Those feisty Toyotas are back

Those machine guns are not OEM. (Getty Images/AFP)

 

Here I am on a Friday afternoon, lazily trawling through Twitter, and what do I spy but the picture above, capturing the 20th century’s ultimate war-wagon: the trusty Toyota Hilux pickup truck.

In this case, the little pickup that could is in the possession of pro-government Yemeni militias battling Houthi rebels in an effort to recapture, with the help of Saudi and UAE forces, the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah.

As I wrote back in October 2015, Toyota pickups in general, and the Hilux in particular, have long been a fixture of battlefields across the developing world, from Afghanistan and the Arabian Peninsula, to Syria, North Africa, and Latin America. ISIS loves them. The Sandinistas love them. Al Shabab loves them.

And now, it appears, so do the Yemenis. On both sides of the fight.

The Houthi use them too. (AP)
The Houthi use them too. (AP)

 

San Francisco bound #ISA2018

What the hot air of thousands of political scientists will do ...
What the hot air of thousands of political scientists will do …

 

That time of year is upon us again, the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, which will bring together thousands of political scientists to present their research to near-empty rooms, pay far too much for cocktails while standing-shoulder-to-shoulder in the bar at the Hilton, and cruise the receptions in search of the best cheese plates.

This year we’re in San Francisco. And this post is brought to you by a delicious but overpriced airport terminal mimosa as I wait for my flight.

Despite that opening paragraph, I always look forward to this as an opportunity to catch up with friends, make some new ones, see what interesting things other people are working on, and generally get away from the day-to-day of teaching, advising, grading, and so on. (Though I did, as usual, bring papers with me to grade.)

My pal Steve has already posted his advice for how to conference. Since most of you who read this aren’t academics (unlike a lot of Steve’s readers), I’ll just link to what he had to say and leave it at that. I wrote a little about the conference last year, so here’s a link to that if you’re interested.

This year I’ll be presenting the results of two different projects, one Brexit and political narratives in Northern Ireland, the other exploring rational vs. emotional triggers for the initiation of violence in nationalist conflicts. In both cases I give my co-authors (Andy Owsiak at the University of Georgia for the Brexit-NI paper and Bill Ayres for the other) all the credit for the smart parts.

This post isn’t really about the conference though. It’s just an excuse to bring you the following. Enjoy.

The president wants a parade

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It’s been a helluva week. The government briefly shut down (again) overnight before a final spending deal was reached. A top White House aide resigned (reluctantly) in the face of accusations that he was a serial wife abuser. The stock market plunged. A giant rocket lifted an electric car into space.

il_douche_site-1And President Trump wants a North Korea-style military parade. This isn’t the first time. He wanted one as part of his inaugural, but those dreams were dashed.

But now he’s directed the Pentagon to start planning one for him. It’s the sort of order from the commander-in-chief that brings out the visually clever Trump-as-tinpot-dictator memes.

**Editor’s Note — In fact, you could rightly surmise that the entire point of this post is to use as many of those as I could squeeze in.**

More precisely, the president wants a French-style military parade, having seen the annual Bastille Day spectacle in Paris last year, by all accounts thoroughly enjoying it, and with childlike enthusiasm, wanting one of his own:

Trump was awestruck by the tableau of uniformed French troops marching down Avenue des Champs-Elysees with military tanks, armored vehicles, gun trucks and carriers — complete with fighter jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe and painting the sky with streaks of blue, white and red smoke for the colors of the French flag.

Aboard Air Force One en route home from Paris in July, aides said Trump told them that he was dazzled by the French display and that he wanted one at home.

While the idea does have its defenders, not everyone shares the president’s enthusiasm for the idea of rolling American military hardware down Pennsylvania Avenue. And by not everyone, I mean a wide spectrum of Democrats, Republicans, veterans, and even his Fox News cheering section:

If the military community’s rejection of the parade isn’t enough to dissuade Trump, well, even “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade said the parade “seems like a waste of money.” And Fox News anchor Shepard Smith separately mocked the idea of a parade.

“He could go see the tanks at a military base if he wanted to,” Smith said. “Or they could give him replicas. Little mini replicas. I mean, he wants to see what he has. I had some of those when I was a kid.”

I disagree though. I think President Trump should have his parade. As long as it looks this:

trump-as-emperor

Tribute: Hugh Masekela

(Photo credit: BBC)
(Photo credit: BBC)

 

South African jazz legend and anti-apartheid activist Hugh Masekela has died at the age of 78 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

I first encountered his music in 1987 at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia when he performed alongside Miriam Makeba and Ladysmith Black Mambazo as part of Paul Simon’s Graceland tour. Until then my exposure to South African music had been limited to a single album of “township jive” and kwela that I’d found in the discount bin of the used record store near the offices of the newspaper where I worked.

That concert was a moment of musical awakening for me, leading me to explore and fall in love with the richness and diversity of African music, from the Zulu choral tradition embodied by Ladysmith, to the dance music of Senegal and artists like Youssou N’dour, to Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, and beyond.

The video below features a performance from the Graceland concert staged in Zimbabwe in 1987. Masekela is featured starting at the 1:50 mark. The video quality isn’t very good, but the sound is great. Below it is a video of one of Masekela’s most famous songs, “Coal Train,” recorded live at a festival in England in 1986.