.) This will bring up a list of the feeds you’ve liked:

It’s a good idea to check in on your feeds every once in a while. To do that, just click on the feed and you’ll be taken to a page showing all the most recent posts.

Of course, people get lazy and want material delivered to them. (Don’t we all!) That’s why it’s a good idea to change your settings so that posts from the feeds to which you’ve subscribed show up in your home feed. To do this, go to settings (the gearbox icon) and then click “Home Feed Preferences”.

Once you’ve done that, a new menu will show up with ways to customize your home feeds. Scroll to the bottom and hit the toggle for “Show Posts from My Feeds” to set it to “Yes”. (I make no recommendations regarding the other settings I’m showing here.)

Finally, if you’re really into a feed, go to its page and hit the “Pin” button.

Doing this will add the feed to the top of your home feed as a tab that you can access quickly.

Representation and Symbolism in International Relations (or Vlad the Film Critic)

We shouldn’t become so inured to the routines of great-power press conferences that we dismiss what seem like trivial or pointless throwaways. For instance, during a press availability at last weekend’s G-20 summit in Argentina, Russian President Vladimir Putin made time to talk about subjects ranging from the Ukrainian naval incident to Russian luxury cars and the recent Hollywood film Hunter Killer.

Here’s Putin talking about the Aurus Senat, his personally modified state car (the Russian version of the American Cadillac-badged The Beast):

Reporter: And a short second question, please. Your car, Aurus, the Russian-manufactured Aurus, has driven so far away from home for the first time and reached this continent; there is a big commotion around it, with local residents taking pictures with it near the hotel. You have been using this vehicle for several months. How do you like the car? I assume you were not always a passenger, but actually drove it? How do you like it? What do you like about it? What don’t you like? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I never drove the limo version, only the smaller car. Very good car, I like it. And I am not the only one – some of our Arab friends like it too. They are already expressing a desire to buy it. Therefore, I think we can do this, I don’t see any problems. This is a capsule, a fairly well assembled car and very comfortable.

Trivial, right? And next to Putin’s discussion of Ukraine, Russo-British relations, and the Kremlin’s line on why Trump won’t talk to him, sure. But on the other hand, Putin doesn’t dismiss the question out of hand (and is it too paranoid to think it’s a plant, or at least a welcome opportunity to discuss it?). And certainly RT found time to promote the car as a part of its coverage of the G-20 summit, stressing how it had impressed the international audience there. So let’s not dismiss the idea that Putin took a few seconds out of his busy day to talk about his car. Presidential time is valuable and it’s unlikely that serious and strategic presidents simply say things without at least some goal in mind.

Continue reading “Representation and Symbolism in International Relations (or Vlad the Film Critic)”

Star Trek: TOS (Terms of Service)

USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A Recently, we activated an Amazon Echo. My attitude toward smart speakers can be divided into two eras:

Before Echo: Why would anyone want a privacy-destroying box in their home? Why should Jeff Bezos know everything about how my house is laid out? Is the point of late capitalism really letting me have modest conveniences in exchange for better advertisements?

After Echo: Exchanging my privacy for the modest convenience of playing Barenaked Ladies through a voice command is the absolute pinnacle of late capitalism, and Jeff Bezos should probably just buy the presidency already.

Continue reading “Star Trek: TOS (Terms of Service)”

Today in Yak-Shaving

(What is “yak shaving“?)

I needed to add plots to a final draft of an article that my co-author had just finished revising. Most of the plots were pre-made but two of them were new–just minor changes to existing work.

Normally, I would fire up my laptop to do this. That’s where I do most of my work in R. But earlier this morning I had installed a new battery on the mid-2012 MacBook Pro workhorse, and that meant it has to go through a power calibration cycle, so it was unavailable for service.

I turned instead to the small auxiliary laptop I use for presentations. I adjusted the code. Then I went to run it …

… and the small auxiliary laptop didn’t have the new package I use for this project now.

I downloaded it…but it didn’t run on the version of R installed on that machine.

I updated R…and then had to re-install all of the packages. Including packages to load older versions of other packages that work better than the current version.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Office decided that everything needed to be updated.

All of this led the computer to crash. But at least I have new versions of all the tools that I need to start the one simple line of code….

So if you ever wonder “but how did that take so long?” remember: it’s the yak’s fault.

Is “America First” A Slogan With An Anti-Semitic Past? (Yes)

A reader writes:

I read your opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune entitled “Trump has no secret agenda – WYSIWYG” I did not understand one sentence of the piece, “So does his proud assumption of the motto “America First,” a slogan with anti-Semitic overtones.” I have lived all of my life in small-town Illinois and Iowa and have never associated the phrase “America First” with with anything other than the statement that America’s interest should be placed first ahead of other interests. Would you please explain to me how or why that phrase is anti-Semitic in any way. Perhaps there is a regional meaning with which I am unfamiliar. I would appreciate a reply to my question. Thank you.

This is a point that’s relatively well established. Here are some links:

(The original The Washington Post version had a link to one of these, which might have helped!)

UN Sanctions Against North Korea, 2017: A Rough Guide

The font of all knowledge has a quick guide to current UNSC resolutions sanctioning the DPRK.

August 2017: Resolution 2371 (2017)

Passed in response to July 2017 DPRK ICBM tests.


  • ban on coal exports as  well as iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood
  • restricted DPRK financial institutions from access to international financial system
  • prohibited joint ventures with other countries
  • banned additional DPRK laborers from being sent abroad

U.S. statement:

  • “the strongest sanctions ever imposed in response to a ballistic missile test” (“Fact Sheet“)
  • “the days of talking were over and it was time to act” (Ambassador Nikki Haley)
    • “The most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation”
    • “These sanctions will cut deep, and in doing so, will give the North Korean leadership a taste of the deprivation they have chosen to inflict on the North Korean people.”
  • President Trump told reporters that North Korea will be “met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before”
  • Tillerson compliments DPRK on two weeks of restraint

North Korea response:

  • “ready to ruthlessly take strategic measures involving physical actions by fully mobilizing our national power” (Yonhap)

September 2017: Resolution 2375 (2017)

Response to the North Korean nuclear test of September 2, 2017.


  • annual cap of 2MMbbl/yr of all refined petroleum products (of stated 4.5MMbbl/yr annual consumption) (Fact Sheet)
  • freezes crude oil
  • bans supply of LNG
  • bans DPRK textile exports
  • slow ban on DPRK export lbaorers

U.S. statement:

  • “the strongest sanctions ever imposed on North Korea” (Fact Sheet)
  • “We are done trying to prod the regime to do the right thing. We are now acting to stop it from having the ability to continue doing the wrong thing. We are doing that by hitting North Korea’s ability to fuel and fund its weapons program. Oil is the lifeblood of North Korea’s effort to build and deliver a nuclear weapon. Today’s resolution reduces almost 30 percent of oil provided to North Korea by cutting off over 55 percent of its gas, diesel, and heavy fuel oil. Further, today’s resolution completely bans natural gas and other oil byproducts that could be used as substitutes for the reduced petroleum. This will cut deep.” (Ambassador Nikki Haley)
  • Trump calls DPRK leader Kim a “madman” (Twitter) and “Rocket Man” (UN speech):
    • “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.”

DPRK reaction

  • Kim terms Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and vows “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history”

December 2017: Resolution 2397 (2017)

In response to November ICBM test by DPRK


  • restriction on 2375 cap to 500Kbbl/yr of refined petroleum products (compared to stated 2016 levels of 4.5MM bbl/yr) (Fact Sheet)
  • freezes crude oil exports at 4MM bbl/year
  • Requires countries to expel DPRK laborers by end of 2019
  • Completes sanctions on food, agricultural products, etc.
  • Bans DPRK imports of heavy machinery, industrial equipment, etc

US statement

  • “we have leveled an unprecedented response.” (Ambassador Nikki Haley)
    • “This resolution ratchets up the pressure on North Korea even further, building on our last resolution, which included the strongest sanctions ever imposed on them. Those sanctions fully banned textile exports from North Korea. They banned all joint ventures and all new work permits for overseas North Korean laborers. And, critical to the regime’s ability to develop its nuclear and missile programs, the previous resolution cut off 55 percent of refined petroleum products going to North Korea. Today, we cut deeper.”


North Korea reaction:

  • “an act of war” (Slate)
  • avenge itself against those who voted for the resolution (Bloomberg)

Counterfactuals and Policy Interventions

A synthetic control-derived counterfactual of Ecuador’s predicted GDP in the absence of the 1973 oil price shock. Liou and Musgrave, 2014 (not published (yet) ).

A pressing question in policy analysis concerns estimating counterfactual outcomes. Given that we only observe one world, how do we know that policymakers’ decisions had an impact compared to likely alternative outcomes? If we assess that their decisions did have an impact, how confident can we be that its impact was positive or negative? Such answers confront what social scientists call the Fundamental Problem of Causal Inference: we can’t know for certain what the outcome had a different intervention (or none) been chosen, so instead we have to infer the existence and magnitude of an effect from other sources.

This problem is not merely academic: it affects everything. Any causal claim of the form “If X, then Y; if not-X, then not-Y” requires an assumption that we can evaluate X and Y given that we will only observe one potential outcome. Things get complicated in the real world, where we might observe Y because of processes not involving X (for instance, if I drink caffeine, I may feel more alert, but I may feel more alert if I go for a bike ride instead even if I do not drink coffee) or where some other process might interrupt the postulated mechanism (if I drink caffeine, I may not feel more alert if my body has developed too high a tolerance for caffeine, for instance).

Continue reading “Counterfactuals and Policy Interventions”