Thursday, December 24, 2009

Desultory Eclecticism's Christmas Gift to You

The alma mater didn't make a bowl game, but you can still find it on iTunesU.  Here's a full semester of Desultory Eclecticism's favorite professor lecturing on Desultory Eclecticism's favorite writer.  You'll never read As You Like It the same way again.

Get your Ralph Williams here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Вибори vs. Bыборы

The latest poll from Kyiv Post has newcomer Serhiy Tihipko pulling ahead of Yulia Tymoshenko (11% to 10%) for second place in the January 17th election.  While Victor Yanukovich maintains a comfortable lead, it must be remembered that the first electoral round will function more like a primary.  While the eastern half of the country is firmly behind Yanukovich (giving him a total of 34% nationwide), he simply does not have enough support to reach the 50% threshold necessary to obviate a second round of balloting.  The former Orange Coalition has fractured, and a handful of competing politicians is competing for its former constituency.  While most polls still favor Tymoshenko to finish second, whoever reaches 15% on January 17th will pick up nearly all of Arseniy Yatsenyuk's 6% and President Victor Yushchenko's 3%, in addition to the third-place finisher's 10-12%.  Expect to see--to the extent that it is covered at all--a rash of "End of the Orange" stories following Yanukovich's landslide victory in January.  The final vote is penciled in for February 21st--expect to see a much closer race.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Iran Out of Puns

Desultory Eclecticism had the pleasure of spending a good part of the weekend at Columbia University's "Iran: After the Election" conference.  13 Iranian and American academics and retired officials, including headliners Ervand Abrahamian and Gary Sick, spent all of Saturday presenting and discussing various Iran-related themes.  Three points of consensus:

1) The revolution (1979) has come full circle.  Mansour Farhang recounted his own experience from adolescence of being imprisoned and beaten by the Shah's secret police (this predated SAVAK) for his role as a propaganda mule for Mosaddeq.  Then he described Maziar Bahari's recent experience.  The difference?  Farhang's interrogator/abuser spoke with an upper-class accent and had no problem looking his victim in the eye.  Bahari's kept his prisoner blindfolded, leaving his "rose water" cologne as his most identifiable trait.

2) Nobody makes a good prognosticator.  Academics, analysts, journalists, diplomats, the participants themselves--they'll all extrapolate differently from the present and recent past.  One of them may be right, owing to luck rather than prescience.  Nobody knows exactly what June means or what it leads to.  

3) A hardline U.S. approach produces the best outcome for the Islamic regime.  Refusing to negotiate allows the Khamenists to continue branding dissidents as CIA tools.  Sanctions give the regime an excuse for economic stagnation.  This interpretation provides a rational actor explanation for Iran's recent nuclear bluster.  

The Orange and Green revolutions may have been inspired by similar events and infused with common sentiments, but Ukraine had no Basij.  Like the Shah in 1979, Kuchma's government refused to open fire on protestors; the Khamenei regime did not.