I passed Ph.D. school, everyone!

As of October 1st, I am a postdoctoral fellow in Law & International Security at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. The main consequence of this change is that now, instead of saying “I’m working on my dissertation”, I can say “I’m working on my book”. (It is, of course, exactly the same project.) And I now own a car and have Opinions About Cargo Space.

I also have a bit more free time to do things like brush my hair and write this blog, which I’ve just given its first makeover in several years.

And in other news, if you’re not already following Amanda in her new(ish) role as Vox’s Senior Sadness Correspondent, get on that.

Chauncey, End Poverty!

This is Jefferson Mok‘s awesome Burundi dog, Chauncey:

Disco Chauncey

He moved to New York about a year ago, and apparently his prodigious skills have been going to waste ever since. Jefferson asked for our help coming up with some new tricks for Chauncey to learn.

Naturally, this is where our minds went:

  1. Chauncey, raise awareness!: Chauncey chases his tail.
  2. Chauncey, mainstream gender!: Chauncey stares at you without moving until you give him something else to do.
  3. Chauncey, SWEDOW!: Chauncey fetches his oldest, most slobbery toy and places it in your lap.
  4. Chauncey, consult stakeholders!: Chauncey lies down on the floor and covers his ears with his paws.
  5. Chauncey, apply for funding!: Chauncey jumps through a series of unnecessary hoops.
  6. Chauncey, review best practices!: Chauncey sniffs his own butt.
  7. Chauncey, report to donors!: Chauncey sniffs another dog’s butt.
  8. Chauncey, issue report!: Chauncey barks for 30 seconds even though no one is listening to him.
  9. Chauncey, protect civilians!: Chauncey stays close by and watches carefully as Jefferson is savaged by a labradoodle.
  10. Chauncey, achieve MDGs!: Chauncey rolls over on his back and puts his paws in the air.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Saving the World Makes Chauncey Very Tired

Photos courtesy of the aforementioned Jefferson Mok. Thanks Jefferson!

Have We Met?

Dear Anonymous Commenter to the Gambia post,

You must be new here.

Welcome to our blog! We make humorous remarks about terrible, terrible things. (Occasionally we pick up the mainstream media’s investigative reporting slack, or perform a public service, but mostly it’s just non-stop jokes about war crimes.) We talk a lot about challenging dominant narratives around here and we think pointing out absurdity wherever we find it is one of the best ways to do that. Also, we love a good chuckle.

That said, we know that our site isn’t to everyone’s taste. If it’s not to yours, we have two suggestions: (1) start your own blog, where you can attempt to enforce your remarkably specific guidelines on the appropriate use of humor, and (2) stop reading ours. It’s only going to make you unhappy.



*Hat tip to Chris Blattman for naming our joint alter-ego.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Who Are Us Guys?

An Amanda and Kate FAQ

Q: Where did you come from?

A: We were raised by wolves in the dangerous wilds of liberal academia. As children, we roamed from one college town to another, eking out a meager survival by picking off weak graduate students and the occasional unwary high school history teacher.

Amanda’s wanderings took her from the sunny hills of Virginia to the frozen steppes of Champaign, Illinois. There, she routinely stuck her hand into live cows’ stomachs via portholes in their sides. She was unaware this was a rare experience. Kate started out in Baltimore, where rumor has that it she inspired several episodes of The Wire (and one of The Muppet Babies).

Eventually, we both ended up at the University of Chicago’s high school. (U of C Motto: “Where fun goes to die.”) We met in 9th grade homeroom, bonded over goldfish crackers and shared misanthropy, and have been best friends ever since.

Q: What made you turn out like this?

A. We are pretty sure that we started out this way. Our families read this blog, though, so if you doubt us you can post your queries in the comments section.

Q: Seriously? You expect us to believe that you sprang from the womb making jokes about genocide?

A. Pretty much. Our senses of humor have always been dark but chipper.

In preschool, Amanda wrote a short essay on how to make hamburgers. “One morning, a cow is born,” it began. A cheery description of The Brief Wonderful Life of Amanda’s Dinner followed, with a happy ending of medium-rare broiling and the merits of ketchup. Her parents were called.

Kate’s parents raised her on Edward Gorey cartoons and Groucho Marx, so she never really had a chance.

Q: Okay, but you must have studied this stuff at some point.

A. Well, never underestimate the power of Google for comprehensive and approximately 87% accurate information on short notice. (And also the power of voodoo. Who do? You do!)

However, you are correct. Kate has a B.A. in Genocide from NYU’s Gallatin School. Amanda has a degree Ad Hominem from the University of Edinburgh, (which translates as “To the Man” but really means “a joint degree in literature and political science but no one else in her class did that”), and a Masters Degree in Violence, Conflict, and Development Studies from SOAS at the University of London.

(Note: Between us we have degrees in both genocide and violence. Think very carefully before making us angry.)

Eventually we embraced the inevitable and lawyered ourselves up. Kate got her J.D. from Columbia in 2006, and Amanda got hers from Georgetown in 2007. Kate was a Notes Editor on the Columbia Law Review, and Amanda was the Senior Articles Editor for the Georgetown Journal of International law. We both interned at places with “Human Rights” in their names. Amanda went to Ecuador to research how the USA PATRIOT and REAL ID Acts were affecting vulnerable Colombian refugees there. (Answer: badly). Kate was a T.A. for Columbia’s Human Rights Clinic and then moved to Cambodia to work for Legal Aid for several months after graduation.

Q: What do you do now?

A. We both currently work in the litigation departments of large law firms in New York City. If our working lives had a theme song, it would be “Workin’ Nine to Five –And Then Workin’ Five to Nine.” Good times.

Soon Kate will head off to The Hague, where she will be a clerk at the International Court of Justice. Amanda will miss her, and try to visit.

Q: What’s with the blog?

A. It was either this or running away to join the circus. We thought that our particular interest in crimes against humanity, modern warfare, and the social construction of atrocity was probably better suited to blogging than tightrope walking.

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up?

A: Human Rights Action Figures! We will travel around the world, fighting for justice and frequently changing our outfits!

Or maybe law professors. Either way, really.