Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mother Russia as it was

Some beautiful photos of Russia from a century prior.

What's cooking, Uncle Sam?

On a beautiful tuesday morning, I made my way out of suburbia to head downtown.  I went to catch the Ride-On, MoCo's version of public transit.  My previous encounter with the Ride-On had gone poorly, as I waited an hour for the bus that never came.  As I sat waiting this time for the bus, a bus passed going the opposite direction.  On this particular Ride-On, the signage proudly proclaimed 25 years of service...1975-2000.  Far too apt.  I wondered if perhaps this particular bus was just 11 years late, or perhaps if I got on I would be transported back to 2000.  What a different world it was.  Anyway, the bus was fifteen minutes late.  Our infrastructure is not even second-best these days, merely second-rate.

Anywho, as I descended upon Washington, I decided that DC would serve as an excellent virtual office.  Especially when office space only costs an espresso or pint.  I went to visit the National Archives exhibit "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?" The exhibit chronicles the role of the US government in shaping our diet and agricultural policies, and highlights various domestic public diplomacy campaigns  The exhibit is currently being showcased at the Lawrence O'Brien Gallery, who I came to realize was the same Larry O'Brien who was NBA Commish and whose name is on the trophy currently serving as Dirk's beer stein. 

The exhibit opened with a little description of how our dear statesman, diplomat and constitution-drafter TJ snuck rice in his coat pockets out of Italia- a crime punishable by pain of death.  It then detailed how, from the 1800 until 1930s, the Dept. of Aggies went about scouring the earth for particular seeds that would work well in the American terrain.  Such illegal aliens include the mango and mangosteen, Meyer lemon, persimmon, pomegranada and pistachio.  There was a great picture of Teddy Roosevelt planting the first orange seedling, repatriated from Brazil, to be the beginning of the California navel orange industry. The exhibit also chronicled the journey of Frank Meyer's journeys through Asia where he collected lemons from China and persimmons from Manchuria among other seeds.

There were some amazing PSAs like one of a silent film showing Uncle Sam "help the Negroes become better farmers."  Also, movies of the Agricultural Adjustment Adiminstration (AAA) explaining to farmers about "ever-normal" granary supplies and why they were paying farmers to keep crops off the market.  

A lot of the exhibit focused on the communication of the policies and mission of various agencies of government and how they affected the average farmer.  It was pretty clear that the USDA understood domestic public diplomacy in communicating policies and disseminating information.  To reach its far-flung audiences, the USDA used that new-fangled device known as the radio, and was one of the earliest broadcasters.  Beginning in 1926, the USDA was "talking through the box" about weather forecasts, market reports and programs like the U.S. Radio Farm School and Farm Flashes.  All of this was vital when nearly 30 percent of America was engaged in farming-- compared now with 2 percent of the population.  There was also the USDA Cooperative Extension Service, which was established in 1914, and worked to educate farming communities through classes, radio and later television programs.

The exhibit also discussed the AAA, and the system of supports and subsidies- Uncle Sam's finest brand of socialism.  Congress literally used to distribute seed to farmers.  It was a bit of a stirring reminder of how red the federal government has been over the years, especially towards Red State America (Hey, Michelle Bachman, this means you and your family farm subsidies).  

There was a fascinating section related to the fight over margarine ("The Butterine Battle Book").  Thanks to "dairy militants" (words of, Congress passed the Margarine Act of 1886, which levied taxes on margarine and margarine licenses.  Apparently, yellow margarine was taxed but white was not so for many years margarine came with capsules of yellow food dye.  Even more amazing, there were a number of people sent to Federal Penitentiaries for margarine smuggling.  Poor bastards like Charles Willes and John L. McMongle got sent to the bighouse for bootlegging butter.  

There was also a fascinating exhibit about the role of government in food safety, especially after Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.  There was a long letter from Sinclair to Teddy Roosevelt about the meat packing industry.  Sinclair was a little bummed that his efforts at raising awareness about workers' rights ended up as a focus on the meat packing industry. "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

There were a plethora of the "Food Will Win the War" posters, as well as the other "Food for Freedom" posters.  My personal favorite was "Your Country Needs Soybeans!" with a tagline "Grow More in '44" (couldn't find that pic though)

There was also an amazing bit about the OPA and radio broadcasts that the department conducted to keep it alive before Congress axed it.  Pete Seeger crooning "Save the OPA" and  "I'm gonna starve and everybody will// if they don't wise up on Capitol Hill" with Eleanor Roosevelt smiling in the audience.

Didn't help, the OPA got killed anyway in 1947.

And there was a bit of US public diplomacy via USIA.  USIA used a bit of gastrodiplomacy to show the American housewife "freed from long hours in the kitchen by the cornucopia of processed foods available to her."  Wonderbread.

Some great pics too of the Kitchen Debates between Nixon and Kruschev to keep with the Cold War theme.

There were also some hysterical videos about food and nutrition like a 1925 PSA with a flappergirl drinking milk ("Milk makes her pure and sweet") and bizarre 1967 USDA video "Janet and the Genie" with a genie meat safety experiment fondling beef livers.  Slightly terrifying.  Also a stern guy offering a "Read the Label//Set a Better Table" admonition.

Plus all sorts about how the government tried to change tastes or make the case for rationing during times of war.  As Napoleon famously stated, "An army marches on its stomach" and Uncle Sam wanted to ensure that there was plenty of food to go around for his doughboys.  In 1916, the government was encouraging people to eat fish rather than meat as to save the meat for soldiers and hungry Europeans.  "Eat Tilefish!" and a bizarre poster exhorting people to eat carp with suggestions how to cook it in ways to "remove the muddy taste."  Great way to make people hungry for carp!

Also, about planting victory gardens and enlisting in Uncle Sam's Food Army.

And perhaps the greatest food campaign ever: Vitamin Donuts:
There was also a fascinating little bit about the role that presidents and cuisine, and the role they have played in shaping food tastes of the American public.  Apparently, Martin Van Buren was cast as an aristocrat because of his love of French food; his opponent William Henry Harrison alternatively lived on "raw beef and salt." Perhaps that was what really offed the president of shortest tenure.

There was a video of LBJ having his first state dinner, which was a giant Texas-style cookout for the president of Mexico. Such came as a stark contrast to the preceding Camelot era.   Barbecued spareribs, pinto beans, cole slaw and corn served on paper plates for 300 guests.  LBJ had a grand "Hail to the Chief" apron and the led to the term "barbecue diplomacy."  Will be sure to mention such bbq diplomacy in an upcoming piece on American gastrodiplomacy.   The exhibit noted the effect of LBJ's taste on the American public, as it was during LBJ's admin that American tried chili con queso or began throwing tex-mex dinner parties.

There was a note to Nixon from his chief of protocol exhorting him to practice his chopstick skills ahead of his trip to China and meals with Chairman Mao.  Also, Gerald Ford's English Muffin tongues and picture of him  toasting the nooks and crannies as a means to show his everyman character.

A few take-aways from the excellent exhibit.  For starters, a serious reminder of the role of government in our affairs, shaping our tastes, pushing forward food safety measures and conducting major (...gasp) socialist policies to support American agriculture.  Take note Republicans.  Also, a reminder at how good government can be at communicating policies and messages over the years via different platforms of communication.

Unfortunately, there was nothing about the role of American food in public diplomacy abroad.  Such as Herbert Hoover and his public diplomacy of the deed for Europe's starving refugees.  

And I found it shocking that waiting to greet you upon exit was Uncle Ben.  Mars helped sponsor the exhibit, and there was a pamphlet title "Uncle Ben's & Uncle Sam".  Really?  A domestic house "servant" helps represent the history of food in America, how f'ing fitting. A History of Rice Race in America. Let's invite Aunt Jemimah, and we can all chow down on the way to the pigglywiggly.  The alternative to this exhibit would be the political wrangling of various private companies and lobbies to shape the policies that Uncle Sam promoted.  Dole Banana anyone?

On the whole, it was a fascinating and entertaining exhibit.  Very interactive, thorough and very good.  The exhibit has a shelf life until January 2012, so worth stopping in for a taste.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Playing with words, time and food.  Creating worlds to pull me out of limbo.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Reading about Jefferson Davis, I had an interesting thought of a parallel with Muhammad Jinnah.  On another note, my Dad raised the idea after hearing a PRI story about Gaddafi's indictmentent: how would the ICC have handled Lincoln's attacks on the rebels?

WWLD: What Would Lincoln Do?

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew."
-Abraham Lincoln, "Annual Message to Congress 1862"

John Brown had an interesting blog post compiling all of the presidents that various columnists are calling on him to channel. Interestingly, I was just thinking yesterday that it is time for President Obama to channel his inner Lincoln.

For what it's worth, I think he should return to the state where he launched his political career, to the Land of Lincoln, to announce his support for the issue of gay marriage. It was at that Springfield State House that Obama launched his presidential campaign, and thus it is hard to avoid comparisons to an equally lanky outsider, one that was a gifted in his eloquence and also faced a decisive decision a sesquicentennial ago.

Lincoln, despite his fervent feelings contrary, equivocated his political stance on slavery and rights until the situation would allow it no more. Piece by piece, state by state, the situation changed and he was forced to choose sides.

So too, now Obama must decide. The long arc of the fight for equal rights has shown down on the Empire State.  The president’s blithe respect for "states’ rights" cannot shield him anymore, and it is time for his to lend his eloquent voice.

Our frustration, the frustration of Liberals and Progressives, is that Obama has slinked towards the center rather than use the bully pulpit to lead from the left.  The Obama presidency will depend on this issue and issues like it, and whether he can rally his base and troops in the next election. Raise your voice Obama, or your silence will come back to haunt you.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Richmond Review

"It was a fateful decision.  With the benefit of more than a century of hindsight, it is easy to doubt the wisdom of locating the Confederacy's capital in Richmond; for one thing, it was a strategic gamble, boldly putting the capital within ready striking distance of the Union.  Accessible by water and only a hundred miles from Washington, it was especially vulnerable.  And on the fringe of the new nation rather than at its center, it would have great difficulty extending its power over the vast hinterland of the huge, eleven-state Confederacy.  But in the end, when the war came, the Southern politicians rapidly tired of Montgomery, Alabama, the site of the first Confederate capital, with its clouds of mosquitoes and its pitiful facilities.  After some to-and-fro, Richmond was the logical, if not the only, choice.

The significance of this decision was not lost on the North.  As quickly as July 21, 1861, Union soldiers under General Irvin McDowell marched southward to the cry, "On to Richmond." This was but the first of six massive offenses waged again the rebel capital.  And from then, on, Richmond would live under the menacing scythe of the Union attack.  Sixty percent of the war would be fought on Virginia soil."
-Jay Winik, April 1865

I arrived into Richmond, into unfamiliar territory.  The ride down proved providential, but the sky was a confederate grey when I got off that bus.  I walked out and up, dodging flying squirrels (!) and down the boulevard.  I walked down to VCU but previous warnings had me moving fast out and I hopped a bus down to the capital.

I got on to a walking tour of the VA State House and went touring through Jeffersonia.  The building was designed by Thomas but built in brick.  When he rolled up, he told them that the red brick had to go.  Stuccoed up and painted white to be the Parthenon-upon-Richmond.

Inside this decorative delight in the effulgent Rotunda was a bust of Washington which the 6"2' general posed for.  I had my own theory about the missing three buttons on the bust and his emblem-turned-flag.  I have one confederate dollar for anyone who can name all the presidents born in Virginia.  There was an article today about the possibility of the another one from Texas and I had to secede a laugh.

There was also bit of mace, pomp and circumstance with giant gold leaf version meant for calling the Virginia State House into session.  And a grizzled statue of Robert E. Lee taking up the reigns for his duty, his karma.

After the state house, I walked through the old ornate city hall, whose gild glittered off the reflective floor.  Then over the Museum of the Confederacy and Confederate White House.  I meandered through secessionist wishes and confederate dreams.

"We can lick 'em with cornstalks..."
-1861 Anonymous

"...But damn 'em, they wouldn't fight us that way."
-1865 Anonymous

I wandered through the effects of the Confederacy, past memoirs of the likes of Lee, J.E.B. and a man called Stonewall (Speaking of Stonewall, mazal tov, but I will write about that later).  There were  plenty of ornate revolvers and guns, intricate field glasses and recreated field halls. It was interesting on many levels.

As was the Confederate White House. Jefferson's home was rather nice and rather lavish.  The home of the confed prez was ornate with gold-layered mirrors, crushed velvetish and lovely statures.  Also interesting to see Jeff's office.

After the tour concluded, I procured residence, which had been in question.  Priceline worked well and I got a place to stay at an old historic inn called Linden Row.  A reminder that you can always bargain, even in America.  I also bargained my way to an extended happy hour and had a chocolate stout and some spiced fries dipped in parmesan ranch (delicious).

The following day I walked to the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, who hailed from the city.  The museum was better for fodder for ideas and stories than actual exhibitions.  I walked down  the canal locks down by the James River, and over to Brown's Island before heading north to get some immaculate soul food that I already wrote about.    From soul to station and thus ended my Richmond Reset.


1. Foreign; alien; pilgrim
2. Roving or wandering; migratory

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The King's Public Diplomacy

"This devilish device will change everything if you won't.  In the past all a King had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse.  Now we must invade people's homes and ingratiate ourselves with them.  This family is reduced to the lowest, basest of all creatures...we've become...actors."
-The King's Speech

Good movie.  Based on a true story, which usually means what it means.  But well done.  But....fwiw, you are all still inbred to me.

The Cop and the Anthem

The story I posted about the man who committed "bank robbery" to get medical attention sadly reminded me a bit of an O. Henry story, "The Cop and the Anthem"

Weingarten on Branding

Gene Weingarten has a hysterical piece on Jell-O Journalism:
Dear Leslie:
I am honored that you have chosen me as the subject of your journalism school graduate thesis. At the behest of your instructor, you e-mailed me to ask how I’ve “built my personal brand over the years.” I’m answering with this column. 
The best way to build a brand is to take a three-foot length of malleable iron and get one end red-hot. Then, apply it vigorously to the buttocks of the instructor who gave you this question. You want a nice, meaty sizzle. 
These are financially troubled times for our profession, Leslie — times that test our character — and it is disheartening to learn that journalism schools are responding to this challenge by urging their students to market themselves like Cheez Doodles. 
I do see why it’s happening. The media is in a frantic, undignified campaign to economize while at the same timeattracting more “eyeballs.” It’s a dangerous situation: Newspapers that used to allocate their resources to deposing dictators and ferreting out corruption are now using them to publish snapshots of their readers’ cats. This trend is called “user generated content,” or UGC. (Yes, in the new lexicon, “readers” have somehow become “users,” as though, in an effort to habituate people to our product, we’re lacing it with crack. Which we are, sort of. Pandering, and getting pandered to, can be addictive, and it is bad for you.) 
Narratives that disclose news or express opinion used to be called “articles” or “columns” but are now universally referred to as “content.” It is as though all our words have become gauzy filler material, the pale fluff inside decorative throw pillows. Newspapers used to give readers what we thought they needed. Now, in desperation, we give readers what we think they want. And what we seem to think they want is happy, glitzy, ditzy stuff, which is why in recent years newspapers across the country have been replacing sections named, say, “Viewpoint” with online Web destinations named, say, “Wheee!” featuring multiplatform, user-interactive content-sharing with clickable portals to “Lolcats.” 
We are slowly redefining our craft so it is no longer a calling but a commodity. From this execrable marketing trend arises the term you ask me about: “branding.”
Let’s step back a minute, Leslie, and let that expression marinate in its own fetid sauce. Let us contemplate its meaning and the devastating weight of its implications. 
When I was a hungry young reporter in the 1970s, I thought of myself as a superman, an invincible crusader for truth and justice — even though, looking back at old pictures, I now see that I resembled an emaciated weasel in unattractive clothing. My goals, however, were unambiguous, and heroic: 1) Get great stories that improve the world. 2) Get famous. 3) Get doe-eyed young women to lean in close and whisper, “Take me.”
Note the order. First came the work. 
Now, the first goal seems to be self-promotion — the fame part, the “brand.” That’s because we know that, in this frenetic fight for eyeballs at all costs, the attribute that is most rewarded is screeching ubiquity, not talent. It is why Snooki — who is quite possibly literally a moron — has a best-selling book. It is why the media superstars of today are no longer people such as Bob Woodward, who break big stories, but people like Bill O’Reilly, who yell about them. 
Everything I’ve just told you, Leslie, is evident to anyone in journalism who has been around for a while. If you haven’t read it before, that’s probably because most of us haven’t had time to write it. We’ve been too busy building our brands.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Man robs bank to get healthcare.  God bless America.

Of Interest

-An Al-Qaieda rebrand. Personal Fav: Kandahar Ardent Brotherhood Of Orthodox Muslims (KABOOM)

-Welcome to Glorious Nation of United States of America.

On words

" حرر  the root to be free; the act of writing is freeing the wor(l)ds from the realm of conception to the realm of manifested reality."
-communicated by W.Z.

As the end approaches, wrote Cartiphilus, there are no longer any images from memory- there are only words. Words, words, words taken out of place and mutilated, words from other men- those were the alms left him by the hours and the centuries.
-Borges, The Immortal

Generals in the Field

Working backwards, I learned a bit this week about generals. Generals who remain in the saddle and those who abandon the horse in midstream and riggle away.

Washington got another W yesterday, but its general went Benedict Arnold. Walked away from the hottest team in baseball. Didn’t have the heart to play out his contract and walked away from a team at the top of its game. Can’t imagine the general that bequeathed his name to this fair city would have done the same. [I saw a full size bust of Mr. W in VA at its state capital (Had my own hypothesis about the three missing buttons in his coat)]

Or General Robert E. Lee, who showed prowess across the battlefields that dot the civil war landscape; I doubt he would abandon his Greys the same way.

Nor would US Grant. Nor would Sherman stop his march to the sea for contractual disputes.

Poor form Riggleman, truly Bush League behavior. Disappointing move. Even Teddy, who has yet to win, finishes the race.

Boswell offers some good analysis on the situation at hand.

Kosher Gauchos ride into the sunset

WaPo has a good article about demise of the Jewish gaucho in Argentina.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From the innocent and the good files

A few cases of from the Quiet American file:

-R2P2k11 and the problems with Right to Protect

-The problems with the NGO business that grows around the desire to do good, in Cambodia and other locales.

-A reminder about opinions and facts related to Sudan and the Save Darfur Coalition.  Meanwhile, the innocent and the good are attempting to meddle in Abeyi something fierce.  Here is a hint, if Libya is a hard-sell, don't pretend that you can convince Congress to get its hands dirty in a place even more obscure.

toe shoes

I mentioned a while back I wanted a pair of these.  Now, there is an amazing advert for them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mental Health in America

Sitting across from me on the bus from Richmond to DC was a woman just released from something psych related.  She had on no shoes, just yellow socks.  She had her meager belongings in a plastic bag, along with a pack of cigarettes and a one-way bus ticket to DC.  Such is mental health in America.

Meanwhile, I can't even tell anymore if people are crazy or just talking to themselves on their blue teeth.  Maybe both.

Saving a hungry soul

At Mama J's Kitchen in Richmond for a veggie soul lunch. Mama J's mac and cheese went deliciously with the cabbage in vinegar; the candied yams in molasses made for an immaculate dessert. All washed down with the nectar of the south: sweet tea. Yum.

Monday, June 20, 2011

On Richmond

On Richmond, I offer Jay Winik's fine words:
"From its earliest years, Richmond had been a city of opposites: simultaneously genteel and seething.  It seemed to be a magnet for uprisings, either igniting them or squelching them.  Before there ever was a city named Richmond, it was here, along the banks of the James, that the revolt would carry his name.  It was here, in St. John's Church, that another proud son of Virginia, Patrick Henry, lit an inchoate country on fire, exhorting rebellion in 1775, when he declared "give me liberty or give me death"-- as Thomas Jefferson, in the audience, watched on.  It was also here in 1800 that the slave Gabriel Prosser staged-- ultimately in vain-- a widespread black insurrection.  And it was here, in 1832, that the House of Delegates shook a nation, hotly debating a bill to end slavery in Virginia, only to have it lose by seven votes-- and, in a tragic twist, to have the state convention end by further tightening the shackles of bondage.  But the divided nature of Richmonders also went only so far.... 
As the capital of Virginia, Richmond also had a heritage of leadership unmatched on either side of the Potomac.  It rightly laid claim to being the seat of the great Virginia dynasty, to being the "capital of the Mother of states and Statesmen," and to being the cradle of democracy; it proudly boasted two authors of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution; and it justly claimed America's first president.  No one cherished the tenets of republican liberty more than Richmonders.  To the extent Richmonders were inclined to view Virginia first and foremost as their "country," and they did, it was also true that no one was more fervent in the defense of the Union in the first years of the new American republic....
In the years leading up to the Civil War, Richmonders built a stunning city, a thriving hybrid of old-fashioned Southern gerntility and newfangled urban enterprise.  Day to day, Richmond was undergirded by a sharply drawn social structure: an overlay of the old Virginia gentry; an assortment of newcomers, working-class immigrants, Germans, Irishmen and Jews; and a foundation of free blacks and black slavery.  But cast among its seven picturesque hills, this urban enterprise hummed with remarkable vibrancy."

Capital of the Confederacy

Under the cover of a greyhound grey sky, I slipped out of the capital of the Union, and headed south to the capital of the Confederacy.  We sped southbound on a silent bus as Washington's concrete fortresses gave way to Virginia's verdance.  Confederate grey and Union blue fought over who would rule my skies.

I love the bus for the time it offers for reading, writing and quiet reflection.  Two hours in the office.

In the peaceful silence of my grey hound stage coach, the shifting landscape returned me to my upright position.  In a matter of hours and miles, I managed to accomplish what had foiled five Union generals, I marched into Richmond and came knocking at its door.  

Doug Wilder

I needed to clear the suburban cobwebs from my head, so I am presently whistling dixie while I wait at the Greyhound station to head down to Richmond for a brief spell.  Off to go tour the Virginia State House and seep in some Civil War history.  I have a copy of April 1865 with me, which makes for poignant reading.  Richmond has neither hostel nor couchsurfers, so not sure where I will land but I'm sure it will work out in whatever form or fashion the adventure takes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Harry's Chicken and Waffles

While my veggie chili cheese fries from Ben's Chili Bowl were immaculate at the O's-Nats game, my brother had the winning dish: fried chicken and waffle sandwich with mango salsa, drenched in syrup. Oh, and the Nats won their 8th in a row.

Harry's Shining Path

My little brother Harry left this morning to embark on his sendiro luminoso through Peru.  He is going to be volunteering with American Jewish World Service  in Peru, doing community development work outside Lima, including community development through futbol.  Meanwhile, my soft power reigns supreme: he is keeping a blog Tales of a Wandering Peru (  Vaya con Dios, Jari.

WaPo Sunday Roundup

-There was a very poignant article in WaPo by Mike Semel on Little League (or any other kids sporting event) and the community it builds among the parents in this age that is supposed to lack community.

-Good piece about the country with the highest per capita rate of incarceration (hint, it isn't China or Cuba).

-An interesting bit on anonymity ranging from online to pen names.

-People often ask me what cities I have found to be the dodgiest I have encountered in my travels.  They are often surprised when I reply: Vancouver.  The scene I saw of Vancouver was that of addicts shooting up in the middle of the street, and shady junkies plying the avenues in search of a fix.  Vancouver's version of Stanley Fawkes Night perhaps will serve as a cannuck in the coal mine and open some eyes about our seemingly docile neighbors to the north.  

-A great homage to free-wheeling fathers from Kathleen Parker.  On that note, Happy Father's Day, Abba!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crime and Punishment

A few interesting bits related to crime and punishment:

-Looking for a hangman

-Bring back flogging

Words worth remembering

I was downtown for a meeting yesterday that was at the headquarters of the old National Council of Negro Women- an immaculate turreted building in the heart of DC.  Inside the building, there was a copy of Mary McLeod Bethune's Last Will and Testament.  I got chills reading it.  Words worth remembering:
Sometimes as I sit communing in my study I feel that death is not far off. I am aware that it will overtake me before the greatest of my dreams – full equality for the Negro in our time – is realized. Yet, I face that reality without fear or regrets. I am resigned to death as all humans must be at the proper time. Death neither alarms nor frightens one who has had a long career of fruitful toil. The knowledge that my work has been helpful to many fills me with joy and great satisfaction.

Since my retirement from an active role in educational work and from the affairs of the National Council of Negro Women, I have been living quietly and working at my desk at my home here in Florida. The years have directed a change of pace for me. I am now 78 years old and my activities are no longer so strenuous as they once were. I feel that I must conserve my strength to finish the work at hand.

Already I have begun working on my autobiography which will record my life-journey in detail, together with the innumerable side trips which have carried me abroad, into every corner of our country, into homes both lowly and luxurious, and even into the White House to confer with Presidents. I have also deeded my home and its contents to the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation, organized in March, 1953, for research, interracial activity and the sponsorship of wider educational opportunities.

Sometimes I ask myself if I have any other legacy to leave. Truly, my worldly possessions are few. Yet, my experiences have been rich. From them, I have distilled principles and policies in which I believe firmly, for they represent the meaning of my life's work. They are the products of much sweat and sorrow. Perhaps in them there is something of value. So, as my life draws to a close, I will pass them on to Negroes everywhere in the hope that an old woman's philosophy may give them inspiration. Here, then is my legacy.

I LEAVE YOU LOVE. Love builds. It is positive and helpful. It is more beneficial than hate. Injuries quickly forgotten quickly pass away. Personally and racially, our enemies must be forgiven. Our aim must be to create a world of fellowship and justice where no man's skin, color or religion, is held against him. "Love thy neighbor" is a precept which could transform the world if it were universally practiced. It connotes brotherhood and, to me, brotherhood of man is the noblest concept in all human relations. Loving your neighbor means being interracial, interreligious and international.

I LEAVE YOU HOPE. The Negro's growth will be great in the years to come. Yesterday, our ancestors endured the degradation of slavery, yet they retained their dignity. Today, we direct our economic and political strength toward winning a more abundant and secure life. Tomorrow, a new Negro, unhindered by race taboos and shackles, will benefit from more than 330 years of ceaseless striving and struggle. Theirs will be a better world. This I believe with all my heart.

I LEAVE YOU THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING CONFIDENCE IN ONE ANOTHER. As long as Negroes are hemmed into racial blocs by prejudice and pressure, it will be necessary for them to band together for economic betterment. Negro banks, insurance companies and other businesses are examples of successful, racial economic enterprises. These institutions were made possible by vision and mutual aid. Confidence was vital in getting them started and keeping them going. Negroes have got to demonstrate still more confidence in each other in business. This kind of confidence will aid the economic rise of the race by bringing together the pennies and dollars of our people and ploughing them into useful channels. Economic separatism cannot be tolerated in this enlightened age, and it is not practicable. We must spread out as far and as fast as we can, but we must also help each other as we go.

I LEAVE YOU A THIRST FOR EDUCATION. Knowledge is the prime need of the hour. More and more, Negroes are taking full advantage of hard-won opportunities for learning, and the educational level of the Negro population is at its highest point in history. We are making greater use of the privileges inherent in living in a democracy. If we continue in this trend, we will be able to rear increasing numbers of strong, purposeful men and women, equipped with vision, mental clarity, health and education.

I LEAVE YOU RESPECT FOR THE USES OF POWER. We live in a world which respects power above all things. Power, intelligently directed, can lead to more freedom. Unwisely directed, it can be a dreadful, destructive force. During my lifetime I have seen the power of the Negro grow enormously. It has always been my first concern that this power should be placed on the side of human justice.

Now that the barriers are crumbling everywhere, the Negro in America must be ever vigilant lest his forces be marshalled behind wrong causes and undemocratic movements. He must not lend his support to any group that seeks to subvert democracy. That is why we must select leaders who are wise, courageous, and of great moral stature and ability. We have great leaders among us today: Ralph Bunche, Channing Tobias, Mordecai Johnson, Walter White, and Mary Church Terrell. [The latter now deceased]. We have had other great men and women in the past: Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth. We must produce more qualified people like them, who will work not for themselves, but for others.

I LEAVE YOU FAITH. Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible. Faith in God is the greatest power, but great, too, is faith in oneself. In 50 years the faith of the American Negro in himself has grown immensely and is still increasing. The measure of our progress as a race is in precise relation to the depth of the faith in our people held by our leaders. Frederick Douglass, genius though he was, was spurred by a deep conviction that his people would heed his counsel and follow him to freedom. Our greatest Negro figures have been imbued with faith. Our forefathers struggled for liberty in conditions far more onerous than those we now face, but they never lost the faith. Their perseverance paid rich dividends. We must never forget their sufferings and their sacrifices, for they were the foundations of the progress of our people.

I LEAVE YOU RACIAL DIGNITY. I want Negroes to maintain their human dignity at all costs. We, as Negroes, must recognize that we are the custodians as well as the heirs of a great civilization. We have given something to the world as a race and for this we are proud and fully conscious of our place in the total picture of mankind's development. We must learn also to share and mix with all men. We must make and effort to be less race conscious and more conscious of individual and human values. I have never been sensitive about my complexion. My color has never destroyed my self-respect nor has it ever caused me to conduct myself in such a manner as to merit the disrespect of any person. I have not let my color handicap me. Despite many crushing burdens and handicaps, I have risen from the cotton fields of South Carolina to found a college, administer it during its years of growth, become a public servant in the government of our country and a leader of women. I would not exchange my color for all the wealth in the world, for had I been born white I might not have been able to do all that I have done or yet hope to do.

I LEAVE YOU A DESIRE TO LIVE HARMONIOUSLY WITH YOUR FELLOW MEN. The problem of color is worldwide. It is found in Africa and Asia, Europe and South America. I appeal to American Negroes -- North, South, East and West -- to recognize their common problems and unite to solve them.

I pray that we will learn to live harmoniously with the white race. So often, our difficulties have made us hypersensitive and truculent. I want to see my people conduct themselves naturally in all relationships -- fully conscious of their manly responsibilities and deeply aware of their heritage. I want them to learn to understand whites and influence them for good, for it is advisable and sensible for us to do so. We are a minority of 15 million living side by side with a white majority. We must learn to deal with these people positively and on an individual basis.

I LEAVE YOU FINALLY A RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR YOUNG PEOPLE. The world around us really belongs to youth for youth will take over its future management. Our children must never lose their zeal for building a better world. They must not be discouraged from aspiring toward greatness, for they are to be the leaders of tomorrow. Nor must they forget that the masses of our people are still underprivileged, ill-housed, impoverished and victimized by discrimination. We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.

Faith, courage, brotherhood, dignity, ambition, responsibility -- these are needed today as never before. We must cultivate them and use them as tools for our task of completing the establishment of equality for the Negro. We must sharpen these tools in the struggle that faces us and find new ways of using them. The Freedom Gates are half-ajar. We must pry them fully open.

If I have a legacy to leave my people, it is my philosophy of living and serving. As I face tomorrow, I am content, for I think I have spent my life well. I pray now that my philosophy may be helpful to those who share my vision of a world of Peace, Progress, Brotherhood, and Love.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop...

Nice try...

On Heroes

"Formerly we used to canonize our heroes.  The modern method is to vulgarize them.  Cheap editions of great books may be delightful, but cheap editions of great men are absolutely detestable."
-Oscar Wilde

Rounding first to third

From the "1st World to 3rd World Files," a report in the Washington Post that in vast swathes of the US, the life expectancy rate has been in decline.  'Tis what happens when a population doesn't have proper access to health care, and universal coverage is derided as "socialist."  Those socialist Euros have no such issue with diminished life expectancy. 

Out in Front

Good article on why the Wizards fans were ahead of the curve regarding LeBron:
We were outliers back then, we hardy few with our “Cry Baby 23” T-shirts, our “Overrated” chants and our indelible memories of LeBron James walking through the dim back hallways of Verizon Center sporting sunglasses, a weird scarf thing and several red carpets worth of arrogance.

On learners and learned

"...the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."
-Eric Hoffer

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wanna buy the Damascus Bridge?; PD Spam

FP has a good piece on what we learn about the media from the "Gay Girl in Damascus" hoax.  I mean, c'mon though, it's not like he claimed to be the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy...

Meanwhile, I got a prolific post on my blog that seems to have disappeared.  PD spam? Apparently, someone wants this Undersec to weigh-in on either his homework or his Russia's public diplomacy strategy:
Dear Sir ,
Could you make judgments on the next proposal:
Public Diplomacy
The analysis of the news and discussion programs on the Russian television, the discussions on the Internet shows the disappointingly low level of the knowledge of the history and the modern life in the U.S. Significantly, this applies to both the ordinary citizens and the intellectuals.

In the society dominate the mistrust, and, frequently, the dislike for the so-called "West" and especially the United States. And it is not explained only by the echoes of the Cold War - these views are shared by many citizens of the young and middle-aged, educated and formed after the Cold War. This is not surprising - referred populations form such attitudes in dealing with the older generation which emerged in an era when the West (USA) was the synonym of the enemy.

The most accessible media, and, above all, public television stations, affecting most the mass audience, are oriented at best wary, distrustful attitude to Western countries. In the circumstances when the most part of the population do not speak foreign languages, they did not understand the foreign-language TV channels, even when they available. Broadcast, even in the Internet version, in contrast to the Soviet and the early post-Soviet period, now is not so popular.

Nowadays, a wide spread of the Internet becomes the primary source of the information for a fairly general population. Analysis of the various sites , the forums and the discussion sites on the Internet shows a lack of the specialized sites, where could be provided systematic information on the history and the today life in the U.S.
This site may have the following characteristics:
For each topic, the information should be presented in 3 versions:
1 – The summary for the ordinary citizens ("Housewives", "dummies")
2 – The detailed information for the "advanced" intellectuals
3 - For the professionals - with many citations of the professionals and links to the sources

Such the site must have:
1.Inquire office - where the visitors could request with their question for the answer. From the questions of the visitors formed the Frequently Asked Questions , which is constantly updated with the received new questions and, most importantly - updated with the new information on previously questions.
2.Discussion subsite - a forum where the visitors could hold discussions among themselves and with the participation of the representatives from site staff. This kind of the discussion will give an excellent material for renovation and updating of the site, as well as to attract to him a wider audience.
3.Useful links on the site.
4.Source for English language learners - English versions of articles from the site, which can be used by teachers as the topics of some sort educational material. A great addition would be the audio recordings of articles from the site. Here is to use the audio or video recordings of political leaders and the lectures of the scientists and the specialists on site.
Very attractive, especially for the youth audience of the site , could be holding the various competitions and the quizzes on the theme of the site. Prizes can be very different - from an audio-recording of the artists, the laptops (notebooks, tablets) and to the travel as a tourist or for the training courses in the U.S.

Such the structure of the site with the set of information, focused on the very wide range of the users, both in the terms of their age and the education level and the occupation, will bring it to the massive interest.

The success of this site may be provided only in one case - in its creation and operation the "first fiddle" must play the people living in the midst of the audience on which is oriented the site. They know exactly the level of the knowledge and the interests of the site audience, those questions and issues that concern them. They know the issues discussed in the everyday life and on the forums, the blogs and the websites of the country of residence.


Alexander Dronov

June 14, 2011
Alex, gonna need a bit more info from you about said proposal before I weigh in... However, I am curious of what Global Chaos makes of such biz.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy

Good news, pd friends and colleagues.  I have been appointed new Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy for Secretary of State Arnold Vinick's State Department.  I look forward to conducting the public diplomacy of the Santos Administration. 

Meanwhile, for any West Wing junkies, check out the ridiculous Bartlet-Young wedding taking place on twitter (#BartletYoung2011).  All the West Wing characters are tweeting about it.  I happened to make a West Wing character list to follow on twitter, well worth a follow.  Speaking of too much time on my hands, I also made a list of twitter feeds for dead presidents like Calvin Coolidge and James Monroe.  Silly.


Rick Pearlstein has a wonderful tribute to Hubert H. Humphrey for his centenary.  Worth a read on a forgotten titan.

Ganeshs in the Outfield

Well, apparently my story idea for my great Indian baseball novel has partially been taken.  Two Indian cricketers are being groomed into baseball players.  The great American cricket novel still awaits.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

A long line

This week, I got an email from the American Jewish Press Association.  The Simon Rockower Awards are coming, and they wanted to reprint my remarks for this year's program.  'Said you come from a long line.

As we were getting ready for Shabbat and we were having a discussion about the sabbath wine, my Dad casually remarked that the Rockowers had a history in the liquor business back in the old country.  My Dad is a great researcher, but a lousy story teller.  Apparently, the Rockower clan ran a number of taverns back in Austria.  Probably slipping shots of slivovitz to the cute Hungarian girls, and pouring vinegar into the drinks of the Cossacks.  Happy Sabbath to all, I will close the week with the song "Sinners Like Me" by Eric Church:

Our X-Men, Ourselves

Something tells me you already know the answer to your questions.
(all italics above and below from the new X-Men movie)

I made plans to meet up with my new offline AU friends Laura and Jackie to catch the new X-Men First Class.  We, whose schedule permits such matinees, decided to take advantage and catch a 3:50pm show.  So I headed out to hop the MoCo ride-on at 3pm.  I left my house ten-to-three to wait in the century-marked swelter.  Under a bit of shade of the banyan tree, I considered the prospects of Citizen Bayne, of how Obama needs a Rooseveltian effort to create jobs by fixing our dilapidated infrastructure (BHO's New Deal), and of how I connect find and connect networks.

And I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Transit Fail!  I waited close to an hour for that dinky ride-on that never came.  I chatted with my fellow strandee, a guy named Sammy who, as luck would have it, used to review comics online.  He had a tattoo of the Virgin of Magneto, something that augured well. Whereas in India, there would be rickshaws to pick up the slack of a lost bus, or in Patagonia or other locales, I could just hitchhike, in suburban Bethesda, there are no other options.

So I did what any 31-year old living at home should do: I called my mommy.  Mom, I said, can you please come pick me up and drop me off at the the movie theater?  Sure enough, X-Mom saved the day and swung through to grab me plus my new friend for a ride into Beit Seda.  Years ago, I would make my parents drop me off a block or two from UA so I could roll up real cool to hang at the movie theater; now, I was quite pleased to be dropped off right in front of the theater.

Got to the movie just in time for the matinee ($9? What happened to the $6 matinee? Let me shake my cane a  bit at that) and the purchase of a small $5 coke the size of the Aral Sea and some snowcaps, and headed in with Laura.  Jackie came shortly thereafter, with the best bit of Swedish gastrodiplomacy: Swedish Fish.

The movie opened up in a concentration camp, with lil Erik Lehnsherr being ripped from his mother's embrace.  Perhaps Sammy should have had a tattoo not of the Virgin of Magneto but of the Magneto Vilna Gaon.  A Magneto with payas curling out from his helmet and a round hat on top, I love it.  And on we go.

I liked the X-Men movie.  There were times it was a bit cheesy, but on the whole enjoyable.  It was also a fascinating social commentary.  Very much a postmodern tale about being comfortable with who you are and that society should accept our differences. Mutant and Proud, was the unfortunate tag line but also indicative of an era.  It reminded me a bit of the Star Trek prequel.  In all seriousness, the movie was seeped with postmodern  personal acceptance motifs- the notion of personal acceptance even if societal acceptance is lagging. And the notion of micro-acceptance through community rather than society fit very much within this theme.  Also the We are the future notion that it is up to the millenial generation to save the world, and to do so through networks and community.  There were also various themes dealing with vengeance, what constitutes closure and how can one damaged find peace.

There were some cool characters.  I mistook the actor playing Charles Xavier for the whole movie, thinking he was Ewen McGregor (an actor from movies I watched when last getting rides to UA).  The Last King of Genosha was pretty cool.

Magneto was good too.  And I love that he was Magnetish.  Inglourious Magneto, declaring Never Again.  I also loved that Magneto ended up with a helmet of Rearden metal.  Who is Erik Lehnsherr?

As for other characters, I liked the Banshee character, as well as Havok.  Havok was always a fav.  The Angel character was weak.  What are you, a dragonfly?  The mystique character was fair.  The nightcrawler-esque Azazel was dimensionless, as was the well-dressed twistertosser.  Emma Frost was not up to snuff for the White Queen she is.  There was a tremendous cameo (view askew?) from Wolverine that was a scene-stealer.

So much for diplomacy.  I suggest you all get some sleep.
There was a fascinating device of historical fiction used in the movie, of connecting the X-Men to the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I loved watching the clips of Kennedy spliced into the story, and the melding of reality and fiction with the CMC embargo.  That part was rather cool.  But also had me sadly laughing that we still have an embargo on Cuba today.  What a joke.  I would rather flood Cuba with Marvel Comics and I-Pods, and watch the regime try to hold back those tides.

And I loved the bit of X-PD, of the need for X-Men to use public diplomacy of the deed to communicate their culture, values and utility to the world at large.  Fwiw, I still think comics and graphic novels make tremendous platforms for cultural diplomacy (See: Silver Scorpion, new Justice League and the Sheikh's Batmobile)  and I have a few projects I will cook up down the line in such form.

True focus lies between rage and serenity.
There was also a lot of X-Zen.  Professor X as Buddha, promoting enlightenment through self-awareness: the World is a Mirror: Rule your Powers or your Powers will rule you.

On the whole, I liked it.  I would give it a solid B+ as it was entertaining and well done.  A little too kitschy for an A- but still quite good.  Good enough that I look forward to the next prequel or sequel.  Until then, this Bishop patiently waits.

Things is bad in Fayette County

This beaut comes from the Herald-Standard in PA.  TY Daron, gotta love those hometown papers.  Thanks David Gardner, may your name be forever tied with the brilliance you spout:

As I watched the aftermath of the Japanese Earthquake, I seen all that garbage and debris on the sides of highways and in backyards, I thought I was watching a documentary on Fayette County.
Fayette County has more garbage and debris on some of its highways and in some backyards than the whole island of Japan. 
Another thing I noticed was i didn't see people screaming and acting like animals like after Hurricane Katrina, those dam Japanese, they don't litter, use welfare as a career, take pride in their country, are too dam smart, and don't have a fifty percent high school drop out rate.
Fayette County, number one in trash, junked cars in back yards, couches on front porches, welfare recipients, political corruption, drop out rates, drug dealers, alcoholics, dope heads, boarded up houses, high unemployment, and always Democratic.
-David Gardner

Thursday, June 09, 2011

In this corner

WaPo reports that the Palin and Bachman campaigns are feuding; I am praying for the political equivalent of the Iran-Iraq War.


For "Oh My G-D", do the Orthos write OM-?


Andrew Bacevitch has a great article that echoes Glenn Greenwald's point about our lack of focus on the real issues- like the Afghan War.  He makes a great point: 'We’ve already wasted too much money and too many lives in the “graveyard of empires.”' 

Pitfalls in Pax Ottomania

There is a good article in FP on the difficulties of Ankara's Middle East soft power outreach in the age of the Arab Spring:
Since coming to power in 2002, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has adopted a "zero problems" policy with its neighbors, attempting to resolve long-standing disputes and stressing cooperation over confrontation. It launched a rapprochement with Syria and other Arab countries, and, as a result, Turkish-Syrian relations improved dramatically beginning in 2003.

The AKP argued that establishing ties with the Muslim populations around Turkey would endow Ankara with soft power. But the plan had a flaw: In undemocratic states like Syria and Libya, Ankara was not expanding its relationships with the people, but with brutal leaders such as Bashar al-Assad and Muammar al-Qaddafi. With the Arab Spring toppling tyrants left and right, however, Turkey must not only take into account its relationships with dictators, but also the popular uprisings that challenge these rulers. How the AKP grapples with this conundrum will be the defining issue of Turkish foreign policy for the country's next government.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Joys of Repressed Voyeuristic Titillation

Glenn Greenwald has a great piece on the Weiner Affair:
Can one even imagine how much different -- and better -- our political culture would be if our establishment media devoted even a fraction of the critical scrutiny and adversarial energy it devoted to the Weiner matter to things that actually matter? But that won't happen, because the people who comprise that press corps, with rare exception, are both incapable of focusing on things that matter and uninterested in doing so.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Breaking Pita

Off to go have dinner with the Pakistan-Israel Peace Forum, a group trying to foster exchange between said groups through public diplomacy. Last time we broke naan over chicken krahi, this time we will be breaking pita over falafel.  For more info on such biz, check out my chapter on Pakistan-Israeli relations that was published in Prof. Moshe Ma'oz (ed) Muslim Attitudes towards Jews and Israel.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

FLA Biz Strategy

So apparently Florida's Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law demanding that welfare recipients take a drug test.  I don't love the idea, and think it is a bit of invasion of privacy, but I also can appreciate that there are responsibilities if you are on the dole (like mowing the lawn).  But apparently, that putz Scott has a vested interest in such business, as he (err..his wife) owns the clinics that will hold the drug tests.

When asked about his cats and cream, the article noted:
"Asked about the company Sunday, Scott said he is in the process of selling his family's interest in the company and "it will be sold in a couple of weeks." There is no conflict of interest, he said."

Brilliant business strategy!  I'm shocked he stopped there. I am surprised he didn't make every state employee take a drug test. Heck, I am surprised he didn't make every FLA school child from K-12 take a test.

Thanks Jason for bringing this to my attention.

On Travel Writing

"The traveler here is emphatically not a tourist; he (usually not she) is a connoisseur of place whose aesthetic is other people’s lives. Contemporary travel writing still has the occasional reek of leather armchairs and gin, of old colonial maps."
-Henry Shukman, in review of The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux. Thanks JB.

Bismarck on God's Providence

"'God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States of America,"
-Otto Von Bismarck.  Thanks AbhayK!


Friday, June 03, 2011

Lights, Camera...Nollywood

CSM has a piece on Nollywood, Nigeria best pd institution this side of the prince who keeps offer to share his fortune with me.

Gastrodiplomacy and the Indy Star

I was interviewed by the Indianapolis Star on Thailand's gastrodiplomacy and other gastrodiplo efforts. For all intents and purposes, Indianapolis might as well be Peoria, which is a good thing.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Progress vs. Tradition

"Progress is fast
but Tradition has class."
-Adult Swim

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Flying back to NYC on Virgin, I saw the safety video.  Awesome:

My friend John sent this horrific one in response. I think I would rather crash: