Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Accident

Last Friday after carefully deliberating for about 30 seconds, I decided to head down to Wesleyan University in Connecitcut to visit my friends Laura and Sara with who I studied in Budapest. I was about 2/3 of the way there enjoying a fine biography of Eisenhower and talking to my mother on the phone when it happened. If the narrative is getting a little boring - the pictures should excite you.

I was traveling South on I-91 in very heavy rain going about 60-65 mph. All of a sudden the car completely lost control and fish tailed a complete 180 degrees. So, I'm facing the wrong direction in the middle of the freeway traveling backwards at about 60 mph. I'm pretty sure I avoided any heroic words of wisdom at this my finest hour and instead went with the ever-used response to dramatic situations: OH SHIT, OH SHIT, OH SHIT, OH SHIT.

So after I was facing the wrong direction and careening down the highway, I eventually continued this path but moved over to the ditch. After awhile of careening through the grassy ditch, I met the trees further off front and center. Because of the angle, I hit the trees with the back end of the car and basically turned an Alero in a trunkless Prius. I couldn't really see the road at this point, but I found the phone that had ended up on the floor. I explained to my mom that I wasn't hurt, and then turned to getting the hell out of Massachusetts.

Calling 911 should usually be a calming element, but when the guy asked where I was and I couldn't pinpoint it exactly cuz all interstates look the same, he grew hysterical. I was thinking, "I'm the one that just about died and you're yelling at me?" He couldn't deal with my calm antics so he transferred me over to the Massachusetts state Patrol who were very helpful.

Except its apparently a crime to crash, so i got a citation for impeded operation because apparently it wasn't enough that I just had a near-death experience and my car was totaled. Bud Light needs a new commercial, "Here's to you Massachusetts State Patrolman" - Asshole.

The tow druck driver was great, dropped my car off to get fixed and left me and all of my car's belongings at the local Dunkin Donuts - wow what an unfriendly place, but the homeless guys that wandered in were comforting. I wasn't the only squatter.

Luckily enough, my friends Erik and Emily agreed to come down and rescue me from the coffee world and took me back up to Midd. On our way back I got these pictures of my tragic car.

Good thing is I came out uninjured, neck hurts a bit and I discover a few bruises everyday but nothing major. I've driven so much and never been in a serious accident - oh well guess it happens to everyone.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Bi-polarity of college life

Last night, Orange Crush played to the ever affectionate crowd of Middlebury College. They are a really good 80s cover band that biannually returns to Midd. The college is in the midst of trying to raise $500 million over the next several years. They raised half of it last night. This brings me to my point, there were a few hundred of the smartest college students, myself included, dancing like idiots to Madonna and Bon Jovi. All I could think about was how these crazy people were going to run the world someday and make that $500 million several times over. Many of them have Teach for America and Goldman Sachs interviews planned alongside shots of vodka.

I mean I know everyone needs to loosen up and have a good time, but imagine the feedback of 20 yr old facebook pictures of Steve Jobs or Donald Trump passed out on a couch in a college dorm. How will social networking sites shape the future - it shall be interesting indeed.

In other news, James Piscatori , a noted Middle East scholar at Oxford spoke at Middlebury. I went to his key note address and came away appreciating the voice of British academics. They have a way of capturing eloquence in speeches unheard in the states. Or as my friend Dexter said about Anatol Lieven, "he talks funny."

The substance of his talk was interesting as well. Well not really, because he was quite general, but the intersting thing he said was that there are factions developing in the Middle East and they have some political power. Pluralism is prospering. This is promising but also very scary. The power of Islamists can rise and fall with the attitudes of public opinion. In Morocco and Turkey, Islamic parties have swept into power and have largely gone about their tasks through peaceful means.

In Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, and other places, politicized Islamic groups have not responded through peaceful means and continue to threaten the stable order in those countries. My thoughts after reading and talking with friends who have travelled to the Middle East and the Islamic world is that countries that are open will choose peaceful leaders. The young and moderates in Iran don't like their president and want normal relations with the world. The Algerians I taught English to were more pragmatic about US middle east policy than a lot of Americans I've talked to.

So I thought it was really promising that Piscatori said factions were developing, but it doesn't mean democracy is proliferating. There is a lot the US can do to promote these various groups. The other intersting thing I took away from his talk was the idea of a larger Sunni and Shia blocs developing in the region. The various groups in Iran and Iraq are cooperating to a larger degree than I had thought, and doing it despite US warnings. This is me not Piscatori: America would be within its soveriegn rights to attack Iran for this action, though I think its a bad idea.

While the development of factions is promisng, the idea of large religious ideological blocs is a bit scary. Still the development of the reformation led to the rise of the nation-state and eventually democracy so we should be weary of criticizing all macro religious developments.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

It's Pure Politics

First off, I had better respond to my brother Matt's argument about my post on Iowa and its caucuses.

The one thing I like from his argument is that the primaries/caucuses should be consolidated later in the year. This is great, but it will never happen. John Edwards started running for the nominee on November 3, 2004. The candidates and the states will never allow the dates to be reigned in, though I support this whole-heartedly.

Instead let's try to get what we can. Matt lives in Tacoma, Washington, probably the biggest thing undercutting his entire argument. He tries to say that Iowa is more conservative than "some places in America." True, we are more conservative than about 10 states and more liberal than about 30. Matt also thinks Iowa is pretty homogenous. Wrong. Iowa City, and Des Moines are much more socially liberal than the rest of Iowa. And that is where all the poeple live. Iowans widely elect Senator Tom Harkin, one of the most liberal members of the Senate, and Charles Grassley, largely one of the most conservative members. The representatives are all over the spectrum and the Statehouse is largely split down the middle. To say Iowa isn't mainstream America is laughable. Sure we're not Seattle, New York, or Chicago, but we're sure as hell not Topeka, Birmingham, or Columbus.

And Matt does make a good point, Gravel, Kucinich, and Paul do have some good, new ideas. That doesn't dispute the fact that they are still idiots. To have the foreign ministries of several countries, and the US State Department issues its own statement is definitive evidence that I'm right, they are idiots.

So, what does this mean. Iowa should stay first. We are responsible. We shouldn't be first alone. As we saw with Kerry, Iowa does matter, maybe a bit too much. Let's have Iowa, South Carolina and a Western state be the first three barometers of the candidates. Some geographic and political diversity would be a valuable addition to the contest, but Iowa deserves its place.

I'm Back

It has been quite some time (shout out to Dallen) since I have written anything on here. A couple of friends and relatives focusing on international affairs and politics have thrown up links to my site, so I might shift my discourse to covere these areas and humour them. Since this is my first post since this summer, I thought I would go two routes: A) update a little bit about the personal life and B) throw out some views on the current political scene.

First and foremost, my recent proposal for a Fulbright Scholarship in Croatia has taken over my life(picture is Dubrovnik). After consulting with professors and removing all references to the first hand "tourism" I had hoped to experience, I shifted my proposal to studying Croatia's accession to the European Union. Croatia is currently the leading contender among all European states. Before the EU Constitution failed in France and the Netherlands, Croatia's hopes for accession looked more promising than ever. Now they have some ethnic tensions, macroeconmic policies, and judicial statutes to remedy before they can become a full member.

I wasn't too excited about my actual proposal, just swimming in the Adriatic, when I got an email from several professors in Croatia that agreed to sponsor my proposal and offered to publish my results in the Croatian yearbook on EU law. This was quite a wake up call, and now I'm just counting down the days until I find out when I'm leaving. I just discovered today that Clinton's ambassador to Croatia and a Kurdish expert is speaking at our town's public library. My charm will come out in full force on that night.

Also, I've decided I want to be a foreign correspondent for a major newspaper as my life's work, so hence why I've started up the blog again. It's a good way to keep my energies focused on the news and keep me writing.

Middlebury is such a terribly busy place, and I've come out of my shell a bit as a senior. I've been hiking, playing soccer and golf, partying, and trying to fit in academics as well. I'm also writing about the women's soccer team for the newspaper - I'll throw up some links for those interested. Our IM soccer team is awesome when we show up and terrible when I'm the lone member on the team present.

I'll be much better at keeping updated from here on out with lots of witty tirades - I'm already thinking of some of the stereotypical people on this campus I hate, but I'll hold back for now.