Week 9, feeling fine. Week 10, feeling zen (aka wishful thinking)

Well hey there Week 10…and helloooooo Winter break!  In roughly 10 more days (or 7, if I get a move on with the second of my last two papers due) I’ll be free as a bird with yet one more quarter down at Korbel.

Not that I’m really in any rush. It’s been a crazy few weeks, so forgive me if this blog post becomes unduly long as I try to recollect all the things I have been meaning to write bit by bit over the last two weeks but did not get around to doing at the time.

First off, class stuff. Today I handed in my final group project for International Project Analysis, and I am now handling my final paper (last of 3) for International Monetary Relations, before tackling the last of my International Business Transactions essays. While I’ve gotten something out of each of these classes, I’d be misleading you if I did not say there’s a clear winner: IMR.

The class followed a very similar structure to my international trade class with Professor DeMartino, and as such I gained three very important things. 1) An overview of the history of international monetary relations from the late 18th century to today (key takeaway: the role of the dollar at the heart of the international monetary system arose by negotiation and is not just a function but a cause of US power, and today, its increasing financial vulnerability…); 2) A better understanding of the mechanics of currency determination and how currencies relate to things we really care about, like jobs (key takeaway: the value of a currency can affect our lives fundamentally, but are also often determined by the random sentiments of speculators); 3) A clear idea of what are some of the most important current debates in IMR, such as how and whether the financial regulation needed to stop another global financial crisis is likely to come about, what are the causes and repurcussions of the eurozone crisis, and what is the future role of the dollar in the international monetary system (and by the same token, the Chinese yuan and the Euro). Oh and I also found out we’re all doomed – internationally financially speaking….(if you’re not sure why, google “regulatory capture“).

Essentially I feel as though a whole new level of understanding has opened up for me when I read the news on a daily basis, and so I’m taking the plunge and signing up for Professor Grabel’s follow-up class next quarter, Finance and Development. I highly recommend both!

Meanwhile, on the more scandalous side of all-things Korbel-related, Paula Broadwell, the married author who has been implicated as having an affair with CIA Director General David Petraeus turns out to be the same Paula Broadwell who came to Korbel, as an alumna, just a few weeks ago in an event organized by the Office of Career Development. Paula was here to talk about the book she wrote on the General. The same book, which, as it turns out, gave her the rather special access to the then-General and later-CIA Director for which he has now lost his job. I didn’t attend the talk, but darnit, now I really wish I had. This interview with Broadwell on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart becomes awkward and entertaining on a whole new level in light of what we now know! However, despair not, Korbel, that one of your most distinguished alumna has thrown a pall over JKSIS… the NYTimes is instead highlighting her as a “lifelong high achiever”. (The NYtimes article doesn’t mention it, but Broadwell got her Masters at Korbel before heading to Harvard and Kings College, London). At the end of the day, I actually find it highly suspect that Petraeus is suddenly resigning over this affair which was supposedly uncovered during an investigation into attacks on his email account. Had such evidence of extra-marital canoodling been discovered without some other motive for pushing him off the scene, I’m sure things would have turned out differently. Word has it that the run-up to the US embassy attack in Libya could be a factor, but who knows. All we can say for sure is that it is quite unlikely Korbel will be advertising this particular addition to Broadwell’s resume.

On Friday I was able to attend a presentation by one of the potential new faculty members at Korbel, American University PhD candidate, Ryan Briggs. Ryan presented his research on how volatility in foreign aid flowing into Africa influences election outcomes. His insight is that aid donors should take this as an additional reason to be concerned about how they provide aid to the continent, where as many as a 1/3 of all African countries see shifts in their foreign aid receipts by as much as 5% of GDP per year.

Ryan, who spent 13 months researching throughout Africa for his PhD, is applying to be a new professor of African-related development studies here at Korbel, potentially teaching on the Politics of Foreign Aid in developing countries. I attended the talk and had lunch with him along with a group of other students in order to provide Korbel with some student feedback on potential candidates. It was interesting to hear about his research and analysis methods (thank god I took those 4 stats and econometrics classes), and also to see how the Korbel faculty who attended his presentation went at him like a pack of hungry wolves with questions after the talk was over. He fielded them well though, I thought, and I was encouraged by the rigorousness of the discussion over some of his concepts and methodologies. (Another professor, who shall remain nameless, visited Korbel recently to present her research to Korbel students, and frankly scared me witless with her fuzzy and unconvincing research findings…the issue being what is the purpose of social science if it is simply to produce “findings” that have no real utility because they are based on dodgy definitions and half-baked methods. Is it perhaps even dangerous, because it purports to speak to some issue that it is not in fact addressing?).

Last but not least, although my feet and nose almost froze and fell off as we waited for roughly 5 hours outside for him to come to the podium, I was able to attend one of President Obama’s last speeches of this election campaign last Sunday. Obama was passing through Colorado for what can only be the 82nd time this election season. Of course, this was 2 days before he went on to win the election on Tuesday in what turned out to be a far less close election than the media pundits would have liked us to believe.

The rally, at Aurora Community College:

In case you were wondering, I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that everyone whose political preferences I am aware of at Korbel was supportive of Obama and the Democrats. On Tuesday, I was relieved to find that the majority of Americans are similarly minded, and willing to give Obama another term despite the economic conditions being such that history would tell us he should have left the White House (perhaps people really did take into consideration the role played by that little thing called the Financial Crisis in all of this…. I hope so).

The way I saw this election, it was a battle between progressive ideals and an extreme form of social conservatism that would have represented a major step back for America. While I don’t agree with everything Obama does, and I am not fully convinced of what he will be able to achieve this time around, I know what he does not stand for. So when people have asked “Well what do you think will change if Obama stays in power?” I say I prefer to think of what will not change. The Democratic party is historically more liberal socially (on gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights, immigration, healthcare), more environmentally realistic (on climate change), and less interested in preserving tax policies which have helped America become absurdly unequal. The passing of new measures to allow gay marriage, to legalise marijuana for personal consumption (very interested in what this may or may not mean for the war on drugs) and the entrance of the US’ first openly gay senator along with a historic number of women elected to the House and Senate (rising to 19%, from 17) are some of the other really great outcomes from Tuesday’s election. But at the end of the day, the US remains a very divided country, riven by fault lines that in many ways seem to have only become deeper since Obama was first elected. However, for better or worse, there really is nowhere like it, and I’m glad I’ve had the chance to experience it firsthand.

Finally, a blog post about Denver around this time of year wouldn’t be complete without reference to the INSANE weather. On Wednesday: 73f.  Currently? 19f and snowing. Never a dull meteorological moment when you’re a mile high.

Wednesday, Sturm Hall, DU:

Posted on November 11, 2012, in Global Finance Trade and Economic Integration, International Finance, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Masters and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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