Monday, November 30, 2009

Swiss Misanthrope

Ugh, Switzerland voted to ban minaret construction.  UGLY!  Why do they get to vote on minaret construction?  Do people get to vote on church steeple construction too?  On synagogue construction?  BOOO Swiss Miss.  Boo

League of Extraordinary Gentleman

The League.  OMG, this show is the funniest show I have ever seen.  Vulgar, smart and hysterical.  Watch it on Hulu, it just started.  You can see all 4 episodes online.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tehran-Tiananmen Sq

Obama accomplished nothing in Asia? In the first year?

"Nothing at all" was the story because nothing was announced at the press conferences. But remember this o' foreign policy amateurs-turned-pundits, behind the scenes is where the action is.

Meanwhile, a little push back from Slate on the meme that Obama hasn't accomplished much during his first year:
By January, [Obama] will have accomplished more than any first-year president since Franklin Roosevelt.

Napster graphjam

funny graphs and charts
see more Funny Graphs

Friday, November 27, 2009

The porn of the pious

Just a reminder that those who profess their eternal fidelity to virtue are often steeped in lowly vice. Thanks Hizbullah for the reminder that there is no escaping human nature. Hypocrisy is the eighth deadly sin.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gobble, gobble, gobble

"I never paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own realities"
-Frida Kahlo

"Reality is for people who lack imagination"
-bumpersticker on Hoover

All of the quotes above and below were on magnets found at the library shop at the LA Central Library, save the bumpersticker quote. As my dear friend Kenya says, librarians tend to be the most subversive members of society- perhaps that applies to the gift store too.

The stress seemed to hang over Los Angeles like the smog that turned its blue skies brown. I was way deep in it. An unsmiling, tightly wound ball of stress. As is often the case, nothing clears the stress like leaving the angels. "Nothing can bring peace but yourself," sayeth Ralph Waldo Emerson.

We took off over the pacific and swung back around over the sprawling monstro-city. Skydiving has utterly changed my perspective on flying, and I peered out the window with deigns on how to make my descent. I wasn’t allowed to write this until we passed 10,000 feet, which is still 5,000 less than from where I jumped. "There is no higher god than truth," sayeth Gandhi

I napped for a bit and woke up over the barren Nevada terrain and expansive canyons. A lack of personal space hindered the ability to work, but a little peace made it okay. Gold broke across the endless horizons and the sun set brilliantly across the wide vistas as it lit the snow-capped peaks of the Colorado Rockies in gold on white. Cotton-white clouds rolled slowly over brown-speckled mountain as I was reminded of my flight into Tibet.

As usual, I connived my way into free drinks. Southwest gives out free libations on Turkey Day. I made the case that in the Jewish religion, holidays start on the erev- the night before.

Today I'm pondering Brazil's soft power rise as the smell of pies wafts through the house. My brother Harry, ever the master-baker, is whipping up mincemeat pie to go along with the obligatory apple and pumpkin. I spiced my bengal tea with the leftover molasses from the mincemeat filling as I have poured over Gramscian consensual hegemony and Brazil's soft power endeavors in the south. Rather than being a brazilian miles away, I am home and content and the smell of turkey is rising in the afternoon air. As is often the case, I love the holiday as a point of reflection, on years past (2008, 2007, 2006)

We have had much to be thankful for this year, but I will offer my thanks first and foremost to the man occupying the White House. The magnet at the gift store had Obama's picture and the quote "It's okay to be an American again." Amen to that. Thanks to President Obama using public diplomacy and soft power to bring Brand America back to the top.

To all the Obama naysayers, who are complaining he hasn’t done enough yet: chill and fill your babbling pieholes with some pumpkin. Bush had 8 full years of turning the country and the globe upside down, it will take more than a year to turn it right side up. Happy Thanksgiving to all, and a special thanks to Prez Obama for beginning to right the ship. I am patient, and I still believe in hope and change.

PS: Some poll numbers show that I am not the only one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Souk

A reminder about Middle East negotiations and why the Americans have been floundering.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Muppets take Queen

OMG, watched it in the library and had to chew something to keep from LOLing.

Flashmob in Jeru

Check out this hysterical Jerusalem flashmob:

Democracy is...

Some videos created by the Public Diplomacy 504 class for their "Democracy is..." contest

I'm missing one group. I will substitute it with the winning video my group did last year.

Update: Finally got a hold of the last video:

Monday, November 23, 2009


Oh, finals time. Joy. Every journey of 13,000 words begins with a first sentence. As Common said, "I'm Nestle when it's Crunchtime"

Saturday, November 21, 2009


As in "What would Kissinger do?" That question just popped into my head regarding Lula, and what the American reaction to the Brazilian president would have been during the Cold War years. Would Nixon, Kissinger and company called in a coup on Lula? Would he have been viewed in the same Cold War prism as Allende? I don't have a good answer on that question, I will have to bring it up in class on tuesday.


Anyone familiar with the great game knows it is nearly impossible to win if you try to hold the giant landmass that is Asia. On a similar note, and not of the board game variety, imperial ambitions have been known to die in two locations: Russia and Afghanistan. As Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery said, "One of the great laws of war is Never invade Russia." Both Napoleon and Hitler learned this lesson the hard way.

The other part of that maxim is never to attempt to hold Afghanistan. Empires throughout history have painfully learned that lesson, the last being the Soviet Union. Now it seems to be our folly. I can't say I have too many answers to that Bactrian question, it doesn't seem at present that anyone else does either. I'm not ready to throw in the towel, but I am growing a little wary of the whole endeavor.

Luv Chick-Fill-A

On my bike ride to school, I passed a tent on campus with Chick-Fill-A signs. Curious, I stopped to see what was up. Free Chick-Fill-A! They are possibly opening a branch near campus. I was rewarded with a free sandwich, yum! It has been a while since I had that chicken-fried goodness.

That's the night that the lights went out in Caracas

Chavez' popularity is dimming with the lights going out in his capital.

Rockstar Diplomat

My friend and former pub d classmate Miles is keeping a blog while working down in South America. Che Miles is living in Argentina and doing some public diplomacy work for an Argentine NGO. He is traveling about the southern cone. You can follow his adventures at:

Birth of a Nation

In honor of the recent anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, and later Velvet Divorce, I am proposing a whole new marriage: Czechoslovenia. People already get Solvakia and Slovenia confused, no one will really notice. Besides, the Czech Republic just needs a little something extra, and Slovenia could use the attention. So consider me the T.G. Masaryk of the new nation.

While it may sound rather silly, it isn't as totally preposterous as it sounds. Bohemia and Moravia- the regions of the Czech Republic and Slovenia were all once part of Cisleithania, the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Next up, perhaps Yugoslovakia? Will file all this under Molvanian public diplomacy.

The Dead PD Society

I haven't had time to recount my classes as much as I would like. Just busy, busy, busy. But I will take a little time this morning to go over my Theories of Diplomacy class from Friday, as it was an interesting session on defining public diplomacy as a discipline. First we went about defining the differences between propaganda, nation-branding, public relations, public affairs and cultural relations by offering basic consensus point and key authors for each topic.

We had an interesting exchange about Turkey and if Attaturk's project constituted a re-branding of Turkey. My point was that while he might have re-branded the Republic of Turkey as a modern nation, by renaming Constantinople to Istanbul and moving the capital to Ankara, it became easier to disconnect Turkey from Europe. Constantinople is part of Europe's heritage, while Istanbul sounds more foreign. Meanwhile, having the capital in Anatolian Asia not Europe adds the distance.

Back to the task at hand of defining public diplomacy, Prof. Wiseman noted how disciplines need 1) analytical framework, 2) body of scholarship. There was a third point, but I'm not sure I understand its context as written on my notebook paper. We later discussed how fields of scholarship need core theories, and journals to exhibit such ideas (see under: PD Magazine).

We discussed PD in the framework of the IR field, and as a form of communication in the new global sphere. Prof. Wiseman drew up the stages of framework of public diplomacy as old (public) diplomacy vs new (public) diplomacy. I interjected that I saw three stages, and later we saw it as possibly four.

3 Stages of Framework:
Old PD 1) WWI-WWII (including interwar years)
New PD 2) Cold War
New, New PD 3) Post-Cold War
Possible 4th) Post-9/11

We also noted that the most successful Public Diplomacy initiatives were often born out of war. O' irony of ironies. We also noted that often the best writing on diplomacy comes from dissident, disaffected diplomats.

Then we discussed the various levels of public diplomacy practitioners in related to the framework.
3 Level of PD:
1) Old PD: Only Ministries of Foreign Affairs carried out PD
2) New PD: The whole of the government carried out PD, including Ministries of Trade and Agriculture, etc.
3) New, new PD: everyone is a PD practitioner- NGOs, individuals, the entire public sphere can do PD.

This level analysis led to one PD Einstein unveiling his new, new PD postulate on his PD Theory of Relativity: "Democratic Diplomacy."

This drew a little consternation from my friend Hiva, who saw the term as too "western" laden. I explained that it was "democratic" in so far as everyone can can be a pd actor, can have a voice and has a pd outlet via new social media technology. Same as journalism today and the democratization of the media sphere (hence why 400 people tune in each week to my babble). My wifey Naomi offered her own terminology for the phenomenon as "pluralistic diplomacy." This all gets back to Prof. Castells definition:

'Public Diplomacy is the…projection in the international arena of the values and ideas of the public… The aim of the practice of public diplomacy is not to convince but to communicate, not to declare but to listen. Public diplomacy seeks to build a sphere in which diverse voices can be heard in spite of their various origins, distinct values, and often contradictory interests.'

We ended the framework discussion with a note about the first stages of a discipline are the utopian/optisimist phase, usually followed by the realist/skeptical phase. My brood would fit in the first. At some point, we PD Whiz Kids will be challenged by the next batch of PD Young Turks. For now, we will be content as the PD Bloombury Group or my personal fav term, the Dead PD Society.


Wow EU, way to take a page from the Palestinians and never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Pick a banal, boring Belgian to be your prez when you could have had the dynamic Tony Blair. Great, Eurocracy wins again.

The Telegraph seems to agree with moi.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Evolve- Darwin PD; The Axis of Austral

Amid the splendor of Mudd, I'm reading Jan Melissen's The New Public Diplomacy for my Theories of Diplomacy class. He writes, "Those who see public diplomacy as postmodern propaganda or as lip-service to the latest fashio in the conduct of international relation...miss a fundamental point." He essentially states that public diplomacy is effectively the evolution of diplomacy. This militant evolutionary concurs.

Meanwhile, my Kautilyan coup is complete. Sorry o' Machiavellindian, you are being pushed aside for a report on IBSA, the trilateral India-Brazil-South Africa alignment aka the Axis of Austral.

Don't cry for me, Venezuela

A nice little piece about all that Obama has accomplished in a year.

Meanwhile, the Knesset is trying to convince EU Parliaments that Israel wants peace. You dolts! Try convincing the Palestinians you want peace instead.

Last random point, the most interesting idea of the week came from Prof. Starr, who made the comparison of Hugo Chavez to the Perons, both Juan and Evita. The comparison is very interesting, in regards to the showmanship, charisma (Evita's, not Juan), allegiance from the poorer classes and authoritarian leanings.

I'm special!

As if you all didn't know that already ;) The VOA released a report on The 21st Century Family of Man exhibit on their "Special English" site. It is a radio report to help teach English, so it is spoken slowly and pronounced very clearly. I get to be a tool of pedagogy. I find it very special since I used to teach English, both abroad and here to new immigrants. I'm also in good company.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

O' revelation under the Southern Cross

While sitting in Leavey I had a revelation about my newest fascination, IBSA. Rather than wait for them to get enough structure to require my public diplomacy services, I will write my PhD dissertation on the trialogue. My l-rd, if I could spend the rest of my days shuttling from Brazil to South Africa to India, studying their strategic ties and assessing how they could carry about better trilateral public diplomacy, I would be in southern seventh heaven.

I have already declared a coup against the Kautilyan state, and I'm shunting it aside to write instead about IBSA for my Theories of Diplomacy final. The Kautilyan state was far too autocratic for my tastes, even if it was probably rather progress in its day and I am judging it by a culturally relative lens. More importantly, it was dull. I could only take so many pages of meticulous details of what towns people should be fined in 1st century BCE India. Instead will assess IBSA in the context of catalytic diplomacy, middle power diplomacy and soft balancing of US hegemony.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hall of Mudd

Wooden winged-lions with carved crowns guard the entrance to my hall of study. Sharp claws extend from their paws onto wooden manuscripts. Mudd Hall is a beauty.

But alas, I am reading of the far more ugly. All about the propaganda machine employed by Hutu extremists in the Rwandan genocide. The author makes a fascinating point about evil, noting the historian Eric Hobsbawm's postulate that 'evil scientists' don't wear white coats and work in laboratories, but instead write history and develop social theories.

The Face of Public Diplomacy

Yes, it's true. The Public Diplomacy paparazzi caught up with yours truly and snapped some pics for the Annenberg website. The goofball you see before you is the Annenberg face for public diplomacy:

Ramaoes II

In light of my last post, Che Miles was kind enough to send something on about the State Department's Hip Hop outreach to Muslim youth. My only point in the last post wasn't to say they weren't doing it, just not enough.

Meanwhile, check out my Egyptian friend and former Seeds of Peace camper Moos and his bbox group Vocal Curse:


Punk's not dead, it is rockin' out in the Middle Kingdom. First I saw a report on NPR about a Chinese punk rock export. I emailed the story over to my friend Peter Winter, who is editor at the US-China Today Magazine and a fellow public diplomacy student. He quickly sent over two links to stories the magazine did last year on Chinese Punk and Chinese Hip Hop.

Ah, the universality of punk and hip hop. Truly America's soft power forces. Punk rockers were ubiquitous in Argentina, and I found some great ska clubs in La Plata. Meanwhile, I found Chinese hip hop during my adventures to clubs in Beijing and Shanghai. I saw some dynamite hip hop clubs there, with Chinese b-boys, b-girls and djs. In Japan, my friend Fuji was a fantastic freestyler, while I heard some great reggae from Ryu the Skywalker (although I guess that is Jamaican soft power).

It's too bad the State Department is still a little too stodgy to really pick up on real American cultural soft power, and the fact that American music is what moves the global youth. I know from Mark Smith, our Public Diplomat in Residence last year, that State was doing more to promote hip-hop in its outreach. But minuscule compared to what could really be done if made a priority like jazz was during the VOA heydays of Willis Connover.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


As I have said on this blog before, while USC might be known as "University of Spoiled Children," the USC I know is "University of Southern China" or "University of Southern Calcutta." Probably why I love it here. Amid all their advertisements today, the LA Times managed to find room to print that USC enrolled the highest number of foreign students.

LA Shopping Times

The LA Times is really getting pathetic and down on its luck. Today it had 9 consecutive full page ads for Macy's, hawking the store's one-day sale. It was followed by half a page of news, then another 5 pages of full Macy's ads. There was another half-page of news, followed by one last full page advertisement. 15 full page adverts! That hardly counts as a newspaper, just a catalog with some blurbs of the world. No wonder the paper is hemorrhaging readers, there isn't anything of value left to read.

Jewcy II

The second part of my Jews of Tijuana story is now up on Jewcy.

The Institute for Global Health Newsie

The USC Institute for Global Health was kind enough to feature me in their newsletter. They were also unkind enough to point out that I will be 30 soon. :(

Monday, November 16, 2009

WWF Advert

Very smart:


This message was broadcast on Radio Free USC:

In his spare time our dear friend Paul Rockower, aka Sayyed Sheikh Paul bin David Rockowerallah is an underground Jihadi supporter. In this rare glimpse of his covert life you will see him flashing the Hezbollah "al manar" sign and wearing a kaffiyeh.

Is this real or is he yet another Mossad agent infiltrating the ranks of the underworld empire being run by the "party of god". I will let you judge for yourself..... but look in his eyes and tell me what you see. I read Jihad.

You have been warned.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nietzche said


I have stumbled upon my perfect job: Public Diplomacy Director for IBSA, the trilateral organization that connects India, Brazil and South Africa to carry out "southern" leadership. Now I just have to create the position....

First time's always special

"I am leaf on the wind, watch how I soar"

"El cielo espera su retorno." (The sky awaits your return)
-The Sky Room, Long Beach

The saying above was on the exit of the bar overlooking Long Beach where we celebrated the birthday of one classy Katherine Keith. The inscription seemed a far better omen than the one previously received in the LA Times that morning.

I was so anxious to fly that I jumped out of bed early this morning. I hopped the metro down to Long Beach to meet up with my fellow flying diplomats Justin, Helen and Helen's friend Ketura (like the kibbutz I once frequented). Justin is a Brit who just got back from a tour in Afghanistan. Helen is of Cambodian origin and is probably the only grad mom in the program. While I was waiting to get picked up, the song "God moving slowly over the face of the waters" was playing in a juice bar- I took that to be a good sign. We headed further south some two hours to get to Sky Dive San Diego.

We arrived filled with nervous excitement. We were bouncing and anxious to get off, but it ended up being a lot of waiting. First we filled out waivers ("I waive my right to sue, even if the company bollocks it up"; My records are sealed for 21 years after my untimely demise"), then we spent an hour and some change just waiting to get up. We watched tandems and soloists come down in various landing patterns, and smelled the grill smoke wafting. I was hungry but afraid to eat for fear of what might come up. We waited and waited, and finally were trained- if you can call it that. Make like a shrimp and enjoy the ride. Fair enough, I wasn't actually steering, more just a soaring voyeur or a fly on a bird's wing.

As the sun starting getting low into the sky, we finally got our opportunity to dive. I met my tandem buddy- I was getting strapped to a Canadian. We made inconsequential chitchat and climbed into the plane. We were squeezed like sardines into the small galley of the little plane. The sky diving instructors didn't pay much attention to us, they were blithly chatting with each other about their hijinks. They reminded me of ski instructors- a little full of themselves in that we're too cool manner. But no matter.

We began our accent and I watched the ground disappear below. I had a Don Mclean paraphrased riff going through my head: "And as the plane climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite, I saw satan laughing with delight." We all smiled nervously at each other and tried to prepare as best we could. I stopped paying attention to the flying ski patrol and just watched the ground get smaller. We kept climbing and climbing and I finally started realizing what I got myself into. I watched the tandem jumper's distance meter get greater and greater, and was a little shocked when we reached 8,000ft- roughly half way up, and were up in heavens.

We kept flying and climbing until we reached our cruising altitudes and the captain turned off the seat belt sign and the stewardess came by to get our drink orders- or not. The tandemer told me some instruction that I was too frazzled to comprehend. Helen was a little nervous but fine, and i tried to help her keep cool. We reached our dropping height and the garage door opening was released and the cold air came roaring in. To stay calm, I kept my mantra going: "shma yisrael...." A few people went and finally it was my turn. I got up to the door, took a wide-eyed look out and screamed "Shma" as my Geronimo call and tumbled out the plane.

At first it was a total shock. The cold air enveloped me and I could feel it racing through my nose, my sinuses, my head and my ears. I was scared for a second, then it became very calm. I kept my head up and eyed wide as I took in the gift of flight and soared. The tandemer spun us around a few times and we tucked for some added speed. We evened out again and I took in the glorious wide horizon of rolling terrain. The view was possibly one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my years. It was a perspective I have never encountered, and is almost indescribable. This was a bird's eye view of the brilliant hills, lakes and ocean. The sun was setting in the evening mist over the grand pacific and the sun shone bright over the shimmering lake below. The horizon was an expansive and grandiose. The vista stretched on and I took it in as never before. Time stood still for a brief second as I took in the extreme beauty of the moment.

Then the parachute was pulled and we coasted in on our long descent. We wrapped and twisted around the drop, doing long corkscrews to the ever-closer ground. We hovered towards the ground and came in for a surprisingly abrupt landing. I fell on the ground and bounced back up in adrenaline overload. I was ebullient. I was bouncing. I was in shock. I chatted up some others waiting to go their first time, and they were stoked by my enthusiasm. My friends landed and we cracked cold beers and beamed.

Immediately wanting to go again, Helen and I went to haggle with the manager for discounts for the next time, and made an agreement to bring enough friends to ensure a good discount (the po' grad school discount).

After, we went for burgers and beers at some brewpub. We slumped down and chowed down, having not eaten anything. As Tyler said, "Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessell's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal he has ever eaten." Not sure I would go that far, but it was a tasty burger.

All the build-up, the adrenaline rush and post-endorfine overload left us drained, like a long day or rolling night. We made the long journey back from SanDi to LBC, then Justin and I ran back to the metro back to the angels. I went home, figuring that after jumping out of a plane, there was nothing else I could do to top the day. It is an incredible experience and I would strongly recommend it to any and everyone.

PS: I was a little bummed that I was missing the homecoming game for USC vs. Stanford, but apparently I picked a great game to skip as the Trojans got ravaged. My friend Melanie had a great line: "it seems the USC defense may have jumped out of the plane with you today - if there was a game to miss, it was totally this one." So true, Melanie, so true.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kid Icarus

"its my home—last night I dreamt that I grew wings
I found a place where they could hear me when I sing"
Josh Ritter, Wings

Today Kid Icarus takes flight. Geronimo!

Friday, November 13, 2009

On the Golan

Cricket gives me a lot of time to think. I sat out in the backstop outfield and had some time to consider my cricket diplomacy efforts, an op-ed that will hopefully be out soon. I also was thinking about Israel and Syria. Sure enough, when the Palestinian track runs aground, all sides start looking to Syria. It makes sense. States working with other states to make peace and solve disputes is an easier paradigm to work with.

Israel and Syria were only 200 meters off in 1999, but neither side could take the necessary steps to make peace. The last decade has proven that the Golan isn't worth as much on the security front as once considered. It hasn't stopped any rockets from raining down on the Galilee. Peace with Syria has far more strategic value for Israel than the Golan; and with peace with Syria, then perhaps we can get some quiet on the Lebanese front.

It makes sense for all parties involved. Israel is far too isolated and needs to maneuver some way forward to break out of the diplomatic hole it is in. Syria needs to be brought in from the cold. The Obama administration needs a solid win in the international arena. It is a diplomatic, strategic and public diplomacy victory for all parties- one that all need at present.

Bibi somehow ends up the elder statesman of the trio- surprising indeed. Maybe Bibi will show some leadership and make some bold moves towards peace with Syria. Obama will back him up. Perhaps Obama can bring Damascus to the table.

It is too bad that Turkey has so thoroughly discredited itself as a mediator. Now would be the perfect time for their leadership, but it has been so thoroughly lacking in Ankara that such prospects seem unlikely. Maybe Sarko and France can pick up the slack. Or Qatar. The tiny Gulf state would be a perfect bridge to conduct backchannel meetings for Jerusalem and Damascus.

Shiva is a southpaw

The answer to last week's question was: stumped. Indeed I was. Stumped was the way I was put out. Basically I was thrown out for leaving the batting box. Stumped,

This week was a better showing. Nothing flashy, but nothing embarrassing. I hit a few singles. Nothing crashed the fences but I had some nice liners. Enough that I can leave the season with my head held high. Next life, the wheel that is life will reincarnate me as a nasty southpaw from Bombay. For now, I need to work on the great American cricket novel. The Chennai Kid returns.

Jews of TJ cont

Jewcy is continuing my TJ story with a photo exhibit online:


What do I stumble upon the day before I plans to hurl myself out of a moving plane. In the La Times this morning: Man dies skydiving. This does not portend well.

Foul Fowl

Thanks Abba:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jews of Tijuana on Jewcy

Talk about striking while the iron is hot. I have a front-page story of the Jews of Tijuana on Jewcy, a Jewish news website. They are running it as a two-part series. They are also now featuring my blog on their blogroll.

Say it ain't so, Spidey, say it ain't so

From the LA Times front page:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PD4PR- Daily Trojan style

The Daily Trojan has a nice piece on my photo exhibit. It is running on the main page: or click the link above to go right to the story.

I luv the opening line:
Paul Rockower walks the USC campus decked out in bling from around the world.

The face only a mother could love

and the Annenberg web site. They want to put my ugly mug on the website page. Haha!
Look at the ugly schmo who will be the face of the august Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism:


In other news, I got a new backpack today("The cadillac of backpacks"). A new pack to trudge south with. I got it at Adventure 16, who were kind enough to give me 10 percent off with a lil haggling. They were much more accommodating than the other guys. I will be sure to post a pic once it is all loaded up.

In other news related to new southern adventures, I am chatting with the Institute for Global Health to do a photo exhibition for Global Health Week in April. Either an exhibit for the week or month, I had a very fruitful discussion with a lovely Public Healthista named Ivette. I will keep you dear readers posted, but it appears beyond supporting an exhibit, they might be inclined to contributing a bit towards my travel south as I will be working on their photo project. Magic words indeed to perk up Mr. Rockower's ears.

I will try to give a summary from last week's classes tomorrow as it was an interesting week that was- related to China in various regions and the clash of context.

Monday, November 09, 2009


There is a lot of ink already spilled on today's anniversary, I don't have too much to add. I remember watching it come down with Andrew Waterman in his parents living room- not entirely sure of the significance but knowing it was significant. I remember visiting Checkpoint Charlie a decade ago. I was a young man bouncing around Europe on a backpacking adventure. Berlin was a city full of cranes- I remember writing in my journal of Berlin as Phoenix and Crane. I'm as much amazed that it has been a decade since that took place as it has been two since the wall fell. It was a few years back that I noticed the curious irony that November 9th is also the anniversary of Kristalnacht.


Date: Sun, 8 Nov 2005 08:58:18 -0700 (PDT)
From: Paul Rockower

My name is Mr.Paul Rockower.I work in the credit and accounts department of
Union Bank of ZimbabwePLC,Harare, Zimbabwe. I write you in respect of a
foreign customer with a Domicilliary account.

My Zimbabwean uncle passed away, leaving 200 trillion Zim dollars for me via E-bay. I have 200 trillion Zimbabwean dollars in transit to moi. Indeed, I clunked down $1.60 per 100 trillion note and I have two bills coming my way. Sad that the price is way, way more than what the bills are actually worth, and that Zim currency is worth more as a novelty than actual currency.

Most Respectfully Yours,
Right Honourable Sir Paul Rockower, III, OBE

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bah humbug

Starbucks has christmas decoration cups already! WTF! It's only November, and we haven't even hit Turkey Day yet. Too soon, just too soon.

Fumble on!

Check out this wacky fumblerooskie from yesterday's USC-Arizona St. game:

Israelis, Palestinians and peace

Tom Friedman has a pretty good point on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the current meaninglessness of it.
Today, the Arabs, Israel and the Palestinians are clearly not feeling enough pain to do anything hard for peace with each other — a mood best summed up by a phrase making the rounds at the State Department: The Palestinian leadership “wants a deal with Israel without any negotiations” and Israel’s leadership “wants negotiations with the Palestinians without any deal.”

It is obvious that this Israeli government believes it can have peace with the Palestinians and keep the West Bank, this Palestinian Authority still can’t decide whether to reconcile with the Jewish state or criminalize it and this Hamas leadership would rather let Palestinians live forever in the hellish squalor that is Gaza than give up its crazy fantasy of an Islamic Republic in Palestine.

If we are still begging Israel to stop building settlements, which is so manifestly idiotic, and the Palestinians to come to negotiations, which is so manifestly in their interest, and the Saudis to just give Israel a wink, which is so manifestly pathetic, we are in the wrong place. It’s time to call a halt to this dysfunctional “peace process,” which is only damaging the Obama team’s credibility.

Part of me agrees, part of me disagrees. Funny how the columnist who, when Bush was hands off, advocated to get involved in the peace process. Now that Obama is hands on, but it isn't going anywhere, he advocates leaving the sides to their own devices. To be sure, Friedman has always said that the US can't want peace more than the Israelis or Palestinians want it themselves. I wouldn't quite right off the process just yet, I think a little more tough love and candid talk to all sides might be the shock therapy this moribund corpus needs.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Al-Qaeda Mag

Read this interesting piece on Al-Qaeda public diplomacy in the form of their magazine. I can only imagine the adverts included. And the editor's note from Osama. Bizarre.


I have a feeling that my gift to the game of cricket will be with my pen not my bat. I think in my next life I will be a cricket columnist. The Thomas Boswell of the Times of India.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Virgin passport

"With Your U.S. Passport, the World is Yours!"
-Promo material that arrived with the new passport

"I sip the Dom P, watchin Gandhi til I'm charged
Then writin in my book of rhymes, all the words pass the margin
To hold the mic I'm throbbin, mechanical movement
Understandable smooth sh-t that murderers move wit
The thief's theme, play me at night, they won't act right
The fiend of hip-hop has got me stuck like a crack pipe...
Whose world is this?
The world is yours, the world is yours
It's mine, it's mine, it's mine
Whose world is this?
'It's yours!'"
-Nas, "The World is Yours"

My new passport arrived, and all the new travel possibilities therein. Expedited for a new expedition. It's so...blank. The world is mine.

Different worlds

I felt sick listening to this interview. An American working for a multinational living in Angola meets an Angolan gum seller. A true colonialist, imperialist world.

The Sky is falling

Sorry chicken little, but if the refrain sounds familiar, it's only cause it does. A young press officer at the Israeli consulate once woke up on a saturday morning early in his tenure to the news that Prime Minister Abbas was resigning. He did. And came back, and threatened to resign a few more times. Been there, heard that. Abbas has been pretty feckless and inefficient as a leader, although it isn't entirely his fault.

Just a reminder to the Israelis, when Peres inked London Accords with King Hussein to have Jordan take the West Bank off its hands, only to see it scuttled by Shamir, he remarked, "Those who won't work with Hussein will have to deal with Arafat." An intifada followed in its wake, and he was proved absolutely correct. The Rockower Corollary to that is "those who won't work with Abbas will have to deal with Hamas."

A new hero

This kid has chutzpah, he went toe-to-toe with the ayatollah.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


One of my grad perks is that USC pays for conference fees and subscriptions for magazines for me. I just got them to cover Harper's, since dear Alex Chase's subscription ran out this month. I also got them to cover Christian Science Monitor's weekly print edition.

With my new digs in Harper's, check out this piece they have about my alma mater Brandeis and its woes.

O' hidden gem

I'm studying the the resplendent Seely G. Mudd Hall of Philosophy at USC. I had wandered around the building but never ventured up to the hidden gem of a library. My roommie Mary recommended it, and I have stumbled onto paradise. It has huge wooden ceilings, buttressed by intricate arches and columns. The chandeliers and large semi-oval windows bath the hall in light. There are murals on the wall dedicated to life's pursuits of learning. I'm working in a nook with old wood and parchment leather chairs. O' hallowed ground, o' hidden gem.


So I went daypack shopping at REI. I found one I liked but they didn't have it in my size. Surely, no problem considering REI is a national chain with considerable inventory. I called the REI hotline to get one sent over in my size. Easy enough, except it wasn't. They wouldn't send over one in my size to the store unless I ordered it. Dumb. I said there was no way I was buying something without seeing it first. I wouldn't buy a t-shirt online, let alone a $250 backpack.

I decided to give the store a call to simply get them to order it in. Should be straightforward, except it wasn't. They wouldn't order in the pack unless I bought it first. No way. The salesclerk understood my plight, but couldn't do anything. He recommended I try another store in Manhattan Beach that would likely have one. I asked why they couldn't just get one sent over from the MB store if they have them there. No dice.

Absolutely stupid. I will take my business elsewhere.

Haha, I already found another store with it in my size. Thanks Adventure 16. So long REI suckers....

The down side of '89

Josh Kucera has a good piece about the things that didn't exactly work out post-'89 revolutions. Like how Samarkand used to be the "reading city" of the Soviet Union, but now all the bookstores are closed, save one. The biggest bookstore is now a cellphone store.

Dear Leader welcomes you!

I was reading about a new South Korea branding advert, so I tried to look it up. What I stumbled onto instead were some super bizarre North Korean tourism adverts. I hear Pyongyang is lovely in the Fall....

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Pioneering Public Diplomacy Advert

This is the new Public Diplomacy Magazine advertisement, designed by Matt Schrader and moi, and used for ad swaps with other journals.

blue electric octopi swimming in the fog-filled depths

i am conflicted
travelling the path of the soul, so gifted
still unable to break the mold, I lifted
the veil and still could not see
Insisted my existance began with me

I was surprisingly melancholy yesterday, something about an 85 degree November didn't seem right. The great weather had lost its novelty, and the feeling that nothing ever changes in LA was getting me down. I decided to hop the bus to Santa Monica for a little change of scenery. I sat on the bus, trying to come up with impossible answers to ridiculously hard questions proffered by the transit tv.
-What is the name of the parliament of the Isle of Man?
-What does an onomatologist study?
-A nebuchadnezzer of wine holds how many bottles?
-The name of a group of peacocks is called?
(the answers in the comment section)
Ridiculously hard for a grad student on the bus, and I think I was probably the only grad student riding except for maybe a few post-docs in the back.

seems that i lost much, lost touch of reality
it cost much, of the soul what a fallacy
this world is at times, I can't escape
see myself with new eyes, now i'm trying to take
the first step on a path that i know is paved with much difficulty
so i think i must save myself from a world that is falling down
all around me

Anyway, as we trudged along, the sun grew blotted out by fog rolling in from the pacific. We continued heading west, and my countenance perked up with the change I desired. For a real rarity, the grey had cheered me up.

Santa Monica was lost in the daze of grey haze. I wandered around, looking into a new day pack for a new adventure. The old one is getting retired after a decade of faithful service.

I wandered on to the Third Street promenade and was overcome by the beauty of the scene. The trees were lit up in blinking blue lights that shimmered against the grey backdrop. A disco beat pulsated in the distance and I wondered if I was in an outdoor rave. Blue electric octopi swam with their tentacle lights in the foggy depths, it was sublime. I sat listening to K-os, surrounded by trees bleeding fuzzy blue light down perfect vantage points that slouched towards infinity.

just like king midas turned things to gold
i touched my soul and felt my warm blood turn cold
i was told we paint the picture we want to see

(italics are lyrics from K-os' "The Ballad of Noah")

Arlington Rap

I will suspend my deep hatred of VA for this:

Getting old sux

I think thirty is actually killing me. I think the prospect of turning is giving me an ulcer. Literally. Oh, getting old sux.

Humus and Tabouleh Songs!

Thanks Melanie and Remy for restoring my faith in the Middle East.

Humus Rap:

Tabouleh Rap

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Justice, even unto its innermost parts

"There are means that cannot be excused. And I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don't want just any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive."
-Albert Camus

"Justice, justice ye shall pursue"
Deuteronomy 16:20

"There is a town in Mississippi called Liberty, there is a department in Washington called Justice."
-60's Civil Rights Movement poster

I love Israel and I love justice. I fundamentally believe that there is justice in our cause and in the Jewish homeland. Yet I also inherently believe that the settlements are unjust. I believe that there cannot be peace without the halt of settlements. We cannot pursue peace and continue to build settlements. The two are simply not compatible. Justice is not on our side with the expansion of settlements, and peace is not truly our pursuit. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either delusional or a liar.

PS: A reminder that the other side also not on the side of justice. A reminder a little too close to home. Some nasty libel on USC campus. A pox on all sides.

Monday, November 02, 2009

How the mighy have fallen

The British Foreign office is falling on hard times.

Salvador, Romero & Subcommandante Marcos; Antaeus Trial

Synopsis from last week to get this week started. Last tuesday I had to lead a discussion in my PubD Lat Am class. I co-facilitated the class with my classmate Regina on nonstate actors in Latin America in a public diplomacy context. My part was specifically on the Central American peace movement.

To introduce the context of Central America in popular media, we began by showing a few clips, first of Salvador

Then a trailer of Romero

Then some of Oscar Romero's speeches. We discussed the boomerang model as noted by the transnational advocacy network scholars Keck and Sikkink. We compared the case studies of Nicaragua and El Salvador in the public diplomacy context of the Central American peace movement. We examined the role of symbolic politics, information leverage, the role of media and credible alternative information in both cases. The context of the peace movement was much weaker in Nicaragua because of the Sandinistas being in power.

We also looked at the environmental movement, especially in Brazil and the Amazon. Regina presented on this, and we focused on how the Amazon rubber tappers were able to frame the debate not on the trees but the communities that were affected by deforestation. Good pd gives faces to issues.

We then looked at the Zapatistas as the first post-modern rebellion waged as a public diplomacy information war.

And in popular culture, as seen by Manu Chao:

We looked at the adoption of the Zapatista cause by transnational networks, but also how the adoption of the Zapatista cause by the anti-globalization network changed the focus of the movement. We also looked at how the domestic support in Mexico was mainly from pro-Democracy sectors, not pro-Indigenous, and that once the trade-offs were made in Mexico by the PRI for free elections in exchange for economic reform, the Zapatistas lost a chuck of their base. In essence, they lost their home crowd, and meanwhile Subcommandante Marco was able to build a network, but not on his objectives, ie a coalition of actors with different interests than his own, which diluted the Zapatista movement.

Wednesday involved boozing it up with the first years in their post-504 bitch session. Thursday I had my PubD Africa class, and we discussed the role of UN peacekeeping vs. peacemaking in Africa, and the ongoing pursuits of the AU as an organization and subregional orgs. The most novel idea came as converting the AU from an org that features 52 to African states to an org that hosts the major subregional actors (SADC, ECOWAS, EAC).

Friday I presented on "Who needs Diplomats?" The most interesting point in the piece came in the observation that diplomats were seemingly losing their status as they grew disconnected from the state. I compared it to the trial of Hercules in his battle with the demigod Antaeus. Antaeus was the son of Poseidon and Gaea and was the strongest man alive, so long as he was touching mother earth. Hercules defeated him by removing him from the ground, ie disconnecting him from the source of his power. Rather than transformations, I argued that the diplomatic field was just going through the natural progression of adjustments- evolution.

We also had a very interesting discussion of catalytic diplomacy vs. polylateralism. We discussed the competing ideas of whether we would need more or less diplomatic representation in the future, whether there would be more or less states as time progressed. Also about how shifts and changes in the field of diplomacy often follow war. We also discussed the proper diplomatic representation used- how low level officers can sometimes be more appropriate than high level representatives. I shared my own stories of playing Israeli representative to a Pakistan function, after disengagement when they were flirting. We also heard an interesting story from Prof. Wiseman of how an Aussie FM tried to insitute an official Aussie diplo uniform of open-colored shirt and hat.

Okay, enough of a past week rundown, now I can move on to this week.

PS: A note of birthday cheer to my ol' mom. Happy Birthday Mom!

Sticking it to the Meter Maids

One of the things that drives me mad about this city is that there are tons of signs out for street cleaning. No parking for 2 hours in the morning while your street is cleaned. The parking police are super vigilant about giving tickets if your car is parked on the wrong side. Nice, but the actual street cleaners are sporadic at best in terms of showing up. It's galling to see how much money is made by the city in fines, yet there is no service for which the fines are levied. My friend Matt investigated the issue for Annenberg TV News, check out his piece:

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Rewriting a death foretold

Kathleen Parker of the WaPo has an interesting piece today on the state of the newspaper world.

Israel, Obama and peace

There is a great op-ed by Henry Siegman in the NY Times about Israel, Obama and peace:
Israelis do not oppose President Obama’s peace efforts because they dislike him; they dislike him because of his peace efforts. He will regain their affection only when he abandons these efforts.

That is how Israel’s government and people respond to any outside pressure for a peace agreement that demands Israel’s conformity to international law and to U.N. resolutions that call for a return to the 1967 pre-conflict borders and reject unilateral changes in that border.

Like Israel’s government, Israel’s public never tires of proclaiming to pollsters its aspiration for peace and its support of a two-state solution. What the polls do not report is that this support depends on Israel defining the terms of that peace, its territorial dimensions, and the constraints to be placed on the sovereignty of a Palestinian state.