Monday, July 28, 2014

Fave Irredentist Stories

A friend asked folks on twitter to share their favorite irredentist stories with me.... So far, no takers, so let me provide a few:
  1. At the top, walking into my new job/fellowship on the Joint Staff and being called The Irredentist!  My application for the fellowship discussed the project that became For Kin or Country, so they were wise to my ways.  And I was well placed in the Pentagon as this was, indeed, the office of irredentism with both Croatia and Serbia having recently engaged in "Greater" projects and with Kosovo kind of doing the same (with Macedonia's Albanians). 
  2. The time a Hungarian general I was interviewing said: "After a few drinks, everyone is a nationalist."
  3. The time that Croatia engaged in an irredentist war in Bosnia undermining its claims of being a victim of Serb irredentism AND proved my point that vulnerability does not deter.
  4. That Somalia which exemplified the window of opportunity argument by attacking Ethiopia as it was in the middle of its own revolution/transition had previously attacked when the time was most unopportune--1963 when Ethiopia was much stronger... and when it was already engaged in irredentist efforts aimed at both British and French colonies nearby.
  5. The Crimean referendum.  So sham-tastic, it really was so laughable.
  6. My favorite irredentist trick question: in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, who are the irredentists?
  7. Tried to name the Bill and Steve JOP article: Reuniting: When Does it Feel So Good? after the song but got spiked by the editors who accepted the article but not a fun title.  They probably would not have gone with "Four out of Five irredentists agree...".  Of course, it would probably have had to be nineteen out of twenty irredentists agree for the 95% confidence interval reference.
I am sure fans of Ireland, Kurdistan, Kashmir and others have fun tales to tell?

When History Repeats, Hungary Edition

On this day, the 100th anniversary of World War I, it almost seems quaint that history seems to be repeated itself.  Not in a big way, not in a World War kind of way.  But in a "Hungary is regressing and picking the wrong side kind of way."  In researching the Hungary chapter (secret name for it was "Optimally Obnoxious) of For Kin or Country, I discovered that Hungary's tradition of war seems to be one of always picking the losing side and joining that one with much enthusiasm but not much effectiveness.

And here we are again (H/T to my favorite resident of Budapest--Erin Jenne).  Viktor Orban has done much that we can criticize over the past several years, undermining democracy in one of the former success stories and playing up nationalism for political gain (inconsistently so).  The focus today, given the 100th anniversary and all that is to look on the bright side.
The era of liberal democracies is over, Orb├ín added, and listed China, India, Russia, Turkey and Singapore as countries that could offer Hungary inspiration. “Our time will come,” he concluded.
What is the bright side?  Hungary always picks the losing side.  So, if Orban's Hungary chooses to side with Russia and China, then I think the Western Democracies will win the next few rounds of international tensions.

Grail Knight IJ - Hungary Chose Poorly Again

Saturday, July 26, 2014

And a Wake-Up: Last Day in Buenos Aires

I have an evening flight out tonight with a red-eye to Houston and then connecting flights to Newark and then Ottawa.  So, I had the chance to walk around some more and see parts of the city that I had missed.

My effort to see the military history museum failed since it was not open yet.  When I get the grant and come back to do research, I will try again.  Otherwise, I saw what I wanted to see, and now I am very tired.

I enjoyed the Ecological Reserve near my hotel, but was frustrated that I could not get a better view of the Atlantic Ocean.  On the way back, I ate at an Italian place as I have had my fill of steak and then some.  Indeed, both my friend and I agreed that I had too much steak (see pic to the right).

While I had my pasta, I got to watch polo on ESPN.  I had never watched polo before (I had hoped to make it to a match but planned poorly).  It was Argentina vs .... England!  Argentina won today, perhaps taking some of the sting out of the whole Malavinas thing.  Their idea of penalties seems even easier than penalty kicks in hockey.  Not sure what caused one to get a penalty--on replays of the penalty swings and not the event that caused the penalty.

A couple of other observations that I may not have mentioned before:
  • The customs declaration form on the way into the country was strange--asking for what kind of cell phone I have.
  • That even with an impending default, Argentina seems pretty prosperous and stable (except for all of the illegal currency swapping stuff).  The shops and tv's and such do not seem strange to me.  Indeed, I am even more convinced that Sam Huntington is a racist (a dead one, of course) as the folks here do not seem to be of a different civilization than folks I have met elsewhere--that the only major difference between the Catholics of Argentina and those of Italy are that these are browner--hence the racism charge.
    • that the real differences among peoples are fundamentalists versus everyone else.  That all fundamentalists fundamentally suck.  
  • the Spanish spoken here is different enough that my restaurant pronunciation is even worse than one might expect. 
  • oh, and one more thing--I will have to remember to bring ankle braces next time.  Between the cobblestone and the beat up sidewalks, my ankles were not happy this week.
The trip was most successful.  Not only did I eat a heap of beef, but I had a few good conversations that will help as I revise the grant application and think about the project.  I got some good questions while presenting the extended grant app (the paper was the grant app and a few more pages).  So, overall, I can declare success, go home and then prep for the next trip (family vacation) and the one after that (dropping Frosh Spew off).

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Optimistic Outlook: Limited Number of Evil-doers?

So, Igor Strelkov of the Malaysian plane downing in Ukraine may have been involved in a mass killing in Bosnia in 1992.   One possible interpretation is that the number of evil assholes in the world are finite, so that when you need something bad done, you reach out to one of the few guys who is willing to do this kind of stuff (kind of like asking Rumsfeld to be Secretary of Defense again?).

After a thoroughly depressing week or two, I have to grasp at such straws.

Short Take on First Take

I don't watch Stephen A. Smith or Skip Bayless.... because I have a learning curve.  I learned a long time ago that neither one had anything of value to say.  Indeed, they may be the sports yeller equivalent of Sam Huntington--black holes of knowledge.

Oh, and the NFL sucks on violence against women, but we have known that for some time as well.

Mary Poppins and the Minimum Wage

Mary taught me so much so long ago about bank failure and now ....

this is seven kinds of brilliance.  Just wonderfully cheeky!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Feminism of Princess Leia's Bikini

While I consider myself a feminist (that women are equal to men and deserve equal rights/treatment), my scholarship is not feminist.  That is, I don't study how gender affects foreign policy.  Yet, as a result of a brief dinner conversation with Ora Szekely, I want to wade into these waters with the following assertion:
While much of Star Wars has gender problems (erasing the female pilots from the Battle of Yavin, for example), the appearance of Princess Leia in the costume in Jabba's palace and on the barge in Return of the Jedi is actually not un-feminist.
How so?  Well, one could argue that this was just providing the fanboys of the movie with something to gaze/leer at, it is actually more complex.  Jabba had Leia wear this costume as part of his effort to dominate her.  Jabba is gross, disgusting and vile.  So, we should find his enslavement of Leia and his disrobing of her to be awful.  Indeed, one could argue that Jabba is a personification of patriarchy--that he is all lust, greed, and domination in a slimy package.

And what happens to this depiction of patriarchy in the movie?  It gets slayed, choked to death, by a woman who uses her own chains against her target.  The only help Leia receives in this effort from the men around her is the provision of a distraction.  Luke's deployment of the force does not liberate Leia, but only catches the attention of those around Jabba--he is the Jedi squirrel!  The hard work of killing Jabba, of freeing woman from patriarchy, is done by Leia with her own bare hands.

So, one could look at the iconic image of Leia in the bikini as sexist and harmful to feminism, or one can look deeper and suggest that she is a feminist icon for slaying the enslaver of women, green or otherwise.

As for the rest, well, yeah, George Lucas has some problemos.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Flag Speculation

Lots of people are wondering why there is a white flag on top of the Brooklyn bridge:
My guess?  Green Goblin is surrendering to Spider-man due to much guilt over that which transpired on this bridge long ago.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jon Stewart Uber Alles

This is why I prefer to blog about Star Wars than Israel/Palestine:

oh, and the joy of Argentina is that I could actually watch a Daily Show clip unless information control central that is Canada.

The American People Need Re-Education

Because their opinions on Star Wars needs heaps of work. Sure, I provided a public service long ago by ranking the SW movies, but apparently the average person polled by 538 either does not read my blog or believe it or both.  Let me go through the 538 post and point out some of the insanity and provide some perspective.

First, those surveyed have seen Empire the most, Return the second most and Star Wars (a New Hope) fourth.  Spike TV needs to amp up its showing of Star Wars--we now have a better idea of what they owe America.  Phantom Menace is third most watched?  Oy.  I guess we were all excited about more Star Wars and showed up to watch it.  So disappointed were we.  JJ Abrams must avoid the Phantom mistake.

Second comes the ranking, which can be seen as right or very wrong:
Right because Empire > SW-NH > Return.  Woot!  But Phantom Menance as third?  That 10% of those surveyed would give it any chance at being anything but the worst of the series?  We can pick on boy Anakin, we can on all of the revisions such as Midichlorians, we can pick on the dialogue, and yes, it has the most Jar Jar of any of the movies.  What this really proves is that any survey will have about 10% (or 20%) pure deviant opinions.  Either these are drunk frat boys trying to be funny, hipsters who are trying to be uncool, or the profoundly disturbed.  Any survey will have some chunk of people spouting off opinions that are OBJECTIVELY WRONG.

"Those who rated "Phantom Menace" as the best film were more likely to rate the prequels higher."  My response: like saying that those people who like to eat glass also like to eat rocks. 

The good news is that people almost get right the favorability stuff:

Many would say that Han should be ranked higher, but 1% is a thin margin and as much as folks like the charm of the smuggler, he ain't got no powers.  Luke is the point of view character as well.  So, no surprise he is the tops and so is Leia.  Indeed, little separates the major protagonists that we all love.  C3PO can be whiny so he is a bit off the top.  Anakin is over-rated--worst acted, got the worst dialogue (not the actors' fault), made it hard for Natalie Portman to fall in love convincingly (she easily demonstrated that skill in a weekend with Thor), and the dude kills a bunch of kids.  Not Darth Vader but Anakin.  And he attacks Mace Windu....   Surprising that Boba Fett, always seen as being cool by much of pop culture, is ranked so low here.  But he did pretty much just get knocked over into a Sarlaac pit, and his dad was also pathetic against the Jedi.

And, yes Jar Jar should be ranked lower than Palpatine.  Why?  Because Palpatine despite being the personification of evil was at least effective.  Jar Jar was ineffective.  Also, Palpatine read Diversionary Theories of War and used that arcane IR knowledge to amass power via the cynical use of ... separatists.  Jar Jar--just a goon, drawn in a pretty racist fashion.

The bigger problem with this ranking is that Chewbacca is left off of it (so is Mace).  Not only does Chewie not get a medal at the end of SW, he is denied his place in the survey.  Must the discrimination against the shaggy continue?  I say nay.

More folks think Han shot first, many think Greedo did, many don't understand the question.  Yeah, that's about right.