Saturday, October 31, 2009

F-ck a Duck

O' Halloween horror. The horror, the horror. To paraphrase Kurtz, exterminate the ducks.

Under the Banner of the Great Pumpkin

Rollin to the Indie PD party with Charlie's Angels. Makes me Charlie. Alternatively, the Angels are all Mormons, hence Moroni's Angels. The beat from Kim is "my wives" ;)

Calamity; sambapd; Cricket PD for Pakistan

Just finished the saturday afternoon opera. My roomie Andrea (un de deux) had a performance singing as Calamity Jane in a chamber opera set. It was phenomenal. The opera voices soared and bounced to the heights of the church it was held in.

Now I am conducting a Brazilian pd symphony, listening to samba as I plan Brazil's soft power rise in the south. A rise as soft as a bosanova beat with Luluzaphone pd, pele pd and samba escola pd. I'm studying with my friend Mary in the cold, reptilian lair of the law students. The chairs are super comfy, and the room is cold enough to keep the law lizards working.

My big "E" last night gave me an idea for terrific American PD in Pakistan. Cricket pd. Pakistanis are mad for the sport. The NYPD is already learning the value of Cricket PD with South Asian youth in NYC. Use a tiny, tiny portion of that tremendous aid budget to buy wickets and bats for Pakistani youth. Set up fields upon fields of cricket and engage. Learn to bowl for pd. Cultural exchange, sports exchange and smart pd.

E

I pathetically dropped a pop fly yesterday in my cricket match. It is much harder without a glove.

Gourmet Ramen & Ambassador Sanders

If undergrad was characterized by ramen noodles, then grad school is definitely gourmet ramen. What is the recipe for gourmet ramen? Those cheap 20 cent ramen noodles, but with cabbage, garlic, cilantro, mushroom and egg cooked in, plus a dash of chili oil, sesame oil, siracha and soy. Like gradschool, well worth the price and I constantly want more.

I can remember the first time I had ramen, with my friend Greg Walters and his brothers. I thought it was the coolest food, I had never had oodles of noodles before. All those crinkly, soft noodles were unlike the normal spaghetti I was used to. All these years later, I still like it.

It's also far healthier than Kentucky Fried Multilateralism. Apparently Col Sanders snuck into the UN to gain "recognition" of "Grilled Nation." Yup, got passed layers of security on a hoax and even posed with the President of the UN.



Thanks Melanie for sending that one along. The only other case I know of this is from my old friend Bethy, who stormed the UN General Assembly to protest UN anti-Zionism. She chained herself to a chair in the GA. Luv the nice Jewish girls.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Do not pass Congo, Do not collect 200 rand

Check out Pan-Africopoly, also known as Jekeban. Gives new meaning to Jumanji! Oh, I could have so much fun designing an African monopoly.

While on Yearcourse, I designed my own version of Jewmanji, I made Zionopoly as a final project. Herzl in top hat; Iraqi scuds rain down on Tel Aviv, pay 200 shekels in building repairs; Messiah comes, go directly to Zion; jail as galut- diaspora.

Astroturf lobby

“If a horse won’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.”
-Dick Allen

Listen to this NPR report about blatant fraud from an astro-turf lobby.

Out of the ghetto

A great piece by Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz about Israel being so holed-up in its isolation mentality that it doesn't even know who its supporters are anymore. "Dovish Jews? They love Israel? Excommunicate them:"
We don't need them. They'll never see things our way, no matter what. Let them go.

It's a new Israeli approach which borrows from the very worst of our aging instincts. It says: We're moral, our enemies are out to exterminate us along with our state, that's all you need to know. No modifications necessary. Stay the course. Concede nothing. Ease no siege. Give no ground. Ever.

It is a radical redefinition of Postmodern Zionism, this time from the right. Over the past weeks, it's been test-run in our relations with Turkey, with the Goldstone Commission, with Mahmoud Abbas - and with consistent results.

Now it's about to be tried on North American Jewry, some 6 million strong, a community at a critical crossroads, one that will have lasting and - if mishandled - dangerous consequences for Israel.


Sadly, the opportunity to get us out of Europe's ghettos is being hijacked by the right-wing to turn Israel into a fenced-in, walled-in ghetto in the Middle East. You know something's run amok when Israel feels the need to boycott left wing lovers of Israel. The right wing in Israel is so busy isolating Israel that it can't even handle sending the Israeli ambassador to a dovish pro-Israel, pro-peace conference put on by J Street. Sad. When you see enemies even among your own people who support you, you really have a victimization complex wrapped in the psyche. Larry Derfner of the Jpost has a great piece on Gaza and victimization. Sad, sad.

A far different kind of sad comes from a little closer to home. There was a shooting in North Hollywood today, at a synagogue. Details are still murky so I will refrain from weighing in any further at the moment.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Soft Power and Afghanistan

Nick Kristof has a great piece on the soft power side of the Afghan surge.
In particular, one of the most compelling arguments against more troops rests on this stunning trade-off: For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there. It’s hard to do the calculation precisely, but for the cost of 40,000 troops over a few years — well, we could just about turn every Afghan into a Ph.D.

UNinvolved

In PubD Africa class. My friend Tala (the Persian Lucille Ball) just highlighted this great pic:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Journey on

I bade farewell to an old friend today, my passport. It was running out of time and pages, and I needed a new one. I said goodbye to it with a tinge of sadness. I looked at the face of a young man who had just started his second decade. The portrait of Paul Rockower, with wild, curly hair and a little half-goatee on his chin. I think I look a little hungover in the picture.

On this little blue book, I had toured the world, and with colorful stamps to prove it. Different shapes in scraggly letters from faraway lands, and brilliantly beautiful visas pasted on to the page. My passport brought me curious glances from bored border guards, and accusations of being a spy from hostile hostel workers. I had even traveled so much on this passport that I was barred entry once, on account of a lack of pages. From Beijing to Cairo, I roamed; from Prague to Istanbul, I wandered; from Buenos Aires to the ends of the Earth (with a stamp to prove) and back to Lima, I ventured forth.

I feel a little uneasy without my passport. For years I guarded it on my person, slung tightly around my waist. I often slept with it under my pillow. I wrestled it back from border guards after backsheesh. I never let it out of my sight. Now its gone, if for only a brief spell. I feel somehow trapped, as if my escape is now blocked and I am stuck. I don't know too many other people who get so sentimental about such things, but I am a collector of miles, of flags, of memories.

I mentioned this sadness my friend Kenya, who as always, offered a little perspective on Peter Pan getting older. I mentioned the closure that it seemed to bring on a decade of travel. It seemed the end of something. She remarked that the next decade will also bring lots of travel, and lots of new things. By the end of this next decade, she noted, I could be Dr. Rockower, I might be married, and I could possibly have some little tykes running around. No need to get ahead of things.

For now, I look forward to the possibility of a new passport, with its virgin pages and infinite possibilities for new adventures. I plan to use it immediately, and to some places that I am currently barred from entering. Good morning Beirut, howdy Damascus, shalom Tehran (ok, maybe not that last one...). A new passport for a new decade of travel in the life of one Paul S. Rockower. Journey on, journey forth.

The sound of collective silence

"And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence."
-Simon and Garfunkel, "The Sound of Silence"

There is something so sublime about large gatherings of silent people. Such examples include libraries, elevators and rush-hour subways cars. The beauty of the sound of collective silence.

sniffle, sniffle; Auntie Em

Think I am starting to battle a case of post-modern, passive-aggressive flu. Not fully sick, but not fully well.

Meanwhile, SoCal is turning to Kansas as we are being wracked by fierce winds. On my bike ride to school, I was assaulted by dust on the wind (see under: the Cairean hamseen). Campus was filled with downed branches and a few trees too. There's no place like home, there is no place like home.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kautilya, Hindi for FML

We had an interesting reference in my Theories of Diplomacy to Kautilya's Arthashastra. The book is the Indian equivalent of Machiaveli's The Prince, written centuries before. Since I hadn't heard of it, I thought it would be interesting to review it for my final paper in regard to other diplomatic literature we had read. Grand idea, until the book arrived. It is a magnum opus of a treatise. It's probably about a thousand pages. Ugh. FMDL, F' my diplomatic life.

A brief synopsis of the week that was

A brief synopsis of the week that passed.

Tuesday Pub D Lat Am we discussed the public diplomacy carried out by Mexico in trying to get NAFTA passed. It was an interesting case of Mexico using diplomacy, lobbying and public diplomacy to get the trade deal online. Mexico spent a lot of money on top lobbyist pr groups like Burson-Marseteller, among others to get the deal going, but in the end it was a lot of big-man exec diplomacy by President Clinton that got the thing through. A curious question is the effectiveness of their pd efforts, and how much that smoothed the way for WJClinton bringing home the free trade bacon. We also looked at failures of Mexican pd based on the expectation that American Latino communities would support them simply because, and also the unexpected case of labor going for broke trying to stop NAFTA. There was some interesting aspects of socialization that helped pave the way for Mexico to sell its leadership to get the deal through ie Carlos Salinas used his Harvard background to project an image of stability.

Tuesday night I had Seeds of Peace reunion, with my friends Daron and Sarah. Sarah was one of my fav counselors at SOP. She is a brilliant girl, who went to that university in the Boston area. She was teaching in Korea, now she works for City Year. Sarah mentioned how the city year participants live on only $1,000 a month, and often get food stamps. I said that was awful, and terrible that they would be working so hard and struggling- then I did the math and realized I don't live on a whole lot more on a monthly basis. Hmmm...maybe I should sign up for government cheese....

Wednesday there was a great branding seminar by Sasha Strauss of Innovation Protocol on branding, brand development and the need to brand yourself. He spoke of how great brands have "the power to change perception, influence preference and command loyalty." He gave a very animated and thorough lecture about the need to create a genuine, consistent brand that you alone will control.

Thursday there was an interesting CPD lecture by Daniel Volman of the African Security Research Project on Africom and African security. He spoke in detail of the security threat caused by insecurity on the continent, about war games scenarios based on Nigerian oil going offline. He raised some interesting points about how Africa is becoming the main source for oil for the US and how precarious that can be, about how China and the US don't have a rivalry in Africa because they see common cause in oil extraction and how the process of creating stability with African militaries can cause obstacles to democratization and belie claims that the military support and training makes the continent more stable (see under: Guinea).

My Thursday Africa day continued with my PubD Africa class, where we discussed Congo, the role of women in conflict zones and the differences between IDPs (Internally-Displaced Persons) and refugees, and what that means for Africa.

Friday was the Theories of Diplo class on Middle Powers. The previous week we did some SAT PD. My friend John's piece was along the lines of SAT analogies, ie soft power is to hard power as public diplomacy is to foreign policy. This week we discussed Niche diplomacy and what constitutes a Middle Power (see under: Public Diplomacy Magazine) We went over some interesting readings from the week on Singapore and as a Middle Powers, as well as the usual suspects (Canada, Norway, Australia). We also looked the role of diffuse versus discreet in middy pd and niche diplomacy. The most interesting revelation from the class was the notion that rogue states were middle powers gone bad.

I spent most of my weekend being the Miles of my year. Miles is my friend from the class above who always hung out with our class; I have become that for the first years this year, being one of the only second years at b-day parties friday and saturday. I guess I simply socialized the notion of good pd starts at home and we need to get the classes mixing. Saturday was spent tailgating (alegating) as USC took on the Beavers. It was the first close match I have seen, and the first time I stayed until the end.

The week to come should be busy. I have a paper due tomorrow on the public diplomacy of the central american peace movement in the 1980s, and it should be fun. A fascinating case study involving liberation theology, the martyrdom of Oscar Romero(20th C version of "won't someone rid me of this meddlesome priest?") and the innocents and a whole other cast of characters in this passion play.

PS: My fingers on the global zeitgeist are a little too good (See under: India-China rumblings cont.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nightmare on J st

Interesting piece in Foreign Policy about the ongoing fight with J Street. B'Hatzlicha with the inaugural conference, J Street!

Friday, October 23, 2009

T-3

Rise of the Governator; rise of the product placement; rise of the cheese. Oy, rise of the machines, fall of a good series. I was eleven when T2 came out. I remember watching it with my Dad in an end of summer hurrah. The story was great, the Guns n Roses music rocked. How the mighty have fallen. The John Connor is a pale version of the punky Edward Furlong version. Claire Danes is a shell of her beauty in Romeo and Juliet. Arnold is lame, I forgot what an awful actor he is- even worse than his gubernatorial career. The chick terminator has nothing on the T-1000. And to make matters worse, the netflix dvd is scratched and busy skipping. The only plus side I can see half way through is now that I am an Angeleno, I recognize the scenery. That seems to be the only saving grace.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

...and then I found ten pesos

My Dad, brother and I like to conclude a poorly-told story with "and then I found five dollars." It doesn't make a lot of sense, it is simply meant to shift focus away from a story going nowhere.

About 2 weeks ago, I was over by the Gould Law School. I was unlocking my bike, when I looked down and saw ten pesos on the ground. Not ten mexican pesos, mind you, which might have made sense. No, it was ten argentine pesos laying on the ground. Good ol' Belgrano himself, with fair Rosario on the back. Puzzled, I took the note and put it in my backpack for safekeeping.

Today I had an interview with the Daily Trojan about my photo exhibit. Amid my meanderings about travel, I took the opportunity to exhort Sarah the lovely Lifestyles editor and reporter to do a semester abroad. She had been considering studying in Argentina, so for a bit of serendipity and a minor bit of incentive, I bestowed the bill upon her. What will ten pesos buy you? According to the What the World Costs Index, quite a bit. If I were down in fair Buenos Aires, I would use that ten pesos to have an alfajor and a cafe cortado at El Gato Negro, the spice shop coffee place on Corrientes- the Argentine Broadway. I would probably still have a little moneda (change) leftover for the bus home.

Bacevitch, Mailer & Chase

"Fighting a war to fix something works about as good as going to a whorehouse to get rid of the clap."
-Norman Mailer

Thanks Norman, and thanks Andrew Bacevitch for digging that quote up in a good Harper's piece this month on Afghanistan. Thanks Alexander Chase for never updating your subscription, and thanks to Annenberg for continuing that subscription when dear Alex's runs out. I'll leave off with a note from Harper's index: "Percentage of Americans who think government should 'stay out of Medicare': 39"

India-China rumblings

Apparently, I'm not the only one who has taken notice to the rumblings between India and China. Both the Christian Science Monitor and GlobalPost have picked up the story too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WWJGD?

As in What would John Galt do? When I interned at Marketplace, I pitched a story to interview the Ayn Rand Center on the financial crisis ("Who is John Galt, and what would he say about the crash?"). As was often the case, I got a headpat, a few affirmative nods and nothing more. Probably why I no longer work for them. Anywho, the point of this blog is not to be bitter, but to point out how big Ayn Rand is in the wake of the financial crisis, and surprisingly even more so in India.

Speaking of India, I have been watching some strange rumblings between China and India. There has been a little murmur of bellicosity between the two largest nations that I have been noticing in my PD news surveys. It breaks down over Kashmir, the history of fighting between India and China and a little good ol' jockeying. Nothing too serious yet, but I have seen an uptick in aggressive posturing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Waltz with Goldstone

I watched the incredible Waltz with Bashir last night. Simply incredible. The animation was stunning, the music draws you in, the story was riveting. I kept thinking to myself of the seemingly neverending flashbacks that keep playing out.

My thoughts also went over to the parallels with the recent Gaza incursion, and the comparisons between. I found an interesting Salon piece that noticed the same. It's all a debacle, and it keeps happening again and again.

The recent Goldstone imbroglio is a reminder of things done poorly from a pd perspective. Israel boycotted the Goldstone investigation, then got nailed in the report and is now trying to boycott the report. Rather than trying to add security input and offer Israel's side, they simply walked away, then were shocked, shocked to learn that the report is skewed from the Israeli perspective.

Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz writes about the issue well:
It was also rooted in the belief - oddly un-Israeli, more an outgrowth of the Polish shtetl than the Palmach - that a fair hearing for Israel in international bodies of justice was so inconceivable, that the best defense was no defense at all.

Israel's decision not to cooperate with the Goldstone Mission, and, in many respects, to actively hamper its work, was calamitous. In revealing correspondence pointedly reproduced in the report, Justice Goldstone all but gets down on hands and knees to beg Israel to allow it to balance the report with on-site visits to rocket-torn Sderot, extensive direct testimony from victims of Qassam attacks, and first-person accounts and explanations of soldiers accused of violations of international law. Israel says no. Benjamin Netanyahu won't even go so far as to answer Goldstone's letter.

I am still very much a Zionist, and I don't need to brandish my credentials to anyone. But the Zionist project is failing in its central mission of making the Jewish state (and for that matter the Jewish people) a member of global civil society. Instead, Israel ends up "the Jew" of the international community- that fact is a failure of the Zionist enterprise, something that Herzl would find utterly dismaying.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

EasLos

Saturday has become my bike ride day, where I wander about town and take in the variety of LA. I headed out towards East Los Angeles. I rode through the Fashion District and the Toy District. The smell of bacon-wrapped hotdogs grilling wafted to my nose- ah the succulent smell of forbidden franks. Maybe I will have to try grilling a turkey-bacon wrapped turkey dog.

I biked up to Little Tokyo for some mid-morning snacks. First some yummy manju, dare I say better than that which I had in Japan. Then over to a convenie for an onigiri triangle and can of Boss coffee. Ah, the nostalgia that hangs on our tastebuds.

I headed east to Boyle Heights, stopping first to take some pics of the lovely Union Station. Once in Boyle Heights, I parked my bike in Little Mexico and became Pablito del Pueblito. Or perhaps Evo Murales, as I took in the beautiful wall art that brightened the heights. I had some horchata, and a lovely matron gave me some horchata fresa (strawberry horchata) to try. For lunch, I stopped at a taco joint called 7 Mares and had a delicious fried fish taco slathered in slaw and white sauce, with a vinegar hot pepper on the side. The fish taco was sublime, crisply fried but not overly so, filling but not too heavy. Yum.

I continued my bike ride until I got to El Mercado de Los Angeles. I felt as if I was back in DF, as I wandered past the shops and cafes. I took in the colors and smells, and was sold on some free samples of Dulce de Guayaba and Dulce de Membrillo.
I then took my leisurely bike back home. As Galeano said, "Truth lies in the journey, not the port." So true, so true.

What year are we living in?

A judge in Louisiana took a principled stand against miscegenation, denying a marriage license to an interracial couple. In his brilliant opinion, mixing of the races simply doesn't work. Ummm...do you know who our president is? My l-rd, progress seems slow sometimes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cookiemonster is my savior; Ozymandias Diplomacy

The week began with a midterm to end the season. I would like to say I put the "pro" in procrastination but the jury is still out.

Tuesday was Pub D Lat Am, on Central America in the age of Reagan. Actually a little prior, with Jimmy Carter, human rights policy and Samoza thrown in the mix. A bit on the fall of a Samoza, and its ripple effects in the region. An interesting parallel to the Shah, and the pitfalls of backing tyrants as well as the law of unintended consequences. Even more interesting given the link between the two countries in the Iran-Contra affair.

We touched on messages of weakness and strength we send, and the difficulty of enforcing the dogmas we hold. We had a very interesting discussion on pd messages, big and small. Carter's messages and Reagan's, and the clarity therein. A bit of a discussion of the Kirkpatrick Doctrine, and its repercussions. About Mexico's pd promotion as a sanctuary of human rights for Latin America, especially in regard to the rightward regimes down south. The public diplomacy of the Central America peace movement, and the coalitions crafted over religious lines.

Wednesday was a presentation by by Dr. Kerry Kartchner, a State Department nonproliferation expert. My question had to do with the Nuclear Freeze Movement and a claim made last semester of the role that the movement had in ending the Cold War. Kartchner agreed in disagreement, and made an interesting point of the role in Chernobyl in pushing forward a slow down in the nuclear arms race- case that the Soviets saw first had the devastation wrought and sought to cool things off. Chernobyl diplomacy.

Thursday dried up the landy, landy. I had a great interview with VOA on my photo exhibit, I will post it once it appears. As I was walking to campus, I saw some people handing out cookies. Of course I headed over and grabbed a chocolate chip. I asked to who I owed the thanks for the free cookie: to Jesus. Jesus is my cookiemonster. I guess the corpus was tollhouse. We had a brief class at my prof's house, Dean Carola Weil, where we discussed AIDS in Africa, Black Death and the effects of massive plagues on social order, and role of "securitization" in regards to the AIDS crisis. Then we went to see a play on the Liberian civil war called Eclipsed. It was about Liberian women in the conflict, and was very powerful. After the play, I went out with a bunch of the first years to a club called La Cita, a pub d friend named Seth was working the door and got us in. It was a fun club with a decidedly hipster crowd, and we danced till the lights came on.

Today, I had a lovely lunch with Dr. Davis-Hayes, and then had my Theories of Diplomacy class. It was my week to present, and I gave a literature review of Peter van Ham's piece on public diplomacy and Pax Americana. I will post my review, but I named my lecture "Ozymandias diplomacy." I began my remarks with the lines:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


The article was on the American "liberal empire" and the public diplomacy therein. My point was that imperial hubris ends up crumbled in the sands. I discussed the paradox of the Bush administration's neglect of diplomacy for force, but attempts/ expectations that public diplomacy should clean up the mess. The piece itself was both interesting for its dated feel, even though it was only three years old. It was also a great piece, simply because it managed to reference Monty Python's "Life of Brian," and imperial hegemony ingratitude.



I ended my talk with a look on the bright side of life and the changes taking place in American diplo, pub d and world with a more subdued with an America not drunk with imperial hubris.



After class, I had a drink with the classmates at the Lab, then a cricket match. We won a good match. Again I didn't get to do much, save offering a little fielding here and there. Still learning and still enjoying it. I had visions of multi-armed Vishnu bowling to mighty Ganesh at the bat.

Don Chows Chinese-Mexican Tacos

The Fat Boy Chronicles in full force. I just had an amazing "That's so LA" snack, Chinese-Mexican fusion tacos. I found a little taco truck called Don Chow Tacos on Hoover. I had to stop to sample the wares, and they were delish. I had a kung pao chicken taco, which was good. The one that stole the show was a ginger-lime marinated-tofu taco, slathered in red sauce and topped with onions, cilantro and avocado. It was incredible. Yum! Even better cause the lovely matron gave it to me for free to sample.

...Or else!

Foreign Policy has a great post about the Taliban's logic: if you don't stop calling us terrorists, we'll blow you up!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sequel to my memoirs

Since I already threw out the title for my first book, "Eat, Eat, Eat, Pray and Love," I decided that my sequel could be "Tales of a Wandering Fat Kid."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Obama teaches engrish

Years ago, it was Willis Conover whose voice the world mimicked. Now it is the prez. See this great article about how Obama is Japan's favorite English teacher.

Obama Nobel cont

What I find so unbelievably galling is that so much criticism of Obama winning the Nobel comes from the same quarters that supported so much of the devastation wrought out during the past 8 years. Our PD image had fallen off the f'ing table, we were growing more and more isolated in the world. Now Obama comes along, rights our PD ship, puts America back in the eyes of global admiration and does all this in less than year. And they want to complain? What has he done to deserve a Nobel? He cleaned up after your f'ing mess, you dolts. And he has done a pretty admirable job of it.

I have enough literature piled up on my floor moaning about the sorry state of PD post-9/11 and all the whining about "why do they hate us." Guess what, they didn't hate "us," they hated "you" in the Bush administration and all his sanctimonious cheerleaders. They hated your callous disregard for the rest of the world. I want to take all that literature about the sorry state of US PD and have giant bonfire bbq weenie roast outside the new W. center, and we can pass out kosher, hallal soy hotdogs to the world, while toasting Obama's Nobel.

snowballs equivalent; rubberducky diplomacy

Akin to a snowy day in hell, we have had two straight rainy days in Lalaland. On a positive note, the smell of rosemary kicked up by the rain and hanging on the wet air is lovely. On a negative note, it is only with the rain do I realize that my shoes have holes in the soles.

To warm up after the drenching I took, I spent the afternoon engaging in tub d, ie reading my pub d homework while soaking in a bubble bath.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kitchen Fridge update

I hung up a whole bunch of new pub d papers on the "kitchen fridge" section. Have a peek to see what I have been working on over the last year and change...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The PD Theory of Relativity

This is what happens when I am left to my own devices...the Public Diplomacy Theory of Relativity. So if I am christening myself the Einstein of PD, then this is my Southern California Project.

First a remedial course in PD Math that we came up with in Prof. Wiseman's Theories of Diplomacy class:
Domestic Policy + Foreign Policy + Diplomacy = Statecraft; DoPo + FoPo + Diplo + Public Diplomacy = 21st Century Statecraft. But keep in mind that PD is really a force multiplier so it could also read PD Squared. Meanwhile, Intention + Capability = Threat; yet the balance must be calibrated because intention is not of the same value as capability and far too many conflate the two and give equal weight to unequal factors.


Now taking it to the next power, ready....E=PD Squared. The Story of Everything (Thanks, Andrew ala Zero to Infinity) equals public diplomacy squared. Our Guerrilla Diplomacy professor Daryl Copeland pointed out that diplomacy equals the power of influence, so then public diplomacy is influence to the second power. But for all this fuzzy math to work, we need to apply it to a proof, and find absolute PD values and soft power endings.

Case in point of the absolute value of PD comes in Obama's Nobel Prize. Obama is a variable of PD Squared, and its value equals a Nobel Prize (and $1.4 million dollars). Enhanced PD equals hope, change and the admiration of billions around the globe for the United States, as quantified in the Anholt Nation Branding Index. For me, the Anholt Index is proof enough that Obama deserves the Nobel (apparently for Simon as well, as he states on Mountainrunner). Simply put, an America that is re-engaged with the world as a force for peace is easily worth a peace prize by my calculations. Too bad the same people who caused 2 wars, billions of debt and an America minus friends in the world can't seem to add all this up.

Just wait, my next installment will be the Gonzo Diplomacy Manifesto, derived from the Hunter S. Thompson School of International Relations. This may be a joint project with the eminent scholar Michael Hallquist, who is the leading proponent of the Jean-Claude Van Damme Hard Power Theory. He is a Chuck Norris Fellow at the Houston Institute of Azz Kicking, and is working on his PhD on the A-Team and the role of nonstate actors in international relations.

The Gondola to Venezia

Men and women of Venice, lovers, children, holy citizens of the heavenly city
all around you is the sweet love
breath of the Lord.
-Stuart Perkoff, found on a Venice bathroom wall

I finally had my first real day off in months, a day all to myself. I decided I wanted to venture down to the Pacific, so I hopped on my bike-turned-gondola and punted to Venice. The ride was calm and peaceful, and being free to swim in my own head, I had a dance with the muse and came up with my pd theory of relativity (see post).

But back to my bike ride and Frutas Victorias, the place I stopped for a mid ride snack and a taste of the American dream in a sabor nuevo (new flavor) under two rainbow parasols blocking the midday sun. A lovely fruitseller on Venice, who dished me up a bag of watermelon, papaya, melon, cucumber, lime, salt and chili. Yum. El Sueno Americano for the lovely female entrepreneur. We chatted for a bit as she handles the line of customers. She said that her biggest problem is harassment from the cops. I don't get it, this is someone simply being a good business woman, and carrying out the American dream in her entrepreneurship.

Anywho, I continued down my trip, until I stopped for lunch at Cafe Brazil. (Editor's note, I have decided to title my memoirs "Eat, Eat, Eat, Pray and Love").
My brazilian daydream, punctuated with the sound of samba and bouncy portuguese, turned into a nightmaRe. I was eating a delicious sandwich called a cairioca and I decided to put some hot peppers on it. I are a whole one, and immediately went up in flames. It was unbelievably hot, it felt like I got punched in the face. In my top ten o' hot. Not stupid hot, but sure up there. I bounced around in pain, extolling the pepper's virtue and offering my respect. Once my mouth was no longer ablaze, I headed back down and continued on my journey, stopping one last time for some cucumber-mint lemonade at a store called...Lemonade.

Once I arrived to Venice, I put my bike up and walked on the beach, with my toes in the cold pacific. I walked along the beach, and over to the skate park where kids rode planks of wood down flights of stairs. As I have said before, if G-d wanted me to have wheels, he would made my momma a cadillac.

Meanwhile, only in fair Venice, where we lay our scene, can you find the words of the prophets written on the bathroom walls. A few tidbits of knowledge gleaned:

Even the barrel of my pen is full of the ghosts of uncouth poets.
In case you wondered, they are the wild kidney.
They are the bitter crackling sound I hear when Philomae brushes her hair.
In case you wondered, they are the small transparent parasol
all of us strode beneath.
-John Thomas

And if there are miracles it's that the engine starts
and you are driving,
and the sun comes out,
at night there is a full moon,
and before you know it,
you are home.
-Bob Flannegan

I am a man
who stands against the mountain
and thinks of pebbles.
-Frank Rios

The Pacific is aptly named,
a great velvet-like ocean.
A great tempered dagger with Italian ripples
along the blade as it goes into your soul
baby.
-Taylor Meade

The breeze flows off the ocean and fills my ears like a wind tunnel,
and the subtly and sultry smell of salt lingers in the air.
The sound of the waves crash like a distant memory
of another life lived a world away
I cup my hands to my ears like seashells,
and the sound of the waves reverberate through my head.
My most enduring thought is
the pacific is
-PSR


And then I found a beat in the air, and followed it, head down, until I arrived upon a drum circle. A parade of rhythm, it is amazing how the simplest beats can bring the people together. The sun cast a low shadow, and in my dreams now, heavy as congo beats, I was leading the symphony of percussion; Gustavo Dudamel never had it so good.

I decided to conserve my strength, since I am reaching an advanced age, so I hopped the bus back home. I went out later on a pub(d) crawl with some firstyears, first to Sevengrand, then to the Library bar. I'm so not a huge fan of going out in LA, but it was fun. The night ended with some 3 am raspberry and banana pancakes and coffee hookah. A grand day off indeed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Guerrilla Diplomacy & the Battle of Riverside

On Thursday, we had Daryl Copeland come speak about Guerrilla Diplomacy. He gave a fascinating and dynamic lecture about the need for a new kind of diplomat(ist). He began with offering the Scheherzade example, about the Persian bride who was to be put to death by the Shah, but keep the executioner's song at bay by keeping the king awake all night with the tales of One Thousand and One nights. His point was that in diplomacy, it is important to keep talking until the executioner is sent away.

Next Copeland discussed the three diplomatic myths present: a) the Manichean world view and its black-and-white, with-us/against us binary world, b)security is a martial art- rather it must be a function of long term, human centered development, c)diplomacy is bad and a sign of weakness- a view that he noted came out of Munich in 1932 (I noted to him later that the view of diplomacy as a bad thing is older and was prevalent post-WWI as being seen as the reason the great war took place, something we learned in Wiseman's Theories of Diplo class) He then remarked: If development is the new security in the age of globalization, then diplomacy must displace defense at the center of international policy.

Copeland noted the need to repair the diplomatic ecosystem. He noted that on the diplomatic spectrum traditional diplomacy is on one end, public diplomacy on another, and at far end, guerrilla diplomacy. He also noted a few other things on the spectrum: hearing on one end, listening on the other; diktat on one side, 2-way dialogue on the other. He continued that defense is about power, while diplomacy is about influence. With todays problems, he noted, you can’t call in an airstrike on global warming- yet the problem remains that the military has all resources. So the military is turning soldiers into diplomats, diplomats into warriors, ethnologists into intelligence operators. He stated, "We’ve been sending in the marines, let’s send in the guerilla diplomats."

So what is a "guerrilla diplomat"? Copeland explained what it means to be a guerrilla diplomat, a forward-thinking, adaptive, creative envoy who can mix it up with both global citizenry and global civil society. A guerrilla diplomat has 3 attributes: a) acuity (sharp), b) agility, c) autonomy (able to manage risk, able to ask semi-independently something most diplomats don’t have- big problem!)

He stated that when diplos are more comfortable schmoozing with other diplos and viewing the world from behind embassy windows, and not out mixing it up with the locals, there is a problem; when they cruise down tree-lined roads in a car with their driver, there is a problem. You need diplomats who are as comfortable in barrios as in suits. He then gave some examples of archetypal guerrilla diplomats, like Raoul Wallenberg, Sergio Veira Di Mello and Canadian diplomat Ken Taylor, who helped shelter American escape the Iranian hostage crisis by giving them Canadian passports.

He concluded by stating we need to construct a new diplomatic narrative. The current narrative of the diplomat as a semi-buffoon in a top hat and tails, found somewhere between protocol and alcohol, must be changed.

Overall, it was a very engaging lecture, and I plan to read his book. I already consider myself an unaccredited guerrilla diplomat. I also have come up with an observation. The Clinton Foggy Bottom's pursuit of conducting public diplomacy via new technology and social media is the equivalent of a diplomatic Rumsfeld Doctrine. We don't need cute gadgetry, we need more diplomats on the ground.

Friday was spent in my theories of diplo class, where we first discussed the Obama nobel question. One classmate Nicholas gave some perspective that I liked, that this was an award bestowed for Obama's role in moving the race issue forward in a country that had been plagued by the question since its inception. Then we got into the difference between post-modernists and constructivists in the realm of diplomacy. After class, I hopped a train with Naomi to head down for the Battle of Riverside. A little background....

Two weeks ago, the city of Riverside was to be host to a neo-Nazi rally. The neo-Nazis applied for a permit to express their free speech in the city, so a counter rally was organized. A huge anti-hate coalition coalesced (White, Black, Brown and Blue-and-White) and dwarfed the neo-Nazis to the point that they disbanded. My friend Kenya, who sits on the Coalition Against Hate gave a speech at the rally (so proud!).

Anyway, the neo-Nazis decided that Brown people are incapable of organizing such functions, so they showed up at the local synagogue last friday night and unfurled their swastika banners and hurled epiphets at the worshipers on their way to shabbat and sukkot services.

In response, the community came together, and this week wanted to show its support by attending a joint shabbat/simchat torah service at the synagogue. Naomi, Kenya and I all came to give our support. Friday night's service was packed- people noted that the High Holiday services weren't even this packed. It was moving to see the rainbow coalition on hand, and there were representatives from nearly a dozen different religious denominations. It was really special to see the community declare in unison: you will not walk in fear. Something so uniquely American- one of the more special shabbat services I have attended, and one that I will never forget.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bismark & Kristof

A healthcare safety net...gasp, that's socialist! Like the socialist Otto Von Bismark. Teddy Roosevelt was a socialist too. Say it ain't so, Teddy. Like Tricky Dick Nixon. Those obstructionist ninnies in Congress could dream of being so statesmen-like as to push through real healthcare reform. That requires real leadership and sacrifice. Thanks Nick Kristof, for proposing that Congress make some real sacrifice and those that they forgo their healthcare if they fail.

However, I must say, President Obama needs to be barnstorming to pass this. Campaigning like on the horse he rode in on. Obama needs to carry out some major public diplomacy, and convince the Middle Americans who are uninsured that they need to support this. A little mobilization please, o' Commander-in-Chief.

Noble Nobel

Yes, I was shocked. Yes, it's a little premature. But it is an amazing and wonderful recognition of the power of public diplomacy being carried out by a statesman to change the global dynamic. I can hear Russ Hodges jubilantly screaming, "Obama wins the pennant, Obama wins the pennant!"

And meanwhile, boo to all those boobirds on the message boards who are complaining. A note I saw that I thought summed it up, thanks Dana of VT:
Dear Fellow Americans; If you cheered when the IOC rejected Obama’s Olympic bid, and you’re jeering now that he’s just won the Nobel Peace Prize, may I suggest that you’re actually rooting against your own team? I won’t call myself a real American and you a fake, but your patriotism would be a lot more convincing if you’d come sit with us over on the American side. But hurry, the seats are filling up with people from all over the world. If you think that’s a bad thing, geez, you’ve really got a thing against my country . . .


An even better point from MJ Rosenberg:
Awarding the Nobel peace prize to President Obama after only nine months in office is less a tribute to him than a tribute to the United States.That is because the President's indisputable accomplishment in his short time in office is to restore America's standing in the rest of the world. He came to office at a time when respect for this country - and hence our ability to lead - was at an all-time low....Any American who is not proud today is...a Republican.


Well said MJ. What silly Republicans and other naysayers don't realize is this is our prize. It is a prize welcoming America back to the global fold. I'll let Andy Borowitz take this one home: Nobel Insiders: Beer Summit Sealed it for Obama.

Deep in the Heart; Cuban PD; Chris; Guerrilla Diplomatists

I returned to my ol' texas stomping grounds, to the largess that is Houston. I was awoken by ewok poodles growling like piggies and gremlins named Jacob to a rainy day that involved the final resting for a good friend. One of those friends of the world. A friend who brings friends back together. A kadish goodbye: may there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us.

A return some familiar territory. For the best bubble tea with almond pudding at the Teahouse. I will make a point to TFD of the need for boba diplomacy. Taiwan public diplomacy through a large straw. Whataburger with my old friend Sofia. Mmmm....whataburger. Texas public diplomacy. PD just like you like it. Some good ole' honky tonk country with my old friend Sandi at the Armadillo Palace, for some shiners and offerings to St. Arnold (the patron saint of beer). We laughed as a cowboy country singer crooned to a playful birthday girl. She was off to rustle up him up- Lord, they have personality down in Texas. A brief and bittersweet sojourn in the Lone Star. I miss Texas and luv it as no liberal jewboy should.

I had an early flight back to California. Over the weekend I saw facebook jumping the shark. First it was the plumber whose sign said "friend me on facebook," then it was watching CNN hosts talk about their status. Wolf pokes Anderson. John King likes this. On my flight I had a rost in transration moment of cultural diplomacy as I found out alternative definitions of a "twinkie." Deep fried indeed. Back to the city of angels, where stress hung like a cloud of fog over the city.

Busy week came and has pretty much went. Monday was spent writing about Fidel and Cuban PD. Fidel as Brand Cuba, and the way he sold his image. Fidel was a master at knowing his audience. I also wrote about Cuban educational public diplomacy, medical diplomacy and development diplomacy. Cuba has made an art of doing medical diplomacy in the developing world. I'll post the paper. Tuesday I presented with my classmate Becky on Cuban pd. I made a point of comparing Cuban medical diplomacy to Israel and its version with MASHAV. Some interesting comparisons to be made of pd usage for a paper I will write later. I also offered up some mapping like I used to do for the Israeli consulate, this time related to Mexico. I always like playing detective. Another project to keep me busy, I will describe that one as it progresses.

Back in Lalaland, I encountered the movable feast that is Hoover. Hoover has become a cafeteria on wheels. Beyond the korean taco cart favs, there are now carts serving up philly cheesesteaks and sushi. Wednesday was spent writing about Harold Nicolson the diplomatist. I guess that is the nice thing about midterms, is that you get to review all brilliance you encounter. Nicolson was a brilliant scholar of diplomacy, and did much to revive the craft at a tough time for diplomacy. Apropos, that night I had dinner with Secretary of State Warren Christopher. Dean Cowan was gracious enough to host the MPD students for an evening with the esteemed Foggy Bottom chief. I asked two questions, good ones in my book. First, which president which he was associated with best understood public diplomacy (Clinton, but perhaps the secretary is understandably a lil biased); should USIA be reconstituted (no, the good secretary and I will have to disagree).

Today we had a phenomenal lecture from Daryl Copeland, author of Guerrilla Diplomacy. I'm tired, I will blog on it tomorrow, but it was fascinating, on scheherazade diplomacy. That is my preview, and I'm dreaming of Booeymonger. The short of it, as Mr. Copeland explained, is to keep talking until they send the executioner away. Diplomacy I can live by. I will recount the rest tomorrow. Tomorrow involves theories on diplomacy and battles with Nazis. I will explain that later.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Eureka!

While the idea did not come to me in the bubble bath this morning, I did have a battle with Archimedes as I almost displaced the water onto the floor. My illumination came later, as I have been examining the arch-diplomatist Harold Nicolson for my Theories of Diplomacy midterm. Behold, I am rechristening Public Diplomacy as “Democratic Diplomacy.” Whereas traditional, classical diplomacy is in nature "aristocratic," our modern form of public diplomacy is connected to the norms and values of our democratic age. I think both Archimedes, Nicolson and Edward R. Murrow might agree, Edmund Guillon- who coined the term "public diplomacy," perhaps not.

Family of Mountainrunner

While John Brown might have termed me "blogger extraordinaire," that title is much more fitting of Matt Armstrong and his Mountainrunner blog. Matt is a Pub D grad from the program's first class, and has a very successful blog that gets far more hits and notice than my fair musings. Matt was kind enough to post something on my fair photo show. Check out his blog post. Thanks Matt.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Change you can believe in

I saw there were a bunch of conservative naysayers bumbling about over the notion that somehow Obama's failure to secure the Olympics were an indication of the inability his soft power influence. First, I am actually glad that Rio got it. It will be an incredible party, far better than in Chicago. Second, it's nice to see a country that has never held the Olympics host it. Third, it's an indication of Brazil's rise not America's fall.

A far more important indication of where we stand in the global barometer thanks to Obama's leadership and public diplomacy is number 1 most admired according to the National Brand Index. We jumped from seventh place to number one on the back of our prez.

"What's really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States for 2009," said Simon Anholt, the founder of NBI, which measured the global image of 50 countries each year.


Thanks Simon for a reminder of what really matters in the realm of soft power and public diplomacy.

PS: In a shocking turn of events, it appears that Iran's President I'm a dinner jacket is actually a member of the tribe. Figures, it's always the self-haters who give us the worst problems (see under: Torquemada)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

That’s so LA

The title of the blog comes from the vapid branding slogan that LA is trying to promote, but I have a few other ideas of what is so LA. Sort of a “rak b’yisrael” but LA style. Like the fusion taco trucks that I will discuss later. Like the transvestite TSA agent at LAX. That’s so LA.

I have been running ragged, overcome with exhaustion. I haven’t had a real day off in nearly 2 months. I had been a ball of stress, but something about getting out of LA always clears that away. Stress- that’s so LA.

I had been busy doing a literature review for my PubD Africa class on economic predation by so-called rebel movements who in essence are just large organized crime syndicates. I posed the question in the discussion I led in class about what public diplomacy can do to mitigate the plunder of economic resources by gangster states. The answer stemmed from last year’s Transnational Security class on the role of the organization Transparency International and their efforts in naming-and-shaming. There was a joke in the readings told by a Pakistani cab driver, whose country had been ranked the most corrupt the previous year but slid down a spot to number two- when asked about it, he replied, “no, we’re still number one, we simply paid off the Nigerians to take the top spot.”

On my way back from class, I grabbed some Korean tacos at a taco cart on Hoover Blvd. Hoover has become fusion alley, with a preponderance of Korean tacos trucks. That doesn’t include the other varieties of food trucks that have sprung up, such as Omm good- the masala dosa truck, or the banh mi Vietnamese sandwich truck. The ethnic and fusion trucks have become ubiquitous these days. I would say that I tapped into the zeitgeist of LA when I started promoting food fusion last year, but perhaps my hand was on the rotund belly of the city not its pulse.

Anywho, I had lunch today with the Murrow Fellows, a group of reporters from Asia here on a cultural diplomacy exchange arranged by the State Department. The sixteen visiting journalists represent news organizations from Brunei, Fiji, Malaysia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Timor Leste and the People's Republic of China. We had a reception for them Thursday night, then I took a group of them to lunch on Friday. My cadre included journalists from Taiwan, Brunei, Mongolia and Papa New Guinea. They had been in DC, and just arrived to LA. They are here on a 3-week cultural exchange sponsored by the State Department. We had lunch at The Lot on campus so they could see the hustle-and-bustle of USC. We chatted about life in DC, LA, CA and the USA. Next they are off to Lansing, Michigan for some home-stay experiences. Funny how all cultural diplomacy exchanges are so similar. Cultural exchange is the best public diplomacy (see under: Japan).

I had my Theories of Diplomacy class with Prof. Wiseman. We discussed the English School of international relations. The English School focuses on the international system as an international society. If realism is focused on order, and radicalism on justice, the English school focuses on both aspects in a more middle of the road (order and justice). Ironically, as I pointed out in class, the English School ascribes European values to the international system- ironic because England often considers itself outside of Europe.

I left class early to get to LAX for a flight to Houston for my friend Jerry’s funeral. I got to the airport, and was standing in line. As I was waiting to board the plane, a fellow behind me was talking loudly on his cell phone. He was talking about returning some computer product. As he was talking to his friend, he began dropping "Jew" as a verb. As in, "I'm not Jewing you." I almost went Hebrew Hammer on him. Once he got off the phone, and was standing there. I semi-calmly asked if he just said "Jewing" to his friend. Ummm...yeah, but..he hemmed and hawed. I gave him a stern warning, and he apologized.

Anywho, I got on the empty plane and was off. Not my favorite reason for jetsetting, but I felt it important to be there. And more importantly, once in flight, my stress departed. I'm not sure if it is the air travel or the act of leaving LA that makes my stress go away. But I'm back in the heart o'. So y’all go to hell, I’m back to Texas. I celebrated with some late night Taco Cabana, and whattaburger is on tap.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Friedmanist remembers his king

There was a time when I never missed a Tom Friedman column. From Beirut to Jerusalem was my bible, and he was my hero. Over the years, I stopped reading so religiously because I felt he lost his edge. Too many quotes from his high level friends, too many columns that meandered down a path he tread too often. But every once in a a while, he brings it and reminds me why I idolized him so.

Jesus, Me, Mary

The internet in my house has been on the fritz, so I called Jesus to let him know. I left Jesus a message. Later, while waiting for an Israeli and Palestinian film festival to begin, Jesus' name and number appeared on my cell. My landLord Jesus offered salvation for my internet problems, he gave me the information to contact the internet provider. I am far too busy with school work, so I asked my roommate Mary to handle it. My inbox follows a train of emails that grace the title of this blog.