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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shoutout for a fellow blogger

I'd just like to use this oh-so-brief post to plug for my buddy Nick's blog. A self-professed music nerd, he's going against the grain on a musical journey that will open your ears to some underloved tunes from days gone by. I can vouch for Nick's unique taste - and while we may not always agree, he's always got a new idea fluttering around that encyclopedic mind of his. Enjoy the journey, I know I will!

Check it out here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Paper: Response to Dr. Roy Germano's "The Other Side of Immigration"

“The Other Side of Immigration” Review/Response
Last Monday I attended a screening of Dr. Roy Germano’s “The Other Side if Immigration.” This film (and following Q&A session with Germano) was a revealing and interesting experience and an entertaining evening. Germano filmed “Immigration” while doing research for his doctoral thesis in Michoacán, Mexico. Originally he began filming his interviews with local residents out of curiosity, but his curiosity quickly grew into a large project that would involve interviewing over 700 families and receiving funding from the National Science Foundation.
            Within the film, I was introduced to the Mexican side of Illegal Immigration and migrant workers for the first time. While viewed at worst as an affront to the United States’ sovereignty (and at best a severe annoyance) in Texas, Mexicans see “the issue” in an entirely different light. For instance, Mexicans view immigration as a temporary engagement in order to provide for their families. Migrant workers find the cheapest accommodations in town, and pack themselves in to the brim – often resulting in 10 to 12 roommates in a small apartment. Many work multiple jobs and live off of pennies on the dollar, sending the rest home to their families. Illegal immigration to the U.S. has become a necessity for many because of a lack in local well-paid work, since the funds given by the Federal government to lessen unemployment and empower small businesses are quickly scooped up by corrupt local officials. Another interesting aspect was the opinion of Mexicans about American response. The strict regulations and border maintenance by Americans are viewed as a personal insult to many Mexicans, giving rise to my favorite quote from the film: “It is wrong to build fences between people.” Simplistic in understanding, yet deep in meaning.
After the film, Germano opened up a short Q&A session. During this time, Germano hammered home his personal beliefs regarding the issues at hand. Germano talks about immigration problems in a way many doctors talk about disease – you can manage the symptoms, or address the root cause. And addressing the symptoms in the form of a $4 million-per-mile fence isn’t the solution to our ailment. When asked if he thought a revolution lies in Mexico’s future, he suggested that what we should expect is a lessening in Mexico’s government corruption. Germano suggests that an increase in education could make citizens “feel more comfortable holding their politicians accountable.”
Overall, I really enjoyed the evening. Others found issue with the music, but I enjoy both groups I recognized (Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket) and therefore had no qualms about the soundtrack. The cinematography was also pretty solid for candid interviews, only a few minor audio hiccups from shifting the camera distracted viewers. I wish the showing had been a larger event, and would definitely recommend the film to anyone interested or uninformed about current immigration issues.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Paper: Neorealism in Egypt’s Interstate Effects

Neorealism in Egypt’s Interstate Effects
Egypt has taken the news media by storm over the past few weeks. As the local political scene is flooded with citizens voicing their protest against President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the international scene watches on with varying degrees of concern. Two nations in particular demand notice because of their unique relationships with Egypt – relationships that may change dramatically if political control is wrested from Mubarak’s hands.
The first of the aforementioned nations is North Korea, as covered in a recent article by The Christian Science Monitor. North Korea, a nation at odds with much of the world, has a surprisingly close relationship with Egypt. Egypt is home to “the biggest foreign investor in North Korea,” and has a history of cooperation with North Korea’s military (Kirk 2). At first glance, this may seem as if Egypt desires open conflict against North Korea’s enemies, but after further analysis Egypt is revealed to be merely a nation operating under neorealist motives.
Both North Korea and Egypt have neorealist philosophies when interacting with each other. Each is self-interested: North Korea gains a potential ally, a hub for weapon sales, and a mobile phone network (from Egypt based Orascom). On the other side, Egypt gains weapons training and technology, revenue for Orascom, and aid from North Korea as well as the United States.
At the Individual level of analysis, two factors are significant: Kim Jong-il’s relationships with Mubarak and Naguib Samiris. Mubarak actually forged ties with North Korea’s ruler after a long relationship with his father, Kim II-sung. This relationship has continued to present day. In fact, Kim Jong-il recently wished Mubarak a Happy New Year – regarded by many as “evidence of North Korea’s decades of support” (Kirk 1) and a pledge of future aid. Naguib Samiris heads Orascom, the “biggest mobile phone company in the Middle East” (2) and the biggest foreign investor in North Korea. Orascom recently created North Korea’s only mobile phone network, Koryolink, in 2008 (2). Jong-il relies on Orascom’s business and investment immensely, and has “honored Mr. Samiris with the kind of state dinner generally reserved for the few chiefs of state who have visited Pyongyang” (2). Samiris personally prefers the democratic side of the current political debate, but cannot change the fact that his company “thrives on close ties to Mubarak” (2) So for the foreseeable future; Egyptian politics, Egyptian-North Korean relations, and the future of the Orascom group appear to be intertwined.
Egypt’s influence in North Korea demonstrates the different definitions of power. North Korea is dependent on Egyptian investment and the Egyptian-made mobile network, demonstrating Egypt’s immense economic power – even as the United States sends Egypt foreign aid because of its emerging/developing nation status. Also, because of Egypt’s relevance to North Korea, Egypt is indirectly protected by North Korea’s deterrence strategies.
However, North Korea is not the only country with a large interest in the political situation in Egypt. Israel is also very aware of the doings of the country, and its role as an uneasy spectator was highlighted in a New York Times article. In this article, Israel is portrayed as a nation walking the border between neorealist and neoliberal while “following events closely” (Kershner 1) Israel is clearly self-interested, acting as a defensive neorealist seeking self-preservation. Most of Israel’s neighbors are strongly opposed to Israel’s existence, so Israel has kept its relations with Egypt – the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel – as civil as possible. While attempting to remain optimistic, some Israelis proposed “the tumult in the region and the uncertainty of the future would make it harder for Israel to take risks for a peace agreement or to make far-reaching decisions” (3). Yet still others like Oded Eran, director of the Institute for National Security Studies, remain confident that “almost any government in Egypt would want to maintain the pact,” leaving the Israeli plan for dealing with Egypt just as ambiguous as Egypt’s political future (2).
Israel and Egypt also share committed relations on the Individual level. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly “confers regularly with… Mubarak,” sharing in strategic discussions as recent as January 6th (1). Binyanin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli politician known for his connections with senior Egyptian officials, was quoted in the article saying “’the cooperation between us goes beyond the strategic’” (1). However at further levels, a few factors exist that complicate the situation. Domestically, Israel is still being boycotted by Egyptian society after over 30 years of peace (1). Palestinians - Israel’s traditional enemies - appear satisfied with peace today, but may not be tomorrow if Egypt reneges on the long-standing peace agreement (2-3). At the Interstate level, Israel stands against the vast majority of the Arabic world on a daily basis, and having the long border with Egypt open to enemies could potentially ruin Israel.
Chaos within Egypt affects both Israel and North Korea’s futures for years to come. Despite this relevance, both do nothing more than wait out the storm and observe from a distance. Each nation is thinking in its own self-interest and will not attempt to intervene unless the previous status quo in Egypt appears under serious threat. The United States is also a spectator rather than an influence in Egypt’s behavior, laying down the typical role of hegemon for the time being. The United States is also acting as a defensive neorealist. Overdrawn in Middle Eastern conflict and recovering from an economic recession while facing one of the most politically divisive legislatures in history, the United States is in no hurry to dive into another conflict on behalf of another nation. Egypt’s instability leaves the rest of the world to consider the possible outcomes – many expecting the worst. Egypt’s future stance on peace or conflict (allied with North Korea against Israel, the United States, and other nations) seems like a complicated Prisoner’s Dilemma. By continuing peaceful relations, Egypt would be rather well off – but the spoils of war could prove a significant temptation to a new leader looking forward to an uncertain Egyptian future.

Using a neorealist lens, systemic levels of analysis can link together various aspects of Egypt’s situation in a way that explains the lack of intervention yet increasing levels of concern by other states, especially Israel and North Korea. Although peace agreements can produce short-term results, each state examines interstate ties with self-interests in mind. Political ambiguity within Egypt reflects the anarchic system of global politics – countless groups and individuals vying for power and opportunities to give voice to concerns.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snowy Day Posting

Greetings! I'm sitting at my desk on the 2nd day of closed campus due to snow and ice here at TCU.

* Update: School is officially closed for tomorrow, as well *

Whew, back from hallway celebration. Now for the real post.

Today, February 2, 2011, marks the 1 month anniversary of this humble blog. It's been fun thus far, and hopefully will be for some time to come. A few developments since that first post:
  • My second semester at TCU started. No more (official) marching band rehearsals, only 1 honors class, and a more explorative approach to class selection. I came to college chomping on the bit to progress as fast as possible, but I've since realized that I need to actually figure out my field of study before I blitz through it. So far this semester has been a lot of fun socially, but marginally less successful than the last. I have a lighter class load, but I find myself a bit lazier because of it. So let's buckle down, get a plan together, manage time better, and reread Kick Ass in College.
  • I bought Tim Ferriss's The Four Hour Body. So far, it's been immensely popular among my circle of friends (about 5 friends trying to borrow it) and has been an enjoyable read for me as well. Although currently I'm preparing for the Spartan Sprint, I plan to use the 28 days after the race to test out Tim's "From Geek to Freak" section for myself. Also, my roommate is exploring a few polyphasic sleep ideas and soon will test out some of the sleep products recommended in the 4HB.
  • I've made some progress in deciding on a major. I've really enjoyed my Public Relations class since Day 1, and I'm going to really seriously explore Strategic Communications as my major.
  • I got a Twitter! And I'm officially back in the ranks of a social media rookie. I have to get one for a PR project, but so far it hasn't been too much of a chore.
  • On that Twitter, I exposed this blog to the public for the first time in a link to my education rant. Not a huge deal, since I just got the Twitter and don't really have any presence there yet. But this did result in my first comment, from my friend across the hall at TCU. I also emailed that link to my parents, who seem to have enjoyed it - but I don't think they realize that post is just one of many on this blog. Oh well!

An uneventful semester thus far, but I plan to pack many experiences in before this sucker is through. If you're looking for cool further reading, check out The Christian Science Monitor's coverage of People Making a Difference. Lots of cool stories showcasing - you guessed it - people making a difference. It may sound a bit hokey, but I find it a cool and positive news angle to keep you aware of the world's events. Until next time, live the dream!