Archive for the 'international' Category

I am home today, enjoying a surprise day off due to the snow. I know, I know, it’s not really that bad out there — but two of my on-campus commitments were canceled anyway, and at 8:30 this morning I was worried that the 45-minute return drive on back roads might not be safe. And so, here I am.

This semester is going well so far, although somehow I think it might be my most work-intensive one yet. The fact that it’s my last semester just makes it all the harder to deal with.

I’m taking History of Modern Philosophy, a Spanish class which I originally thought was going to be way over my head but may actually turn out to be okay, Rhetorical Approaches to Non-Fiction Literature, and a couple of PE classes. I was taking a class on Jane Austen, but I didn’t need it, it was a non-trivial amount of work, and I was feeling overwhelmed. So I dropped it, but have been doing the reading and going to class anyway. It’s pretty much a perfect arrangement — I get to read and think about books I love, but I don’t have to write any papers or take any tests.

The last couple of days, though, I’ve been thinking not about Northanger Abbey, but about Israel. It started because I read excerpts from Joe Sacco’s graphic novel Palestine for Rhetorical Approaches, but what I ended up contemplating was not so much the legitimacy of the Israeli state, but the American political attitudes towards the Israeli state.

Israel wasn’t something I heard talked about much until I got to Hampshire College, where a large percentage of the student body is Jewish. Israel was an important topic, and nearly everyone supported it wholeheartedly. A number of my friends harbored fantasies of joining the Israeli army. I didn’t have much of an opinion myself, but I thought of support for Israel as a liberal stance.

Fast forward eight years to our current day post-9/11 world. While I get the impression that no one wants to be on record as being anti-Israel, I’m encountering more and more liberals who at least have Palestinian sympathies. Did I misunderstand the issue before? Or is this a shift that’s taken place over the last few years?

If it’s a shift, where’s it coming from? A reaction to the neo-con support of Israel? Or something about the issue itself? I certainly can understand taking it up as a human rights issue — but why now?

As was the case in 1999 when I first heard about the issue, I still don’t feel like I know enough about the situation to have anything close to an easy to explain opinion about it. However, though obviously one-sided, Palestine woke me up enough to start wanting to know.

Kristen’s comment on the below post made me feel a tad guilty. There have been important things going on this summer, and I have been silent. To be honest, I also feel guilty because I sometimes think maybe it took so long to reach a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah because I was worried the conflict would end before I’d weighed in. They were waiting for me, you know?

No, I’m not quite that egocentric, and it’s a terrible thing to joke about.

And I am glad that the bombings have stopped. I was amazed that they continued as long as they did — and over two kidnapped soldiers! I know it’s more complicated than that, and I do believe that Lebanon has some responsibility to keep its citizens from violently engaging other countries, but I also believe that Israel’s response was way over the top.

I’m not anti-Israel — I support their right to exist, etc., etc. — and as a result I’m tired of the attitude that anyone who criticizes Israel must be against the country as a whole. Lame.

What I am against is the extent to which the US is entangled in the Middle East, and our “special relationship” with Israel. For more on this, see this Daily Star article, forwarded by Kristin, about that relationship. To be fair, I think the article is a little over the top, and the author a little more hysterical than is good for his credibility, but nonetheless, the article made me think.

Completely unrelated (well, almost), I’ve eaten in Harrisburg more in the last two weeks than maybe in my entire life to this point. Okay, probably not quite that much. Here’s the rundown: Fisaga is overpriced and mediocre (I’m guessing most of you knew this already), Jackie Blue is pricey but yummy, Scott’s is decent on both counts, Sammy’s is about the same (in quality, not style) but offers truly Central Pennsylvania-sized portions (which I believe to be too big), and Skewers, the new Middle Eastern kabob place next to the Irish place whose name I can never remember, is very good.

Because Skewers is newer, and I’ve been there more recently, I’ll elaborate a little bit. I’ll preface it by saying I don’t really know anything about Middle Eastern food, or kabobs, so my opinions are only my opinions. On the plus side, this means that I’m not judging it on “authenticity” or any other lame criteria like that. (Authenticity, by the way, is a lame criterion because I don’t care if the recipe has remain unchanged for a thousand generations or if your little brother made it up yesterday by accident — I care about how it tastes.) On the down side, I don’t feel qualified to complain about the rice, which seemed fine to me, but my dining partner, who knows way more about Middle Eastern food than I do, felt that it could have been better. Whatever.

Back to Skewers. It’s all about meat on a stick. Really flavorful, tender meat on a stick. With excellent dipping sauces. We had samosas (not meat on a stick, but still good), a lamb appetizer (which my companion was surprised to enjoy, as he doesn’t usually like lamb), a house salad with ginger dressing (eaten at the close of the meal due to timing and mutual personal preference, a perfect way to close, much lighter than dessert), and a chicken entree. The lamb came with some kind of spicy cilantro sauce. Bread was a Romanian flat thing that came with a delicious sauce that looked like maybe it was colored with beets but tasted way better than I’d expect if that were the case. I’m feeling too lazy to try to describe it in any detail; you should just go try it for yourself. Especially because we should all be supportive of new and interesting cuisines becoming available. Entrees, I believe, are in the $15-20 range, but you could probably assemble a smaller meal of an appetizer and salad for $10. Also, it’s BYOB and the downtown liquor store closes at 6 pm, so unless you want to grab a six-pack from a neighboring bar, it might be good to think ahead.

Just because I’m not posting doesn’t mean I’m not accumulating potential things to post about. It does frequently mean I haven’t done enough reading or thinking to feel like I have anything significant to add to the conversation, but today I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and just start typing.

First up, as promised, is an attempt to make Diego feel at home. The Mexican election. I am, of course, a little behind on this one, but since it looks like it won’t be fully resolved until September, I hope you’ll forgive me. The New York Times had an interesting article on Mexico’s Red-Blue split, which is not unlike those in other Western democracies. Northern Mexico, increasingly industrialized and engaged with the US, is more conservative, while the south, very rural and poor, is more liberal. While it does sound like Obrador has a huge commitment to and track record for helping the poor, it continues to sound to me like Calderón might be a better option for long-term economic growth in the country. The south, according to what I’ve read, is very anti-globalization — but southerners are migrating northward in search of the higher-paying jobs globalization has helped to create. Like any good mostly-liberal, I am aware that globalization can have devastating effects on traditional cultures, but at this point it seems naive to try to build an isolated economy. It seems more realistic — and ultimately more effective — to work on safely growing the economy within the larger world market.

Completely changing topics, I have two major loyalty shifts to announce.

I have decided that the time has come to publicly declare my love for Burger King. This is somewhat embarrassing given my previous commitment to McDonald’s, but my silly infatuation with that McDonald’s boy was sophomoric compared to my current feelings. This love extends to the whole Burger King franchise, and I can remain silent no longer. The food is better. They serve frozen Coke. They print funny things on their packaging. And not only am I a sucker for absurd marketing, but it makes me think that somewhere, someone has a job that consists of thinking up witty things to put on hamburger wrappers. It brings a smile to my day. Thank you, Burger King, for defining “baggler” for me, for having nearly perfect french fries, and for putting that little sauce holder in the chicken fries carton. And that cupholder-sized chicken fries carton you were testing in Virginia? Go nationwide with it. Please.

As I abandon the Big Mac, though, I find myself turning to other Macs. The MacBook, that is. I ordered one on Monday, as a birthday gift from my parents, who I was a little worried might disown me when I announced that I wanted a Mac. We have been a family of PC users since the early 80′s, years before the famous Superbowl ad, and we have scoffed together at those Mac fanatics and their ridiculously colored computers and their single-button mice. But, after years of knowing that Windows is no better, I have finally decided that I am ready for something new. I’m working hard to not become a Mac fanatic, at least not before the laptop actually arrives, but I’ve been reading the tutorials and stuff on the Apple site and getting increasingly excited. The estimated delivery date is still almost two weeks away. I’m hoping they give pessimistic estimates. I don’t know if I can make it that long.

The current issue of Newsweek has interviews with Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Felipe Calderón, the Mexican presidential candidates. I’ll admit it — I’m an ignorant American — I’d never heard of them.

Anyway, I thought, based on this teeny tiny interview, that Calderón sounded like the saner choice, but my favorite thing he said was this:

I think it’s a mistake to believe that immigration will be solved by the National Guard or a new wall. The only way to reduce immigration is to create jobs in Mexico.

It’s a completely obvious statement, but I think the debate here is polarized between people who want to keep the immigrants out and people who want to let them in. Certainly it’s much easier to act within our own borders — even if it’s not very effective — but it’s not a good reason for ignoring the only approach that has any chance of achieving a long term satisfactory resolution. Maybe we should take what it would cost to build a wall and send the National Guard down there and just invest it in the Mexican economy.

Before you jump all over me, yes, I know it’s not that simple. But seriously. Think about it.

Nick Negroponte, who I’ve never heard of either, thinks he can build $100 laptops to sell to developing countries for distribution to children. The most interesting part of this, in my mind, is that it will be crank powered. That’s right — turn the crank for one minute, get ten minutes of power. Funded by such diverse backers as Rupert Murdoch and Google, “Each laptop will include a Wi-Fi radio transmitter designed to knit machines into a wireless “mesh” so they can share a Net connection, passing it from one computer to the next” (CNN).

I’ll take one.

I have to go study for my last (yay!) final, but…

“Ballot boxes are a victory of democracy over dictatorship,” Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari told reporters as he cast his vote behind the blast walls of Baghdad’s fortress-like Green Zone. “The real triumph is that people are casting ballots — whoever they choose — and that they’ve chosen voting over bombs.”

There were some problems (who runs out of ballots???), but even if the Iraqis elect a government I would completely disagree with, I think it’s definitely a good sign that they’re voting.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

My unwinding has begun at my parents’ house, where I just had a chance to read Newsweek. What a luxury, right?

Anyway, this column by Jonathan Alter isn’t really news, but it is in the same vein as a lot of the recent discussion here.

Time to go eat turkey.

I applaud the espoused sentiment behind this column by John Edwards in today’s Washington Post. He writes:

It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn’t make a mistake — the men and women of our armed forces and their families — have performed heroically and paid a dear price.

I think this is the right direction to go with the rhetoric — focusing on “We made a mistake, how can we recover from it?” rather than “Who tricked us into this?” It’s also a good alternative to the administration’s stance, which appears to be, “There was no mistake and everything’s dandy. Quick — look over there.”

Edwards proposes a three-fold plan that includes reducing our military presence in Iraq, implementing a “more effective training program for Iraqi forces,” and pursuing “a serious diplomatic process that brings the world into this effort.” I think these are good ideas — although I don’t know about reducing our military presence before replacing troops with competent Iraqi forces — but can they actually be implemented? I mean, they sound like the same ideas that have been there all along, which makes me think either the administration hasn’t even tried, or implementation is impossible. Or, I suppose, that the current leadership isn’t competent but someone else could do it.

It seems to me that the broad ideas are covered — although, as I mentioned, it is good to hear a Dem accepting responsibility for a mistake and at least saying that he wants to move on to focus on a solution — but specifics are, as always, lacking. What does a more effective training program look like? How can we convince other countries to get involved?

I certainly don’t have any ideas, and it’s probably naive of me to ask a politician to offer any real solutions, but all of this — the blame game, the acceptance of responsibility, the statement of broad objectives without steps for how to achieve them — still won’t help.

I’ve been meaning to post about the whole “France is burning” thing for a while now, but felt like I could write ten pages on it because, well, I did write ten pages on it (okay, seven), and I wanted to collect my thoughts a little better. But it has finally occurred to me that I am not going to be doing that anytime soon, so instead I’m just posting the paper. I wrote it in the spring for a Comparative Politics class and haven’t cleaned it up, so it’s slightly out of date and probably needs to be edited. But if I wait to fix it, it’ll never get uploaded.

So here it is:

Islam in France: Balancing Laïcité with Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood

As this BBC article details, the last of the settlers in the Gaza Strip have begun leaving.

I don’t know what the now former settlers are feeling, but I admire they way they have peacefully stood up for what they believe, and I like to imagine that despite those beliefs they have consciously decided that peace now is what matters most.