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Subject: Next target...er, RSPer du jour: bramadan rss

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Moshe Callen
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While my thread is still open if one has a lingering few questions, I thought it time ot go to the next candidate. I chose bramadan because we often do not agree, but I find his posts generally well worth reading anyway.

So, questions to start off with:

1. What is your scientific background and specialization?
2. What are your favorite games and/or genres of games and why?
3. I believe you've said you're from the former Yugoslavia. Which part and what is your summary of the current situation there, including Kosovo and the trials in the Hague?
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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whac3 wrote:
While my thread is still open if one has a lingering few questions, I thought it time ot go to the next candidate. I chose bramadan because we often do not agree, but I find his posts generally well worth reading anyway.


Thanks a lot Moshe
Quote:


So, questions to start off with:

1. What is your scientific background and specialization?

I am physicist by training. Specifically, my PhD is in string theory - or to be even more precise, the correspondences between string theories and the conformal field theories.

My present job, however, is not in physics but in applied math - specifically in modelling complex social systems. It is still an academic position (I work at an institute that is associated with a university) and I have some time to spend on physics, but modelling is proving to be quite a bit of fun so out of my last 4 publications 3 have been in modelling.

Quote:

2. What are your favorite games and/or genres of games and why?

I particularly like boardgames from two broad categories:
First are the meaty economic/resource allocation games. That would stretch from things like "LeHavre", "Through the Ages" and Indonesia to 18xx games.

Second category of favorites are the theme-rich (read "chromy") wargames. Here spectrum streches from likes of "War of the Ring" to "Paths of Glory" and in theory as far as such monsters as "Empires in Arms".

My very favorite game, however, falls in neither of the above categories. It is a rather obscure trick-taking card game from former Yugoslavia called "Preference". It is a bit of a lifestyle game in my family so I have had lots of time to learn to appreciate its depth.

I am also great fan of RPGs (not sure if this falls under "games" for the purposes of this site) and have played and ejoyed full gamut from the artsiest indies to DnD and its ilk. Even today I would say my gaming time is split about evenly between RPGs and boardgames.

Tabletop wargaming is another thing I love doing, but for the last decade or so that love has mostly been Platonic

Quote:

3. I believe you've said you're from the former Yugoslavia. Which part and what is your summary of the current situation there, including Kosovo and the trials in the Hague?


Easy question eh ?

I was born and grew up in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Ethnically I am a mutt, with the main elements being Bosnian-muslim, Montenegrin-muslim, Montengrin-orthodox and Serb-orthodox. (muslim and orthodox being used as cultural/ethnic signifiers here as is fairly common in the Balkans - you would have to go fair bit back up my family tree to find some real Muslims or Orthodox).

As far as the "situation" goes simple summary is a "clusterfuck" particularly with regard to the Kosovo but not much better vis Bosnia either.

As far as I can tell, Balkans got cursed when nationalism got invented in 19th century.
Because of our geography we (South Slavs) were always part of large multi-ethnic empires (Byzantine, Hungarian and later Ottoman and Habsburg, but also - partially, Venetian and, briefly, even Napoleonic. We did not do too badly out of it as it meant that our culture could draw on many diverse roots and - at its best, aspire to a high degree of cosmopolitism.
Our people often did very well in their respective empires with disproportionate numbers of them reaching surprisingly high imperial positions. At the same time imperial "foreigners" assimilated into the South Slavic environment with many of them becoming important contributors to our culture including literature in Slavic vernacular.

Once the whole nationalism thing came about, people who were our neighbours for hundreds of years suddenly became our bitter enemies. Serbs who were elite of the Ottoman army since 15th century suddenly discovered that they were in fact oppresed for generations. Croats who only a generation or two ago could produce such a stauch Hungarian patrot as Miklos Zrinyi (or Nikola Zrinjski if you prefer) suddenly decided that they do not like either Hungarians or Austrians.

Trying to disentangle 600 years of multi-ethnic states ofcourse came with a gigantic butcher's bill as we used the opportunity of two world wars to organise our local orgy of bloodletting in the name of ethnic purity and ideal of nation state.

For all their other failings, Yugoslav Communists (Tito in particular) understood the depth of insanity that was trying to create ethnic states in the Balkans so they put the stop to that for a while.

Our latest bloody chapter in the 1990ies became possible when the remenants of the nationalists (who were more or less surpressed under Tito) joined up with the aging Communist nomenklatura who were looking for any ideology whatsoever with which to justify remaining in power in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of the East Europe.

I could write at length on why I think this amazing con-trick actually worked, but key point is that it did, and that once attrocities started happening, nationalists (and their neo-nationalist ex-communist allies) could smugly tell to their respective audiences - look, we told you so - the other guys were beasts who were sharpening knives for you all along.

End result is that a fragile and rich cultural mosaic got shattered with great blood-letting and is in proccess of being replaced with a collection of ethnic bantustans impoverished intelectually and culturally even more then they are economically. The destruction is not quite complete, but we have for sure managed to regress some 60-90 years in a scope of a decade and a half.

Did I mention how much I like living in Canada ?

I was too busy ranting so I forgot your two sub-questions:

Kosovo is particularly tough nut. Culturally, it is extremely important to Serbs and understandably so. Some of the most amazing examples of slavic-orthodox art and architecture in the world are there.
What is worse although population was always mixed between Serbs and Albanians, it was historically much closer to half-and-half then it is now. Dramatic difference in birth rates coupled with the fact that many Serbs went north in search of economic improvement (Kosovo is dirt poor even by Balkan standards) and also coupled with at least some instances of ethnic intimidation and violence (by Albanians) in the 60ies and 70ies, changed the ethnic structure dramatically. This created the sort of ethnic apprehension that was widely shared among the Serbs and was the original core nationalist streak that the ex-Communist Milosevic needed to propel him to power in the late '80ies.

He ofcourse, responded with brutal repressions of the Abanians which further soured the already rather hostile population to the point where co-existence became virtually impossible. (Hatered in Kosovo even before the war was much higher then it ever was in Bosnia). Fortunately for the Albanians, Serbs have lost their moral credit in Bosnia so Albanians got the unprecedented support from the West. In the absence of it it is not inconcievable they would have been collectively transported over the mountains to Albania or killed in great numbers. As it is they have got the power now and long-term existence of Serbs in Kosovo outside their armed enclaves is highly dubious.
As it happens so often in the Balkans, only thing that determins who are the "good" or "bad" guys is who in particular has sufficient force at their disposal at any given time to be doing the oppressing.

As far as Hague goes, it is slow, inexact and somewhat politicized process, but it is the only thing going where at least approximation of justice can be achieved for some trully atrocious crimes. I am happy tribunal exists although there are many decisions of it I could quibble over.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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LeeDambis wrote:
A political question of the type you appear to love answering:

I've always had the idea that Yugoslavia worked as long as it did because Tito wasn't of Serbian ethnicity. Once he was gone, the Serbs attempted to re-establish the dominant position they'd had between the wars, and all hell broke loose. Thoughts?



It is not a bad short-hand summary.

Tito was a Communist (of some sort) but he was also by birth and by culture a citizen of Austria-Hungary, well traveled and multilingual. Large, trully multi-ethnic state came naturally to him in a way it never did to the contemporary Serbians (as opposed to Serbs outside Serbia - citizens of Serbia have been living in a small ethnic-state for almost three generations by this point).

Fact that he was not an ethnic Serb meant also that he was much more succesfull at selling his vision of multi-ethnic state to the other non-Serbs. (After First World War, Croats in particular were greatly dissapointed by the Serb interpretation of what south-slavism means in practical terms).

Once Tito died (and Communism was on its death-bed) it is not so much that Serbs tried to re-create the 1918-1940 Yugoslavia. Rather, ex Communists of various nationalities looked for some ideology to justify them holding on to power and nationalists came out of the woodwork (and out of emigration) to stir the pot in the way Tito would not have let them do.

Serbs carry the bulk of responsiblity for the war and its attendant attrocities mostly because they were by far the best armed of the lot and therefore most able to put forward maximalist goals. Once those goals were crystalised though they were more towards the creation of ethnically pure "Greater Serbia" then towards re-establishment of the old Yugoslavia with or without Serbs as the dominant force.

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Congrats!

You and Moshe would have been my favorite antagonist picks since you write well and stand out among all the generic conservatives and liberals. You both have this spread of views that gives the impression of independently thinking intelligently analyzing human beings that makes it worth coming to RSP (albeit slightly shadowed by worship, of G-d and Fri-dman respectively, but who isn't ) So now I don't know who I'd pick cry

Thanks for your Yugoslavian insights. It was more than just news reports for me as well, as we got new class-/schoolmates from the area every year. Most of them did very well; the best grades in school were achieved by a Macedonian girl, while a few joined the ethnic structures that had already been built up on the wrong side of the law. It was once rumored a local Serb gangster-in-being was set to alter my face after I had ridiculed his hate-speech against Croatians, but luckily it was just steam, as I still look the same : )

Yugoslavia sure shows the ugly face of Nationalism. Don't you get disgusted when you face outright Nationalism (valuing your in-group much higher than "the others") in other countries where they just haven't got it yet? Like this quote from RSP: "I was also finally convinced that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, but when the numbers of killed Americans piled up, I started to regret it."

Above, you wrote positively about multi-culturalism, and how Nationalism cursed Balkan, labeling the creation of ethnic states as "insanity". But in one thread on Israel, you wrote: "The one-state solution would just create a situation like the one with white farmers in Zimbabwe". So in Yugoslavia, ethnically defined nations are bad, but in Israel, it's good? Didn't Jews and Arabs live side by side as "Palestinians" under the British and Ottoman empires just like Serbs and Bosnians lived side by side under the Austrian and Ottoman empires?
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Moshe Callen
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How do you feel about the failure so far to determine how string theory (or M-theory) comes down into laboratory application?

What are some of the kinds of situations you would model?
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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Mondainai wrote:

Yugoslavia sure shows the ugly face of Nationalism. Don't you get disgusted when you face outright Nationalism (valuing your in-group much higher than "the others") in other countries where they just haven't got it yet? Like this quote from RSP: "I was also finally convinced that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, but when the numbers of killed Americans piled up, I started to regret it."


I have issue with all sorts of group identities and sentiment you quote certainly is not one that I would think highly off, but it is far cry from the ethnic nationalism of the European variety.

For the Americans to be nationalistic they would have to restrict what "Americans" mean to one ethnicity and preferably one religion. They would have to say that America somehow belong to WASPs and that others are there not only at their suffrage but also - and perhaps more importantly - have nothing to contribute to cultural and intellectual fabric of the USA. They would seek to isolate America from any sort of change and to close it on some sort of imagined golden age of pure WASPishness in the vaguely defined a-historical past.

While there is a small minority of Americans that think and behave in this way, fact is that USA is in very many ways much closer to the old multi-ethnic empires that I admire then to the European nation-states. Even in this age of post-modern enlightenment we are still much more likely to hear a mainstream continental politician talking about the national cohesion (being disturbed by immigration) then we are to hear that from an America.

Quote:

Above, you wrote positively about multi-culturalism, and how Nationalism cursed Balkan, labeling the creation of ethnic states as "insanity". But in one thread on Israel, you wrote: "The one-state solution would just create a situation like the one with white farmers in Zimbabwe". So in Yugoslavia, ethnically defined nations are bad, but in Israel, it's good? Didn't Jews and Arabs live side by side as "Palestinians" under the British and Ottoman empires just like Serbs and Bosnians lived side by side under the Austrian and Ottoman empires?


I am a great fan of multi-ethnic empires but I also understand the limitations of multi-culturalism. In the aftermath of violence and repression, developing the trust needed for the two ethnic groups to live side by side, and - even more importantly - for one of them to accept the minority status - requires super-human powers of political persuasion and almost unbelievable levels of civility. Perhaps *only* successful example is Nelson Mandela's South Africa and jury is still out even on that one.

Much as I would love to see Bosnia (or even entire Yugoslavia) return to its undivided past - this is not something that can happen now. If somehow Serbs were forced back into unitary Bosnia after everything that was done they *would* become second rank citizens, if for no other reason then for all the animosity they as a group have incurred over the course of past two decades. In a sense, doing so would retroactively justify their original violence.
Likewise for Kosovo, it is not possible to create country in which Serbs and Albanians could live together after everything has been done.

Israel/Palestine is just the same. *If* Amin al-Husayni was not the racist jerk, if Palestinian leadership did not have maximalist goals from the get go, if Israeli extremists have not used that to further their own maximalist goals, in short if there was no 80 years of blood-soaked history on both sides then yeah - I would be *all* in favour of one state solution. As it is, one state would just mean that one of the sides would be oppressed and other would be resorting to terrorism. One can argue that there may be some merit in switching sides of that equation every few decades but as those sorts of switches tend to result in extra dollops of bloodshed as the new oppressors rush to get all their vengeance in while its still fresh on their mind, I do not think the idea has much to recommend it.

Of course, one state solution would work if someone *other* then Jews or Palestinians were to be running that single state but that particular ship has sailed when the sun finally set on the British Empire as we have not had anyone apply for that particular sucker role ever since.
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You've posted tidbits of religion in your life and it sounds interesting. Would you mind giving the highlights and lowlights?
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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whac3 wrote:
How do you feel about the failure so far to determine how string theory (or M-theory) comes down into laboratory application?

What are some of the kinds of situations you would model?


I do not want to sound as if I represent *all* String theorists on this subject - but to me string theory is much more of a mathematical tool then a physical theory in the sense of QED (much less Maxwell's Electrodynamics) or what have you. It gives a very good way of categorizing and looking at particular set of phenomena which can probably be described by means other then string theory.

Ever since the beginnings of Modern physics in the early 20th century, the pseudo-human scaled metaphors (wave, particle, force etc...) have gotten less and less useful in actually describing the phenomena in question.

In the same way, talking about whether particles really are some sorts of miniature strings vibrating against various sorts of miniature membranes is next to meaningless when we are living in the planck scale regime where the rules of the game are virtually unimaginable for us who live in the world of billiard balls, water surfaces and rubber strings.

Looking for the experimental proof of String Theory to me is in some ways akin to looking for "experimental proof" of Spinor Calculus or Differential Geometry, both of which are rightly parts of theoretical physics. Sure, using them helps us a lot in doing physics but it does not mean they are in any way "proven" (in a physical rather then mathematical sense).

Here are few things that I think may happen that will buttress our confidence in String Theory, none of which amounts to anything like a true "experimental proof":

LHC may discover the super-partners at accessible energies. While supersymmetry can very well exist without the rest of string theory, it does originate naturally in string theory. It is a perfect example of how looking at the things in stringy way can enhance our understanding of the way world work regardless if the *entirety* of the string project pans out (in much the same way as large parts of differential geometry have no real-universe applications).

Microgravitational experiments and/or gravitational wave detection experiments may come up with results which are consistent with the "leaking gravity" idea of large extra dimensions, and possibly with some of the brane-world scenarios. Again, this could work without string theory but string theory was essential in formulating the concepts necessary for postulating it.

Better understanding of the Big Bang from cosmology may also fit within one of the brane world scenarios.

My personal favourite (and one where lots of my own work went) is that someone really clever will come up with the way to extend the Maldacena conjecture from the CFT field theories (on the field side) to the SU3 Yang-Mills finding the appropriate dual string theory. If this were done we could use the string theory to do perturbative expansions for Quantum Chromodynamics getting results that could easily be experimentally tested. This one is particularly poignant as it would be an example of a way in which String Theory would be *extremely* and empirically useful without it in any way being necessary that we live in a 11D universe or that strings really "exist" in any sort of literal way.

Gravity experiments are the best candidates for direct test but given that currently there is no unique string theory of the world with 4 large dimensions resembling in any way one we inhabit there is hardly anything there to test. Indirect confirmations of the type I list above are relatively likely within next decade or so. If nothing of that type happens by 2025 I *will* be disappointed.









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Ahh..another one of my favorite posters!

(And I missed Moshe's week, now I have to go prostrate in front of him and beg, BEG I say, forgiveness and think of a question. But back to THIS thread.)

You've stated before that you consider yourself a 'classic' Liberal.

One of the current memes running around in the US is how the American political population is becoming more and more 'extreme'- that voters are more and more radicalized.

Do you agree with this sentiment? I've also seen this argument be expressed for Canadian and European politics. Do you feel that its true or not there as well?

Connected to the above-
People across the political spectrum have expressed growing dissatisfaction with the 'traditional' political parties. (A sentiment that people use to justify point 1). Do you think that this dissatisfaction would ever congeal into a consensus for more 'Liberal' or "Whiggish" political platforms?

Or is Liberalism and Whiggism doomed in the modern political culture due to the fact that Liberals and Whigs never take 'exciting' positions on any issues.......?

Finally-
Whats the best movie you've seen in the last 18 months?

Darilian
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bramadan wrote:
Of course, one state solution would work if someone *other* then Jews or Palestinians were to be running that single state but that particular ship has sailed when the sun finally set on the British Empire as we have not had anyone apply for that particular sucker role ever since.
I'm afraid the ship will come back. I'm afraid it's the destination after Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Anyway, my friend is going with the Uppsala Association for Foreign Affairs to Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia. They'll visit the civil organization CANVAS, walk around Mitrovica, visit the Swedish garrison, ICTY (International Crime Tribunal for former Yugoslavia), OSSE, Serbian mainstream and nationalist politicians, peace group Nansen Dialogue Center, some female rights organization, journalists, EULEX (EU in Kosovo) etc

It's just an orientation trip for diplomat-wannabe poli-sci students to learn a bit about the area. They have free days in their program, and are looking for more to do, see, learn, meet. Any suggestions? Contacts maybe?
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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quozl wrote:
You've posted tidbits of religion in your life and it sounds interesting. Would you mind giving the highlights and lowlights?


Lots of fluff and very little substance I am afraid

I grew up in a very atheistic family (Dawkins would *love* either of my grandmas) so I always observed religion very much as an outsider.

Of course, as a history buff I had to form opinion about it and it was never too good. I acknowledge a degree of civilizing influence western church had on the barbarians in the early years of dark ages but that is a small counterweight against the overwhelming self righteous bigotry that was its hallmark for most of the rest of time. Without being anachronistic, jugging medieval church by the standards of its time it comes very poorly against the best of the secular rulers (like Hautevilles or Hohenstaufens) whom it inevitably opposed. This was not something unique to western christianity, reading histories of Islamic world and Byzantium, whenever I run into a ruler whom I admired it was almost inevitable that they were considered apostates and libertines by the churchmen of their day (Compare Taifa princes with Almoravids in Spain, Leo III with Empress Irene in 8th century Constantinople etc....)

As an aside, studying history of late antiquity and middle ages meant I learned a fair bit about theological finesse of christian doctrine which on one hand made me appreciate the depth and finesse of its system and on the other hand bemoan what I could not feel as anything by the massive waste of intellectual energy expended on it.

Witnessing the abuses perpetrated in the name of religion during our Balkan wars cemented me in my belief that the religion *as a social force* is a significant net negative.

Yet, on the other hand, in my personal dealings with religious people (of whom I have quite a few good friends) I have found that there is nothing about religion that makes people bad *individually* and that not only many good people can be religious but they can derive great personal solace, intellectual stimulation and metaphysical satisfaction from their faith.
I also realized that people are driven to great extremities when they feel that their religion is threatened.

As a consequence, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the idea of reasonable pluralism when it gets to religion. As a participant in secular state I am perfectly willing to forgo any attempt to impose secular values on people who are religious in exchange for them not attempting to impose the religious values on the state.
I believe that lots of heat in "culture wars" comes from people being afraid of having other side's beliefs imposed on them (and unfortunately both sides have plenty of reason to fear that) and that the combatants could be easily reduced to the insignificant numbers of bigots on both sides if the rank and file understood that fact that my gay buddies got married does not mean that their daughter has to learn about dinosaurs in school.

So much about religion (which to me is a social phenomenon), when it gets to individual feelings on the topics of morality and human condition my feelings tend to be on side of a sort of non-realist paganism. Non-realist meaning that I do not believe in actual existence of Odin or Demeter but nevertheless, Eddas and Homeric myths resonate strongly with me - in a way similar but perhaps more primitive (in both good and bad sense) then the great (attributed) literature.

If I felt a need to create a whole-blown religion for myself, my main components would be Havamal, Iliad and some poems of Rudyard Kipling. Muscaria mushrooms or some non-synthetic ergolines would probably be involved too.

Both Christianity and Islam do not appeal to me even on the non-realist basis mostly because they both teach (or seem to me to be teaching) humility, meekness and a degree of self-abnegation and self-debasement. Virtue to me lies in opposite characteristics of pride, self-reliance, confidence and assurance. In the entirety of (extended) Christian mythos, character I most appreciate is Milton's Lucifer. Even hubristic pride (and its inevitable downfall/nemesis) to me is preferred to meekly turning the other cheek.

Incidentally, I think that important part of Tolkien's genius was that as a devout Christian who was at the same time greatly immersed in the virtues of pagan North he was able to articulate and express this conflict of virtues and do so while giving due credit to each side.

Some of the passages in Silmarillion where Noldor justify their flight and rebellion rise for me to the levels of Paradise Lost and Iliad in the whole mortals standing up against the Gods despite the certainty of it being a lost cause.

Too much ranting for now Ask for more specific details if you feel any are missing
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Darilian wrote:
Ahh..another one of my favorite posters!

Thanks Dar, feeling is as you know mutual
Quote:

(And I missed Moshe's week, now I have to go prostrate in front of him and beg, BEG I say, forgiveness and think of a question. But back to THIS thread.)

You've stated before that you consider yourself a 'classic' Liberal.

One of the current memes running around in the US is how the American political population is becoming more and more 'extreme'- that voters are more and more radicalized.

Do you agree with this sentiment? I've also seen this argument be expressed for Canadian and European politics. Do you feel that its true or not there as well?


It is hard for me to make strong statements about American politics because I am well aware that I see it through very distorting prism of Canadian (and to some extent British) media (and one of our national characteristics over here that I am least proud off is that we continuously have to prove to ourselves that we are "better" then Americans). I know I *could* read more American papers, but there is in the end only so many hours in the day.

That said, it certainly seem to me that the american politics seem to be gliding in the direction of the old-school British adversarial two party system with Democrats playing the role of the "left" and Republicans of the "right". If so this would be replacing much more nuanced system of alliances that in my understanding was your status quo for a long while.

Insofar as this also leads to radicalization this probably has to do with the importance of the internal party selection processes (primaries and such) and the level to which such processes are democratic in the USA as opposed to other English speaking countries.
Absence of independent electoral commission and the resulting gerrymandering of congressional districts turning them into virtual rotten-boroughs only exacerbates this trend.

Paradoxically, high degree of intra-party democracy means that the candidates who are eventually presented to general public tend to be less representative of the desires of that public then the ones who would be imposed "from on high" by their respective party machines.

To make a tentative attempt to actually answer your question, I do not think that American public is any more radicalized then it was in the past but I do think that the evolution of your political system is heading in the direction where more radical elements get disproportionate amount of power.
This may well have (or perhaps has had already) unfortunate "positive feedback" effect on the public too as people feel the need to vote for "our extremists" in order to stop "their extremists" from getting in.

To the contrary, I feel that the Canadian politics is very centrists with both major parties very deliberately catering to the middle. Ideological background of our present prime-minister is not *that* different from many people from the G.W.B's entourage and yet he has used considerable effort to quash right wing of his own party whenever they did anything that could possibly frighten the ever-important centre voter. Liberals, our "slightly less right wing" other party has tried a leader recently who went not too far left of the centre but was still dully chastised and replaced by much more staid figure.

In the effect, what it means is that Canadian politics is much more about perception of who is more competent to enact what is more or less common policy. There are few differences here and there, mostly on the headline-friendly issues but broadly I would say Canadian politics has more or less been on convergent path ever since exit (stage left) of Trudeau and his generation. It drives some folks nuts but I quite like it the way it is.

I think very similar story holds in the UK where Brown and Cameron - both fundamentally fairly centrist figures mark the extremes of left and right electability. Baring any major social upheaval there I would wager that the losing party in the upcoming election will probably end up with *even more* centrist figure (unless Labor decides to go for a short period of self-exile in the land of pretend-union-socialism). Germany likewise is fairly even keel as the recent grand coalition suggested. Further afield, broad success of centre-right in Europe suggests that those parties were the ones which had more success clamping down on (or detaching) their more extreme elements.


Quote:

Connected to the above-
People across the political spectrum have expressed growing dissatisfaction with the 'traditional' political parties. (A sentiment that people use to justify point 1). Do you think that this dissatisfaction would ever congeal into a consensus for more 'Liberal' or "Whiggish" political platforms?

Or is Liberalism and Whiggism doomed in the modern political culture due to the fact that Liberals and Whigs never take 'exciting' positions on any issues.......?


It is hard for me to contemplate "Whiggery" as a doomed political force from the position of having both federal and provincial party in power being broadly within the spectrum of classical liberalism (though of course, as always in politics no actual party fits any given textbook ideal). Boring positions on issues are practically obligatory over here if you want to be elected to almost anything.

In the USA, it seems to me, main thing going against the classical liberals are the contingencies of political history. I am not quite sure when and how liberal (Rockefeller ?) Republicans joined hands with the populists and social conservatives (it probably has something to do with the reaction against the excesses of the 60ies ?) but this coalition is no longer serving them very well due to the above mentioned dominance of the extremists in the intra-party process. I think that if the institutional inertia could be overcome, that wing of the Republican party and the Clintionian wing of the Democratic party could find they have much more in common with each other then with their nominal allies. If that ever happens and those two come together, they would become extremely potent electorally despite their "boring" message.


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Finally-
Whats the best movie you've seen in the last 18 months?

Darilian


Within last 18 months, Scorsese's "Shutter Island" left a *very* good impression.
My very favourite movie of recent years was "Proposition", Australian western written by Nick Cave and directed by a guy called John Hillcoat. It was almost perfect blend of Kurosawa and Weir with pleasantly disturbing philosophical message.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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Mondainai wrote:
bramadan wrote:
Of course, one state solution would work if someone *other* then Jews or Palestinians were to be running that single state but that particular ship has sailed when the sun finally set on the British Empire as we have not had anyone apply for that particular sucker role ever since.
I'm afraid the ship will come back. I'm afraid it's the destination after Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Anyway, my friend is going with the Uppsala Association for Foreign Affairs to Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia. They'll visit the civil organization CANVAS, walk around Mitrovica, visit the Swedish garrison, ICTY (International Crime Tribunal for former Yugoslavia), OSSE, Serbian mainstream and nationalist politicians, peace group Nansen Dialogue Center, some female rights organization, journalists, EULEX (EU in Kosovo) etc

It's just an orientation trip for diplomat-wannabe poli-sci students to learn a bit about the area. They have free days in their program, and are looking for more to do, see, learn, meet. Any suggestions? Contacts maybe?


Are they sticking with Kosovo ?
If so I am not a great guide.
I was there only once as fairly young.
If possible, visit to the Orthodox monasteries is a must as they are absolutely amazing. I have more experience with the ones in southern Serbia (as I saw those again much later) and those may be easier to get into then the Kosovo ones (which are ofcourse heavily politicized now). If he can he should go to Studenica, Sopocani and Zicha as minimum. Decani in Kosovo proper are supposed to be pinnacle of the style but they may be very hard to get into for a non-Serb.

Montenegro is a place of great natural beauty if you are into stark rocky landscapes. Canyons of Tara and Moraca are staggeringly beautiful. Later can be driven but former must be rafted for the full effect. Old capital of Cetinje is surreal and well worth seeing if one is in the area and the old Venetian town of Kotor on Montenegrin coast is a must because a) it has very cool renaissance italian architecture b) is surrounded by what looks like a literal wall of mountains and c) is on the only fiord you will find in the Med and so can be used as a cure for homesickness
Budva is another walled seaside town there but is much more staged and touristy then Kotor. Really good beaches in the environs though.

Further afield, Sarajevo (in my ever so biased opinion) deserves a "worth a trip" designation for its mixture of ottoman and austrian architecture (with some ugly soc-realism thrown in for good measure). Dubrovnik is awesome but everyone knows that.

Novi Pazar, in south serbia so not so far from Kosovo is a very picturesque town with heavy Ottoman architectural influence its other significance is that you can buy fake-anything there at nearly Chinese prices, not that I encourage it or anything.

Skip Belgrade is good idea unless he has business there. If he does it is worth leaving the afternoon to see the old fortress (probably on par with Constantinople for impregnability) rest of the city is fairly horrible if you are not into theatre in Serbian in which case it is awesome.

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bramadan wrote:
tourist advice
The trip is more about learning about the issues of the region in depth, so they can do a good work when they're in the foreign ministry/defense/EU/UN in 10 years from now, so I was wondering about interesting places as in organisations/people you need to meet to get the whole picture and be more able to take good decisions involving the area in the future. Kosovo has been all but a scandal for example, a steamy pile of French corruption and probably full of lessons for how to better deal with failed states in the future.

But of course they'll have some free time, for which your secret gem list will be of great value. I'll forward it. Thanks for the work!
 
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Oh sorry,
I have been out of the place for over 15 years - I follow the politics of there to an extent my stomach can take, but I am not up-to-date with which organizations one should get to know for that kind of purpose. Particularly not in Kosovo.
At any rate at least I hope tourist info proves usefull
 
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bramadan wrote:
Oh sorry,
I have been out of the place for over 15 years - I follow the politics of there to an extent my stomach can take, but I am not up-to-date with which organizations one should get to know for that kind of purpose. Particularly not in Kosovo.
At any rate at least I hope tourist info proves usefull
I'm sure it will! They have 4 days set aside for just enjoying the place, and so far they've had no better idea than relaxing on the beach in Dubrovnik and get smashed.

How did you react to the West's recognition of Kosovo independence? How's that different from Russia's recognition of Abkhazia? How's that different from Turkey's recognition of North Cyprus?
 
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Another victim! good!

I'll dive right in:

Most worthy game experience please, and why was it so? Again this is about a singly memorable play of a game. It does not matter which game it was.

And since it was brought up already:

- what exactly do you find admirable about multi-ethnic, multi-lingual states?

- Do the US qualify? You sort of answered this only in the sense that you do not think they are very nationaist.

- Does the EU qualify? And for that matter does China?
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Chad Ellis
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bramadan wrote:
My personal favourite (and one where lots of my own work went) is that someone really clever will come up with the way to extend the Maldacena conjecture from the CFT field theories (on the field side) to the SU3 Yang-Mills finding the appropriate dual string theory. If this were done we could use the string theory to do perturbative expansions for Quantum Chromodynamics getting results that could easily be experimentally tested.


Interesting. I was saying the same thing to Koldfoot the other day during one of our weekly video-chat tea parties.
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
bramadan wrote:
My personal favourite (and one where lots of my own work went) is that someone really clever will come up with the way to extend the Maldacena conjecture from the CFT field theories (on the field side) to the SU3 Yang-Mills finding the appropriate dual string theory. If this were done we could use the string theory to do perturbative expansions for Quantum Chromodynamics getting results that could easily be experimentally tested.


Interesting. I was saying the same thing to Koldfoot the other day during one of our weekly video-chat tea parties.


Sorry that I had to drop out of that one early. I just couldn't stop giggling when you got to the "perturbative expansions" part.
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Congratulations, Bojan! (How do you pronounce your name, by the by?)

So far, I've learned a bit about your take on politics of the former Yugoslavia and some of your religious background, and it sounds fascinating. I also read the parts about the physics, but, really, it was so far over my current knowledge-base level that the results were more a mental phonetic rendering of the words involved than "understanding". Still, thanks.

On that note, what would you recommend as good material for somebody who'd like to know more about physics, but, say, studied physics last in high school? As it happens, I'm reading Susskind's The Black Hole War right now -- I'm enjoying it a lot but finding myself having to skip back quite a bit to figure things out (e.g., "wait -- what was the Equivalence Principle again, and wtf does it have to do with falling through the horizon of a black hole?) even though the book is written for laypeople and skips the math.

Beyond that, I'm interested in knowing more about you personally. For instance:

- Are you married/involved? Do you have kids? (I seem to recall that you don't, but I don't trust myself to be right.) How happy are you with your current situation? What is it that you want for yourself, 10/20/30/50 years down the line?

- What do you value about RSP? What irritates you about it?

- How many languages do you speak? What difference do you think speaking multiple languages (as opposed to one) makes?

- What "labels", if any, are meaningful to you personally, and why?

- What kind of art do you like -- in music, literature, representational art, etc. -- and how important is art to you overall?

- Are you a "foodie"? Can you cook? (Do you have any fabulous recipes to share?) How important is food to you?

Thanks for being willing to sit in the hot seat!
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Scott Russell
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Have you tried/managed to create Preference players in Canada?
(I learned a Milwaukee game called sheepshead [5-player] while in college and it's probably my favorite trick-taking game, but building a "quorum" at college was tough and I've not tried anywhere else.)

How is gaming in Vancouver? How often and where do you play?

How far will you travel for an evening, a day or a weekend of gaming?
If vacation time permitted and opponents where available, how many consecutive days do you think you'd enjoy playing games all day?

You mentioned that your grandmothers were both atheist. Was this an issue in their society?

What kind of transportation do you use?

What do you do on a typical weekend?
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Jorge Montero
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I'll take Manhattan in a garbage bag. With Latin written on it that says "It's hard to give a shit these days"
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What is the secret of manliness?

What do you think about propaganda?

Why physicist, and nos psychiatrist? You were only three letters away.

Can a trusting society be built around moral concepts that are so far from reality that everyone that claims to match them is a liar?

Canada has just been conquered by the US, and they will appoint a dictator on this formerly free nation. However, since they want to make it look like they are giving you a choice, they allow citizens to vote on who will be their dictator for life. Would you choose George W. Bush, John McCain, rejuvenated by bathing in the blood of babies, or Richard Nixon, brought back to life by a voodoo master?

Can you rate a game a 10 if all strategy can be wiped out by an incompetent, yet not malicious player?

DO you require that a story makes some departures from the monomyth to consider it a good story, or are you willing to listen/read/watch the exact same thing as long as it's crafted well?

Was there anything even remotely original in Avatar?
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Scott Russell
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I see that you have Paths of Glory at a 10, Twilight Struggle at a 9 and Hannibal at an 8.

Why?
 
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Thanks for the questions and sorry for a brief break anyone - posting from work was apparently not happening today
Here we go now
Mondainai wrote:


How did you react to the West's recognition of Kosovo independence? How's that different from Russia's recognition of Abkhazia? How's that different from Turkey's recognition of North Cyprus?


My reaction to West's approach to Kosovo can be summed by "Where were you 7 years ago ?"
In the best tradition of generals always fighting the last war West acted in Kosovo in the way they should have acted when the war in Bosnia (or perhaps even Croatia) was just beginning.

Had the aggression there been stopped within weeks or months (like Serb invasion of Kosovo) there was a genuine hope of maintaining a reasonably civil, multicultural society with some hope of economic progress.

In Kosovo, low-scale civil was was going on since late 70ies at least and since late 80ies in earnest and any hope of peaceful reconciliation is much dimmer (or rather, as dim as in Bosnia after the three years of war).

Nonetheless, I think international recognition, to be followed by some sort of partition is probably the only reasonable (least bad) solution for Kosovo.

I find this quite different from the Abkhazia (and North Cyprus) situation because in those cases states doing the recognition have clear and direct interest in the region. Russia in particular, treats the enclaves practically as its own territory, has given out its passports to practically all of their inhabitants etc... At the bottom of it - Russian recognition of the enclaves, no matter the justice of their quarrel with Georgia, is a direct act of self-interest. Western countries have much less to gain (and in a sense more to lose) from recognizing Kosovo and I am therefore much more likely to see it as acting in good faith.

As far as North Cyprus goes, I am still fascinated at the stupidity of Europe in rewarding the Greek part of the island with EU membership after they have voted against what to everyone else seemed a just and equitable (perhaps even Greek-slanted) peace proposal. I predict that this short-sighted decision will bite EU in the ass even more fiercely then the current mess the (mainland) Greeks got them in.
I agree that the Turks were - in a sense - original aggressors in that conflict, but this referendum and general policy of the Greek Cypriot government on this issue in recent years have erased any sympathy I had with them in this regard.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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Venga2 wrote:
Another victim! good!

I'll dive right in:

Most worthy game experience please, and why was it so? Again this is about a singly memorable play of a game. It does not matter which game it was.


It is in a way hard to say, I am naturally slanted towards memories of gaming with friends who I no longer see often (because they are still in the old country or have gone to places other then Vancouver).

Perhaps *the* most memorable are the DnD sessions we played in our high school in Belgrade during few years I spent there living there with my grandparents (while war was going on in Sarajevo). All the Bosnian kids got put in a "dead-end" class together with some of the local trouble-makers. Even besides that, under the circumstances, teachers were utterly demoralized in any case with general social breakdown around us and did not seem to care much for us in either case.

As it happens, the "dead-end" class ended up being full of really cool and creative folks one of whom (Belgrade native who got "stuck" with us as a punishment for empathizing too much with the Bosnians) introduced us to the RPGs.

Most of the subsequent two years we spent most of our school time playing DnD using the third or fourth hand photocopies of english rulebooks and dice we made out of cardboard. We even went so far as to turn one of the desks around (our classrooms were all built on classical german model with two people per desk sitting facing forward) to create a gaming table for 4.

Our unspoken agreement with teachers was that they do not care what we do as long as we do not make much noise so we did all the play by writing what our characters do in notebooks and rolling dice and moving counters on the table silently. I still have copies of some of those notebooks and I can tell you - that was some mean DnD

Quite often we would play straight through the entire school day, and then head to my grandparents place and keep on playing till after midnight only to assemble again tomorrow morning in school.

It was in many ways really shitty time but I would not trade those games and those friends for the world.

Quote:

And since it was brought up already:

- what exactly do you find admirable about multi-ethnic, multi-lingual states?

- Do the US qualify? You sort of answered this only in the sense that you do not think they are very nationaist.

- Does the EU qualify? And for that matter does China?


I believe that having multiple cultures co-exist within the same space has a multiplicative effect on the creative power of each of them. Mono-cultural societies tend to become ossified and sterile as they tend to get into the rut of just repeating what used to work for them in the past. Multi-cultural ones tend to cross-polinate all the time with best ideas of one culture being adopted to suit the needs of another - process that is at best hard to replicate across the borders.

Simply speaking, it is difference between cloning and sexual reproduction with later always providing more diverse and ultimately more successful progeny.

Even cursory study of history will bear out this observation I believe.

I think that great deal of dynamism of the USA is coming from this very phenomenon and that as long as it remains open to immigration and open to new ideas USA will continue to follow this ideal.

As for the EU, some of the EU member states are profoundly multicultural themselves (Britain is one example that I am quite familiar with but I think Netherlands is not far behind if at all and there are others). I still do not think of the EU itself as a polity but I do think that its rule which allows people to travel and work in any member state helps the cultural cross-polination greatly. I would say that this particular set of rules is probably the single best thing about the Union (and I am a big fan of free trade so this is a high endorsement).

I know next to nothing about China so it would be hard for me to comment on it. If the Chinese rulers are at all intelligent they will try to make it so and stem to tide of Han nationalism. They have enough problems to contend with, without having to deal with all the nationalist reactions on the part of the other nationalities.
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