Friday, July 25, 2014

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.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Bashing Law Profs

My brother-in-law is a law prof, and a damned fine one.  He has written good stuff beyond law reviews. I have always been impressed with his hard work during the family summer vacations as he works really hard to beat the law review submission deadlines that are late in August every year.

I say this as a caveat before I get brutal about distinguishing law profs from the rest of professor-dom.  Why?  Because a law prof has published a piece at the Wall Street Journal that basically calls for Israel to violate the Geneva Convention--that attacking civilians is hunky dory with him (swell, spiffy, too legit to quit, etc). [Pretty sure my law prof brother-in-law is horrified]

The Geneva convention says:

The first thing to ponder is who is this guy?  Thane Rosenbaum is a law prof--that was one response I saw on twitter.  Well, my first response is to say: law profs and prof profs are two different species.  Law profs do not generally have PhDs.  Which means that they did not have to pass comprehensive exams that demonstrate a mastery of the relevant literature.  They don't have to pass dissertation proposal defenses or dissertation defenses or write dissertations.  Which means that they don't have to be able to design research, defend the design or defend the research.

Their primary form of publication is in law reviews.  Law reviews are not peer reviewed despite the name--they are reviewed by law students. [Update: Ok, some are.  That this guy has not apparently published much in law reviews of late suggests that the system works, I guess]

To be fair, not all law profs are hacks [update: I was pointed to here by Phil L.].  And not all other forms of profs are devoid of hack-iness.  But if you are a law prof advocating for the use of violence against civilians, you suck as a law profYou suck as a human being as well.  If a political science prof wrote something like that, one could possibly imagine that there is a strategic logic for how civilian casualties might work.  Indeed, there have been such folks who have argued that civilian victimization is a workable counterinsurgency strategy.  That does not mean it is right, but that it might work.  A law prof should be arguing about whether something is legal or not.  But I guess if you don't read the Geneva Convention, then you don't have to worry about such arguments?

Oy.  Oy on stilts.  This guy is not doing anyone any favors.  Except the WSJ which will now get more hits.  Lovely. (No link from me).  So, what is my point?  That we should not hold law profs to the same standard as other profs since they don't have to do what other profs have to do to earn their credentials?  Maybe.  This guy makes me think: yeah, maybe.

[H/T to Max Fisher and Matt Ford for their tweets of the docs above]

Buenos Aires: Day 2, Electric Boogaloo

Had my first hunk of Argentine beef and it will certainly not be my last.  I had one meeting at the other end of Buenos Aires today, so I decided to walk and do some tourism along the way.  Very tired now, but it was worth it. 

What did I learn?
  • They love their dogs so much that they park their dogs (see the pic)
  • That neither banks nor hotels will exchange currency.  Given that there is a vibrant informal trade, one might expect the government to facilitate more legit outlets.  But no.  So, that helps to explain the major tourist destinations having heaps of men and women whispering loudly "Cambio!".  The difference in rates is apparently about 40%--$8/1 officially but $11-12/1 unofficially.  
  • I apparently look Argentine enough as I had multiple people ask me for directions today.  Must learn the phrase for "sorry, I am a silly tourist."
  • Argentine beef is good--I think a late lunch may be all I need... at least until the ISA crowd shows up and then things get social.  
  • They park cars in their academic buildings:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jewish or Democratic? The Choice Is Coming?

It has long been argued that Israel would eventually have to choose whether to be a Jewish state or a democratic one but not both.  Why?  Because as the non-Jewish population of the country grew, the Jews would eventually be significant enough to alter the political scene.

Why soon-ish?  Recent events suggest that the two state solution is not going to happen.  The West Bank is not going to become a Palestinian state with the extensive settlements creating facts on the ground that will be very hard to overcome. 

So what happens?  The right wing may have hoped that the Palestinians would leave Gaza and the West Bank, but they are not so welcome in the rest of the Mideast and they do not seem likely to leave.  Admitting a lot of Jews from elsewhere (Russia) have perhaps delayed the inevitable (at some cost since the Russians and others have to be put somewhere and perhaps alter the balance of political power).

Talking to a former student today, one who is much smarter than I on this area, raised the likelihood that the third intifida would be focused on democracy--that the Palestinians will push for the right to vote in Israel's elections.  Yow!  This would/will put Israel in a very difficult spot.

As I posted last week, I don't like to write about this particular conflict since people are so divided on it and because I don't spend that much time reading about it (too damned depressing).   That the two state solution seems to be off the table just makes me even more frustrated.  Again, actors on both sides have heaps of blame to share.  So, yet another pox I guess....

Buenos Aires, Day 1

I am in Buenos Aires for the meeting of the International Studies Association and the regional related association--FLACOS.   I am also meeting some experts on Latin American civil-military relations as the next project will include a few cases from this region.  So, a bit of research and prep for future work and a bit of testing the project's ideas.

So, what did I learn today?
  • My strategy of watching only movies I would not pay for in the theatre on flights paid off.  The Jack Ryan movie had an incredibly stupid plot.  The Robocop re-boot was so forgettable I spent much of today trying to figure out what I watched last night on the plane.  Oh, and flights are good for re-watching very good movies too.  The Lego Movie remains chock full of magic. 
  • The US is not the only place with unhappy veterans.  This pic is in the park next to the presidential palace.
  • How to divide by eight.  The current exchange rate is pretty favorable, so my shopping for my wife and daughter is complete thanks to the street fairs.
  • Buenos Aires is like Vancouver--the cabs do not seem to be able to make it through more than one light.
  • In the tour of the Casa Rosada, the Presidential palace, we got to have a quick walk through the President's actual office.  They covered up the phones so we could not see who is on the speed-dial.  Very interesting.
  • Very doggy town between the strays (a couple) and the poop (way more than a couple). 
  • Thus far, I have not tried the late late dinner.  I did learn that the beef empanada is much better than the chicken.  Probably the last time I have chicken in this beef-tastic place.
  • It is very strange to watch a British soccer team play an American one (Tottenham vs Seattle Sounders) broadcast on EPSN in Spanish.
  • I really enjoy my grad students.  Through good timing, I had a chance to spend most of the day with one of my former PhD students who is now on the tenure track.  Not only was it fun, but I learned stuff (see next post).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Happy Twitter-versary To Me!

Today is the five year anniversary of when I joined twitter (+/- a day or two).  Woot!  It has been a very quick five years.  I was a skeptic, of course, as I didn't think there was much to say or to learn in 140 characters.  I quickly learned that with links, pics, RT's and all the rest that 140c's could contain a heap of information.  More importantly, I learned that tweets could contain a heap of personality, as I have met many, many sharp, interesting, insightful, fun individuals over the five years.  Some have become friends, and some have become real-life friends.

So, twitter has been a time-sucking boon to me.  I have to be better about managing my time, as I can get distracted, especially with days like the ones we had this week.  But it is not as frivolous as I thought long ago either.  I am now better informed about events as I get multiple perspectives pretty quickly.  While my feed is not as diverse as it could be, I do get exposed to many views that I do not necessarily share.  Sure, I prune away the conspiracy theorists, the extremists and the like, but I keep following at least a handful of folks to my right and a similar handful to my left.

I have kept my feed a mix of the professional (scholars, analysts, institutions) and the personal (tv critics, a few comedians, a few interesting actors).  I originally tried to keep my twitter voice distinct from my other voices (blogging, facebook, etc), but I tend to lack the discipline.  Plus I like to be silly and tease my friends and joke about stuff.  The joy of twitter fight club was not just winning the 2nd prize of a cool flask, but of testing my snark against sharp people and meeting people I would otherwise have never met, all around the world.

I certainly tweet too much, which probably deters some folks from following me.  I tend to get more followers when I am off at a conference, which means that fewer tweets is more attractive.  I know I regulate my feed so that there are not too many over-tweeters on it.  But again, I lack discipline and have many interests so I tweet a lot.

I certainly have used twitter more consciously this year to promote the new book.  Now that the book tour is taking a siesta, I am no longer tweeting the song list.

Anyhow, I am very thankful to those who engage me via twitter.  Twitter has allowed the world to become a smaller, more interesting place.  Thanks for putting up with me.  See you on twitter (although not as much in the next week as I will be in Buenos Aires, conferencing and having the first conversations for the next big civ-mil relations project).