Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Flotilla Gorilla cont

Nearly 2 years on from the flotilla fiasco, a majority of Israelis are up for officially apologizing to Turkey.  Too bad the blowards (Bibi, Yvette Lieberman and Danny Ayalon) are too pigheaded to do so.

Morse Code

Greatest grand slam ever. Includes running backwards and a fake swing. Go Nats!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cultural sensitivities

Case-in-point of why the war in Afghanistan was not won. Tashakor, JB.

You don't know squat

The ongoing discussion of the modern privy vs. the age-old squat.  I may have to invest in the squatty potty.

The College Rankings Racket

I was just thinking the same thing as I passed a billboard with U.S. News and World Report: what a scam their college ranking survey is.

Bibi's bait-and-switch

Here is my 2 shekel opinion: Bibi has pulled a phenomenal bait-and-switch.  With all his bluster about the Iranian nuclear bomb, he has effectively deflected and deflated the issue of Palestine.  I bet Bibi doesn't give a rat's tuchkis about the construction of a still-born Iranian bomb.  Last year at the UNGA, all eyes were on President Abbas as he pushed for Palestinian statehood; this year none, because of the looming question of an Israeli strike on an Iranian bomb.  This is Bibi's brilliant Kansas City Shuffle to keep eyes off the real issue at play.

Don't let the facts...

Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

"Even if it is not true, it is well conceived."

Grazie Signore Marrone.

For Foodie Diplomacy; For Detroit

My friend Sam has a great post in his blog in response to Noreen Malone's Against Foodie Diplomacy.  In his piece For Foodie Diplomacy, he succinctly outlines why her arguments were mostly cheap shots.

Also, I got to make an online-offline connection with a new friend named Braden.  Braden is a speechwriter at a mission to the UN.  He is a fascinating fellow, and has convinced me to buy property in the up-and-coming real estate market that is...Detroit.  Really.  He was telling me about how abandoned houses can be bought for as little as $1,000.  Looks like the new gastrodiplomacy headquarters is going to be in the Motor City, assuming I can get utilities in my abandoned shack.

Braden had a fascinating gig as a journalist in Detroit, writing stories on abandoned houses.  He would check out old palatial Detroit homes that were since abandoned, and would write about the history of the home and try to investigate why they were abandoned.

Braden and I had a great chat about all things gastrodiplomacy and otherwise.  He is looking into making some research methods to study gastrodiplomacy as part of his graduate study.  We discussed things like the informal Lebanese mark on Middle Eastern food, and how it is an outlier for nation-branding (Word associations: Lebanon- Civil War, Lebanese food- amazing deliciousness).

PS: Braden's twitter feed tipped me off to this Canadian scourge: cheese smuggling!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Freedom of expression

Obama and Clinton conducting a lil PD to explain American freedom of expression in the wake of the Innocence of Muslims incident. TY TS.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hedley Bullshit

How the English School has fallen!  What began whimsically over kimchi quesadillas and tikka tacos is turning into a real field of study.  Yes, gastrodiplomacy is going legit.  I found out that a piece I authored on gastrodiplomacy is being published in the academic journal Public Diplomacy and Place Branding.  Meanwhile, my culinary diplomacy colleague Sam Chapple-Sokol is having his own work on culinary diplomacy published in the Hague Journal of Diplomacy.  Yes, I am the father of a school of public diplomacy practice.  As the Muse once told me, if you can't find what you are searching for in this world, make it up.

Bibi Badenov

I always thought Bibi was a bit of a joke, but this is priceless.  TY DM.  

Mahogany Jones , Sandy Koufax, Applied PD and Me


I returned from New York to DC by bus on Sunday night to help out with the orientation program of Mahogany Jones-LIVE, an American MusicAbroad ensemble off to tour Africa.  The eponymous group center around one Mahogany Jones, who is a leading light in positive hip hop.  Mahogany Jones is a tremendous freestyler (undefeated champ of a BET contest) and terrific hip hop artist.  She teaches youth, especially young girls, how to use hip hop as a tool for expression and empowerment.   

MJ and the crew arrived on Tuesday, and we took them to perform at the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts.  Apt indeed, given that my program is an evolution of the Jazz Ambassadors program, and the Duke was an original member.  I got chills at the thought.

Anyway, Mahogany Jones-LIVE gave an inspirational hip hop session to about 60 kids on rhyming and respecting yourself.  The sounds had the kids’ heads bobbing and dancing, and she ended getting the kids to have a cipher that was open to singing and poetry as well as rapping.

As the show was ending, I had to be on my horse because I was slated to give a lecture at Prof Craig Hayden’s class on Applied PD on just that.  I spoke for about 40 minutes or so about pushing boundaries of public diplomacy, about the Bernays-Barnum School of  Public Diplomacy (PD Bread and Circus to make an oblique yet tangible connection), American Voices’ Guerrilla Cultural Diplomacy and Gastrodiplomacy.  After I was done, we had a nice period of talking PD shop.

The irony was rich in this case as well.  Just a year prior, I was at High Holiday services staring across the street at AU thinking I might be attending as a PhD student.  Well, things didn’t work out as planned but a year later I was busy lecturing on PD in the same environs.   I then had to duck out and walk across the street to go atone for my propaganda sins.

Kol Nidre, and all vows were dismissed.  Rabbi Zemel gave a phenomenal sermon on my favorite Maughmian subject of meaning and fulfillment.  He spoke about how words create worlds, and in this case he disliked using the word “programs” for the work at Micah.  Specifically, he spoke out against the “incentivization” of life.  To create incentives for action makes life lose touch with meaning because it ties community to the market.  Market thinking pollutes the holy; faith and practice can reach where the market cannot.  He spoke of how we are never at a loss for words but rather at a loss for meaning.  He also spoke engagingly about the connection between artisanship and faith, and the connection in Hebrew between “Amen”, ma’amen (I believe) and the word for artisanship (which is from the same root, but I forgot the word).  In the artisanship of faith, doing is believing.  He noted how faith gives emotional support for altruism.  It was all wonderfully brilliant.

While Sandy Koufax was able to take the day off and not pitch on Yom Kippur, I did not have Don Drysdale backing me up.  I went to services for as long as I could on Yom Kippur, but had to leave just as the Torah service was starting because I had to get down to Voice of America to help with Mahogany Jones’ performance and interview on the program Hip Hop Connection on the English-to-Africa service.  Given that Don Drysdale got shellacked in his back-up of Koufax, it was a good thing I was there.  We had some issues with security based on the drums and DJ equipment, and some miscomms on setup times, but in the end all worked out well.  The program was actually a TV spot (which I didn’t even realize…shh….), and MJ performed 3 songs then spoke for about 20 minutes about the tour, her excitement and how to give girls confidence through performance so as not to be objectified.

We returned to State for the group’s orientation briefing.  They hadn’t eaten yet, so I played delivery boy for sandwiches, which is a bit of torture for a fellow fasting.  I have never smelled a Subway that smelled so good.  And when I got into the orientation briefing, there was a speaking giving a presentation so I had to sit with the sandwiches in front of me while I waited.  However, it actually was an easy fast (subway notwithstanding).  I think in part because of my recent Ramadan fast, it was a bit easier to deal with the hunger.  I wasn’t nearly as bad as I was in Iraq when I was fasting, and because I was so busy I didn’t have time to think about it.  Perhaps that is the trick for Ramadan.  Speaking of fasting, I was very touched that my friend Omar in Iraq fasted as well.  I had previously posted about his fast for Ramadan.

Anyway, we finished at State, and I took a late nap and woke up to find the holiday over.  I sipped water with orange slices in it to get some sugar back in my system.  I took the group over to Ben’s Chili Bowl for an introduction to DC’s landmark, and I broke my fast on veggie chili cheese fries.  Yum.

I want you to go in that bag, and find my ballot...

Monday, September 24, 2012

On Veggies

"I am not a vegetarian because I love animals. I am a vegetarian because I hate plants." - ‏@GrainFreeJoy

Someone's not a fan...

A comment on my HuffPo gastrodiplo article:

 "I'm kind of in awe. This is actually an interesting program, but you sure wouldn't know it from the article. It takes a particular talent to render something inherently appealing so dull and reminiscent of a policy-paper on the fuel usage of inner-city buses."
-Maggie Topkis

 HAHA! Tell me how you really feel, Maggie :) It's a good thing I am not thin-skinned, and find it kind of amusing. I went on to "fan" the commenter. Gee, everyone else seemed to like the piece...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Culinary Diplomacy on the web

My friend Sam Chapple-Sokol has a new site up on culinary diplomacy, have a read as he posts about such delicious diplomacy: http://culinarydiplomacy.wordpress.com/

The weekend that was

It was a busy, hectic week, so the weekend was a welcome change.  Friday night I headed down to Brooklyn Heights to meet my old friends Jason and Shira.  I had a little time to kill so I wandered around a bit, and was reminded that the best things in life are free. Like:

-Free wine tasting, and an earnest Polish girl who was so happy that I came over on my own accord, rather than her having to call people over.  "Really?" I asked, "you have to work to get people over to try free wine?"  She offered suggestions for subjective tastes, as I sipped temprenillo from Spain.

-Free smells, from a wholesale perfume and oil store.  The place smelled of myrrh and musk, in large bubble beakers of oils.  The irony of this, I will discuss later.

-Free coffee tastes, at Trader Joe's.

I tend to walk until I find a natural barrier, such as the East River Pier.  I chatted with a fisherman, who showed me his catches on his i-phone.  Striped bass and the like.  A giant crab floated his way to the surface.  I sat on top of a wooden bench and stared at the skyline across the water.  Irony of irony, I finally found a place that I am not in a hurry to leave, and yet I am.

I met up with my friend Jason, and we grabbed some dinner at a place called Van Horn's.  Jason had been up to an incredible evening, he had been hanging out with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (!) for a couple of interesting stories.  I don't want to steal his thunder and share a great story, but it will simply leave it as life's funniness.  I will post the story later once it appears.

I ordered a Sweet PLT (sweet potato, lettuce and tomato) but actually ended up sending it back, something I very rarely do.  The sandwich was literally sweet potato chips on a roll with lettuce and tomato.  A $10 terra chip sandwich?  Really?  I was so underwhelmed that I sent it back and got a spinach salad instead.  The mac and cheese that Jason and I split was delicious.

We met up with Shira, a friend from my Israel trip when I was 16 and also from Year Course.  I had not seen her in close to a decade.  We hung out back by the pier, furtively drinking whiskey in flasks as the lights across the river twinkled bright.

Saturday was a bit slow and sloppy.  I wandered through Prospect Park, stopping to feed the ducks and geese with little Guatemalan children. By the lake, I found a tree throne- carved from a godswood- and sat to read Team of Rivals.  My enduring, endearing thought was a tremendous "what if."  Lincoln had surrounded himself with a stellar group in Seward, Chase, Bates and Stanton, and if only Lincoln had chose from his glorious team of rivals rather than Andrew Johnson, what a different Reconstruction it could have been.  As they say: "If 'if' were a fifth, we would all be drunk."

A secondary "what if" from a tweet I saw about someone interview Howard Dean and Robert Reich on the same show.  If only it had been President Dean and Gov. Reich of Massachusetts, the aught's would have been far different.

I sat on a stump seat, and watched the sun set.  A fractured yellow glimmer slipped out from behind the clouds, and cast a long orange line in the reflecting water.

I had planned on keeping it a quiet night but decided that since my time was short in New York, I would take advantage.  I headed into the West Village for some jazz.  I stopped first at a humuseria in the West Village for a delicious bowl of hummus fava, with ful (fava), a boiled egg and oil and spices on top.  I dropped in some raw onions, and ate the smooth mix with warm pitas.  I then headed into Smalls Jazz Club, the quintessential cavernous New York jazz club.  I listened to cool jazz, and sipped PBR and Old Crow (Smalls special $7).  I got jokingly called out by the girl next to me for being a Bohemian/hipster cliche, given that I was reading a big fat book in a cavernous jazz club while sipping PBR in between the jazz sets.  I think I managed to give a legit defending argument.  I stuck around  until the witching hour, and headed home.

Now off to watch the Skins before I head back to DC for a busy week. 

Time Bank España

Great piece on NPR's Weekend Edition on Time Banks helping weather the Spanish financial crisis.  TY Abba, thanks for taking the time to send it over.

Farce

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
-Albert Einstein

After getting another Facebook "join my cause, remove the offensive movie" I finally decided to watch the movie The Innocence of Muslims that set half the world on fire.  Unbelievable.  It is beyond trash.  It is a ridiculous joke.  I can't decide what I am more angry about, the fact that someone would make such garbage (a crime) or that people would riot and kill over such garbage (equally a crime).  Yes, it is offensive, utterly so.  But I can't imagine that a single person who actually went rioting watched this garbage.  That anyone would think this somehow reflects on America's view towards Islam is just as imbecilic as the idiot who made this low budget trash.   And guys, a farce of a movie insults Muslims as bloodthirsty savages, and the reaction is rioting and the offering blood money to kill the film's producer is equally a farce.  God is big enough to fight his own battles, he doesn't need you to protect him from idiots.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mr. Romney's Taxes

no good reason Mr. Romney Moneybags should be paying 14.1 percent. Show some fiscal leadership, not pushing for more tax cuts. 

Guinean Gastrodiplomacy!

The West African country of Guinea is conducting a bit of gastrodiplomacy!!  Great idea!  This is how you get people not to confuse you with Ghana, Guyana or Equatorial Guinea!  Ty Abba. 

Flag Follows Fork


My newest article on gastrodiplomacy and the State Department's new culinary diplomacy initiative in the USC Center on Public Diplomacy blog:

Setting the Table for Diplomacy

In the latest instance of flag following fork, the U.S. State Department launched a new culinary diplomacy program, entitled “Diplomatic Culinary Partnership: Setting the Table for Diplomacy” The new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership initiative was unveiled on September 7th at the penthouse of the State Department, and this gastrodiplomat was on hand for the lovely soiree.

In the John Quincy Adams Room, there were displays showcasing how American presidents had hosted foreign dignitaries complete with elegant menu cards, mementos and pictures from the majestic state dining affairs (What do you serve to the King of Morocco? Lemon garlic-crusted lamb, of course). Also on display were various cables and memos that linked food to the diplomatic process, like the famous Van Cliburn Chocolate Memorandum from the pianist’s chocolate tete-a-tete with Soviet Premier Khrushchev.

In the lavish and stately Benjamin Franklin Room, the new program was on full display. The theme “America the Beautiful” showcased the full landscape of American cuisine. There were culinary allusions ranging from “Where the Buffalo Roam,” which included bison short rib with fig, smoked almond, charred onion and juniper, to “Amber Waves of Grain,” which entailed roasted farro salad with smoked Carolina swordfish.

The program that accompanied the splendid tables featured remarks by Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, who serves as U.S. Chief of Protocol. Ambassador Marshall’s stressed that “food matters” and spoke to the people-to-people connections that can be forged at the dining table. On the new initiative, the ambassador stated: “By showcasing the best of American cuisine and creativity, we can show our guests a bit about ourselves. Likewise, by incorporating elements of our visitor's culture, we can demonstrate respect and a desire to connect and engage.”

While Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was not on hand, she joined in with a video message, astutely calling the use of food “the oldest diplomatic tool.” Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Tara Soneshine was at the gala to deliver remarks, indicating the connection that State’s PD branch has to the new initiative. Undersecretary Sonenshine highlighted some of the people-to-people connections that the new initiative was fostering with chefs from around the world through the International Visitors Leadership Program—a component I will discuss later.

And on to the main course. The new State Department Culinary Diplomacy Initiative has three stated objectives:

  • Enhance formal diplomacy by elevating the quality of food preparation, presentation and service at official U.S. State Department functions through the use of public-private partnerships with renowned chefs and other resources from the culinary field.
  • Cultivate cultural understanding by sharing the American culinary culture abroad and with visiting dignitaries at home and using food as a foundation for public diplomacy programs to learn about different cultures and discuss important related issues such as nutrition, sustainability and food security.
  • Strengthen bilateral relationships by using food and the dining experience in a thoughtful and purposeful way to engage dignitaries, further dialogue and reinforce diplomatic messages.

The new State Department initiative could be categorized more as culinary diplomacy than gastrodiplomacy. In theoretical terms, culinary diplomacy is to gastrodiplomacy what diplomacy is to public diplomacy. Whereas diplomacy entails high-level communications from government-to-government, public diplomacy is the act of communication between governments and nonstate actors to foreign publics. In the same vein, culinary diplomacy is characterized by the use of food for diplomatic pursuits, namely the proper use of cuisine amidst the overall formal diplomatic procedures. In this regard, culinary diplomacy is the use of cuisine as a medium to enhance formal diplomacy in official diplomatic functions such as visits by heads-of-state, ambassadors and other dignitaries. Culinary diplomacy seeks to increase bilateral ties by strengthening relationships through the use of food and dining experiences as a means to engage visiting dignitaries.

Meanwhile, gastrodiplomacy’s aims are a bit more diffuse. Gastrodiplomacy seeks to communicate culture through food to the broader foreign public. Moreover, gastrodiplomacy seeks to engage people-to-people connections through the act of breaking bread. While the two are not mutually exclusive, I do think it is important to create such dichotomies as the discourse and practice of culinary diplomacy/gastrodiplomacy is expanding (like my waist line).

While the program is a bit more of the culinary diplomacy fashion than gastrodiplomacy, but there are indeed some elements of good gastrodiplomacy tied to the program. For starters, I commend the initiative as a solid public-private partnership, as the State Department is working together with the James Beard Foundation for the initiative.

As far as initial programs, the kick-off event marked the creation of the American Chef Corps, from whome some eighty renowned chefs were on hand at the gala for their induction ceremony. The American Chef Corps is intended to serve as a network of renowned chefs who will take part in official U.S. government programs that “use food as a foundation for public diplomacy.” Inducting Iron Chefs as public diplomats makes good public diplomacy sense to me.

State Department’s International Information Program (IIP) department is slated to link this traveling chef corps with U.S. embassies and foreign publics for public diplomacy programs such as cooking demonstrations and other culinary endeavors. I love the idea of these ambassadorial chefs teaching the Chinese or Vietnamese how to make chicken fried steak, or Cajun jambalaya to biryani fans in South Asia.

There is also a cultural exchange component to the program that I think is terrific. The State Department’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau sponsors the International Visitors Leadership Program—a professional exchange program that brings emerging foreign leaders to visit America. As part of the initiative, young chefs from 25 countries such as Brazil, South Africa and Poland were on hand for the kick-off event, before they head out on a culinary tour of the United States to meet their American chef counterparts, and learn about farm-to-table and other sustainable farming projects.

On the whole, I think the program is quite good. It is innovative in scope and dimension, and takes good advantage of public-private partnerships. My only recommendations would be to get state-level support. There are numerous states that support international activities, as I saw at the Shanghai Expo and Taipei Flora Expo—where various states like Texas, Montana and Indiana helped support the expo displays. Just as there are nation brands, there is also room for state branding especially in areas of cultural diplomacy and gastrodiplomacy.

States like Texas, California and New York already have their own international brands. Surprisingly, even does Kentucky does from its connection to the Colonel’s chicken, and not just because of the recent firebombing of a KFC in Lebanon. I have found numerous places around the globe, most recently in Iraq, that the word “Kentucky” is simply used as shorthand for fried chicken. That is state-based branding without compare and represents an opportunity for places like Kentucky to play a broader role in gastrodiplomacy.

For example, it would be great to see state-level partnerships to help promote Louisiana’s Cajun cuisine, or good Southern cuisine from the likes South Carolina, Alabama or Mississippi. I would love to see the gastrodiplomacy promotion of the idiosyncrasies of American barbecue styles: dry and spicy in Texas; sweet, tangy and saucy in Kansas City; vinegar based in the Carolinas. Or promotion of the subtle flavors of the Pacific Northwest found in cuisine from Oregon and Washington.

There is promise and potential with the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership initiative. To make it truly successful, it remains incumbent on middle America to understand that this is about communicating culture from all across America, and showcasing our diversity of cuisine. Getting a state-based buy-in would ultimately strengthen the initiative and make more of middle America realize their role in public, cultural and culinary diplomacy.

Ein tag alles

On my way to find some Slovak food the other night, I passed a gorgeous view of Lady Liberty bathed in the days remaining orange and pink light.  From a highway's overpass, I had a view across the bay of Ms. Liberty in all her glory.  I stopped to take in her silent grace.  She is a beauty.  I am always moved by the site of her, as many have been over the years.  My mind slips back to the words of Jerry Springer (Yes, that Jerry Springer) who was a young refugee boy on a boat sailing from postwar Europe into the New York harbor.  When the passengers saw Lady Liberty, they all became silent.  Curious, the boy Springer asked his mother what was going on.  Her simple reply: ein tag, alles (one day, everything)

Brownface


Ay dios mio, did Romney go brownface for an interview on Univision? 


Ig Nobel Prize

Honoring the highest caliber of research: the Ig Nobel Prize

Sarah, get yer gun

Sarah Silverman takes on the new Voter ID Laws (Warning, just a bit vulgar)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A modest proposal

Unsuck DC Metro by using goats:

A modest proposal: Dump Metro, get goats
by John Kelly

It is a melancholy object to those who commute via Metrorail to routinely find oneself late for work, late for a show or late for a date because the stupid system has once again ceased operating.

Wednesday’s Red Line meltdown was just the latest example of a subway system in severe crisis. It may have been the most dramatic example — mysterious power outages, dangerously overcrowded platforms, passengers single-filing their way down the track bed like characters in “Cloverfield” — but it wasn’t really all that surprising. Metro long ago stopped being what you’d call dependable. If you’re not stung by one of the numerous weekday annoyances, you board a train on a weekend only to find that half the line you’re taking is shut down for “routine track maintenance.”

I’m not here to assign blame, but I do think I can provide a solution to Washington’s public transportation woes: goat carts.

No, not go-karts — though those would certainly be fun. Goat carts: little wagons pulled by goats.

I propose replacing Metrorail’s 106.3 miles of track with earthen paths that would be crisscrossed by a network of trained goats. The billions of dollars we spend on balky trains whose doors won’t shut, on computer control systems that can’t keep track of where those trains are, on steel rails that warp in the summer heat and crack in the winter cold, would instead finance thousands and thousands of goats, as well as cute little wagons for passengers.

“Obviously they don’t have the stamina of a horse,” said Pamela Anderson, who with her husband, Hugh, runs Crooked Pine Ranch, a 50-acre dairy goat operation in Polk City, Fla. “But at a trot and a walk, they can go for several miles no problem.”

But are they dependable?

“Yes,” Pamela said. “That’s not a problem. . . . A goat that’s healthy and well fed is a happy goat. They want to do anything to please you.”

Well that right there puts them ahead of WMATA.

In addition to the 50 or so goats she and her husband raise, Pamela has a side business called Great Goat Gear that provides custom harnesses to people who want to hitch their wagons to goats.

A large, 300-pound goat — a Saanen or a Boer, say — can easily pull one person, or even two, she said. Put two goats together, get a bigger wagon and you have yourself a little goat cartpool.

A bottle-fed goat baby costs about $250. A harness is about $175. Carts are in the neighborhood of $200. That’s under $700 for a foolproof, four-legged transportation system. A 7000 Series WMATA railcar costs $2 million.

I know what you’re thinking: Won’t we have to milk all those goats and then figure out what to do with gallons and gallons of goat milk? Do we really want to be up to our elbows in chevre? Good news: We use castrated male goats. Pamela said they are much better suited to our purposes than lactating females or intact males.

I laid out my plans to Pamela and asked her what she thought. Would it be possible to use goats in Washington?

“I don’t know if they would allow animals in an area like that,” Pamela said. But she did add: “Fifty years ago, it was extremely common to see goat carts around. You’d see kids with a little goat cart, people pulling milk canisters with a goat cart. It was very common.”

And of course it still is in third-world countries; countries where the infrastructure is a joke, where overloaded buses creak down potholed roads, where subways are sweltering deathtraps. In those places, economical, dependable, environmentally friendly goat carts are the chariots of choice.

It’s time to introduce them here.

Arrested Developmitt

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

le deluge

I knew I was back in New York when I passed a fellow with a lemur crawling on his back.  Not five minutes off the bus.  Not the kind of monkey that has eyes like my Mom (monkey see; monkey do).

I returned to my Brooklyn lair, and decided I was in dire need of some serious yoga.  As I was walking, I spied a furtive fellow in black on the street corner.  "Are you Jewish?" he asked.  I merely pointed at the big grey Brandeis sweatshirt.  I said my blessings, and he blew.  Tekeah gedolah.   He blew and blew the ram's horn, and I merely laughed.  I thanked him for his mitzvah and made my way on to yoga.  Somewhere in my own mind, tekeah and omm inhabit the same sound plane.

I walked a mile or so in the evening over to Park Slope to do a full and deep yoga class at Park Slope Yoga.  It was a solid class that left me soaked and sound.  The lithe teacher took it slow, as she kicked my butt with stretches.  Amazing how everything melts away amid a few twists and turns.

The class finished, and I made my way to the door- only to find rain coming down in sheets.  I waited a few minutes, but with buckets coming down without abatement, I decided to venture out.  As the Palestinians say, "When you are already wet, you don't care if it is raining." Case in point, mind you.

I sloshed through the streets, wading through pools and puddles of Park slope; a river ran through it.  I grabbed an onion and some ginger on the way home to make some morros y cristianos:

-shred a clove of garlic into oil
-add 3 slivered cloves of garlic and continue sauteing.
-add zuchini, and cook until soft.
-add salt and pepper to taste
-pour in black beans.
-add salt, pepper and veggie bullion seasoning  to taste.
-cook until just under a boil
-pour over white rice
-cover with a generous dollop of crema azteca

Today proved long and hard.  A stop to the superhero's supply depot helped a little.

The Vow of Heroism
To be spoken aloud:

I [your full name],
also known as [your superhero name],
promise always to use my superpowers
for good.

I promise that I will use the items I've purchase here
today safely and in the name of justice.
I promise to remain
ever vigilante, ever true.

A trip to the library proved semi-beneficial, as did some proper central European comfort food.  Slovak comfort found in smazney syr (deep fried cheese) with tartar sauce and french fries dusted with salt and spice and a side of cabbage at Milan's

A few things I am digesting.

-Holding on to heritage before it slips away.  Gastrodiplomacy is about sharing history, sayeth SS.  So true.

-Grounds for Turkish gastrodiploamcy

-an unhealthy public-private partnership as district attorneys give cover for debt collectors.

How incredibly luck I am to help bring bluegrass to the silk road:



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

#NeoConRage

Well, poor MoDo got herself in a world of pain as the NeoCons are accusing her of anti-Semitism for her recent column on Romney's Neocon advisers like the oh-so-brilliant Dan Senor.  Well, Rabbi Rockower gives the piece his kosher blessing.  MoDo is not an anti-Semite, and painting the Neocons as slimy doesn't make you one.  I get the discomfort over her imagery, but being evocative doesn't mean she is fingering the Jews.  Thou doth protest too much, NeoCons.

Monday, September 17, 2012

#MuslimRage

#MuslimRage from Newsweek becomes a big Twitter joke.



Personal fav:

RT : Lost your kid Jihad at the airport. Can't yell for him. 

H/T Mel C.

Bye-bye Mitt

Road Runner Travels

My brother Harry has begun his blog: http://hrockower.blogspot.com as he traverses around the states conducting public diplomacy on behalf of his alma mater  He is visiting all sorts of fun places like Erie, Harrisburg, Rochester and Roanoke to convince the aspiring collegians to come to the crown jewel of the South and study at its finest bastion of academia.  It helps that he is selling a school with a 70-30 female to male ratio.

Harry is loving his travels, and getting to see America in a way I envy.  He is truly a people person (he has always been "friend of the world") and loves connecting on a real p2p level in Middle America.  He is a great listener, which is a quality necessary of all good public diplomats.  So have a follow as he bounces around parts mostly foreign to me, and I'm sure we can all enjoy the tales I expect he will have about beating away cougars at Middle America hotel bars.  Journey on, Harry!  

Happy Rosh Hashasha!

New Year's greetings from The Onion. Nice find, Danny.  Happy Rosh Hashasha to you, sir.

Jews To Celebrate Rosh Hashasha Or Something

JERUSALEM—Jews the world over are preparing to celebrate Rosh Hashanukah or something this weekend, the traditional Jewish holiday marking some sort of rebirth and new beginning, or maybe the Jews' liberation from some foreign ruler 55,000 years ago. "Rash Kishansha is a very holy time for the Jewish people," said Paul Castellano, a guy from Houston whose gastroenterologist is Jewish. "I think Dr. Futterman said it's the holiday where they light that chandelier and blow that horn." Lasting 12 days, Ran Hosea is followed by Yor Kiplach, the Festival of Sand, during which no buttered bread may be eaten in remembrance of the flooding of the ancient Temple of Hosea.

Follow Him

William Saletan has a great piece in Slate on the wave of violence convulsing through the Muslim world over the anti-Mohammed video.

The hatred and bloodshed will go on until you stop taking the bait. Mockery of your prophet on a computer with an Internet address somewhere in the world can no longer be your master. Nor can the puppet clerics who tell you to respond with violence. Lay down your stones and your anger. Go home and pray. God is too great to be troubled by the insults of fools. Follow Him.
I had been thinking the same.

Enemies of the Internet

Sarah at Opensite.org sent over another cool graphic.  Check it out!



Enemies Of The Internet

Created by: OpenSite.org

Sunday, September 16, 2012

On power

“Power is at its most effective when least observable.” -Steven Lukes Good call, Lena.

Teddy; Russian & Turkish; Quantum Leap

I headed out into the bright, beautiful fall afternoon into the city.  I returned to the scene of the birthplace of Teddy Roosevelt, but first had to forage.  I found a place called Beecher’s that had some absolutely immaculate cheese.  I had one bite and it literally melted in my mouth.  Just melted.  I had another sample, and another.  And another.  I sucked on it as one would really fine chocolate, and it just kinda melted in my mouth.  But I digress.

I had been to the Roosevelt house once before but had arrived too later for the tour.  I visited the little museum which chronicled the 1912 election, and read some fiery and moving speeches by Theodore Rex.  F’ing Teddy was shot on the campaign trail.  Yep, shot.  Not only did he save the man whom shot him from the mob who was going to tear him limb from limb, but he went on to deliver a speech.  Not the speech he had prepared, mind you—because that helped slow the bullet that hit him, but rather a 90 minute off-the-cuffer.  Takes a lot more than a bullet to stop a bullmoose, he declared.  Fuck yeah, Teddy.

But still was not enough to get him elected.  I can only imagine what the Great War would have looked like if it was Teddy not Wilson at the helm.  I can’t see Teddy staying out the way Wilson did.  What if, indeed.  But I digress.

This time I caught the tour of the place.  The place was not quite Teddy’s birthplace.  It was the location where Teddy was born, but the original house was demolished years prior.  It was built to look like his original home and period.  No bother, the tour through Teddylandia was excellent.

A tribute to Teddy, one of our finest presidents the country has been honored with.  So who was Teddy?  Roughrider.  Legislator. Governor. Vice-President.  Youngest President to assume office.  Nobel prize winner—the first American to do so.  Bullmoose. 

For starters, he didn’t like being called “Teddy”

Theodore Roosevelt, Junior.  “Teedy” to his friends and family, at least as a young man.  Theodore was born into privilege, the scion of a glass merchant family.  As in the glass contract to rebuild Chicago after the great fire of 1871.  Mrs. O’Leary’s cow made the Roosevelts quite wealthy.

Theodore Roosevelt, Senior, cast a distinguished shadow.  A philanthropic lesson, and a life of service that was impressed upon young Theodore.  Roosevelt spent his youth sharpening his skills and his mind.  He attended Harvard, and had an allowance that was larger than the salary of the university president.  Teddy was active.  As required of sporting gentlemen, he boxed.  And really could he scrap.  And jui jitsu.  And Japanese stick fighting.  And the MMA of its day.  Teddy was a bad dude.  When Teddy was president, he would scrap with his secret servicemen.  One time he got roughed up so good he lost his vision for days.  Yep, president was blind for days because he got he was playing Fightclub in the White House.  Fuck yeah, Teddy.

In his own way, Teddy was connected to Lincoln.  His father was quite close with John Hay, Lincoln’s top assistant.  Hay used to come to the Roosevelt residence when Teddy was a boy.  Later, Hay went on to serve as Roosevelt’s secretary of state.

I could do little justice to sum up Teddy’s life of adventure and achievement.  I need to read his bio because he was a bad dude.

The tour was excellent because the guide was excellent.  He really gave a wonderful and enthusiastic tour.

After the tour concluded, I asked the guide a very serious and earnest question: why did Teddy keep losing the presidential races?  Was it because of his asthma (a condition that plagued the young Teddy)?

It’s a fix, he declared.

I wondered aloud if it was due to the Tammany Hall bosses fixing the race.  They had essentially forced the vice-presidency on Teddy to get him out of New York politics, only to see their gambit backfire on McKinley’s assassination. 

Anywho, I made my way out and off to meet Dani Disco for an afternoon of steam and soak at the Russian and Turkish bathhouse.  Dani had a pass so I got to go for free.  For the next hour and a half, we alternately baked in wood saunas, vapor saunas and pools of ice chilled water.  It was immaculate.  The smell of peppermint filled the subterranean sweathouse. 

After our sweat, we stopped upstairs for some delicious Russian food.  I had a bowl of wonderful borscht.  Beet soup swimming with onions, parsley and a dollop of cream.  Dani and I split an order of varneki- tasty dumplings filled with cabbage, potato and cherry with a touch of cream on top.  Dani had a ground chicken cutet with kasha, and some mustard that opened your sinuses with a wollop of horseradish.

We regrouped back at Dani’s uptown haunts, then by way of Dara Matthews (who I hadn’t seen in about 5 years or so) and out to a floor party.  A floor party because all the apartments on the floor had different variations of 70s, 80s and 90s.  The 90s room was my jam.  Kinda had to be, as I was rocking the Quantum Leap t-shirt (since expropriated from Dani).  All I want to do is zum-a-zum-zum-zum in your boom-boom.  I was rockin’ out to Mama said knock you out.

And I was climbing on the roof with nimbleness, as I chatted with a Jamaican guy who told me of his Jewish ancestry.  Shake that family palm tree.

See previous entry of how the night ended….


Coney?

Umm...fell asleep on the subway and woke up at Coney Island. Oops. #redonkulousnite #Danidisco #homelessdudeinaQuantumLeaptshirt I put the "lush" in luscious.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Spirytus Reftyfikowany

Ah Poland and your pure spirits.  

Balance of Power

My roommate just told me about an awesome Cold War video game called Balance of Power


Apparently, you played brinksmanship on the computer.  You could had to maximize "prestige" (ie soft power) and avoid nuclear annihilation:
the player is presented with a set of incidents and crises in various countries around the globe, and must choose a response to each one. Responses may range from no action, to diplomatic notes to the other superpower, to military maneuvers. Each response is then met with a counter-response, which may vary from backing down to escalation. The player then gets a chance to initiate actions, and deal with the opponent's responses.

Gotta find it!  Amazing. 

Migas: Breakfast of Mexican Champions

I think I just made the best version of migas ever.  Recipe as follows:

-Cut 1 corn tortilla into squares, and fry it in oil.  Add sliced onions and jalepenos.
-As it starts getting a lil cooked, throw in some diced mushrooms.
-Salt and pepper to taste.
-As everything is slowly getting cooked, throw in black beans in their yummy juice into the pan.
-Crack two eggs directly in the pan, and add a lil more salt, pepper and paprika.
-Pour in some spicy red salsa.
-Add some sharp cheddar cheese and let cook just until not runny.
-Top with crema mexicana (the secret ingredient that is the salty, savory Mexican sour cream)
-Disfrutalo!

Teach a kid to argue

Great article on the way that teaching kids to argue correctly helps strengthen their thoughts.  Nice find, Big Daddy Dean.  I am glad to help my godkids argue in a stronger fashion with their pops.  My Dad would argue that teaching kids to ask good questions is probably the sounder strategy.  I would argue that this is sound advice for raising good public diplomats.


How to Teach a Child to Argue

Why would any sane parent teach his kids to talk back? Because, this father found, it actually increased family harmony.

By Jay Heinrichs


 (First published in Disney’s Wondertime Magazine.  The article was nominated for a 2007 National Magazine Award.)

Those of you who don’t have perfect children will find this familiar: Just as I was withdrawing money in a bank lobby, my 5-year-old daughter chose to throw a temper tantrum, screaming and writhing on the floor while a couple of elderly ladies looked on in disgust. (Their children, apparently, had been perfect.) I gave Dorothy a disappointed look and said, “That argument won’t work, sweetheart. It isn’t pathetic enough.”

She blinked a couple of times and picked herself up off the floor, pouting but quiet.

“What did you say to her?” one of the women asked.

I explained that “pathetic” was a term used in rhetoric, the ancient art of argument. I had happened across the subject one rainy day in a library and become instantly obsessed. As a result Dorothy had learned almost from birth that a good persuader doesn’t merely express her own emotions; she manipulates her audience. Me, in other words.

Under my tutelage in the years that followed, Dorothy and her younger brother, George, became keenly, even alarmingly, persuasive. “Well, whatever it was,” the woman said, “it certainly worked.” Sure it did. I’ve worked hard at making my kids good at arguing. Absolutely.

Why on earth would any parent want that? Because persuasion is powerful. Rhetoric originated in the lawsuits of ancient Greece, when citizens who weren’t good at persuading could lose their houses — or their lives. It was a staple of education until the early 1800s, teaching society’s elite how to debate, make public decisions, and reach consensus. It probably explains how the founding fathers managed to carve a nation out of 13 squabbling colonies.

And let’s face it: Our culture has lost the ability to usefully disagree. Most Americans seem to avoid argument. But this has produced passive aggression and groupthink in the office, red and blue states, and families unable to discuss things as simple as what to watch on television. Rhetoric doesn’t turn kids into back-sassers; it makes them think about other points of view.

I had long equated arguing with fighting, but in rhetoric they are very different things. An argument is good; a fight is not. Whereas the goal of a fight is to dominate your opponent, in an argument you succeed when you bring your audience over to your side. A dispute over territory in the backseat of a car qualifies as an argument, for example, in the unlikely event that one child attempts to persuade his audience rather than slug it.

George, who took longer than Dorothy did to talk, was at first a devotee of what rhetoricians call argument by the stick. After every fight I’d ask him, “Did you get the other kid to agree with you?” For years he considered that a thoroughly stupid question, and maybe it was. But eventually this question made sense to him: In the world of rhetoric, argument by the stick is no argument. It never persuades, it only inspires revenge. To disagree reasonably, a child must learn the three basic tools of argument. I got them straight from Aristotle, hence the Greek labels: logos, ethos, and pathos. Logos is argument by logic. If arguments were children, logos would be the brainy one, the big sister who gets top grades in high school. Forcing my kids to be logical forced them to connect what they wanted with the reasons they gave.

“Mary won’t let me play with the car.”

“Why should she?”

“Because she’s a pig.”

“So Mary should give you the car because she’s a pig?”

Repeat the kid’s premise (she’s being a pig) with her conclusion (therefore she should let me play with the car), and she has to think logically. Ethos, or argument by character, employs the persuader’s personality, reputation, and ability to look trustworthy. (While logos sweats over its GPA, ethos gets elected class president.) My kids learned early on that a sterling reputation is more than just good; it’s persuasive. In rhetoric, lying isn’t just a foul because it’s wrong, it’s a foul because it’s unpersuasive. A parent is more likely to believe a trustworthy kid and to accept her argument. For example, if both children — the entire list of suspects — deny having eaten the last cookie, ethos becomes important.

Me: “One of you took the cookie.”

Dorothy: “Have I ever stolen cookies before?”

Me: “Good point. George?”


Then there’s pathos, argument by emotion. It’s the sibling who gets away with everything by skillfully playing on heartstrings. In rhetorical lingo, Dorothy’s tantrum wasn’t “pathetic” enough, because she was thinking too much about her own feelings and therefore failing to manipulate mine. Pathos happens to be the root word for “sympathy.” When a kid learns to read your emotions and play them like an instrument, you’re raising a good persuader.

Dorothy: “Dad, you look tired. Want to sit down?”

Me: “Thanks. Where did you have in mind?”

Dorothy: “Ben & Jerry’s.”

Logos, ethos, and pathos appeal to the brain, gut, and heart of adult and kid alike. While our brain tries to sort the facts, our gut tells us whether we can trust the other person, and our heart makes us want to do something about it. They’re the essence of effective persuasion. Admittedly, a toddler might find it difficult to apply logos, ethos, and pathos and read a playmate’s feelings strategically, but as with every other useful skill, you have to start young. Instead of “Use your words,” I would say, “See if you can talk him into it.” When my children made an honest attempt to persuade me to let them watch television, for instance, I gave in whenever possible: The win felt doubly rewarding to them. They got to watch their show, and they enjoyed having earned it. My kids grew so fond of debate, in fact, that they disputed the TV itself.

“Why should I eat candy that talks?”

“A doll that goes to the bathroom? I have a brother who does that.” It was as if I’d given them advertising immunization shots.

I tried to use all three forms of argument on George when, at the age of 7, he insisted on wearing shorts to school in the middle of winter. First I laid some ethos on him with my stern fatherly character: “You have to wear pants because I am your father and I told you to.” But he just looked at me with tears in his eyes.

Next I tried logos: “Pants will keep your legs from chapping,” I said reasonably. “You’ll feel a lot better.”

“But I want to wear shorts.”

So I resorted to pathos. I pulled up my pant legs and pranced around. “Doh-de-doh, look at me, here I go off to work wearing shorts.

Don’t I look stupid?”

“Yes,” he said, continuing to pull his shorts on.

“So why do you insist on wearing shorts yourself?”

“Because I don’t look stupid. And they’re my legs. I don’t mind if they get chapped.”

Oh, my. He had done me one better with ethos (I don’t look stupid), logos (They’re my legs — you don’t have standing in this case), and pathos (Stop worrying — I’ll deal with the pain issue). He was also making his first genuine attempt to argue instead of cry. I couldn’t possibly let him lose this one.

“All right,” I said. “You can wear shorts in school if your mother and I can clear it with your teacher and the principal. But you have to wear snow pants outside. Deal?”

“Deal.” He happily fetched his snow pants, and I called the school. A few weeks later the principal declared George’s birthday Shorts Day, and she even showed up in culottes. It was mid-February. We all had reached a comfortable — rhetorically comfortable, at least — kind of consensus, a belief in our decision by the group or community.

Indeed, as my children get older and more persuasive, I find myself losing more arguments than I win. They drive me crazy. They do me proud.
Aristotle’s Guide to Dinner Table Discourse

1. Argue to teach decision-making. When you argue the various sides of an issue with your kids (“Beach or mountains this summer?”), they are learning to present different options (“Both!”) and then decide which choice to follow.

2. Focus on the future. Arguments about the past (“Who made the mess with the toys?”) or the present (“Good children don’t leave messes.”) are far less productive than focusing on what to do or believe: “What’s a good way to make sure that toys get cleaned up?”

3. Call “fouls.” Anything that impedes debate counts as a foul: Shouting, storming out of the room, or recalling past family atrocities should instantly make you choose the opposite side.

4. Reward the right emotions. Respond to screaming and anger by not responding, except to say, “Oh, come on. You can do better than that.”

5. Let kids win sometimes. When they present a good argument, there’s no better teaching method than rewarding them. My overreliance on the slow cooker, for instance, made my son beg for “dry” food. “Even the cat’s meals,” he said, “aren’t all wet.” Good point. I served hamburgers next. Very dry hamburgers.




Friday, September 14, 2012

To the mob

Dear Rioting Muslim World,
  If you f' this up and get Romney elected, I will never forgive you.
sincerely,
Boulus

Gastrodiplomacy goes to War

A series of tweets by @gastrodiplomacy, denouncing today's bombing of a KFC in Lebanon.

-@In harshest possible terms, @gastrodiplomacy denounces the firebombing of the #KentuckyFriedChicken in #Lebanon. #KFC



-@gastrodiplomacy would like 2 remind those who torched the Commonwealth of Kentucky's finest cultural outpost: Sanders was not really a col.



-#fingerlickthis! #RemembertheKFC




Thayer in STL Beacon; Rollen w/ Bolen cont

AV's Education Director Marc Thayer has a new piece in the St. Louis Beacon on the violinist mayor of Rawanduz

And Dr. Bradley Bolen has now completed his media trifecta (radio, tv, print) with the airing of this interview on KWBU (NPR) in Waco, TX.

Riots

Ok, enough with the mobs outside the U.S. Embassies.  Shabab, just cause the video was made in America by a Egyptian Copt (Not an Israeli-American Jew as falsely noted) does not mean it reflects American policy. It wasn't produced by the State Department as a public diplomacy video, so kindly chill.  I get that you are offended, the video is reportedly pretty offensive.  But enough with storming our embassies simply because this trash was produced on our shores.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy Blogiversary

To Daniel Drezner, who celebrated his 10th anniversary as a blogger.  I can still remember asking my friend SRG about what "is a blogger" as I first learned about the term.  She said it was an online site for opinionated people, and I should get one.

My blog has had a few styles over the years.  First that North Koreanesque motif, then a lame harbor.  I like the present style and don't see it changing.  I think my writing has gotten shorter over the years, but that is in part due to the curtness that social media has infused into the blogosphere.

I can't say that it has brought me too much fame or fortune, but it did land me my latest job (blogging about country music in India) so that is at least worth something for all the time spent engaging with you.

And it has often helped me slough off the plague of ideas that sits heavily upon my shoulders, so that counts for a lot.


Return to Gotham

After days spent being a pd visa courier, I finally got back to the big apple.  While I was in DC, I did get to have a nice time at the Zeb and Haniya lecture at Georgetown, organized by Amb. Cynthia Schneider.  Zeb and Haniya are in the U.S. on the Center Stage program, and stopped into Georgetown to discuss their beginnings and their role in the South Asia music scene.  They spoke of beginning to play together while they were in college in the U.S. (at Smith and Mt. Holyoke, respectively), and using their music to conjure up the world they missed while studying far from home.  They spoke about how their music had unexpectedly connected with musicians and musical traditions of both South and Central Asia.  They also spoke of using their music to fight against a hopelessness in Pakistan that is borne out of perception not reality.  They were lovely, and it was an enjoyable program (complete with some delicious South Asian cuisine!).


I also was around to say goodbye to a dear colleague, Liz Murphy, who we have worked with on the American Music Abroad program.  After ten years in the Court of Uncle Sam, including tours in Azerbaijan and Mexico, Liz is leaving to help run a new program at MIT that deals with the intersection of science and culture.  State Department loses a tremendous asset, and we lose a real friend and terrific colleague to work with, but I am happy for her as it is time for Liz to move on.

I caught an early bus back to New York, and spent a chunk of the ride chatting with an opera singer and a filmmaker about dating, and the nature of boys and girls.  I arrived back in New York, and was welcomed back with a toasted everything bagel with creamcheese, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.  Delicious.  I passed through the streets with various folks speaking to their inner and outer demons.

I knew I was really back in Gotham when I descended into the subway and saw a woman playing a saw.  Not of the RAST variety, but rather playing it with a steel bow, kind-of like a harp.  She plucked the silver teeth and she bent the saw to make the sound undulate in a classical fashion.  Welcome back to a city that always offers external stimulation.

I returned back to my apartment, but was emitting stress still.  I tried to work through it, and finally decided that I could use a foot massage.  I hopped the train down to Chinatown, and found my favorite massage parlor.  An hour of foot binding and kneading for $22, not bad.  I listened to Amelie play rain as my feet were massaged.  The woman who gave me the foot massage the last time I was there came over and remembered me.  I guess a gringo who speaks a smidgen of Mandarin is a bit of an oddity.  The ladies told me in Chinese that I had pretty eyelashes.  The ladies convinced me to get a full body massage ($36 for an hour).  I tried to negotiate a combo package of foot and body, but to no avail.

Since I was still a bit tense, I decided that the body massage was a good idea.  After the foot massage ended, I switched over the the body massage room.  I disrobed and put on a towel, and lied face down for my pressing.  When the woman moved my towel, I started giggling and so did she.  She smacked my butt and told me in Chinese I had a cute tuchkis.  I got a wonderful massage and only blushed a few more times. It did wonders to chase away all the tension.

After two hours of massage and a stress free Bao Loa made his way back to the streets of Chinatown.  I passed ladies doing Chinese line dancing in the park, and I stopped for some dumpings at a hole-in-the-wall called Prosperity Dumplings.  8 steamed veggie dumplings for $2.50.  Light, flavorful and delicious.  As I departed, I added a sesame pancake ($1) which was like fried dough that was greasy, sesame and filled with spring onion.  Yum.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sheket cont


David Remnick has a great piece in the New Yorker on Bibi and his behavior:

Neocon Gambit

It is hard to overestimate the risks that Benjamin Netanyahu poses to the future of his own country. As Prime Minister, he has done more than any other political figure to embolden and elevate the reactionary forces in Israel, to eliminate the dwindling possibility of a just settlement with the Palestinians, and to isolate his country on the world diplomatic stage. Now Netanyahu seems determined, more than ever, to alienate the President of the United States and, as an ally of Mitt Romney’s campaign, to make himself a factor in the 2012 election—one no less pivotal than the most super Super PAC. “Who are you trying to replace?” the opposition leader, Shaul Mofaz, asked of Netanyahu in the Knesset on Wednesday. “The Administration in Washington or that in Tehran?”

Mofaz, a former Defense Minister, who participated in the fabled raid on Entebbe, in 1976, along with the Prime Minister’s brother, was reacting to Netanyahu’s outburst against the Obama Administration, at a news conference in Jerusalem. “The world tells Israel ‘Wait, there’s still time,’ ” Netanyahu told reporters in English. “And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”

No one had any illusions that Netanyahu was addressing anyone but Obama, with whom he has a tortured relationship, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had earlier said, “We are not setting deadlines,” but, rather, pushing forward on economic sanctions and diplomacy. Articles in the Guardian and elsewhere have set out the sorry recent episodes in this chaotic relationship. On a trip I took to Israel a few weeks ago for The New Yorker, the political philosopher Avishai Margalit told me that Netanyahu was a kind of “mythomaniac,” a politician utterly absorbed and guided by his sense of heroic mission, and dismissive of the opinions and analyses of even his closest advisers. This goes for his innate distrust of any and all Palestinians, as well as for the vast range of military and intelligence experts, both inside and outside the Israeli government, who are constantly telling him that a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear facilities will end in political, diplomatic, and military disaster. Netanyahu’s opponents include the current leaders of the Israeli military and the major intelligence branches and their most recent predecessors, to say nothing of a decisive majority of the Israeli population. They fear consequences as dire as regional war and an Iranian regime unified and strengthened by a sense of common purpose.

In a reporting piece published this week in the magazine, David Makovsky adds to what we know about Israel’s solo strike in 2007 on Al Kibar, a facility near the Euphrates that both Israeli and American intelligence agreed was a nuclear installation. Israeli politicians rarely talk openly about the strike, but, when they do, nearly all of them say that what happened in Al Kibar is not at all analogous to the situation now with Iran, which is immeasurably more dangerous. Ehud Olmert, who was Prime Minister at the time and directed the strike on Al Kibar, is among those Israeli politicians who strongly oppose a strike on Iran and who emphasized to Makovsky the essential differences between the situation in 2007 and now.

Netanyahu, of course, does not see it that way. In Netanyahu’s view, Obama, despite instituting crippling economic sanctions, despite carrying out a series of covert operations, despite diplomatic pressure, despite vows that an Iranian bomb is impermissible—despite all that—is weak and deluded. The Israeli Prime Minister has made no secret of his distrust, even though Israeli politicians acknowledge that intelligence and defense coöperation has never been stronger. His trusted American allies are not the elected President but, rather, his friends on the American right, the politicians, business people, and lobbyists, who are never willing to disagree with Israel at all. It has reached the point where even Netanyahu’s principal ally in sabre-rattling, the Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has shown signs that he, too, believes the Prime Minister has gone too far.

This is not an unfamiliar drama. In his first term as Prime Minister, in the nineties, Netanyahu used to behave in such a high-handed way with White House officials that Bill Clinton left meetings with him bewildered and bemused, wondering who, in their relationship, was the leader of a superpower. But Netanyahu’s arrogance, in the guise of Churchillian prescience, has hardly receded over the years. Obama, in an attempt to cool the latest crisis, called Netanyahu last night and spent an hour talking with him.

Adding to the outrage is the fact that Netanyahu is performing not just for his allies on the Israeli right but for those he perceives as his allies on the American right, including those in the Jewish community. His performance is in the same neocon voice as the one adopted by the Romney campaign and in its opportunistic reaction to the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic outposts in Cairo and Benghazi, which left our Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other consular employees dead. Unbelievably, the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, took to Twitter and wrote, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.” Romney himself accused Obama of sympathizing with the attackers in Libya.

The neocon strategy, in both Israel and the U.S., is to paint Obama as naïve in the extreme. In this, Netanyahu and Romney are united—and profoundly cynical.

Against Foodie Diplomacy

Not everyone is as much a fan of culinary diplomacy.  I think someone has sour grapes she wasn't invited...

On God

‎"The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse."
-Eckhart Tolle

Remembering Ambassador Chris Stevens

I find all this surrounding the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens to be heartbreaking.  There are a lot of people with blood on their hands, both the bloodthirsty mob and the preacher who helped cause this.  You all deserve blame.  The video below was Ambassador Chris Stevens introducing himself to the people of Libya.


Sheket

Dear Bibi,
  SHUT UP!  Declaration of Red Lines?  Please.  Are you on white lines?   Keep your nose out of  American politics.  You give this Israel supporter a headache.

Sincerely,

Paul Rockower, Israeli Ambassador to the Republic of Texas

Sunday, September 09, 2012

DC Days

I had only meant to come back to DC for a 36-hour jaunt to start procuring Pakistan visas for Della Mae for their AMA trip and a culinary diplomacy soiree but forces conspired otherwise to keep me in the Imperial Capital.  For starters, the forms that were supposed to arrive by Thursday got delayed in the mail.  I realized that my "quick trip" was shot, but that if the package came friday then  could hang around and do the visa business on monday if need be.

Then the mailman came.  He dropped the mail in through the door, but there was no package.  After he dropped the mail, I ran after to see if he had more, since he sometimes delivers other people's mail to their house and is generally pretty bad.  I ran out to see if he might have overlooked it, but he said no.  Then 5 minutes later, he came back to the door with a goofy grin and a bit more mail.  My parents' mailman is the WORST.    Sure enough he came back with it, and some other mail too.  It is here, a bit wet so the forms are drying off on the dining room table, but we should be good on this one.

Later in the afternoon, I made my way over to Tenleytown to have coffee with Prof. Craig Hayden.  He is teaching a course on applied public diplomacy, and we were trying to figure out ways of communicating best practices and when I might be able to come in and lecture.

I spent the afternoon working before I headed down to State Department for their culinary diplomacy kick-off shindig.  Given the frou-frou nature of the event, I donned my nehru suit and went in style.  The event was kinda ridiculous, in a good way.  I took the elevator up to the State Dept penthouse, and was welcomed to a world of diplomatic pomp.  All sorts of treaties (hey look, Treaty of Paris!) and diplomatic accoutrements (First Sec o' State TJ's desk) abound.  The entree way set the stage nicely for the event with pictures and videos from the What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?  of diplomatic or presidential connections to food.  I spent a bit of time reading about a famous "chocolate memo" that was drawn up after Van Cliburn gave Khrushchev some American chocolates and declared American chocolate to be better than Russian.  This led to some diplomatic wranglings, apparently.  Also, fun stuff like menus for visiting foreign dignitaries (What do you serve to the King of Morocco?  Lemon garlic-crusted lamb, of course).

I ran into a culinary diplomacy compatriot Sam Chapple-Sokol, who previously wrote an excellent paper on the history of culinary diplomacy and its practice- which is going to be published in the Hague Journal of Diplomacy.  We made our way from the sumptuous cheese area to the lavish Franklin Hall for the schmoozing.  The drinks were fantastic, I tried some wonderful libations like a rye rickey.  I will get more into the crux of the evening on a piece I am working on for the State Dept's culinary initiative, but it was a memorable evening. Also, the view from the deck of the State Dept was absolutely immaculate.  You could see clear across the city as the sun was setting and lighting up Washington in full glory.

As the night was winding down, Sam and I collected our swag and made our way over to Tonic to discuss culinary diplomacy more in detail.  The night proved longer than expected because the red line was shut down from metro center to dupont, and we had to take a bus shuttle that took a long time.  Please Unsuck DC Metro.  It took so long, I fell asleep on the ride home, and woke up at Medical Center.  Rather than wait for another train, I hoofed it back to Bethesda.

Saturday was slow, and I spent it finishing the fourth book of Game of Thrones.  I need to time it better, because I burn through them to fast and don't have the next one ordered in time.  There was a brief but powerful storm that knocked out the lights for a minute, but seemed to hit the rest of the block and know out the power for much longer.

I met up with my friend Nora for a bite and drink over at the Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda, and we shook our collective heads at the situation in the Middle East, Sudans and other fun spots.  At some point over the night, I got chatting with a girl about my work in Iraq.  She very earnestly said to me thank you for your service.  I tried to explain that I wasn't serving in Iraq, but rather running a performing arts academy.  Didn't matter to her. Thank you for your service.  Not exactly stolen valor, but I felt a lil sheepish with the sentiments.

Today, I spent the day re-editing and finishing up my own paper on gastrodiplomacy for the Association of Public Diplomacy and Place Branding.  Also, my friend Brian came over to watch RG!!! take off.  I admit I was skeptical over the pick.  I was  wrong, mea culpa RGIII.  I haven't had that much fun watching the Skins since the last time Brian and I watched opening day when Brunell threw for a few TDs and Portis ran an 80 yard run.  We were ready to buy superbowl tickets that day, so I will temper my excitement but they looked solid.

Unexpected time in DC makes for a PD twofer on monday.  I will be attending a PD double header.
-Last Three Feet from PDC at AU 1pm-3pm.

- Zeb and Haniya at Georgetown's Mortara Center "Music, Politics, Women, and the Future in Pakistan" Monday September 10th 5-6:30.

504 VINDICATION!! Lucha Libre to Fight Obesity

Not that it matters some 2.5 years on, but this is PubD504 VINDICATION. My group had a campaign to fight obesity in Mexico, and I wanted to enlist Lucha Libre fighters in the campaign. I got overruled in my group, and we had a different campaign. Well, apparently now Mexico is doing something similar: Lucha Libre battles Obesity.  Not bitter, just sayin'...

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Song of Mitt's Self

Poutine

O' the ooey, gooey, gravy goodness of poutine- the quintessential Canadian comfort food. After a long day of sorting through visa regulations of Absurdistan, nothing finer. Perhaps I will have to try dipping french fries in Canada's strategic maple syrup reserve.

Chefs are the new diplomats

Some coverage of State Dept's culinary diplomacy initiative by Tom Sistema of WaPo.  I am starting to really wish I had launched the Gastrodiplomacy Institute as I had planned...

Zeb and Haniya at Georgetown

Amb. Cynthia Schneider tipped me off to this event going on at the Mortara Center at Georgetown University.  They are hosting the the amazing Pakistani musicians Zeb and Haniya on Monday September 10th 5-6:30.  As she eloquently wrote: "Come and have every stereotype about Pakistan shattered."

Monday, September 03, 2012

Back to the City of Kings

On a silver stallion I rode north through the grey rains.  Back Breuckelen, the City of Kings.  Caught somewhere between the dream worlds of La Mancha and Westeros.  The Muse has always played lurid tricks with my mind when it came to tales of valor and adventure.

Yuppie Yoga

I finally got back to the yoga studio yesterday, but it was a different affair than I am used to.  I went to a studio in Bethesda, and it was very much a yuppie yoga affair.

For starters, it was hot yoga- something I was not expecting.  The room was heated up to 95 degrees, and I was sweating before we even started.

The class itself was more akin to an aerobics class, with quick movement through poses.  I prefer yoga to be more meditative and focused; this was yoga jazzercize.  Through the class, I gushed sweat.  So much so that my fingers pruned- an amazing feat considering I was not in a tub.

While the yoga class did the trick to release the endorphins, it was not a class I would return to.

Act of Congress in the City upon the Hill

I returned from New York last week for two reasons.  First, my sublet was up and I needed to vacate.  Second, because the first tour of the American Music Abroad program was kicking off.  As part of the AMA @Home section of the tour, we brought the band Act of Congress to DC for their orientation, and to do a lil performing in the nation's capital.



Act of Congress is an acoustic rock band from Birmingham, who have a real big following down south.  They came to DC for their orientation at State, and got to tour around the city a bit.  They had not really been to DC before, maybe one or two had been on school field trips in 8th grade or so.  We had fun showing them the Air and Space Museum, and the various monuments.  Of course, a requisite picture at Congress.

Act of Congress also did an interview with Voice of America on the music show Border Crossings.  The normal host was out, so Katherine Cole of Roots and Branches had them on to talk about the the AMA program and the upcoming tour to Thailand, the Philippines, Palau and East Timor.  Their easygoing style really won over the VOA staff and host.  A big thanks to Rick Barnes of VOA, who worked with me to get them and future AMA groups on VOA.  Good public diplomacy comes from good partnerships and good collaboration.

AOC also did a school program at the College Gardens Elementary School in Rockville.  The kids loved them, and it was fun watching them interact with the elementary school kids.  They are going to connect with the kiddies from the road via skype and also come back to perform once they return to share stories from the road.

Act of Congress is going to have a great tour in Southeast Asia.  Their acoustic style and energy will connect well in Thailand and the Philippines (I imagine Palau and East Timor too, but I haven't been there).  I could see them being crowned karoke kings in the ever-singing Philippines (just don't sing "My Way," I warned).  This is really the fun part of my job, and what it is ultimately all about: connecting people through music.



Saturday, September 01, 2012

Power to the online people


An interesting graphic sent my way by Sarah at Opensite.org

Power To The Online People

Created by Open-site.org

A Rockower dose of sanity

Thanks Abba and Harranza.

Legit Rape Rx




Creationism isn't for kids- Bill Nye the Science Guy