Sunday, October 31, 2010

Good weekend

I'm not sure how much more awesome this weekend could have been. The rally was amazing. It would have been really good if they hadn't brought out the musicians they did. Really though, I don't think there will ever be another time when that group of people will all be together for the same cause. Cat Stevens (okay fine, Yusuf Islam,) Ozzie Osbourne, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, John Legend, the Mythbusters, and everyone else there made it worth going, even if you don't like John Stewart or Steven Colbert (do people like that exist?).
There were a lot of great signs too. I won't bother putting up pictures of them, as I'm sure most of you saw the good ones, but here's the one that Alyssa, Fiona, Colin, and I made.
It reads: "I didn't have time to think of a catchy slogan because I was too busy becoming an educated voter."

Pretty much everyone I know on the east coast came to the rally, although I didn't see any of them in the crowd. It didn't help that no one's phones were working. I did get to briefly see my twin sister and my friend from Pittsburgh, though, which was nice.

It's also halloween weekend, which usually makes everything better. Going to class in costume on Friday was fun, although by far the best part was when Scott walked in as PTJ. Our batman characters in class were probably the best dressed otherwise. And although I got no sleep the night before the rally, it was worth it for our batman movie marathon. And I went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show yesterday, which may have been the strangest thing I've ever seen, but it was fun.

Today is actual halloween, and I'm hoping that it will be as good as (or better than) this weekend has already been. I'm not sure how possible that is with the amount of work I have left to do, but if there's one thing I learned this weekend, it's that sleep is just a little bit overrated. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How Secure? (a reflection)

This week definitely broadened my understanding on the concept of security.  More than military objectives, security can be surprisingly subjective, as evidenced by the laundry list of goals of the 2010 National Security Strategy.  Though it seemed less one track-minded than the NSC-68, which had a realist slant of outlining and comparing the USSR's and the U.S.'s strengths and capabilities (i.e. power, nuclear weapons), at the same time, both were created to direct opinion.  The plans, whether reasonable or illogical, became credible by appealing to emotion.  It was no accident that the U.S. was personified as the "good" superhero at war with an "evil" power.  Nationalism is a powerful tool.  Its influence can best be demonstrated by the "Duck and Cover" campaign, which my World Politics group jokingly loved to reference during last Tuesday's class.  As one ardent blogger/fervent history buff noted, "Duck and Cover become universal shorthand for the paranoid excesses of the Cold War and for every geo-political panic attack since."  The private sector was utilized to widely spread a pacifying message.1  Though the plan was ridiculous, anything goes with public morale. If society generally feels secure, is that enough of a security policy?
Anything to calm the youth of tomorrow...2

No.  Beyond the random bouts of public catharsis, there remains the question of what security currently is and what is should be.  How much is the U.S. overextending its security policy?  How much is the "War on Terror" impractical?  Can anything (anything, even fashion for instance, since it shapes morals, cultural perception, and formality of dress/negotiations) be a form of security policy?  A better perspective on U.S. security policy may be analyzed by looking at the perspecitives of other nations.  Countires such as New Zealand and the UK actually have plans to scale down airport security measures.3 This is not to say that the U.S. should not put up a strong front regarding travel security, but its emphasis may be overrated.

It was perfect timing for this week's lab to be at Christ House.  Although it was meant to frame upcoming discussions on insecurity, prosperity, etcetera, it really represents the dust hidden in the corner of the American security debate.  Though the U.S. has a hegemonic obligation to protect internationally, it must not forget its domestic underpinnings.  If enough of Americans fall below the poverty line, precautions against external threats are not going to supply food, healthcare, and a newfound sense of trust in the government.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

National Security

To decide where the boundaries to security are one first has to define it. In the process of defining something one is always forced to omit several details that are not useful for the definition. The same is true of security. It would be easy to include almost every component of society as contributing to its security, but if one did that one would have to ask if “security,” was still a useful term.

In NSC-68 security is defined primarily in terms of foreign nations, specifically the Soviet Union. As such, real power capabilities compose their concept of security. More broadly, in the document it is seen in terms of ideologies; as a battle between our values and theirs. IN Arnold Wolfers’ article he outlines Walter Lippmann view that, “a nation is secure to the extent to which it is not in danger of having to sacrifice core values, if it wishes to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by victory in such a war” (Wolfers, 488). NSC-68 fits in quite well with this definition. The authors seek to protect America’s core values from external corruption through espionage and propaganda while protecting America (and therefore its values) safe from Soviet conquest.

The 2010 National Security Strategy defines security more broadly. It sees economic issue in the mix. It would be hard to deny that the strength of our economy plays a large role in our overall security. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff, recently came out saying that the biggest threat to our national security is our national debt. Whether this claim is true not doesn’t matter particularly, what matter is that it highlights the economies impact on security.

The Nation Security Strategy goes further however. It incorporates technology, education, and immigration into its assessment of our national security. Furthermore, a group of retired generals have claimed that obesity is a national security threat. What can be seen from this document and these claims is that security is an extremely extensive issue. However, the question remains: does this expansive definition help our understanding?

I believe it does. Security must be understood in a comprehensive way that allows for a holistic approach to the subject. Looking at security simply in terms of power limits a country’s understanding and may blind them from the greater issues at stake. National safety would be a better term for this more narrow definition. Anything that would force a nation to “sacrifice core values” or cause it to lose at war should be included in its security policy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Don't Even Know Where This Week Wendt

Our main academic endeavor this past week focused on the game of Risk.  As in true war, friends were made, alliances were broken, and strategy triumphed over emotions and ethics.  Interestingly enough, although the game was framed around a realist and liberal picture, members of the teams added a constructivist element by bringing their Letts identities with them.  I had to chuckle when Erin commented, "It's not personal, guys."  Yet, politics is not contained and un-biased.  It makes me wonder how world leaders form relationships.  To what extent are leaders "friends," and to what extent are they acting out of their own interests?  Can warring states be "friends" (i.e. "Oh, good job State B on destroying our resource centers.  That was very strategic!  Now, I'm going to target your population center, if that's okay")?

Why can't we be friends?
A nice break from all the work and planning (until it was over) was Family Weekend.  It was rather re-energizing to have the support and nice to see AU in the light of a Prosbie (what a sunny day walking around campus, instead of running to an 8:30 in the rain).

Yet, coupled with spring course selection, I was reminded of my future.  What a vast concept!  To a constructivist end, it seems like my goals change with the times.  To a realist point of view, I want to do something at which I excel.  To a liberal perspective, by doing what I love, I also want to help "human"-kind.  I guess SIS may be a good fit because its focus of study is the world (everything!)  Now, I realize why there are so many specializations/concentrations within the major.  One cannot master the whole world.

... Now, to somewhat connect this post to its catchy title, let's just go with Wendt's main theme of "Anarchy is what states make of it."  Out of a blank world that leans towards chaos, with our schedules, goals, relationships, and identities, anarchy is what we make of it.  Sort of like college...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reflection on Risk

If the game of Risk taught me one thing it taught me to appease the Gods. The Greeks had it right everyone no matter what one might say about Thermopolis. Gabe and I had a certain capacity that allowed us to disregard some of the annoyances of governance. And if one is able to do something convenient, it’s awfully hard to restrain oneself from doing it.

Listen, I’m all about liberal democracy but why not spice things up a bit every now and then. In a democracy the leaders have to spend a lot of time dealing with the masses. In fact, much of their policy is geared towards garnering public opinion. A dictator doesn’t have to worry about that as much. If the people start acting up then he can just send in the troops. With the Special Ability to stay in power that Gabe was given, we were given a pre-made operational oppressive police force. It was positively wonderful! Can you really blame us for not wanting to use them? It’s kind of like in the Battle of Kursk where Hitler held back his attack because he wanted to test out the new Tiger Tank Division. Sometimes you just got to experiment. Now, one could point out that the Germans lost the Battle of Kursk but that would be missing the crucial issue. The really important point in the story is that while, yes, the Germans did lose, the Tiger Tanks performed brilliantly.


I really don't have much to say about this week. We played risk again and that was okay I guess. A lot of people REALLY got into the game. Maybe a little too much, but its over now. I had fun, but I'm happy that it's over at the same time. I did learn somethings though. For the most part I found that I was not really big on realism. However, other people in the game were heavy on the realist side of IR and I found that I was beginning to take that view just to protect myself. That just makes me think that the IR theory needed to be successful is not set in stone. These things probably change depending on how others act on the world stage. If all other states are realists a state that is more constructivist might not be able to thrive. I really am curious. If we wanted the world to follow one main theory, should we just have more of it, and pressure the others into joining. Would it work like peer pressure works. "This is the cool thing to do." or " Look everyone else is doing it." Or do these views just arise from necessity. " We have to think this way because everyone else is"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Realism,

After tonight's game, I'm starting to like you a lot better.


Diplomatic Risk

The Diplomatic Risk game was quite a nice spin on the usual game. The limited objectives made the game especially dynamic. In real life no state realistically is trying to conquer the entire world. Instead the seek their less grand national interests through both diplomatic and military means; much like in the game.

The game was incredibly fast paced. You had practically no time to send try to get a feel of what other countries were doing. Furthermore, we had no prior knowledge about what the countries wanted. In world politics the US can be sure that India isn’t trying to take over Puerto Rico but in the game the possibilities are endless. A team has to try to figure it out based solely on the team’s actions. However, because our group went second we all figured out each other’s objectives based on talking to the group before us. So, one could say that we based our ideas of their objective based on a shared history, much like in life.

The game was still completely centered around the military. Even the diplomacy was just a way to pursue military goals. The economy wasn’t involved at all. National identity was also removed from the game. None of us thought of the places where we started off as our homelands. Therefore, giving up a piece of land that didn’t matter militarily was a small price to pay for consolidating your forces. Additionally, the rules of war got thrown out the window. There was no such thing as citizens; therefore there was no collateral damage. Land ownership hinged completely on military occupation; therefore all attacks were legitimate. It was like all the rules, norms, institutions, and international laws of today’s world politics disappeared and we went back to a system of international relations similar to 16th century Europe.

While I didn’t personally see what happened at the end I find it quite interesting that three teams agreed to a tie. It sounded like the liberal poster child ending: achieved selfish goals through cooperation. And because there were no indigenous nationalist populations wiping our other countries didn’t matter. Cynthia Enloe certainly wouldn’t approve.

Overall, the game of Diplomatic Risk was a fun way to escape the intensive theoretical studies of the past few weeks and see how these theories could be used.


After many hours (I kid you not) of intense negotiations, a plan was created and executed that wiped Red completely off the board. It was a very good turn of events for every other team, mine included, although I am not at all happy that the divine power of PTJ has caused the plague to spread into my group's territory. The plague is also dangerously close to both Yellow and Black as well, so I hope that some form of agreement can be reached in order to contain it.

On a different subject, it's parents' weekend. Now that it's Sunday, parents are finally leaving. It was nice getting to see people's parents and compare them to their children ("there's no way those are his real parents, they're so normal"), and Scott baked a lot of food for them, including cookies, scones, and pumpkin pie. It was really nice and completely unnecessary. I don't really understand why he keeps being so nice to all of us. Not that I'm complaining, or anything. But seriously Scott, at least let me wash the dishes for you. 

Parents' weekend for me was really more like "mom-and- mom's friend-and-uncles-and-aunt-and-cousins-and-second-cousins-and-other-family-I've-never-met weekend." Apparently I have long-lost relatives in Bethesda, so I went up there for a really expensive dinner last night. So that was decent. I also found out today that my sister was in DC this weekend and didn't tell me. Which was stupid. But I actually woke up before noon today! Exciting news. I have a lot of work to do now, though, since I haven't done anything all weekend. So I'm going to start doing that....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Risk. Politics. Life.

What I like about Diplomatic Risk as opposed to regular Risk is that, like in real life, it is NOT everyone's goal to dominate the entire world and destroy everyone else. Instead, each group has their own specific goal, that may or may not involve war, and may or may not come into conflict with certain other groups' goals. It is far more realistic that way - and makes alliances more possible and more trustworthy than in normal Risk. Every group has their own goals, and working toward those goals is working toward their own self-interest. Self-interest does not necessarily mean conquering a lot of territory.
The game is much more fast-paced than in real life, obviously. Alliances are not so quickly made and broken, war not usually so suddenly declared, and it's highly unlikely that a plague would not be able to be contained to one continent (unless of course, the plague is actually zombies like we've been saying all along). The secret powers that each group has is also kind of unrealistic. Those powers get really extreme, and unlike in real life, there's no chance of them failing. Also, another large difference between the game and real life, is that the groups that were formed had no previous loyalty to their group or color. That probably made it easier to cross nationalistic boundaries and form alliances.
I don't know how much communication is an issue in real life, but I've definitely observed communications failures between the diplomats and heads of state - whether it's the diplomats not carefully studying the board before making decisions, or the heads of state deciding to do something other than what the group agreed on. I'm guessing that there's more accountability in real life, and there is also more time to formulate and clarify any plans.

Risky Business

Some claim that, "all is fair in love and war."  In the game of Diplomatic Risk, I felt that this could not have been more true.  Though general, "constructed" norms and rules existed (i.e. directions of gameplay, verbal rather than physical duels), teams were free to achieve their objectives by various means.  On a micro scale, many features of world politics had to be factored into decisions:  economic resources, military capacity, population, etc.  Teams could not isolate themselves from the "real world" and expect to "win."

One of the most important and most impressive features of the simulation was the fervor with which diplomatic relations were formed.  Although the diplomats had the power to formally announce negotiations, it seemed like all members of a group entity had the capacity to influence the decision.  It was not uncommon for random members to schmooze on the side, for members of one team to eavesdrop on another's conversation, or for the heads of state to talk on their own time.  What was perplexing was when to determine how much information was sufficient to make a decision.  Gathering information took time for the game's rounds, even without the help of bureaucracy and other institutions.  Yet, if a head of state made a snap decision, for more than one team he/she was accused of acting in his/her own personal interests.  For me, this changing atmosphere had a realist mood.  It was essential to have trust in other teams as well as the members of your team, but promises can be broken so easily.  Alliances themselves are risks, so it was surprising that other teams agreed to Blue's for so long.

Thus, Diplomatic Risk has proven that the sphere of world politics is not bound by IR theories, but the social relations framing them.

However, what our Diplomatic Risk failed to consider was the indefiteness of world politics.  Diplomatic Risk is a nice, simulated game because each team has clear objectives and "super powers."  Yet, the goals of a country may change over time.  Additionally, this Risk took a liberal agenda for granted.  All teams participated with an essentially equal voice to better themselves and therefore the whole.  Now, not all countries have the same authority or interest to bargain. 

Risk, as well as world politics, is socio/economically/politically/everything constructed.  With a statement like this:
The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided.  It is sometimes better to abandon one's self to destiny.  ~Napoleon Bonaparte
Would not IR theorists have different opinions?  Countries?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Risk and the Real World

In the game of risks, each team has a goal that they must accomplish to win. With this goal comes a lot of strategic actions in order to further your ambitions whether it be world peace or world domination. In this aspect, risk is a lot like the international world. Every state has its own goals and it acts to make strides in gaining that goal. There is also a lot of double crossing and rescinding statements of allegiance, withholding and fabricating information in order to win. I think this also stays true to the world of world politics. Just because a head of state says something, it doesn't mean that he/ she will do it. Just because one country extends an alliance to another, it doesn't mean that the other country has to accept. With the game of risks, there are some rules on how things HAVE to happen. In the real world, these could be seen as socially constructed norms that exists in the international system. It was a given, if you wanted to go to war with another team you had to be follow the rules of the game. Although forced upon us, they began to be seen as simply "how it is" and no one questioned, this rule or the rules pertaining to order of play etc. With this being said somethings were not realistic like the random zombie plaque that wouldn't stop spreading unless each team gave two armies. I don't think that is really likely to stop the spreading of a disease. Another thing that was not realistic was the secret weapon that each team has. In the real world, the secret weapons are not limited to single states. The ability to go to war with any state even if they are your allies is not a singular power nor is guerrilla warfare. In the game, we are able to see the different IR theories being implemented by each group and their diplomats, some have a large realist stance at times with their trust no team attitude, others display liberal ideals with their questions of, how can this benefit me and how can we mutually gain from this deal. And every team was given an identity when they were given their sheet of paper listing their goals and ambitions. All in all I feel this is really helping us to really see how IR theory is used and how the international system works on a finite level in our classroom.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Opera and The Game of Risk

I thoroughly enjoyed this past week. I did two things that I had never done, playing risk and going to an opera. I honestly feel that last weeks class playing risk was the best class I had in World Politics. The class finally put things into perspective in terms of REAL international relations. I was the diplomat for my team, so i got to see first hand how states might interact. I got to experience a situation in a realist point of view. Every team had their own interests that they were trying to further, in the game in order to win. This whole situation cause us to suspect other teams of world domination, begin to unite in order to protect ourselves, and secure a win. It was a state of anarchy because no one really knew whether what the teams true intentions were. We did not know whether to trust that the red team really only want X and the black team really only wanted Y. Then Professor Jackson introduced things into the game like the man eating virus that would continue to spread if all five teams didn't donate two armies. I started to think, "For the good of humanity or the ability to protect my interests?" I still don't know what to do and it is only a board game. It is really a person's job to make that decision.

As for the Opera, I was really excited to have that Prince. I am really thankful to the UC program for giving students the opportunity to experience culture they might not have before. Unfortunately, Salome wasn't my favorite. I don't think I hate opera as an art form. I just think that maybe I should go see something else. My fatigue could have played a part in my likeness of the opera, but I will not know until I go again. All in all this was a busy week full of new and exciting things. I look forward to having more.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

World Politics = LIFE?

This week was a whirlwind for SIS-105-081 UC.  Not only were there pancakes (physical and moral support) with our essays, but there was also an opera and a game as real as Jumanji.

Going to the opera was very exciting.  Interested in theater/Broadway (maybe not as much as some people on our floor, but that is going to change), I was in awe as I stepped into the Kennedy Center.  As PTJ noted, it definitely was "red-carpet"-ed.  Yet, despite its glamour, it stood out because of its D.C. prestige:  the international array of flags and Kennedy's bronze head in the lobby.  The atmosphere was exhilarating.  However, what made me stop and question this "bubble" was a UC friend, "What is this?  Is this just the thing old, white people do?"  Indeed, there were many "white" Tuesday theater-goers (some more impolite/snobby than others) strutting into the theather, and the previous night, my "white" grandmother was ecstatic for my opportunity to see an opera.  However, I almost think this was because of circumstance.  Though operas can be expensive and "high culture," Salome depended on its location (What part of D.C. is the Kennedy Center located?) and audience (biblically rooted performance).  Looking at history, operas or performances-like-operas have spanned across cultures (i.e. Japan's "No" [Noh? sp.]).  Though sometimes inclusive because of their language, their universal truths are not only meant for the elite.
     Needless to say, I enjoyed the opera, not necessarily for the acting (for I am even more graceful than Salome!), but for the music and pretense of it all.  One can be critical about art, but the best way to judge it is simply by seeing if one can enter its "unwilling suspension of disbelief."  I went there, so the opera had to be at least decent.

Then, in other news, Diplomatic Risk was quite the game.  I had never played regular, realist Risk before, so it took me a bit to adjust to the "diplomatic" aspect as well as the game itself.  However, I think it has proven that many in our class were born to be diplomats.  I did not realize how much one had to see the future of events (consequences) and how much bargaining had to be done to get goals accomplished.  There cannot only be a Plan A, but also B, C, and D.  In future class periods, I look forward to making some sly negotiaions myself.

Of Operas and Risk

This past week was interesting, to say the least. Although going to the opera was not a new experience for me, it was very different in several ways. It was the first one I've seen in the US, the first one I've seen with surtitles, and the first one I've seen in a language that I actually understand (which was a really good thing, since I was sitting in the back row and apparently need stronger contacts - I couldn't read the words). It was fun though, if that's the right word. As everyone was getting ready, I wondered why we bother to get dressed up. For most of the time, everyone is sitting down in a dark room. No one's looking at anything but the stage. As much as I hate dressing up though, I realized that if no one did, it would be a completely different experience. Sure, there's no practical reason to wear anything other than jeans and a t-shirt, but doing so adds to the sophistication of it all. It's actually really necessary.

Playing Risk on Tuesday was amazing. Although there were some communication issues between the diplomats and the heads of state, it was really fun. Normal risk is fun. Diplomatic risk is awesome. It was so awesome that I continued negotiations with a few groups for about an hour after class had finished. Of course, this being just a game, everyone's willing to take more risks in terms of alliances and agreements, making the game move even further away from realism. I really enjoyed it, and can't wait to find out how the game continues on Tuesday.

Sam Raimi and Salome walk into a bar...

Once we were divided up we all took a look around the room ⎯ sizing each other up. The men and women we saw we had lived with, dined with, laughed with, struggled with; but now we were pitted against each other ⎯ it was wonderful!

I love how many different ways there are to achieve your objective in this game of Diplomatic Risk. Each team can approach it from so many different angles and theories. On top of it all, since we’ve all gotten to know each other, there’s the added element of reading the person your talking with. However, you don’t know if what they are portraying is their true thoughts or simply a guise.

I think my favorite part of the first day of the game was when Jaime and Kate got into their little scrap. Kate is pursuing a very obvious means of achieving her team’s objective. I’m not sure how it will play out now. Her attempt to get us all to sign treaties may just be a fa├žade but I doubt it. And Jaime is far more incredulous then I. He was ruthless in calling her peacemaking efforts out. I can’t speak more about the game until it’s over for security reasons.

On another note, Salome was amazing. They captured the humor so incredibly well. When Salome was trying to get Johanna to kiss her I was about to roll from my chair. Yet, at the same time, the grotesque tragedy remained at center stage. It reminded me of a Sam Raimi film in some ways. The tension was built up through suspense and use of the taboo until the audience required some sort of catharsis. Then, humor was used to release this tension and keep the audience alert.

The music was also marvelous. I didn’t know that composers were experimenting with Opera in that way at that time. The music was very sophisticated. Instruments were used in very surprising ways to elicit very unique feelings. I personally love the use of the tuba. As the strings were twiddling how some major modal center the tubas would find a very different minor modal center to create a completely different and dissonant layer. That sort of texturing in the music was incredibly impressive.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's A Beautiful Day... in the Debating World

These past two weeks have definitely looked most college students in the face and dared them to test their character.  With midterms, essays, and simulations being thrown as a whirlwind, it is crucial to take cramming, caffine, and the unexpectedly warm D.C. weather as refuge.
     In my case, sometimes the brain takes a break by trying to find upbeat, if not positive, songs.  Hence, U2's signature was floating through my head during cross country practice last Tuesday, as well as when I was working on assignments various nights.
Yet, despite the antagonizing work, it is always ironically interesting...

In the case of our WP Simulation, I was so excited because I had never really participated in a debate/simulation before.  The 8-minute presentation period seemed intimidating at first.  Could an argument really be sustained for that long period of time?  However, as evidenced during the simulation, all groups were very creative in their arguments.  I definitely was impressed by the amount of Sierra Club's logic, rather than appealing to Mother Earth.  Although I knew in advance GM's position, it was still impressive that it favored globalizaton, despite its domestic roots.

What was most difficult about the debate was probably connecting logic.  It is one thing to give a presentation about a memorized topic that is completed within itself, but it is another when all are debating on the same topic, and their points need to be considered.  I admit that I felt a little overhelmed when I first listened to the Sierra Club/UAW proposals because they were so sound.  It was important to concentrate on the fortitude of my own group's stance.

It was a little dissappointing that Ambassador Quainton did not make a firm decision because everyone and nobody won.  Yet, I suppose that is possibly why policy seems "slow" in the real world.  Opposing views have to consider the consequences of their arguments, but the consequences are difficult to predict in our fast-paced world.  In relation, I had a Leadership Gateway Simulation the same day as the WP Simulation, except it was on an international scale.  The theme of consequence remained the same.  As a member of the BBC media group, it is difficult to make a definitive judgment about the soundness of policy when many areas affect a certain policy (i.e. WP:  auto industry, job industry, technological sector, environmentalists, etc.), and all must be considered before a final report.

Monday, October 11, 2010

This Week Was...

This past week was very enjoyable....when it ended. Working on the project with my group was amazing. I got to talk to people I usually don't talk to, and I got to know some of my classmates better. I felt that my group worked together exceptionally well. Whenever people had conflicts we found a way to work around them. I still was sort of stressed out about the presentation, the control freak that I am. I always obsess over what to say, and the fact that I was in the rebuttle section prevented me from knowing exactly what I would be saying. I was more than relieved when the projects were over. I feel like I did okay.

Also during that week I went to a meeting about the genocide in Darfur. The man who talked to us had been on the Sudan Freedom walk. The walk started from outside the UN in NewYork and Ended at the Whitehouse. The man, whose name is alluding me, was given to another family as a slave. When people think of slavery, they think of it as a figment of the past. He let us know that right now the ethnic tribes in Sudan were being enslaved. Another man's entire family was killed. It really hurt my heart to hear these things. All the people who spokeand walked told us that they did so inorder to inspire change. They did so inorder to show action when many other individuals were JUST talking. This session put the world in perspective for me. I am free todday but others are not. I am alive and have a family, but others do not. I have a government that protects me, not one that advocates and supports the killing of my people. I am greatful, but I feel sort of guilty. How many people really know what is going on in the world, in places like Sudan. What are people doing to help? Do people even care?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Simulated Emotion

The minor simulation proved to be quite the stimulating experience. It led us down paths of thoughts hitherto unexplored. New ground was charted and our skills as mind cartographers were heightened. However, I feel what impacted me the most was how appealing to emotion was far more effective than using reason to prove our point.The video my group (The Sierra Club) put forward several firmly grounded and solid arguments. While we did use hyperbole to stretch the horrible effects repealing the tariff would provoke, our video was basically just one long argument. However, I found that the groups that used music and incredibly tropic video to support their case to be far more persuasive. The Foreign Auto Manufacturers particularly impressed me with their video. It expressed several arguments that had merit on the surface but would never stand up to a decent rebuttal. For example, they talked at length how they are bringing jobs into the US, and because removing the tariffs would save them money, they could therefore bring in more jobs. However, they failed to recognize that the only they are bringing jobs to the US is because of the tariffs. But it didn’t matter. That was the beauty of it. Due to how wonderfully edited and put together their video was the arguments in it seemed to express some sort of metaphysical depth that transcended all logic. How could one argue against such banal, tropic, yet heartwarming music placed over such recycled video of hard working and ironically all-American folks? It was impossible. Thankfully they spoke afterwards which helped to dispel the charms they had clocked us with. As a side note, I found it amazing that no one in the other group for the tariffs brought up the point that removing them would violate NAFTA.>That seems like a somewhat essential point and I wish that I had stressed it more.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reflection, week... what is this? 7? 8? I don't even know anymore

I wasn't there for the end of the simulation because I had to go to class. I heard that basically, the pro-tariff groups won, because none of our arguments were strong enough, so the policy wasn't changed.
I guess we could all have used a little improvement, but overall I thought every group did a good job (for what I was there for, anyway). Everyone's videos, at least, were awesome. And I'm really proud of mine because I've never used imovie before, but it turned out pretty good.

And now that that's done, we have this essay due on Wednesday. Yayy..... not really. But I've gotten a lot done already, which is good. It's also a short essay, which is good. And this week was good, which is good. Hopefully the weekend will continue to be good, even though I have 3 midterms next week. My sleep schedule is completely off at this point.... but hey, staying up until 4 am every day isn't necessarily bad.
So. This is the most informal post I've written so far, but I figure that's okay because we had no class this week, a simulation, and we have an essay due next week. I'll be turning in a lot of work.
And now to finish that essay....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Micro Minorities (and a State Dept. tangent)

(I felt like writing something a bit more substantial than my recent posts.  This attempt may prove illogical and circuitous, but here goes . . .)

Last Thursday, we discussed human rights in relation to IR.
For some theorists, this statement would be non-sensical.  Human rights?  Minorities?  How much do they affect a nation state's politics, economics, and culture?  After all, Machiavelli uplifted the power of the state and security (military) were preeminent.

On the other hand, Machiavelli recognized the stability behind glory, which came from the respect of the populace.

To that extent, it seems that human rights are crucial to IR theory.  More than a bullet point on an agenda, their credibility dervies from the people themselves.  As discussed in class, a "silent majority" is dangerous because it catalyzes revolt.  Yet, these revolts (domestic, especially) may be ignored beause they inhibit the efficiency of the political process.  While this may be true, IR theories should recognize the "butterfly effect."  All problems cannot be analyzed, but it is realistic to turn inward to the micro scale when there is a macro problem such as poverty/unequal distribution of wealth.

This may seem that minorities are a means then, rather than an ends.  Minorities serve political purposes and their relation to the philanthropist.  However, it almost seems too cruel to think of human rights as an additional way to serve those who have the potential of power.  Yet, why are there minorities?  Who constitutes the "marginalized"?  Are they labels we impose?  Are they created because if one is not "self," he/she is "other"?  Identity is created and subjective.

Because of last Tuesday's buzzword, "institutions," it makes me wonder whether we can consider minorities or general human rights an instution.  Based on Princeton U's definiton, an instituion is "a custom that for a long time has been an important feature of some group or society."  Institutions are created and change the (power) structure of IR.  Per courtesy of WP class, instituions are inefficient to realists, physical and efficient bodies that facilitate interaction to liberals, and identity dependent with moral implications for constructivists.  Human rights may be all three (and more) if we follow Enloe's advice not to "underestimate their power".

(P.S.  Also, I really enjoyed our little chat with Dr. Howard on Wednesday [what an insightful and candid man!]  His claim about the lack of daily application of IR theory was interesting, however.  I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing.  The world has to be approached holistically.  As economists need to stop relying on the "scientific" and "logical" reasoning behind their polarized theories (Wisman 1-15),  we cannot strip the world's needs down to three ideologies.  It is important to actively participate in IR, not just contemplate on what shapes it.)

Miller, George. WordNet. Princeton University, 20 Sep 2010. Web. 5 Oct 2010.
Wisman, Jon. "Keynesian Economics and Economists' Views on the State." Forum for Social Economics .
     16. (1986): 1-15

Monday, October 4, 2010

soo..aparently I am a marganilized individual in world politics class

I didn't identify myself as a person without a voice in class. If I wanted to speak I would raise my hand and say something. When I got the blue lightsaber I asked myself, "Why is he giving me this?" I was sure other people should have it. There are people, that even in small groups, do not speak. I'm not shy, class discussions don't intimidte me into silence. I just like to speak when I have something to say that I think is really important to the discussion. Having the lightsaber didn't make me feel like I was imbued with some holy power to speak. I didn't need that. When I got the lightsaber, I did not feel like all of a sudden I was all powerful. I feel that at anytime I can put in my own opinions. So I ask, why did I get the lightsaber? Why did he say he was giving it to the bottom rungs, me and Rachel. This makes me wonder, does this happen to real people? Do groups see themselves as having a voice, feeling completely sure of their ability to speak, but the "authority" decides that you are a silent and marginalized population. In spanish class we are studying idiomatic expression using parts of the body. One that I feel is appropriate for this situation is, "En boca cerrada no entran moscas". This means silence is golden. In this situation, I take it as meaning silence is golden when you make the conscious choice not to speak. When the chance to speak is not denied you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I Got The Power

In class today, I was handed the red lightsaber.

At first I didn't want it. I felt like by having it I was supposed to fulfill some sort of PTJ role, which I was definitely not prepared enough to do. Even when I had something to say at the beginning, I didn't because I felt like it wouldn't be intelligent enough to match my role as holder of the red-lightsaber-of-authority. After a while, though, I said a few things, and I started to enjoy the power that I had. I felt like because I had the power to say what I wanted when I wanted, it mattered more.
I also felt like it was sort of my responsibility to make sure Fiona got to talk occasionally, so when I realized that she had been raising her hand for a while without getting to speak, I started glancing over every now and then so that if she wasn't getting a chance to talk enough I could call on her.

I never really felt like I was marginalized in class - when I don't talk, it's because I either don't have anything to say, or because I don't want to say it because I don't like talking in class and someone else would probably say it better. But when I was handed the authority to say what I wanted when I wanted, suddenly my opinions seemed more legitimate to me, and I felt like I had the right to say them. I wonder if it is similar for marginalized populations - maybe they don't always feel like they want to say something, but when their opinions matter, then they might realize that they do have legitimate opinions. I mean, I'm sure its not that way in a lot of cases, but that might be a factor contributing to the silence of some groups of people.

Also, about the point that Elle brought up about the people in The Moral Underground, I believe that if a group of people has the option to speak up and try to change their situation, they should do so, even if it would make things worse in the short term. Because if it makes things better in the long term, that's a better option than doing nothing at all.