Sunday, July 31, 2011

Congressional Lord of the Flies

As the debt crisis started, I picked up a used book copy of Lord of the Flies by William Golding for 50 cents at the local library.  The  classic delves into the defects of society that are borne out of the shortcomings of human nature when left to its own devices.  Amid the shrill cries, "Kill the Beast! Cut his Throat! Spill his Blood!" its hard not to think about the Tea Party, their orthodox mantras and their zealotry as they grow ready to sacrifice the U.S. economy in the proverbial hunt.  Obama fits in as a good Ralph character, who was given leadership only to see it stolen by those bearing force.  Perhaps the Dems make a good Piggy character, left broken on the rocks when thinking that reason would have won out the day.  We'll see if any grownups appear on the beach to save us just in time before our island descends into anarchy.

"And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy."

Thus Spake Captain America

Working backwards,  I went last week to see Captain America with my friend and PD classmate Matt Wallin.  I hadn't planned on seeing Capt. America, figuring it was probably along the lines of other miss-able comic book movies of late (see under: Green Lantern), but when it received a decent review from WaPo, I figured I would grab a matinee.  At $14, matinees ain't what they used to be, but to be sure, we did see it in 3-D (I will return to such biz).

Captain America was actually pretty good.  The story revolves around our first avenger Steve Rogers'  fight against Agt. Red Skull Smith and his fascist army Hydra. The Red Skull character is a cold and calculating Otto Dietrich zur Linde archetype as he pursues power with Wagner playing on the gramaphone in the background.   Meanwhile, Rogers is the scrawny underdog who knows the value of strength and compassion.  Thankfully, my friend ManIC gets into the rest of the plot and its foreign policy connections, so I don't have to.

Unlike X-Men, there is less of an existential question of what constitutes good and evil; Captain America is much more Manichean.  Although there was still a bit of the notion of ruling over power lest it rule over us: "Great power has always baffled primitive men."  A thing I liked from the movie included Captain America bristling at his role selling the war, and being a propaganda symbol rather than engaging in the real action.  In the end, leading by example did more to create positive change and leadership than symbolized propaganda.  A thing I disliked was that the evil spy who killed Capt. America's mentor was a wolf in State Department clothing (I felt this was an unnecessary McCarthyite attack, even if unintentional).

Overall, it had an interesting theme of mensch vs. ubermensch and the notion that the power is within you, with an overarching message of "fighting bullies".  There was an interesting interplay about how to create good networks vs. bad networks and the role of symbols and socialization in such business.

On the whole, I would give it a solid "B".  Entertaining, and just about worth the price of admission.  My only complaint was with the 3-D, which wasn't really.  It was a 2-D movie that they converted, and I didn't find the 3-D added much except to the price.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Always a layer of truth

Perused from the headlines of America's finest news source, and most deserved receptacle for a Pulitzer:

-USSR Wins Space Race As U.S. Shuts Down Shuttle Program
Crowds are pouring into Red Square to celebrate the historic victory.

-Congress Continues Debate over Whether Or Not Nation Should Be Economically Ruined.
Yep, kinda what it boils down to, you Tea Party dolts.

-Al-Qaeda: U.S. Mass Transportation Infrastructure Must Drastically Improve Before Any Terrorist Attacks.
America has caused enough transportation terrorism on its own citizens, why add insult to injury?

-God Urges Rick Perry Not to Run for President
Amen, amen.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Back to School

Yesterday I made the trek up near Baltimore to visit Goucher College. I went up there to discuss teaching a course on public diplomacy. Beyond certain personal reasons, Goucher piqued my interest because it was the first college to require its students to conduct a study abroad as a graduation requirement.  As one who has made his life a study abroad semester+, I thought this global focus was quite unique and dynamic.

I met with Goucher's President Sandy Ungar, who has his own ties to public diplomacy as a former head of Voice of America.  He was kind enough to give me a tour around the lovely campus and new Athenaeum- the multipurpose library and student center (and radio station: Radio Free Goucher [j/k]).  I was impressed by all the students who he knew by first name, and that they had a personal relationship with him.  We sat outside the cafe of the Athenaeum and chatted over lunch about collegiate life.

After lunch, I returned to chat with the provost about said PD class.  As we were chatting about curriculum, I kinda laughed and said that I had the course designed all the way back in grad school.  Will keep you posted about Prof. Rockower's teaching endeavors.

PS: Two days prior, I had an interesting lunch with Prof. Craig Hayden and tour around AU's SIS to discuss prospective PhDs.  Will keep you posted on pupil Rockower's continued student endeavors.  

Um, uh.

In praise of such pauses.

Vogue Diplomacy

"Out beyond ideas of wrong & right,
there is a runway
I'll meet you there."
-NotquiteRumi.

Pakistan's new, hottt FM proves that, in diplomacy as in life, image is everything as she wows and woos her Indian neighbors.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fatal ailments of all Republics

"A Republic if you can keep it."
-Benjamin Franklin

On the precipice of a U.S. default, those words loom large.

"These are the times that try men's souls."
-Thomas Paine

And their wallets. And their patience. I find it reprehensible that Tea Party would rather drive this country off a financial cliff because of their inability to compromise on issues of taxes. I see Obama making key concessions on entitlements, but I don't see the same compromise extended by the Republicans. Closed fists to open hands. Rather just the same hard-line orthodoxy by the Republicans, as if it wasn't their tax cuts that helped balloon the debt in the first place. Compromise is a value that must be fundamental to this and all republics. Orthodoxy and zealotry are the downfall of all such states.

"Both sides deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came."
-Abraham Lincoln

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Sidney Bosley Incident

Some of you may remember the Sidney Bosley Incident when I was punk'd in Malaysia. This is hysterical music video that accompanies our trip in Malaysia!

An African ghost story redux

A few years ago, while in South Africa, I posted about the living dead.  GlobalPost has a more recent story about a wakeful "corpse" in fair SuidAfrika.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

We, the eternally damned

"Life is far too glorious...especially to the cursed and the damned, like myself."
Anthony Hopkins in The Wolfman

Parrothead Diplomacy

I just finished watching Captain America, and there will be a full write-up of the public diplomacy side of such things, but first I had to address a drive-way moment on the way back.  A drive-way moment is a story on NPR that is so good that you remain in your car after you have reached your destination.  This particular piece happened to be about Jimmy Buffett.  Bob Edwards was interviewing the parrothead prince, and it was a fascinating discussion.

Jimmy Buffett: singer, songwriter, best-selling author, poet, storyteller, international icon, jester-in-chief.  The King of Margaritaville. Master showman who knows how to sell and project a tangible culture.   Businessman, as he was discussing the Margaritaville brand.  I would argue public and cultural diplomat too.   Public Diplomacy for Margaritaville, I could do that.

Also interesting that the man who best chronicled Murrow's life and knows a thing or two about public diplomats, Bob Edwards, was interviewing him.

Jimmy Buffett has a uniquely American sound and style that projects the Gulf/West landscape.  Part country, part folk, part boat music.  In his music, a uniquely American side of culture is projected ala country music diplomacy.  He even partakes in a bit of international broadcasting with his own Sirius Satellite radio channel, Radio (Free) Margaritaville.  I won't even get into how Cheeseburger in Paradise makes him a gastrodiplomat.

Interestingly, the world-famous musician mentioned that he never won any awards for his work.  So, on behalf of the Santos Administration, and as Undersec for Public Diplomacy for the Vinick State Department, I hereby bestow the Willis Conover Award for Cultural Diplomacy upon Jimmy Buffett.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

So much more than just a doctrine

Last Saturday, I went down to Fredericksburg with my Dad for some father-son bonding amid one of our favorite pastimes: visiting Presidential museums and libraries.  We have three Americana pastimes: visiting baseball stadiums, state capitals and presidential libraries.  I had noticed a sign for the Monroe Memorial when on my way down to Richmond a few weeks prior.

We headed south, top down, into the bright, beautiful saturday morning.  The plans came very close to being filed in the papillion category, which is Rockower lore writ shorthand for failure.  As we were heading south on 95, we hit a wave of traffic.  We decided to pull of to Rt 1 (good ol' Jefferson Davis Hwy), but that proved just as slow and sloggy.  A trip that was an hour and change turned into a two-hour affair.  I passed the time extolling the virtues of James "The Pearl" Monroe.

James Monroe rang bells on his night ride to declare to the British that they couldn't take our guns.  James Monroe appointed Chuck Norris as his Secretary of War in the War of 1812 and had him burn York- the capital of British Canada; the presence of these two titans in the same room caused the White House to combust. James Monroe dropped the atomic bomb on Japan...with chopsticks. James Monroe ended the Cold War when his laser vision made Chernobyl explode.


After braving the traffic, we eventually made it to the James Monroe Memorial Museum and Library.  I proudly declared to the woman behind the register that we had come down to Fredericksburg to visit her museum; she looked shocked.

But it was actually quite interesting.  So much more than a Doctrine! I mean, the man was a revolutionary war soldier (that famous pic of Washington crossing the Delaware includes Mr. Doctrine himself) , ambassador, governor (Not part of the highlights, he suppressed Gabriel's Uprising), senator, Louisiana purchaser, secretary of state and war, president, Missouri compromiser and general presider over the Era of Good Feelings.  But wait, you say, get on to the Doctrine.

Ah yes, the eponymous doctrine.  The James "The Pearl" Monroe Doctrine basically told the rest of the world that America would brook no further colonization or nose-poking in the affairs of the hemisphere.  It has been bedrock to American policy in the region even till this day.  Teddy added his own corollary, then promptly finished last in the presidential race at Nats park.  With regard to the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK cited said doctrine before he called in the X-Men to stop the advancing Soviet ships:
The Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it, and that is that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power to the Western Hemisphere [sic], and that is why we oppose what is happening in Cuba today. That is why we have cut off our trade. That is why we worked in the OAS and in other ways to isolate the Communist menace in Cuba. That is why we will continue to give a good deal of our effort and attention to it
Even the Apostle Reagan cited the Monroe Doctrine as his excuse to f-ck sh-t up in CentAm.   So, as you can see: so much more than just a doctrine, and well worth a long and unenviable stretch of sitting in traffic.

After departing the hallowed ground, my Dad and I made our way down mainstreet F-berg to the local drugstore cafe, where we dined at the soda jerk.  After sucking down Americana, we made our way over to an interesting museum called the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop.  The good Dr. Mercer was a physician and general, and the shop had a recreation of an old apothecary shop.  There was a fun discussion on medical practices of the day, including leeching and bleeding, and other butcher doctor business.  My dad loved it; I started turning green.  But there were a lot of folks in the shop, discussing their concern about the ongoing events with Britain and taxes on tea. It was a fun little place.

Thankfully, the ride back was far smoother, and the era of good feelings persisted.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

7'7" of Public Diplomacy

My friend Prof. Gary Rawnsley has a post about the retirement of Yao Ming, and the misuse of the term "soft power." While I don't disagree with Prof. Rawnsley about the overuse of the title, and doubt that Yao reflects Chinese softpower (nor do I disagree with Prof. John Brown's comment about the dilution of the term "public diplomacy", even if I do try to push the boundaries of the term), I still feel that Yao and all the hubub surrounding the phenomenon of a 7'7" Chinese basketball star has had some public and cultural diplomacy value.  Yao has been an avatar for cultural exchange, and a bridge to facilitate such exchange.  ESPN got the intrinsic cultural diplomacy value of Yao, as seen here in this hysterical commercial.  And while I don't think that Yao playing basketball increased China's influence globally, he did help connect disparate parts of the world, something that we hope of all public diplomats.

Happy Birthday Ernie

"Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated."
Ernest Hemingway, "The Old Man and the Sea"

And another birthday wish to another old man with a similar bday and similar eyes. Feliz Cumple, Abba.

Knanaya

The beauty of my Tales of a Wandering Jew blog is that fascinating people find me.  I got a note from a fellow named Jacob who is a member of the Knanaya community.  The Knanaya are a Jewish/Christian community in Kerala.  It is a community of early Jewish converts to Christianity but kept Jewish traditions.  They moved to Kerala in 346AD, and speak Aramaic and Malayalam.  Fascinating!

To the core

Wow, GlobalPost reports on the counterfeit Apple store in China.  Apparently, even the staff didn't know that they were working for a fake!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Rockower Semester

Aka "Semester at Sea".  I received not one but two papers yesterday evening related to my work.

First is a term paper by grad student Jessica Steigerwald of University College Dublin.  Jessica studies Media and International Conflict.  She wrote her term paper on the "Cultural Diplomacy in a Digital Age: 21st Century Family of Man Revamp".

The second comes from Rachel Wilson, who is a grad at Syracuse.  Rachel studies PD.  She wrote her term paper on Peruvan Gastrodiplomacy.

Prof. Rockower gives you both an A!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On pace

"If a man leaves pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears."
-Henry David Thoreau

The private fight against human trafficking

Interesting article in CSM about the campaign to deputize private citizens in the global fight against trafficking.

The Life of Markari Goldoman

My old friend Markari Goldoman is interviewed by ESPN the Mag on the ins-and-outs of managing athletic wealth.

WE TH P PL

-Mike Wilkins, Preamble

House of Hapsburg

FP has a fascinating article on the ruling house of my ancestral home.  I am always intrigued by the likes of the Ottomans and Hapsburgs, who ruled multi-ethnic multi-cultural empires in the face of swirling nationalist sentiments.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dear Israel Free Palestine

Add punctuation as necessary. For f-cks sake, Israel, stop playing games. You recognized South Sudan. Palestine has as much case for recognition. The "indefensible" borders are defendable. They did Israel just fine for two winning wars. Who exactly are you defending the territory from these days? Iraq? Jordan? Syria? The nascent Palestine? Who is invading from the East? A recognized Palestine on your recognized borders is more defensible than a continued occupation.

By the way, thanks Danny Ayalon for offering a history lesson of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is probably the worst bit of public diplomacy propaganda ever. Undisputed.



Although there have been some other pretty awful Israel attempts at PD, such as the "Size Doesn't Matter" campaign spots, as well as the horrific Spanish music video attempt to reach out to Latino audiences with a chica in tigress prints and a 14-year old next to a windmill.  Please guys, this is embarrassing.

Israel spends a tremendous amount of time, resources and angst trying to fix its image and toxic nation brand rather than simply working on the policy that causes such failure.  The "disputed territories"?  Please.  No one but Israelis hawks and diaspora archchair generals disputes that the territory is occupied.  Even Sharon admitted it was occupied.  But the real issue here is that Israel like to talk incessantly about Palestinian refusal to accept a Jewish State. Yet this video is case-in-point of Israeli refusal to accept a Palestinian State.  Where else would you locate Palestine, fellas?  Jordan?  You blew that chance when Shamir scuttled the London Accords, and gave that silly notion up when you signed a peace treaty with Jordan. The reality is that Israel "delegitimizes" a Palestinian State (I am so sick of that made-up word) almost as much as Palestinians don't recognize Israel.

King Kerry

James Traub of FP has a good and thoughtful piece on John Kerry the diplomatic firefighter. As one who voted for Kerry, I always thought he had a rough break in 2004 and years after. I think that if Osama hadn't appeared on tv just days before the election, Kerry would have been king. But part was his indeed his own fault and the inept campaign he ran which he was cast as a man o' bore. Kerry might indeed get the Al Gore effect and become a statesman post-defeat.

Gilligan Jefferson

Apparently Gilligan was an Athenian at heart

Suicide Kings

The Suicide
Not a single star will be left in the night.
The night will not be left.
I will die and, with me,
the weight of intolerable universes.
I shall erase the pyramids, the medallions,
the continents and faces.
I shall erase the accumulate past.
I shall make dust of history, dust to dust.
I am looking on the final sunset.
I hear the last bird
I bequeath nothingness to no one.
-Jorge Luis Borges

Worry not, just an interesting segue into a fascinating radio program on Freakonomics on suicide, the power of influence (suicidal soft power?) and a lot of iconoclastic tidbits about the act.  Like that the places with the highest rates of homicide have the lowest suicide rates, and that they highest percentage of people who commit the act are not teenagers but rather old white males in the West Coast.

Halves

"Half the world is composed of idiots, the other half of people clever enough to take indecent advantage of them."
- Walter Kerr

Friends and Allies

Stephen Cohen has a great piece on India as a friend but not an ally; Pakistan as an ally but not friend.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Honest Abe on Corporations

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
-Abraham Lincoln

Gastrodiplomacy Wonderland

So I managed to finagle tickets into the Fancy Food Show last week.  I got there, changed my name tag to read "Gastrodiplomacy" and walked into Willy Wonka-like world of food.  Mountains of cheese, rivers of olive oil, streams of vino.  Heart be still, tummy be full. I stumbled upon a gastrodiplomacy mecca.

It was a whole exhibition center with two convention hall of distributors, trade commissions, trade reps and whole sale food merchants. Stalls upon stalls of delicacies. A veritable UN of cheeses from Cyprus houlmi and Swiss galore to cranberry cottswald cheese. Taste upon taste as far as the taste bud can stretch. Snacks and sweets; teas and coffees. Chock full of chocolates. Smoked salmons and legs of puerco iberico.

On the first day, I hit up the upper hall.  Canada had a huge display of Canadian products and a Canadian chef demonstrating “Canadian recipes.”  Mexico had a huge display center with a giant Toltec statue standing sentinel.  There was stalls of moles, salsas and some ridic mezcal punch.

Austria also had a nice section ("Advantage Austria") with a Frau in lederhosen giving out pungent aged mountain goat cheese covered in herbs and glasses of riesling to wash it down.  Also some smoked apricots and peppers stuffed with soft cow's milk cheese.  Made me want to yodel, it was soo good.

There was also a bit of region branding, with a booth for Flanders and Sicily hawking their wares.

It was all a bit overwhelming, I grew overfull of Kiwi windsor blue cheese, and English and Irish cheddars,  washed down with some Kentucky bourbon ale (beer casked in bourbon barrels).  So much so that I didn't eat anything for dinner.

I returned the following day to scope out the second room.  This was even more vast.  I went methodically down the everflowing aisles.  There was a rather bland Argentine exhibit, followed by a small Indonesian section that featured Kopi Luwak (Cat sh-t coffee).  Next aisle hosted a good Korea section.  The Korea section had a small restaurant that looked fun.  I sampled some Korean roasted black garlic that was fascinating.  It was sweet, soft like roasted garlic and pungent.  There was also great Jinro booth where I sampled soju and Hite beer as I chatted about Korean gastrodiplo.  My enthusiasm for kimchi earned me a few drinkboxes of soju to take home.

Greek fetas and yogurts passed into an enormous Italian section.   Sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission, the section had some great posters branding Italians cheese, wines and other products as "Often Imitated, Never Duplicated."  There were pasta demonstrations and row after row of cheese, olive oil and wine.

Turkey had a similarly large section with tons of figs and Turkish Delight for tastings.  Meanwhile, had a phenomenal section.  Probably the best I saw that incorporated the Chilean nationbrand with gastrodiplomacy.  The Chilean section was bright and colorful with pictures of places and products, and highlighted that it was carbon neutral.  It had a huge cooking demonstration for Chilean lamb, and had section of Chilean wines, including what is their signature Carmenere (think Chilean malbec, just underbranded).

This leads me to my point that while most highlighted at the convention, I would say was more gastro-PR, Chile did some real gastrodiplomacy.  There is a difference.  Gastro-PR is trade rep biz that focuses on simply selling a product, whereas gastrodiplomacy is a more holistic attempt at communicating national culture through food.  Gastrodiplomacy offers tanglible tastes as cultural diplomacy while gastro-PR simply tries to increase trade of products.

There is also a bit of a difference between who need to do gastrodiplomacy and the target of focus of national vs. regional.  Gastrodiplomacy is really more for countries trying to differentiate their underrecognized nationbrand from the rest of the pack.  People know Italy and have an idea of Italian food, or France and French food, so they don't need to conduct gastrodiplomacy in the same way that same Chile or Korea might need to.  For known quantities like Italy or France, gastrodiplomacy is better served with regional branding and trying to highlight lesser known sides of culture and cuisine; for lesser known places like Chile or Korea, the focus is more on increasing nation brand awareness and what the overall cuisine and culture entails before delving deeper. I will come back to this later in more detail.

Anyway, there were a number of states that were engaged in a little state culinary branding.  Mass, New York, Virginia and Vermont all had their own sections, and this notion I will also address more in a later piece on American gastrodiplomacy.

There was a nice section for Palestine, which I liked.  I am all about marginalized and underrepresented states conducting gastrodiplomacy, and wish that the Kurds had a section too.  I also like iconclastic pitches, like the Moroccan wine industry, and pointing out that yes, even Muslim countries can have wine industries.

Brazil had a good section that I would call a bit of gastrodiplomacy.  Everything was branded under "One Country, Many Tastes" and the booths reflected it.  Ecuador had a good section too with lots of people in signature hats.  There was even a food truck in the middle of the hall.  One other surprise was how much kosher food branding there was.  Places that had kosher wares had blue signs noting such.  The best was an Egyptian booth was a kosher seal.  Luv it.

I was surprised by a few missing gastrodiplomacy all-stars.  I didn't find Taiwan or Malaysia there.  Perhaps they were and I just missed them in all the commotion.  Also, I was surprised I didn't find Israel at the gastro-party.

Again, I left place stuffed and unable to eat dinner later.  On the whole, it was a great bit of fun.  It gave me a nice platform to network and sell my ideas.  Many people were very receptive to the notion of foodie foreign policy and all the fun therein.  I also got a lot of ideas to work with and work out (Gastrodiplomacy vs. Gastro-PR).  All of this will be addressed in the Gastrodiplomacy Institute (GDI)'s first newsletter: The Gastrodiplomacy Digest.

Flynt on Murdoch

The original Hustler Larry Flynt has a great take on the Murdoch/ News of the World Affair:
Freedom of the press and the right to privacy do not have to be combatants. The people have tasked members of the news media with the duty and the responsibility to provide information. As publishers, we must find the boundary, push it, but refuse to cross it — never selling out our readers and never publishing what we cannot verify.

If the allegations are true, Murdoch did not just cross the line — he erased it. By doing so, he has placed all of us who enjoy freedom of the press at grave risk. Only when our readership trusts us to provide material acquired honestly can a free press continue to be a driving force in preserving our democracy. If Murdoch refuses to take his responsibility as a publisher seriously, he threatens not only Americans’ right to privacy, but also our basic freedoms.

To God, be the Glory

As seen on the van of Ministerio Bethel de Bethesda. The sounds of singing and clapping escaped from the Whitman Auditorium of the Sunday service. After running, every square of shade, every gust of wind, is a gift from the Most High.

Delegit cont

MJ Rosenberg has a great piece in the LA Times about who is really delegitimizing Israel: Bibi.

The whole concept of delegitimization seems archaic. Israel achieved its "legitimacy" when the United Nations recognized it 63 years ago. It has one of the strongest economies in the world. Its military is the most powerful in the region. It has a nuclear arsenal of about 200 bombs, with the ability to launch them from land, sea and air.

In that context, the whole idea of delegitimizing Israel sounds silly. Israel can't be delegitimized.

So why are the pro-Israel organizations talking about it? The answer is simple: They are trying to divert attention from the intensifying world opposition to the occupation of the West Bank and to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, both of which, by almost any standard, are illegitimate. They are trying to divert attention from the ever-expanding settlements, which are not only illegitimate but illegal under international law. They are trying to divert attention from the ever-louder calls for Israel to grant Palestinians equal rights.

The effort to change the subject from the existence of the occupation to the existence of Israel makes sense strategically. Israel has no case when it comes to the occupation, which the entire world, except Israel, agrees must end. But Israel certainly has the upper hand in any argument over its right to exist and to defend itself.

That is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu routinely invokes Israel's "right to self-defense" every time he tries to explain away some Israeli attack on Palestinians, no matter whether they are armed fighters or innocent civilians. If the Israeli-Palestinian discussion is about Israel's right to defend itself, Israel wins the argument. But if it is about the occupation — which is, in fact, what the conflict has been about since 1993, when the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized Israel — it loses.

Yiddish Fail

Friday, July 15, 2011

Neapolitano

Went out last night to Pizza Da Marco in Bethesda.  Delish.  Had an antipasto with grilled eggplant, zucchini and red peppers, slathered in oil and slivered in garlic. Some pecorino and prosciutto on the side, as well as a rosemary-covered focaccia.   Dinner was a pizza margherita D.O.P. (Protected by EU) with delicious buffalo mozzarella, and a pizza funghi.   They cook their pizza in a 900 degree wood-burning oven made from volcanic rocks from Mt. Vesuvius.  The crust was thin, crisp and a little doughy but in a good way;  cheese was gooey and delicious; sauce was just right.  Bar none, best pizza in Bethesda since Il Forno went away; maybe in DC, as I liked this more than 2 Amys.

On coffee and superstition

"Your father laughs. 'This coffee is no good, ' he says.  'It makes my heart race.  It tastes bitter.  Why do I drink it? Habit and superstition.  I believe it sobers me when I have been drinking.  I believe it sharpens me when I am tired.  I believe than an offer of coffee to friends equals the hospitality of a thousand welcomes.  You and science would tell me that coffee doesn't sober, doesn't relax, doesn't revive, doesn't welcome; that it shortens my life, costs a fortune, disrupts the economy of Brazil, and if left too long in the coffeepot will corrode the silver.  But try to stop me from drinking it! I don't care for the dictatorship of science.  Nor do your neighbors.  Freedom of choice.  Deceive yourself at will, that's the motto of the nation.  Harness superstition.  Turn it to your advantage.  Milk it dry!"

-Jim Crace, "The Talking Skull," in Continent

Truckeroo through Peoria

You know that the food truck biz is "playing in Peoria" when this lil' gastrodiplomat's mother and her friends head over to the food truck festival Truckeroo.

Rebranding Mexico

Malcolm Beith has a good article in FP about perceptions, realities and brands in Mexico:
And yet, Mexico's economy is growing, tourism is rebounding, security in some parts of the country has never been better, and the middle class is continuing to expand. So the key question going into 2012 is: Can anyone put back together Mexico's broken image, both on the world stage and at home?
And so what did Mexico do?  Ramp up the public diplomacy efforts to help change perceptions that Mexico isn't a failed state?  Engage in more robust cultural diplomacy to broaden horizons about what Mexico really entails?  Nope.  They went for the quick fix and hired nationbrand guru Simon Anholt:
In August 2010, the Calderón administration hired a hot-shot advisor from Britain, Simon Anholt, the inventor of the phrase "nation-branding," to try to solve this exact problem. When I contacted him about Mexico's image problem, Anholt admitted his hands were full.

"I've worked in more than 40 countries during the last 20 years and I have never come across such a gulf between reality and perception [as in Mexico]," he said. "It's a country of great and growing importance in the world order, yet it seems saddled with another country's image: one that's much poorer, smaller, weaker, more troubled and in every way, less dignified. Reputation always lags behind reality by years -- in some cases by generations -- and during the last few years, Mexico has to some extent become defined by its problems."
Now, don't get me wrong.  I like Anholt's work and think he is rather brilliant. And I like the concept of nationbranding and think can work in certain contexts (Spain, India, Taiwan). But I ultimately believe that, when not part of real august public diplomacy efforts, nationbranding is a quick-fix huckster gimmick that PR firms have jumped on to sell their services.  Even Anholt has likened himself to Dr. Frankenstein compared to the monster mutation that has arisen.

Ah, but this is Anholt the master involved.  Yes, and I am sure he is giving sound and reasonable advice on how to change Mexico's nationbrand:
Anholt, the branding expert, would like to see Mexico perceived for its successes -- a growing economy, tourism, leadership in the public health sector and on global climate change -- rather than its negatives. He is working with the administration to highlight those, hosting meetings, workshops and debates with people from the president right on down to students and young entrepreneurs, in order to devise policy approaches and communications strategies. He has written speeches for Calderón to deliver on the international stage, and recently persuaded Mexico to host a global forum on the communication of climate change in Cancun. He has also urged the administration to reach out to new trading partners, the public and elites in foreign nations, and work more closely with the country's vast diaspora.
But I don't believe nationbranding can work well with changing perceptions when the issues are related to ongoing questions of security, war & peace.  See under: all of Israel's attempts at rebranding.  When you are trying to change the perception that your country is not at war, or not a failed state, nationbranding is simply not enough unless the guns have really fallen silent for some time.

Colombia has been doing a better job of changing its nationbrand image as not being part of the drug war, but even that has come slowly and after are marked change that outstripped perception.  And they confronted that perception head-on and did so a little irreverently ("The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay").

So in short, I would say that Mexico needs to do more than just aim at rebranding, but really work at telling the story of the rest of the country that is not "under siege."  I have a few ideas for such biz, including some public/private initiatives and some ramped-up and irreverent cultural diplomacy but since no one is asking my opinion at the moment, I will keep those under my serape at the moment.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Damn the Delegitimizers!

Todd Gitlin has a great piece in Ha'aretz on the recent spate of democratic brilliance enacted by the Knesset as to "delegitimize" delegitimization (which spell check doesn't think is a word in the first place):
Now these despoilers of Israel's reputation as a light among the nations have infiltrated the Knesset itself, and under cover of darkness - emotional and ideological darkness - have coaxed, suborned, seduced, bribed or otherwise ensured that 47 duly elected members would carry out their evil, self-discrediting work. Imagine! Agents of Hamas, Col. Gadhafi & Co. - aided, no doubt, by the ghost of the grand mufti himself - cunningly contrived this stampede in favor of a national gag order to ban any call to boycott anyone or anything Israeli, that is, tied to "the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage."

On Nature

"Nature is neither wasteful nor gratuitous....

Left to its own devices, nature is cruel but tidy."

Jim Crace, "In Heat" in Continent

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On business

"But all our business fortunes are based as much as yours on superstition.  What is superstition but misdirected reverence? Your clients overvalue milk.  Our clients overvalue transistors, automobiles, fashionable clothes, travel.  This is the key to business.  Unearth what is overvalued, amass it, and sell it at inflated prices.  Your forefathers were the first of the modern businessmen.  They grasped the principles of trade."
-Jim Crace, "Talking Skull" in Continent

Sorry Abba, all I ever grasped was history; all I learned to value were ideas.  I'm working on selling ideas, but it takes a while to make that which is weightless turn into something that is tangible.

US Commission on PD

Thank you Anna Dawson for summing up the US Advisory commission on Public Diplomacy meeting so I don't have to.

Rosslyn-tinted glasses

From McPherson Square the rain began slowly to trickle down.  Nostalgia played lurid tricks on my memory as I tried to detect the smell of rosemary on the wet air that once perfumed the Angels.  Alas, all I could detect on this antediluvian air was exhaust.

From Rosslyn, the post-diluvian skies colored the vista in hues of water colors; the National Cathedral towered over the landscape in shades of Monet's Parliament.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Issues & Studies Projecting Taiwan article

Behold! My Issues & Studies article on "Projecting Taiwan: Taiwan's Public Diplomacy Outreach"

PD Mag Intl Broadcasting

I was at the U.S. PD Advisory Commission today.  Matt Armstrong's outfit.  I will write more about that later, but a major focus of it was on international broadcasting.  Thus, I have perfect transition to note the new Public Diplomacy Magazine on International Broadcasting.  It is a very interesting issue that focuses on the international broadcasting efforts of a number of countries, including the US, UK, Aussielandia and Formosa.  Prof. Seib weighs in on well Qatar's Voice of the Island, and there are good pieces from intl broadcasting experts Shawn Powers and Kim Andrew Elliot.  Meanwhile, there is a great At-Post section that features interviews with 2 current and 2 former BBG Govs.

On the whole, a nice effort by my successors.  PD Mag did a great job this year on Corporate Diplomacy and Intl Broadcasting, and carried the torch quite well...but not well enough to include a Nobel Prize winner in their mag and so my PD Mag editorial record is still unparalleled.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rodeo Diplomacy

The Calgary Stampede is going to Beijing in October.  This PD cowboy thinks it is a brilliant bit of cultural diplomacy.  Too bad it ain't Texas doing it. I'm sure there will be some country music diplomacy to boot. Great way for a little place branding for Calgary.

Einstein's Theory of Relativity

"When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it seems like two minutes. When you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it seems like two hours. That's relativity."
- Albert Einstein

State of South California; State of Jefferson

Perhaps a state rep in Riverside was paying too close attention to South Sudan's independence. He is now proposing to break up a new state from California. Behold the new State of South California.  I support it.



California is a failed state, might as well partition it up.  I would cut the State of Jefferson out too.  I will gladly offer to do public diplomacy for the two nascent states.
 Maybe SF can be its own district ala DC or maybe even its own city-state ala Singapore.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

greyhound

On a shockingly nice greyhound bus from Philly to DC. It even has wifi, something that the train, which was three times the price, did not.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Which state are you from?

The Economist has a great map comparing Indian states to countries.

For everything else

Amtrak train from Washington, DC to Philadelphia, PA: $68

King of Tandoor delivery (Lamb Krahi, Malai Kofta, naan and prapad) $31

Teaching your patrician grandfather to eat Indian food with his hands, while listening to him talk about how much he loves yoga: Priceless

Friday, July 08, 2011

Museum of the Fourth Estate

“Journalism is the first rough draft of history”
-Philip Graham

“Three Estates in the Gallery
yonder there
sat a Fourth estate more
important than them all.”
-Edmund Burke

On Wednesday, my Dad cleared his schedule and we headed downtown to go to the Newseum— the veritable Museum of the Fourth Estate. Years ago, when I was a teen, I remember my Dad taking the day off so we could go look at an Asian art exhibit at the National Art Museum. The memory stuck with me so much that earlier this year I was angling for my Dad to meet me in Japan and we would do a little father-son backpacking. That never happened because of his reticence, busy schedule, and ultimately the Japanese earthquake put that conversation to rest.

Anyway, we hopped the metro downtown, getting off at the Archives station. We walked past a fellow bootlegged passes to the museum. The backstory is that the Newseum is about $20 for entry but the tickets are good for 2 days. We debated supporting the entrepreneurial efforts of small business, but ultimately decided to do it the proper way.

We entered the museum (supposedly Washington’s number one attraction) and headed to the top to then work our way down. The vista of Washington’s fair skyline was magnificent, with white domed Capitol to the East and red-brick turreted Smithsonian to the southwest, all set against grey skies.

On the top floor was an interesting exhibit of how the story of Hurricane Katrina was told and the journalist efforts to do so. The exhibit chronicled the fight of the Times-Picayune to stay publishing as the levies broke and the diluvian waters filled Orleans, as well as the efforts of the Sun Herald in Mississippi. It also looked at the news failures of Katrina, including the rumors of rapes and bodies in the freezer of the Superdome, as well as the difference in titling to pictures of different races wading through water with provisions that were possibly not their own. The exhibit also focused the iconic imagery that came out of the floods, of people pleading for help in the face of neglect.

The next section, sponsored by News Corp and I chuckle at such irony, focused on the history of the “news” with an exhibit down the center on newspaper- from Gutenberg’s invention on down, and especially that of news in America. There were copies of papers like Domestick Intelligence, a newsbook considered to be America's first paper.  It was “published to prevent false reports.”

It continued on with various papers in British, French and Spanish America and on through the revolutionary rags of those who fought for independence (“These are the times that try men’s souls. –Paine)

There were parts showcasing deSales (the patron saint of journalists), and The Gentleman’s Magazine (the first weekly magazine, not the first porno). There were copies of civil war newspapers, with reporting from both sides, and on through the annals of history. Flanking the newspaper display were cases discussing other mediums of news. There was an interesting section on satire as news that looked at Laugh-in on to the Colbert Report. Also, on coverage of Watergate and what that meant for television. There were some very good movies on the power of the image and on media and civil rights (“Without press, the Civil Rights Movement would have been a bird without wings”). The part that caught my eye was on George Creel, the CPI and its role in censorship in WWI.

The exhibit continued with presidential photos, including some wonderful shots like LBJ in a field of yellow flowers; Reagan dressed kinda like a leprechaun; a poignant moment of Obama and the first lady in the elevator just before his inauguration.

There was an exhibit on news coverage of 9/11, and how it played all over the world. As part of the exhibit, there was a moving film on those who covered 9/11 on the ground and the emotions they felt trying to tell the story amid such chaos. The exhibit included a bit on the killing of Bin Laden for a nice bookend to the exhibit and story.

Continuing on, there was an exhibit press freedom around the world, with a color coded map of which countries have media that is free, partly-free and not free. There were also some interesting displays about the First Amendment and all that it entails (Quick, what are the 5 provisions offered by the First Amendment? My citizenship exam students would know the answer…BTW answer is in the comment section)

The exhibit continued with an exhibit on the history of television, and a wonderful section on Egbert Roscoe. Murrow. That isn’t a typo, that was Edward R.’s real name. Can’t blame Egbert for the change. Apparently Murrow was only 27 when he became the director of talk for CBS radio. The exhibit talked about Murrow’s reporting from London during the blitz, including the iconic photo of the iconic war correspondent with cigarette dangling over typewriter.

There was a moving video, narrated by Bob Edwards who wrote a good book on Murrow, chronicling his life and work. The film discussed how he baited McCarthy, who responded against Murrow’s “jackal pack” of reporters that hounded his hunts. The films also spoke about how Murrow clashed with his network because Murrow got on corporate nerves, and his transition to USIA.

On his USIA tenure, the film noted how he was making films on America for a global audience, including the civil rights documentaries (“The March") There was also a recreation of his desk, and a large emblem of the USIA under his tenure.

It was at this point I started humming with ideas. Despite the Newseum mission to exhibit the communication of information, and its exhibit on Murrow, there is no mention of public diplomacy. So my newest project is going to be to figure out how we public diplomats can get the Newseum to host an exhibition on public diplomacy.

The exhibit could highlight the work of the CPI, USIA, Voice Of America and Radio Free Liberty/ Radio Europe. All sorts of things could be tied in to make a phenomenal exhibit showcasing the role of public diplomacy during World War I & II and the Cold War. You could bring up the likes of Family of Man and Willis Connover and how Jazz was used as a form of cultural diplomacy/warfare. Also, bring up the Smith-Mundt Act, and why Americans don’t know about what is projected outward.

There is a serious and earnest need to do PD for PD. As public diplomats, if we are to tell the world America’s story, we must first tell America how such stories are told. I am going to write a longer blog about this, this will be an interesting new pet project, and the Newseum would be a logical place to put on such an exhibit.

Anyway, the exhibit continued with an interactive section on journalistic ethics and also how to be a tv reporter and photo journalist. There was also a section of the World Press Photos, as well as a supremely moving section on Pulitzer Prize photos.







On the whole, the Newseum was quite interesting. It was a good father-son bonding trip, and we finished enough of the museum that I didn’t feel a second trip back was necessary. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to figuring out how we can put a public diplomact exhibit up at the Newseum.

Blessed are the peacemakers?

Veteran Ha'aretz columnist Akiva Eldar eviscerates Dennis Ross and his peacemaking attempts:
It would be tough to find a bigger expert than Ross on the myths and illusions related to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. For years he has been nurturing the myth that if the United States would only meet his exact specifications, the Israeli right would offer the Arabs extensive concessions.

During the years he headed the American peace team, Israeli settlement construction ramped up. Now Ross, the former chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute, is trying to convince the Palestinians to give up on bringing Palestinian independence for a vote in the United Nations in September and recognize the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people - in other words, as his country, though he was born in San Francisco, more than that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was born in Safed.

If they give up on the UN vote, Ross argues, then Netanyahu will be so kind as to negotiate a final-status agreement with them. Has anyone heard anything recently about a construction freeze in the settlements?

Ross is trying to peddle the illusion that the most right-wing government Israel has ever seen will abandon the strategy of eradicating the Oslo approach in favor of fulfilling the hated agreement. In an effort to save his latest boss from choosing between recognizing a Palestinian state at the risk of clashing with the Jewish community and voting against recognition at the risk of damaging U.S. standing in the Arab world, Ross is trying to drag the Palestinians back into the "peace process" trap.

If Obama really intended to justify his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, he would not have left the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hands of this whiz at the never-ending management of the conflict.
I can't say I disagree.  I think all the peaceprocessers (Ross, Miller, Indyk, Kurtzer) should be banned from getting anywhere near the region for their repeated failures.

Wither Venezuela?

I was never a big fan of Hugo (I even called him a nasty name on live Argentine tv when he was visiting BsAs), but this PRI report surprised me with some of his successes:
One focus of the Chavez government is education. To improve computer literacy, the government is giving away nearly 2 million laptops to primary school students.

“We are preparing kids for the challenges of new technologies,” said Venezuela’s Education Minister Maryann Hanson. Free computers are part of a broader government campaign to make education more accessible. And it’s working. Enrollment at primary schools has jumped 50 percent over the past decade. University attendance has tripled. 
In fact, government statistics on health, education and economic development point to a substantial, if not great, leap forward. All this comes after Venezuela registered one of the world’s worst economic declines between 1970 and 1998, the year Chavez was elected.

Under Chavez, unemployment and poverty have been cut by half. Infant mortality is falling. New clinics and hospitals are going up.

But for all the positive data, Venezuela is rarely held up as a model for development, largely because Chavez himself is so controversial.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Dialogue of the Deaf II

Some 9 months ago, I witnessed a dialogue of the deaf.  As I wait to take a train to Philly, the deaf girl sitting next to me is on skype speaking with her friend.  She is signing over skype.  All I can do is smile and marvel at the way technology can connect us.

Issues and Studies

I just received my copy of Issues and Studies in the mail with my article "Projecting Taiwan: Taiwan's Public Diplomacy Outreach."  I am officially published.  Will see about how I can post the final on this site.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

AFAJP and The Onion's Quest for a Pulitzer

Went to the Newseum today with my dear ol' Dad.  Great museum, will write about that tomorrow.  In the meantime, I have to highlight the groundswell that has arisen to award America's finest news source a Pulitzer Prize.  First, thanks to the work of AFAJP, the issue has come to the fore.  As you can see from clicking on the site, key decision makers have gotten behind the campaign to award the Pulitzer to its rightful owner.



Meanwhile, former winners like Seymour Hersh have come out to express their shame at having received a Pulitzer while The Onion is without.  Even the son of the great Edward R. Murrow has declared that his father was merely a hack in comparison to the luminary work of The Onion.  Bravo to all those who have spoken out so that the beacon of journalistic integrity will finally reach the pantheon of prizes!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Osama Bin Harper

From Harper's Index July 2011:

  • Portions of Americans who think the death of Osama bin Laden will make it easier to "win the global war on terror": 2/5
  • Portion who thought that the capture of Saddam Hussein would: 3/5
  • Percentage of Americans who feel safer since bin Laden was killed: 16
  • Percentage of Americans who feel less safe: 14
  • Percentage likelihood established in a 2009 study by a UCLA geographer that bin Laden was in Abbottabad: 88.9
  • Date of classified memo, released by WikiLeaks, suggesting he was there: 9/10/2008

Bullish on Brazil

While I am on NYTimes columnists, Roger Cohen has a good piece on Brazil's boom time:
They’re piling in. They want a piece of the action in the big South American nation that posted 7.5 percent growth last year. Oil discoveries, a commodities boom, sound economic management, political stability, the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 have combined to produce a Brazil fever that feels a touch heady to me.

In Leblon, the area adjacent to Ipanema where I used to live, apartment prices have quadrupled in a year. Sotheby’s International Realty is expecting a quadrupling of real estate sales this year, according to O Globo newspaper. The big price hikes reflect growing interest among foreigners, especially Europeans and Chinese who see opportunity ahead of the two big sporting events.

Take your pick of the head-turning figures. There were 12 new Brazilian billionaires on this year’s Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people. Foreign direct investment has grown at a compound rate of 26 percent over the past five years and reached close to $48.5 billion in 2010. Consumer credit is taking off. In a land where loans were long hard to get, the net stock of credit increased 21 percent in the past year. Streets are clogged with cars, restaurants full.

Republic Tax Fanaticism

David (Liberals fav Conservative) Brooks calls out eviscerates the Republic establishment on its inability to break-away from rigid doctrine on taxes:
Moreover, many important Democrats are open to a truly large budget deal. President Obama has a strong incentive to reach a deal so he can campaign in 2012 as a moderate. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has talked about supporting a debt reduction measure of $3 trillion or even $4 trillion if the Republicans meet him part way. There are Democrats in the White House and elsewhere who would be willing to accept Medicare cuts if the Republicans would be willing to increase revenues.

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Birthday Advice

An absolutely on-the-mark piece by Barry Ritholtz on America and some healthy birthday advice:
Happy birthday, America!

We have a big party planned for you, with fireworks and barbecues and bands playing and lots of fun for your special day.

You are 235 years young. Compared with other countries such as England and China and France and Russia, you are but a strapping lad. Those guys are practically ancient civilizations.
But the truth is, you are no longer a new nation. You are not the child-state you once were. As you have grown into a mature country, we have been filled with a parent’s pride. There are, however, duties and obligations that come with that maturity.

America, it is time to put away the playthings of your childhood, time to reconsider the follies of your youth. You must start acting your age. I am sure you don’t want to hear another lecture (Young man, I’m talking to you!), but think of this as your graduation commencement address. I hope you begin thinking about your place in the world and what you might to grow into after your birthday bash.

Let’s start with:

Infatuation with “ism”s: Every few decades, you manage to get yourself entangled with some philosophy from the wrong side of the tracks. These torrid affairs always end badly.
Every adolescent goes through this phase. You see a pretty ideology from across the room. She bats her big, blue eyes at you, and you fall head over heels. As any more experienced country will tell you, these infatuations are merely a passing fancy. They are not the makings of solid, long-lasting philosophies.

Your parents made sure you had a good upbringing and a Constitution that sets up some fine parameters for you to live by. How about avoiding the passionate flings with these isms and instead work toward being more pragmatic, more practical, even more technocratic?

Infrastructure: As a younger nation, you could party all over the world, intervening in other nations’ affairs, and still make it to work on time the next day. But you’ve really allowed yourself to go to pot.

You need to start taking better care of yourself. Your interstate highway system was once the envy of the world. You crisscrossed the nation with railroad tracks well over a century ago. Your bridges and tunnels were second to none, and your naval ports handled more tonnage than any three nations combined. You discovered electricity, invented the light bulb, strung electrical wires coast to coast. You invented air travel and opened airports in every major city.

Now look at you: Your roads are pitted, your bridges are falling down and your airports look like they belong in a third-world nation. You call that a naval port? Not only do they look like junkyards, they are still a gaping security concern. And don’t get me started on your electrical grid! It is creaky, inefficient and vulnerable to cyberattack.

While you were getting flabby, the rest of the world was hitting the gym. Most of Europe and
nearly all of Asia are in much better condition. Even emerging nations such as India and Singapore have better airports, wireless telecom and broadband Internet.

You’d best start taking better care of your infrastructure — it’s the only one you have.

Magical thinking: When will you learn there is no free lunch? Anytime some fast-talking salesman comes around promising you something for nothing, you fall for the same old scam.

Wise up! You cannot buy every nonsensical infomercial sales pitch for every foolish gadget dreamed up by these hucksters!

You must recognize that:
•You cannot take over a country with a handful of under-equipped soldiers.
•Tax cuts do not pay for themselves.
•There is no such thing as a “temporary” entitlement program.

These are just the most recent false promises made by those city slickers. We know that a sucker is born every minute, but must it be you all the time?

Health: Don’t look now, but your citizens are in even worse shape than your infrastructure. Your people are a nation of obese, sedentary, TV-addicted, junk-food loving, pill-popping couch potatoes.

I know you are a free country and you cannot simply order everyone to hit the gym and skip dessert. But you have made tremendous progress in getting Americans to stop smoking and to wear seat belts. The economic benefits of those two issues alone have been enormous.

Unless you do something about it, the health costs of your citizenry are going to bankrupt you. I have every confidence that if you seriously put your mind to this issue, you will come up with a creative solution.

Loyal opposition: Not everyone in the world (or even in the country) is going to agree with all
you say and do. And you know what? That’s okay. Debate is how we reach an intelligent conclusion, how a working consensus is formed.

You unfortunately have this tendency to see the world in black and white. There are nuances and shades of gray. Just because someone disagrees with you does not make them disloyal or a traitor or a bad ally.

And your politicians must remember that every fight does not require a scorched-earth response. Learn from President Ronald Reagan. The Gipper and Tip O’Neill fought famously over all manner of legislation but could always share a beer together after the debate.
Learn to gracefully accept opposing viewpoints and loyal political opposition. It is a sign of maturity.

Money in politics: Over the past 40 years, you have allowed the inflow of special-interest dollars to overwhelm and corrupt the political process. Congress is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street. The bank bailouts benefited bondholders but not the financial system. There is no reason why your taxpayers should subsidize Wall Street speculators. With Congress in the grip of these special interests, it is impossible to even contemplate reforming the tax code or the regulatory system, much less have an intelligent discussion about a national energy policy.

What happened to your roots as a one-person, one-vote democracy?
The solution might be a constitutional amendment to provide for public funding of federal elections and to restrict, or at least require full transparency about, the special-interest lobbying that has perverted the legislative process.

Government as the problem? “Government” is not the problem, “bad government” is the problem. There is an enormous distinction between the two.

Being surrounded by two oceans — and being so powerful since WWII — has allowed you to become too insular. Your “not-invented-here” attitude has led you to miss many other good ideas. Have a look around the world and see what other countries are doing right:

Canada managed to come through the financial crisis unscathed — what was it about its banking
regulations that protected it? Why is Finland the best country for education? Why does Australia have the world’s lowest jobless rate? How are Germany’s highways so darned good? What is it about Japan’s health-care system that has made it the best in the world? Norway has the highest adult literacy level and is often ranked as having the best quality of life; what is it doing right? And Singapore has the highest per-capita GDP and one of the recession’s fastest-growing economies. Why?

It sure wouldn’t hurt you to put your pride aside and take a few lessons from the best ideas in the world.

America, you are 235 years old, and you should be proud of all you have accomplished. You are still the most powerful country on Earth, but if you are not careful, China or the E.U. is going to pass you by.

Enjoy your birthday, but starting tomorrow, you have a lot of work to do. America, it’s time to grow up.

The Revolution will be marketed?

Apparently, the Egyptian revolution's fair weather marketing friends are trying to use Tahrir to sell more crap. Thankfully, people are fighting back to such shameless promotion. 

Citizen USA; GW Parkway

So I did something so quintessentially American yesterday, I went out for a drive in a convertible. I decided to try to take my dog Scruffy with me, which proved interesting, to say the least. I first called my dad to see if it was indeed feasible to do such things, he reinforced the point that I had to tether the dog in.

So I locked Scruff's leash, then connected it to the seatbelt, which I wrapped around him. That didn't work as well as planned, as he promptly climbed out and into the back seat. But he was fine. He loved the swirling winds of the open car. He sat in the back seat, staring out the window as enjoying the wind on his fur and snout. The only time it was problematic was when I had to stop the car, and he promptly tried to climb on my lap.

But i was a little more nervous than the puppy at the endeavor. I kept checking the rearview mirror to make sure he was sitting properly and not trying to climb out. I had some horrific visions of road kill in my mind. I got on 495 and I had wanted to take him down the GW parkway but that seemed a little too risky, with too many possible variables for things to go badly. So I went a little feline and instead, I went down Clara Barton and back up home. He was pretty pleased nonetheless, and I was content I hadn't killed the family dog.

Anyway, after I dropped off the dog, I then headed back down my favorite drive: the GW Parkway. It is a beautiful drive through woody NoVA down the Potomac River with some exquisite views of Georgetown and the DC vista.

I was listening to NPR, to Bob Edwards Weekend on a great interview with Alexandra Pelosi, a filmmaker who did a project called Citizen USA about the American induction ceremony in all 50 states.




The project is poignant, asking new Americans what is their favorite things about their new country.  Some answers were surprising, things like: 9/11 (because you call and they come right away!) and food options.  A lot of answers remind us how much we take certain things for granted.  Pelosi said it well in that these immigrants are a mirror for our society, reminding us of what we have forgotten.

I used to teach the civics portion of the US Citizenship exam to immigrants studying to take the test.  I always had two favorite classes, the classes after Thanksgiving and after the Fourth of July.  After Thanksgiving, I would discuss with my multiethnic class what everyone ate for Turkey Day, and we would share how all recipes made for Thanksgiving.  The other fav class was after the Fourth of July, and discussing with the students how they celebrated Independence Day and what they thought and felt about it.

I continued down the GW Parkway, passing through Old Town Alexandria and saw signs for Mount Vernon.  I laughed that only in the DC area does the GW Parkway lead right to GW's house.  I meandered along the potomac drive until I got to Mount Vernon, but quickly realized my folly as it was a huge tourist day, and meandered on back.  Still, a nice drive is a nice drive.

4 bday Qs

Dear America, I have 4 birthday questions for you, I ask it of everyone for their bday. Feel free to chime in on her behalf:
1) If you could have your b-day dinner with anyone (living, dead), who would it be?
2) Best b-day ever?
3) Where were you last year on your bday?
4) Where will you be next year for your bday?
Happy Bday!!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Edward Bernays-PT Barnum School of Public Diplomacy

In short, what Eddie Bernays understood is that you don't win hearts and minds through rational information, you do so through irrational, emotional connection.  Hence, indirect public diplomacy via soft power and cultural connections (see under: gastrodiplomacy, country music diplomacy, Lucha Libre diplo) work better for long-term public diplomacy than targeted strategic communications.  You connect with audiences in the gut and in the tangible sensory interactions.  It's what every carny and barker gets: give 'em an irreverent, iconoclastic show and your audience and public diplomacy goal is ripe for the taking, sayeth Dean Rockower, Prof. of Gonzo Diplomacy. 

Gastronomist-in-Chief

Great article on Thomas Jefferson as our nation's first gastrodiplomat.  Danyevad Pandit Jawaharlal.

Padrino de Propaganda

"We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs."
-Paul Mazer, Lehman Brothers

Great vid on good ol' Eddie Bernays and his use of Freudian-inspired propaganda for public relations (and role of foreign policy too). Happy birthday to a nation of consumerist marks.  Good find JB.



Water & Soft Power

"Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong."
-Lao Tzu on soft power

Saturday, July 02, 2011

We're not gonna protest

Well, I will admit that I was already rooting for an NFL lockout so I didn't have to watch my dreadful 'Skins disappoint me yet again.  Now it looks like the NBA is going on strike too.  Wow.  Yes, I am being stereotypical, but are all athletes, and owners, really that dumb?  Do you think we, the fans, have any sympathy for your economic pains?  Your job is to entertain us, and you already get paid a ridiculous amount for it. Do you want us to feel sorry for you?  Most of you make in a game what we make in a year (What I make in rupees).   You may have calves of steel, but you have ears of tin.  I am now rooting for two lockouts, a few lost seasons and some serious pain for all parties involved.