Random Thoughts

It’s midterm week, always a lousy week. But at least it’s followed by spring break. Spring break is good if I get my grading done early, otherwise it’s a week filled with dread of grading and impending stress of the approaching deadline of getting the grading done. And it’s always a week where I get caught up on a multitude of administrivia.

I’m sick to death of students and coaches who think spring break starts the day before the academic calendar says it does. They expect me to go to the trouble of arranging an early exam for them. Warn your kids not to buy a plane ticket to Florida on the morning of a midterm exam. Warn them that even if they persuade the prof to offer the test early they’ve made an enemy of the person who determines grades. As for coaches who schedule the travel to start the last day of classes, they should be beaten with their own equipment.

I thought Obama’s delay in condemning Muammar al-Qaddafi was terrible. But he’s done it now, so kudos to him.

How unusual is it to have a country’s ambassadors openly criticizing their country’s leader, and how much does that weaken Qaddafi?

I’ve been fascinated with the conflict in Wisconsin. My first thought was that the Democrats couldn’t stay away from the state long enough to frustrate the Republican’s legislative plans. Now it appears the strategy is to stay away long enough for the public pressure to cause the Republicans to back down, and that seems entirely possible at this point.

Harry Reid gave a speech to a joint session of the Nevada legislature, in which he called for the banning of prostitution. His applause lines were met with dead silence. Even the crickets weren’t chirping. The man has no apparent political skills, which I am sure is the reason the Democrats chose him as the Senate majority leader–Senators don’t actually want leadership, because they don’t anyone telling them what they can and can’t do.

In two weeks I go to Belize for a week. It’s a research trip. At least I got a research grant for it, so apparently it really is a research trip.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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7 Responses to Random Thoughts

  1. Scott Hanley says:

    How many grandparents have died during midterms this year? I always found that the Grim Reaper worked overtime when students had exams.

  2. Lance says:

    “How many grandparents have died during midterms this year?”- Scott Hanley

    My student’s grandmothers seem to have especially high mortality rates during mid-term and final exam time. Grandfathers seem to be a hardier bunch.

    I suspect that students think the loss of granny has a higher sympathy quotient than loosing grandpa.

  3. James Hanley says:

    Curiously, grandmothers seem to be much hardier in recent years. I’ve had fewer students try to pull that over the past several years. I have no idea why. Maybe my college’s improvement on incoming ACT scores means not just better students (not always evident in class, by the way), but students less likely to look for shortcuts.

  4. Michael Heath says:

    James Hanley:

    I thought Obama’s delay in condemning Muammar al-Qaddafi was terrible. But he’s done it now, so kudos to him.

    From an assurance of supply (oil) perspective, I applaud the President being deliberative rather than being reactive to a principle; in spite of the fact I oppose how we’ve historically securitized Middle East oil supply chains and value the principle which has us on the side of the Libyan people.

    Global oil consumers are able to avoid enormous costs to maintain assurance of supply of oil; even if these consumers are procuring oil outside the Middle East. Security of that supply chain has a major impact on global prices and supply. In fact much of this negative externality is borne by the American taxpayer, to the benefit of global consumers which includes American consumers who remain ignorant to the total cost of oil consumption.

    This negative externality has suppressed the development of alternative energy sources and increased decadal resentment by most Middle Eastern peoples at increasing rates which includes the employment of authoritarianism in their countries to protect oil supplies at their expense. Especially as these people rightly perceive the number of decades left to maximize oil revenues in terms of barrels where oil is a dominant energy source is waning.

    I was and remain an ardent supporter of the U.S. pushing Iraq out of Kuwait in the late-80s for the very same reason I empathize with this President’s conundrum when it comes to his obligation to maintain assurance of supply of oil where the primary construct of doing so historically was supporting dictatorships. He didn’t create this paradigm but he damn sure needs to operate in consideration of this reality.

    While I’m happy to see all the uprising in the Middle East, I’d argue we need a Burkean approach to dealing with populist uprisings and resentment in the Middle East in terms of how it impacts assurance of oil. The Burkean aspect would be to applaud increased opportunities for democracies and individual liberty in the Middle East while simultaneously conceding the increased variance of outcomes this presents in the short-term when it comes to oil supplies, that should be extremely concerning to us all. Therefore this is no time for being rash; we need cool deliberative heads and even then the odds increase we’ll encounter more violence, supply disruptions, and changes in favored oil consumers.

    I don’t think its a certainty we’ll encounter more violence as dictators are replaced by governments more reflective of these countries’ citizens, only that the competence needed to navigate in the Middle East is becoming increasingly challenging relative to the ease of putting a dictator or clan in place who was able to control their people, a paradigm that appears to be quickly dying. Part of this challenge will come from countries having competing interests vying for political control coupled to a desire to control oil revenues – both its revenue stream and the customer base. This is a far more complex paradigm than our dealing with the House of Saud, Kuwait, or even Libya as Iran post-1979 illustrates.

  5. Dr x says:

    On Obama’s delayed condemnation, I’ve accepted as reasonable the explanation that the administration wanted to evacuate all American personnel before taking a position that might jeopardize their safety. Clearly, Qaddafi is teetering on insanity and it doesn’t seem unwise to deal with him as if he is a hostage taker.

    I’d also read some criticism of the use of a chartered ship to evacuate the Americans, with critics arguing that the American military should have been used to complete the evacuation more quickly. Again, it seems reasonable to me that the administration did not want to provoke an immediate confrontation that could endanger Americans in an extremely volatile situation.

  6. James Hanley says:

    Re: Oil and Americans’ Safety.

    The oil wells in Libya are controlled mostly by European companies, which have capped the wells and fled, from what I’ve heard. I don’t think Obama’s delay had any positive effect on their actions.

    The protecting Americans argument may be reasonable, but it looks a lot like a smokescreen to me. Obama didn’t need to start with a full-fledged condemnation–he could have begun with mild throat-clearing and slowly escalated while were were getting people out. And frankly the biggest danger to Americans overseas is from local populations, not local governments. In this case most of the local population would not have responded to American condemnation of Qaddafi with attacks on Americans, but with cheering for America.

    Not using the military to evacuate may have been a good idea, though. That’s a subtle tactical issue that’s a bit beyond my ken, of course. Would landing C47s in Libya solely for the purposes of evacuation really have been that provocative? Maybe so. It’s certainly plausible enough that I think criticizing the administration for chartering ships to evacuate people is pointless. At worst they were being a little overcautious. I suspect those critics just want to see the American military showing Qaddafi who’s who, and don’t really have a serious tactical argument.

  7. James K says:

    Dr x, James Hanley:

    Sending one’s military into a foreign county without being invited is generally considered an act of war and has been so since the Treaty of Westphalia, at least. Just because the US can get away with it because no one in their right mind (or Qaddafi for that matter) is willing to declare war on the US doesn’t mean its a good idea to do it. In fact its just that sort of thing that leads to countries complaining about the US government throwing its weight around.

    If you want to evacuate your people by air you either ask Qaddafi for permission to bring unarmed air force transports or you charter private planes, crewed by civilians.

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