What is a Visionist?

"A visionist is an artist, a creator or an individual that sees beyond what is visible to the eyes and brains of human beings. Visionists are thinkers, they are the recognisable brains in soociety, but most times they are seen as absurd, "nerds" and misfits – they just don't fit into the societies. They are people with great dreams and minds."

The English Wikipedia

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Recently one of my high school buddies, Rabbi Stephen Einstein, with whom I maintain continued contact (though less frequent than either of us would like), wrote an email to me and a couple of other friends who attended the same synagogue in LA's San Fernando Valley as kids 50 years ago. Steve included a beautiful tribute he had written to Rabbi Sampson Levey who led our modest congregation. It was there also that my uncle Felix Groveman served as the cantor and most of the rest of my family, my Mom, her older sister Lil and Uncle Phil's wife Lee, sang in the choir. Steve, the Lucks twins, Jeff Berkowitz (who would later be my college roommate) and I all belonged to the Temple Beth Torah Youth Group, and also sang in the youth choir, led by my cousin Nickie, uncle Phil's daughter, which got to perform a couple of times a year as relief to the adult choir. Our parents all belonged to the temple sisterhood and men's club (and its bowling league) which also helped tie the Jewish community together in our area of the Valley, known alternatively as either Pacoima or Arleta (depending on whether you had problems with being identified with the former, which had such a bad reputation that it was used as a biker heaven in a Cheech and Chong movie.)

But my friends and I went to Pacoima Junior High School, most known for its best known alumnus, Richie Valens of "La Bamba" fame, and a plane crash that killed three students on the school grounds, one of whom was Jewish and for whom we named the new Temple Beth Torah social hall. Anyway, today TBT, as we called it, is a synagogue for the hearing impaired and no longer plays the role as a local community magnet. But, then again, I am sure that Pacoima and the Valley in general is no longer what it was in our youth, the land of milk and honey, at least for our parents, many of whom had moved to sunny, palm treed California from New York in the 1950s.

In response to Steve's email, Irv Lucks wrote to me saying he had called Steve and had said that 2010 is the year that we are all going to get together again, jokingly said that his twin brother Ed had added "...at least for an early bird dinner." I do not know whether Irv was serious or not, but for me, I would be happy to make the trip to California for a real reunion. It is impossible to imagine the kinds of common experiences and bonds that we had in our junior high and high school years. We practically created our own language and set of stories to express our view of the world around us, from our teachers, to the good looking girls at school and to our very own relationships (like when Steve went berserk when he was "attacked" by a bee at school during lunch or his endless avocado sandwiches; or when I talked all the boys into paying for my glasses when they were broken during an orange throwing fight at the Lucks'., asking plaintively, "Well, what do you expect me to do?, for which they will never forgive me. Then their was the time when I drove all of them to the beach in Santa Monica for the first time in our old '56 Murcury, only to get my first ticket, when, missing a vital turn on the way home, someone yelled "Turn, turn!," and I crossed over four lanes to make that turn right in front of a police car. (No, I did not manage to get the boys to pay for that one.)

I hate to get mushy, but listening to a ton of Holiday music, the one that has stuck in my mind has been Auld Lang Syne, which some consider to be the most famous song in the world, as it is sung all around the world (and its score was even once used for the Korean National Anthem!). So just for the good old times, here is the text of the original Robert Burns poem containing the lyrics:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind ?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and auld lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,for auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !and surely I’ll be mine !

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,for auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,and pu’d the gowans fine ;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,frae morning sun till dine ;

But seas between us braid hae roar’dsin auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !and gie's a hand o’ thine !

And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,for auld lang syne.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sorry and Happy Holidays

Nothing like a Christmas Day--even if you are Jewish--to reflect a little on life. Mostly, I have to apologize, if anyone is still reading this blog, for having slowed down and finally stopped my postings. I started out on another significant day of the year, January 1, to blog away about a number of topics, issues and self examinations. It sustained me through a period when I was not getting much satisfaction out of other things, particularly my desire to secure a position within the Obama administration, and gave me an outlet for expression. It also revived in me a natural love of writing.

I have always had big ideas and perhaps an overgrown sense of my own ability to realize them. Despite the fact that I have a steady job, I have sought satisfaction more from seeking to promote certain ideas and projects. A couple I have written about in earlier postings: my desire to hold a major conference on global governance and to advance this concept as a central organizing principal of US foreign policy; more recently my hope to form an organization dedicated to insuring the security of the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, neither of these ideas has gone beyond the proposal stage. They have failed to elicit the kind of support needed to carry them forward. I think they are still good ideas, but nobody was really willing to embrace them to the point of taking some small steps forward. I believe I deluded myself into thinking that good ideas will always find their outlet. This is probably due to the fact that in my life I have in fact brought about some important projects and ideas that have given me a lot of personal satisfaction. They are scattered throughout my career and perhaps I have overblown their importance. In my work as a diplomat and as a nonprofit manager, I accomplished the following things:
  • Played a major role carrying out a contingency plan written by me that reversed a military coup in the Dominican Republic in 1978
  • Negotiated the 1980 UNGA resolution that gave birth to the country of Belize
  • Worked closely with the US Ambassador to Bolivia to move that country, between 1981-82, from a military "narco-dictatorship" to a civilian democracy
  • Planned and worked the diplomatic side in Bolivia of the 1982 capture and repatriation to Italy of a major neo-fascist terrorist, drug dealer and torturer
  • The latter directly resulted in the capture in Bolivia and repatriation to France of Klaus Barbie, the Nazi "Butcher of Lyon." I subsequently assisted the Department of Justice in figuring out how Barbie had arrived in Bolivia, including securing is travel documents
  • Inspired and saw carried to completion a public plaza in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for my greatest hero, Raoul Wallenberg
  • Wrote the plan that led to the dismantling of the Cali Cartel in Colombia
  • Assured that the First Summit of the Americas contained a section on narcotics control
  • Contributed to the success of the 1995 Guatemalan Presidential elections through a program of voter education that laid the groundwork for a peace accord between the government and rebel factions
  • Established significant democracy promotion programs in Haiti in 1994-96 following the US intervention in that country
  • After retiring from the Foreign Service, I took over control of the nonprofit organization operating at the home of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1996, following a period of its decline. However, taking advantage of the popularity of Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time and the impetus given to women from the 1995 Beijing Summit, I expanded its activities many fold, carrying out a number of national programs in the areas of women's empowerment, human rights and the United Nations. I am also responsible for the organization acquiring a new building for its operations on the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.

These accomplishments have led me to believe that with correct insight, a strong will and with the wind blowing in the right direction, almost anything is possible. What I probably have not been willing to admit is that the wind is not always blowing in your sails when you want it. As a result, my recent attempts to "start something" have not moved ahead, or if you will, have failed. So just as I was getting frustrated with failure, I decided that I may have had another fate-yes I believe in fate--to go to Afghanistan as a member of the civilian "surge" in President Barack Obama's new Afghan policy. I am now still working on that although given my age and some health issues, this may not be possible.

So, although I still have a decently paying job, a wonderful wife and two grown children of whom I am proud and love and a dear Mother whom I moved this year to live close to us in Virgina, I am now still looking for some good ideas and projects to keep my spirits up in the New Year. May it be a happy one!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rio Olympics at Risk?

As I was posting my last item, the following drama was taking place:


See the videos in the link above

BBC at 22:08 GMT, Sunday, 18 October 2009 23:08 UK

Extra police after Rio violence

Several thousand extra police officers are on the streets of Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian officials have deployed thousands of extra troops on the streets of Rio de Janeiro a day after violent clashes with gang members.

At least 12 died during the clashes in the city's Morro dos Macacos - or Monkey Hill - slum.
Police said on Sunday that two suspected drug traffickers had also been killed overnight.
Officials also sought to calm fears about security in a city due to host the 2016 Olympic Games.
"Rio de Janeiro has a safety problem. We are fully aware of this problem, it is one of the city's most historic problems," said state public safety director Jose Mariano Beltrame.

"We proved to the Olympic Committee that we have plans and proposals for Rio de Janeiro."
Police killed in Rio helicopter crash
He added that the city's policy is not only about "going into battle, it also consists of keeping the peace".

On Saturday, two Brazilian policemen were killed after their helicopter was shot down above the city.

The helicopter came down and burst into flames after the pilot was hit in the leg by a bullet.
Several buses were also set on fire during the worst outbreak of violence since the city was awarded the Games two weeks ago.

The attack on the helicopter followed an outbreak of fighting between rival drug gangs in a shanty town in the north of the city.

One resident said it was the one of the most intense gun battles he had witnessed in the area in recent years.

Securing the 2016 Rio Olympics

I was excited by the announcement, October 2, that Rio will host the 2016 Olympics and by the sense that this event could be transformational for both Rio and Brazil, and I want to be part of that process. Brazil, known often humorously as "the country of the future" since the phrase was introduced by Stefan Zweig, is fast moving from being an "emerging power," and a Goldman Sachs "BRIC," to becoming a key member of the G-20 and a major power on the world scene, and as such a likely strong ally to the United States and the West. Though a sports event might seem somewhat trivial in that pursuit, sports has been one of the most positive expressions of Brazil's potential greatness and will continue to inspire this still young country. The economic and social potential for these games is huge.

Security at all levels is the key to a successful Olympics. But the games must help rebuild Rio not militarize it. We should not come up with schemes to surround the games with thousands of soldiers as was done at the Pan American Games in Rio, but to civilianize and socialize the effort so that a military solution will be unnecessary, except as a backstop measure.

I served for a total of six years in Rio as US vice-consul, consul and acting Consul General (in addition to the two years as Principal Officer of the US Consulate in Salvador da Bahia) over two decades. I was put in charge of Rio's crime issue at the Conulate General as the Ambassador considered it a political as opposed simply a consular matter. After departing Brazil, I worked closely with Law Enforcement agencies both US and Latin American, as the South American Division Chief, of the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). I was responsible for approval of US credits for the Amazon Surveillance System (SIVAM), a $1.4 billion project won by Raytheon.

I am considering ways in which I can contribute to the success of the Olympics by playing a role in its security, look forward to future opportunities to collaborate and am reaching out to many friends to this end. This will hopfully result in the formation of a security consultancy that will bring to bear many capabilities to assist Rio to have successful and secure games.

It is Rio! Start preparing…


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

(August 25, 2009 - Suffolk, Va) Dan Strasser briefs the deploying members of the U.S. Joint Forces Command's (USJFCOM) Ready JEC team on the history and political sensitivities of the Afghan region prior to their deployment to the area of operation. USJFCOM's Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC) maintains small joint service teams that can deploy with little notice to existing or emerging theaters of operations and instantly establish command and control in the most austere environments. (DoD photo by: Staff Sgt. Joe Laws, USAF)
(Released by USJFCOM Public
Affairs Office)

Monday, September 7, 2009

A War of the World

We are currently involved in World War IV, but we are unwilling to admit it. The Cold War was World War III, of course. Sometime in the 1990s, a political/military movement of radical Islam, born in the cauldron of the response of global Islam to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, emerged drunk with its own success, frustrated by its inability to play a role in their own native countries--ruled by authoritarian monarchies or personal dynasties and committed to subservient military and economic ties with the infidel United States and the West--launched a global insurgency to wrest power in the Muslim world. The United States did not see this coherently, but merely as a scattered group of marginal crazies and bomb throwers intent on gaining attention.

Then came 9/11. It was a wake up call of major proportions, but the West did not learn the lessons of that experience. It looked at it and subsequent major terrorist acts in London, Madrid, Bali and others as brush fires to be put out by pouring special operations forces on them to put them out. In a move that totally ignored the causes of this non-state movement, the US attacked and occupied Iraq in 2003, only throwing oil on the fires of Muslim resentment and anti-Westernism. Saddam was a madman and a threat to the Middle East, but he never made war against the West. It was good that Saddam was removed, but he could have been contained without the ruinous cost associated with his removal. Although little attention has been given to the impact of the US engagement in Iraq on the 2008 recession, it is hard to imagine that such a monumental financial expenditure of making war in the 21st century--i.e. expensive--would not have contributed to the financial debacle along with the sudden dramatic strike in oil prices of that year. The housing crisis of course was the straw that broke the camel's back, but Iraq was clearly a pillar of the US policy of spending beyond its means, in this case to carry out ill thought out policies with little understanding of the Muslim world, or the world at large for that matter.

As wrong as the Iraq was, it was a genie that could not be put back in the bottle. Although the US and its allies managed to quell Al Queda in Iraq, due largely to the global movement's own brutality and insensitivity to tribal structures and affinities, which caused a massive movement of the tribes to ally themselves with the US, especially in Al Anbar province, Iraq, including the indignities of Abu Gharaib and the images from Guantanamo, could be interpreted by global jihadists as proof of the war of the West against Islam itself. This spurred a huge growth in the Muslim world, in the hands of radical, resentful mullahs, of youths willing to fight and die for in a cause they little understood but for which they were willing to commit suicide. Iraq may have been saved, although its future remains clouded by ethnic and religious cleavages, but the global jihad continues.

The battleground has returned to Afghanistan, where it started and should have remained, but was abandoned by the West. The process is well documented in Ahmed Rachid's book, Decent into Chaos: the US and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, so I will not dwell on it. What has emerged, however, from the lessons of Iraq and a shift in leadership both military and civilian in the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, is a new/old strategy of counterinsurgency or COIN in the military jargon.

As a former pacification advisor in rural Vietnam in the early 1970s, everything that has emerged in General David Petraeus's new concept of COIN, promoted by his Australian advisor David Kilcullen (who has written his own book, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One), is totally familiar. It is what came to be called disparagingly "Winning Hearts and Minds." But the concept was never a bad one, just poorly implemented in Vietnam because the grass roots level efforts to win over the Vietnamese peasantry was never matched at the national level by democratic leadership and governance. Instead, corruption and a tenacious will t retain power were the dominant leitmotifs of the Vietnam conflict.

There is no question that we are in a war of the world with radical, militant, intolerant Islam. The cause of the Muslim people, and all the resentments of a people whose place in history was diminished in 1492 with the expulsion of the Moors from the Iberian peninsula and the late colonization of the Muslim world by the European powers in the early 20th century has been assumed by this movement. We used to be able to ignore other parts of the world, especially those whose customs and mores were quite different from our own. We did not consider human rights to be possible to apply all over the world at a pace that was not consistent with local cultural norms and doubted whether underdeveloped countries could possibly become democracies except as a long-term process of development. However, the attack upon the West does not allow us to ignore the roots of the issues that caused young men to commit suicide in pursuit of a new militant and aggressive ideology to reestablish a Muslim Caliphate.

One of our biggest problems, however, is that the American public does not yet understand that we are in a war of the world, not the one mentioned by Niall Fergusson to describe the 20th century's linked world wars, but the new one that pits the liberal, progressive and "modern" parts of the world, including not only the West, but also the more educated and globalized elites and middle classes of the rest of the world, against a medieval yet newly empowered movement of young, resentful, self-righteous and restless Islamist crusaders. What makes this war so critical is the ability of even a small number of militants willing to kill thousands of innocents and commit suicide in so doing and the advent of weapons of mass destruction that makes such a toxic mixture of human motivation momentously threatening. It is not inconceivable that members of this movement could detonate a small atomic device or a "dirty bomb," or unleash deadly chemicals or biological agents in the middle of a major Western city, at the very heart of our civilization, threatening tens or hundreds of thousands of people and triggering monumental economic, social and, ultimately, political consequences.

For the above reasons, it is imperative that we "get it right" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This also means that a new generation of American and European youth recognize the nature of the challenge and understand the need for a new sense of patriotism and sacrifice. Despite the positive nature of the Millennial Generation, it is not evident that it has awakened to either the threat or the responsibility for preserving not just Western Civilization but Civilization itself. Nor have our leaders yet awakened in them this urgent necessity. A true revolution in consciousness is necessary to raise the new generation to the challenges of the 21st century. The very freedom and relative high-tech comfort in which they find themselves may depend on their willingness to defend them and the pillars which sustain them. And an understanding on their part that the globalization has reached a point where it is impossible for one part of the world to ignore what is happening in other, even remote parts of the world is imperative. One of the hardest things to preach, without sounding like a doomsday soothsayer, is that our current way of life can be instantly transformed by unexpected world events. We seldom feel the ground shifting under our feet until the earthquake is upon us. These techtonic shifts are what we need to begin to steel and prepare ourselves for. One hopes that a liberal democracy can--as in WWII--call a great generation to the challenge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lou Dobbs is Dangerous

An email received from Democracy for America from Jim Dean:

Supporter -It's time to get Lou Dobbs and his hate speech off the air.Yesterday, our friends at Media Matters for America, who are dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media, caught Lou Dobbs promoting hate and inciting violence towards Governor Howard Dean.With violence from right-wing extremist groups on the rise and Republican backed mobs hanging cardboard versions of members of congress in effigy, Lou Dobbs' statement is dangerous. Enough is enough.It's time for CNN and the United Stations Radio Network to fire Lou Dobbs.

WATCH THE CLIP AND GET THE NUMBERS TO CALL NOW This isn't the first time Lou Dobbs has used the air waves to promote hate and embarrass CNN.His relentless promotion of debunked, racially charged conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate have already seriously damaged CNN's credibility. Yet, Lou Dobbs remains on the air.Now, he's gone too far. He's not just making CNN look bad, he's inciting violence to stop Governor Dean from fighting for President Obama's health insurance option. That's not just un-American, it's irresponsible and dangerous.It's up to us to make sure CNN and the United Stations Radio Network know we've had enough.CALL NOW AND DEMAND LOU DOBBS BE TAKEN OFF THE AIRThis isn't just about my brother Howard; this is about the America we all want to live in.Thank you for everything you do,-Jim

Jim Dean, ChairDemocracy for America

Democracy for America relies on you and the people-power of more than one million members to fund the grassroots organizing and training that delivers progressive change on the issues that matter. Please Contribute Today and support our mission.

Paid for by Democracy for America, http://dfa2.convio.net/site/R?i=1xY2P62wSI3pXjMv7hq5yQ.. and not authorized by any candidate. Contributions to Democracy for America are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.
This message was sent to dstrasser1@aol.com. Visit your subscription management page to modify email preferences or to unsubscribe from further communications.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Some Great Restaurants...in Brazil

When a high school friend of mine, Sheryl Appleton, read my posting about my trip to Brazil (below) and said something nice about it, I jokingly responded that I could have included some great dining experiences, but wanted to keep the blog "serious," to which she answered, "Why don't you write about those restaurants too?" However, it was only after reading a great article in the New York Times (Sunday, May 17) about "Brazilian cuisine" in Sao Paulo, by Seth Kugel (clipped and sent to us by a friend Margie Krems from Poughkeepsie), that I decided to go ahead.

I could not consider the restaurants I discovered in places like Morrettes, Parana state; Florianopolis, Santa Catarina; and Rio de Janeiro, to be of the gormet status that Kugel describes. Moreover during the trip to Parana and Santa Catarina with my college group, we ate at dozens of places, some better than others, but just about all following the "all you can eat" buffet style that has taken over Brazil, from barbecue to pizza joints. The two that were memorable was one called Medalozo in Morretes, Parana state (http://www.madalozo.com.br/), which specializes in the Paranaense traditional dish, barreado, an interesting boiled beef which taste better than you would think and is well served on a terrace overlooking the Nhundiaquara river that goes through the center of town; the other was a Japanese sushi restaurant (proliferating all over Brazil) named Taisho (http://www.taisho.com.br/) , where the sushi was not only unlimited by of excellent quality, and the restaurant itself very impressively and grandiosely decorated.

However, some of the really good dinners I had were when I was on my own and able to explore a bit. Two excellent seafood restaurants were discovered over a weekend in Florianopolis, capital of Santa Catarina and something of a Brazilian Hawaii. Santa Catarina is totally located on an island and hosts annual surfing championships. There is a laid back, relaxed attitude on this green paradise, and I felt absolutely no risk at riding on the well organized, inexpensive public buses to get around the island. In the center of town, however, I discovered an excellent seafood restaurant called Toca da Garoupa, Rua Alves de Brito N 178. There I had an excellent Bahian style shrimp bobo (bobo de camarao) that was enough for two.

The next day, Sunday, I took a bus from the downtown bus station in Florianopolis, which was walking distance from our hotel, out to the bridge that connects the two closest points of the Lagoa da Conceicao, a large lagoon that occupies almost a third of the island, to have lunch at Chef Fedoca (http://www.cheffedoca.com.br/) , also a fantastic seafood restaurant located at the Ponta da Areia marina. A small upstairs dining room overlooked the marina, boats and water. I could not resist having a couple of coconut milk batidas (the batida,made with Brazilian cachaca (cane alcohol) was once thought of as Brazil's national drink, but has been almost totally replaced by the ubiquitous caipirniha or more commonly the caipirovska (made with vodka). The difference is like that between an Alexander and a Margarita. I had them with some of the best cod fish croquettes (bolinhos de bacalhau), a Portuguese specialty, I have ever eaten. I decided to go all the way, and ordered a lobster moqueca, unbelievably delicious!! Bobo and muqueca are both Bahian dishes, and both use dende (palm) oil and coconut milk, but differ in that moqueca is a stew, whereas bobo is based on manioc flower and dried shrimp. While one might ask why eat Bahian style seafood in Brazil's extreme south rather than in Bahia itself, I can only say that to a tremendous degree, Brazil's regional foods have become nationalized. My best Bahian restaurant when we lived there in the late 80s, for example, was always Bargaco. Though I have not been back to Salvador for a decade, only a year or so ago, I was visiting Brasilia and went out to a new dining area along the lake to find a branch of Bargaco there, which was identical to what I had known before . Similarly, such a traditional Southern Brazilian food as gaucho-style barbecue (churrasco) can be found in any corner of the country and indeed abroad.

In Rio as in Sao Paulo, we mostly were received by friends and family in their homes for dinners, but in Rio had the pleasure of dining with my brother-in -law Max and his wife Frances at one of their favorite restaurants, Bar Urca (http://www.barurca.com.br/) in the bohemian district of Urca the pathway to Rio's famous Sugarloaf. Bar Urca, is both a bar and a restaurant (upstairs) and the street in front of it along the water of Guanabara Bay facing urban Rio is lined by couples enjoying the night air and darkness. Bar Urca mostly serves very traditional Brazilian dishes such as fried shrimp with "Greek rice," and filet of sole belle munier. The most fun about the restaurant was the men's bathroom that listed seven rules for taking a leak. Another great restaurant which we have gone to for many years, and this time went with our friends Janette and Sergio, located in the posh Leblon neighborhood is Alvaro's. A tiny little corner on Leblon's main commercial street, two blocks in from the beach, it is also a famous bohemian style place, which is well know for its meat, cheese or sh imp turnovers (pasteis), which is great with the ice cold draft beer served. Their meats are superb. We all had either the the filet minon or the chataubriand a la francesa (made with shoestring potatoes, fried up with onions and ham), served to perfection. I cannot fail to mention one of the most delightful and inexpensive meals we had with our adorable friends Marion and Luis, just before going to Rio's Hippy Fair tourist market on a typical Sunday. This was a total revelation to our friends, but a place I had been going to informally for several years in Ipanema. Called Galitos, it serves the particularly delicious and simple small roasted chickens (galetos) accompanied by fries or a variety of rice or salads and well eaten with a cold beer. Our friends were delighted even though we had to wait half an hour for a table on the crowded sidewalk.

Well so much for eating as a subject. I could be embarrassed to focus on it, but also recognize that food is a huge part of traveling abroad and in many ways sets the, um, flavor of a visit to a foreign country. Brazil is no exception and offers a variety of regional and national dishes to please the pallet of any visitor.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Conversations with Total Strangers

I wrote recently about my trip to Brazil. I have the habit when I travel of talking to people. If I am sitting at a restaurant or on a line for theatre tickets, I will engage in a conversation with the person next to me because I am sure that they have something interesting to learn about. I started talking freely to people while on a trip two years ago to Italy. It turned out that we learned a lot from people about good restaurants and hotels. It even resulted in a couple of kilted Scotsmen in Rome buying us a bottle of wine as they departed the restaurant and in finding the best place in Florence to try a steak Florentine.

In Brazil as I moved around with my college group, I also tried to talk to people. During a boat cruise of the bay of Bobatinga, our group was practically the only passengers except for a Brazilian family made up a father, mother and their teenage son. These people were very simple folks, not at all the international travelers we were. It was Mother's Day, and they had decided to make a day trip from their home in a small town in the interior of Santa Catarina to the coast, make this boat tour of the bay and have a nice seafood lunch. The mother was the most conversational but the husband warmed up as we casually exchanged information about ourselves. He was a small man with the mannerisms of a worker. He had his own body shop and his teenage son was working with him there when he wasn't studying at high school. I said, "so you are the inheritor (a term of endearment in Brazil for the son who will step into his father's shoes), and he just smiled back. I asked them what they thought about how Brazil is doing, and they said it was doing well. The "crisis" they call the recession, was only having a limited impact on their lives. We said goodbye and I suggested they try the same restaurant that we were going to. Nothing of real importance transpired, but I felt that a certain bond had been established.

The morning after we arrived in the beach town of Balneario Camboriu, I got up pretty early since I had gone to bed early and did not go out after dinner with the others. I was the first person to enter the hotel's breakfast room at 7 a.m. (Brazilian hotels always include a rather substantial buffet breakfast with their rooms), but another gentleman entered shortly after me. We sat at separate tables, but I started a conversation with him and asked if I could join him. He turned out to be an Uruguayan engineer who had built soccer stadiums all over Latin America. He was in Brazil to line up contracts to build stadiums in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup Championships which would be taking place in a number of cities around the country. This fellow was 82 years old and still very vigorous and obviously still still ambitious. Unfortunately, he was also very bigoted, thoroughly disliking anyone in Latin America of indigenous, black or mixed race and made his feelings known rather easily. I hesitated to mention to him that I am a Jew. Later in the day I saw him at the hotel in meetings with what seemed to be some important people. I never spoke to him again or got his name or business card.

Our tour bus stopped at a very good restaurant and general store on the outside of Joinville. Basically it was a truck stop, but in Brazil, these roadside restaurants are literally eating palaces. This place called Rudnick (pronounced Hoodiniki in Portuguese) was quite a place, and its specialty was roast duck on its buffet. It turned out that we had walked into the restaurant when a rather large graduation party was taking place. I got to the buffet line just as they were getting on line behind one of my travelling companions. I had to decide whether to cut in front of about 20 people in the graduation party in back of my friend, or go to the end of the line. Since this is Brazil, I chose to cut in line, but asked the woman behind me if she minded my joining "my friend." She said no, and this started a conversation about who was who. The woman said her daughter was a model in New York. I offered email addresses of my own NY based kids which she took. I later looked up her daughter in Google and realized she was probably one of the top ten Brazilian models int he US today. My kids never heard from her daughter, but I did get emails from her son who was looking for advice about how to get a visa for his girl friend. (I don't know if my advice did him any good.) Maybe if I ever go back to Joinville I will look this family up.
Yeda and I were at Guarulhos Airport in Sao Paulo waiting for our plane to Rio's Galeao. Seated across from me in the waiting room was a young, thin and well dressed woman wearing some very elegant reading glasses and reading her book. Next to her was a gentleman in an airline uniform, and I ventured to ask him if he would be our pilot. He said yes, and I jokingly said I therefore felt in very good hands for a safe trip. The woman reading by herself chimed into the conversation. I can't remember exactly what subjects kicked off our discussions, but soon enough she, Yeda and I became very much engaged in conversation about just about everything. Her name is Ana, and though originally from Rio, she thoroughly disliked her birth city and preferred living in Sao Paulo with her husband who was also originally a carioca, and their two children. She particularly disliked Rio's high crime rate (though it is questionable if it is any worse than that of Sao Paulo). She was a very accomplished woman in her late 30s, one of the few women in Brazil to become an engineer at a good university in Rio, and had a fabulous job with a major company. She was only coming to Rio to visit her mother who was ill. However, it seems that her family lives in what in Rio is called the "North Zone," well inland from the posh beach boroughs of Rio and where working and lower middle class cariocas reside. We thoroughly enjoyed her company throughout the flight, and in the end, instead of giving us her card, she gave Yeda her picture, which we considered very endearing, yet odd. I would love to meet Ana again but doubt we ever will.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Is Sonia Sotomayor a Racist?

I often get very upset watching the political debates that go on in our country because it appears that Americans do not know how to speak English, and therefore, they have blood curdling arguments over nothing at all because they do not know what they are talking about. The current debate over whether Sonia Sotomayor, nominated by President Obama to be the next Justice of the Supreme Court, is a "racist" is typical of such situations. For her to be a racisit, she would have to be speaking for a race or against a race in some offensive way. But Hispanics do not constitute a race at all. Hispanics can be white, brown or black or any shading in between. They are merely designated this by their cultural and national origins, not by their race. I would not expect Rush Libaugh to know the difference, but am shocked that such a meticulous intellectual as former House Speaker Newt Gingritch would make this mistake. The US census recognizes Hispanics as its own category, not as a race. Why should anyone analyzing American politics misuse these terms? It can only be for political advantage and to fool the American public, not particualarly well studied itself, into beleiving that a candidate for Supreme Court nominated by the Democratic President must have some deep flaw. It is totally cynical. The racists have normally been those on the right who cater to extremists with ideas of racial superiority. Trying to reverse the use of the term racist against those groups in the US who have suffered from abuses ranging from slavery to discrimination is a mean spiritied tactic. If not then it reflects to supreme ignorance of the Republican Party about matters that normally come within the purvue of public officals or poltiical leaders. Shame on them!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Globalized Brazil

I am wrapping up a three week visit to Brazil that has included the two southern states of Parana and Santa Catarina and the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I lived in Rio for six years (and in Salvador da Bahia for 2) over a span of nearly 20 years and know Sao Paulo from numerous family visits, but had only been once to the southern states almost 20 years ago. The visit to Parana and Santa Catarina was part of a six month Globalization Seminar at Tidewater Community College, and I had the pleasure of being one of six faculty and six students who flew and bussed all around those states. As the city of Chesapeake, one of the seven cities of the Tidewater region in SE Virginia, is a sister city with Joinville, the most populous city in Santa Catarina, TCC decided to use that connection to hook up with the largest university in Joinville, called Univille, a semi-private school of about 8,000 students. We lectured along with Univille professors for groups of students up to about 200 each evening.
Before and after a program of about 4 days in Joinville, we also visited the cities of Curitiba (state capital of Parana) , Morretes and the port of Paranagua in Parana state, descending from Cutitiba to the coast aboard a a scenic train that runs through the Atlantic rain forest to the coast. As the TCC trip is under the international business program of the school, the visit included tours of the Port of Paranagua, Perini Business Park, a major industrial park in Joinville, the production complex of WEG, Brazil´s leading manufacturer of electric motors and transfomers, the Blumenau textile fair, a boat ride around the Bay of Babotinga and the port of Sao Francisco do Sul, and visits to the tourist city of Comboriu and Santa Catarina´s capital, Forianopolis.

As mentioned in my last posting, we met with the former mayor of Curitiba and governor of Parana state, Jaime Lerner, after visiting the city and seeing all the things he had done to improve it, laying the foundation for Curitiba to be considered the environmental capital of Brazil. (Jaime Lerner agreed to see us although his wife, Fani, was gravely ill. I found out only a few days later that she had passed away and sent condolences.)

A primary conclusion of this trip is that Brazil has been globalized. (Actually, I took the name of this posting from a book here Brasil Globalizado, published last year with contributions from leading Brazilian thinkers and economists, which takes the position that Brazil has been on the path to globalization since 1990, but still has a long way to go in necessary reforms.) It is deeply involved in world trade and through a galloping information revolution, in world culture. I don´t want to cite the many statistics showing Brazil´s place in the world economy, because they are readily available. However, observing the immediate effects of globalization on a country that at one time, during most of the period I lived here, largely had its trade protected and suffered a gap between it and the world. Today, anything is available here, at a price of course often quite a bit higher than in the US. (The little figure of a stick man with the head of a globe, above, has been used on the wrappings of a kind of cracker, Biscoitos Globo, in both sweet and salty versions, sold only on Rio´s beaches for the past 70 years to the delight of little children and their parents, and older siblings.)

Brazil is much more wired than I have ever seen in the past, including on a visit only a year ago. This has given Brazilians a closer touch with the world. Everything now is accessible online (I was told a phone book is no longer printed because the info is online). Advertising and all kinds of services are being promoted online. Most hotels and public areas have wireless. Brazilians use cellphones and PDAs even more vigorously than Americans do.

There is something very global about Brazil´s culture today. The main TV soap opera playing now is called Road to the Indies (Caminho das Indias), a rather colorful portrayal of life and love that somehow crosses from Brazil to India (where everybody suddenly speaks Portuguese--which would be OK if it took place in Goa but it doesn´t). People here are fascinated with the rich texture of Indian upper class life, with flashbacks to Brazil. Another bit of evidence is the film Budapeste, based on the novel by Brazilian cultural figure (popular musician and now novelist) Chico Buraque de Hollanda. In this film, a Brazilian ghost writer finds himself in Budapest and decides to learn the most difficult language in the world (my paternal grandparents were Jews from Budapest) and is embroiled in efforts to ghost write in Hungarian, in addition to dealing with lovers in both Rio and Budapest. What all this means to me, is that Brazil is culturally engaged in the world. In the case of India, it reflects a Brazilian desire to be as dynamic as the Indians have been in moving their economy to be globally competitive (which most Brazilian products still are not), and perhaps to compare the talents of a Brazilian intellectual to the often crude ways of a former Communist Eastern European country. The ease with which the views of Budapest and Rio are flashed across the screen gives a sense of the closeness in time and space that marks postmodern globalization.

I should also mention that Green is really catching on here, a legacy of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio but also with a lot of new energy coming from world culture and Brazil´s easy connection to nature. People talk Green better than they act Green, but it is a good beginning. (Watching a well heeled woman open up her car door while stopped in traffic and tossing out a pile of paper trash caused me teeth to gnash.)

Brazil is always Brazil, thank goodness. Today I was delighted by a scene as I walked and sat along the Calcadao, when they close off one lane of traffic along the Ipanema and Leblon beachfront on Sundays so people can walk, bicycle and skate freely along it. For some reason, everyone now has a dog, preferably a little dog. But one fellows large black lab decided to go directly to a coconut sitting on the curb next to a family whose very young daughter had only drunk about half of its milk, and started licking the hole at the top and draining off the delicious liquid. Everyone laughed. Then the dog picked up the coconut in its mouth, lower jaw in the hole, and walked off with it. 15 minutes later, the same dog walked by the other way, still clenching the coconut in his teeth. I would like to see that scene happen in the States!

A trip to Brazil would not be complete for me without going to at least one show of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB). In Sao Paulo, Yeda and I went with some cousins to see the Caymmi family, Danilo, Dori and Alice, sing songs of their father and grandfather the great Dorival Caymmi, who passed away last year. This concert was dedicated to Caymmi and his frind, Brazil´s greatest novelist, Jorge Amado, both from Bahia and both of whom I knew when I served in Salvador da Bahia as US consul. I have to admit that I had trouble holding back tears listening to some of the Caymmi songs that represent Bahia not just to me but to most Brazilians as well. It was a great concert and I hung around afterwards to meet the Caymmi family and congratulate them. As it turns out, Dori lives in Los Angeles, so even Bahian music has gone global.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Meeting A World Class Urban Planner

I am now visiting Brazil with a 12 person faculty and student seminar group from Tidewater Community College (TCC) the final field experience of six months of meetings on the subject of Globalization. Brazil was chosen both as an emerging global power and because Chesapeake, one of the cities in Hampton Roads Virginia where TCC has four campuses, including Cehesapeake, has a Sister City in Brazil called Joinville in the Southern state of Santa Catarina. We are here to work with Univille, the prinicipal higher education insitution in this city of 600,000, the most populous in the state.

Before arriving here, however, we spent a couple days in Parana state, just north of Santa Catarina, visiting its capital, Curitiba, known as one of the most green cities in the world in the world due to the vision of its former mayor and also the governor of the state, Jaime Lerner. After visiting the beautiful Botanical Gardens that he built and observing improvements made in public transport and trash collection, we had the special priviledge of spending a hour with Jaime Lerner, an old friend and contact from my days as US Consul in Rio de Janeiro and with whom I have some family ties.

Here are some highlights of our discussion of an hour with Jaime Lerner:

  • Leaders of cities get bogged down in trying to decide exactly how to do things. It is much better to engage in the subject and work your way though the problem.

  • He often asks city mayors around the world "What is your dream?" That is different from asking "what is your problem." Leaders need a vision of what kind of city they hope to create for their citizens. You can then work on the problems too.

  • For success you need a) political will; b) solidarity of the population; c) a strategy; and d) a proper "equation of co-responsibility" among the different sectors of the city. Many politicians lack a strategic vision.

  • If you want to deal with global warming, you need to recognize that 75% of carbon emissions come from cities. You have to lick the problem in the cities.

  • He believes on the environment that you have to "teach children to teach their parents." In Curitiba it was only by mobilizing students to separate trash that the adults became conscious of the importance of this. In Curitiba the rate of separation is 70%.

  • Important rules for making cities green is to get people to drive less, live as close to their work as possible

  • Rising crime in cities comes from a lack of a stable economic relationship between the classes. People moved to to cities in Brazil to help build the cities and when building slowed down they no longer had jobs. It is important for different classes to be integrated and to support one another. They should live in the same neighborhoods.

  • When he first started working with his group, they found that it was best to find simple solutions for problems and spread out. Today, his group works more a process like "urban acupuncture," visiting a city for a couple of weeks, offering some suggestions and then withdrawing, leaving it up to the locals to follow up on suggestions.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What is Global Governance?

•The idea of “Global Governance” has been around for over 20 years.
•It recognizes that in a world of accelerated globalization, some global solutions are necessary.
•The essence of global governance is a coordination of efforts by governments, international organizations, civil society and other groups of efforts to reduce or manage the threats of globalization and to promote the benefits of globalization.
•An important UN report, Our Global Neighborhood, by The Commission on Global Governance, a distinguished panel of international public servants was issued in 1995, but was not universally well received.
•Global governance is opposed by those who defend the sovereignty of states and mistrust large multinational bureacracies.
•Global Governance is not World Government. In fact, global governance would not be necessary, were there a world government.
•Global governance refers to the political interaction that is required to solve problems that affect more than one state or region when there is no power of enforcing compliance. Problems arise; networks of actors are constructed to deal with them in the absence of an international analogue to a domestic government. This system has been termed “disaggregated sovereignty.”
•Some, however, question the inefficacy of such informal regimes and recommend a more structured set of regimes coordinated through international organizations, such as the United Nations and regional organizations.

Clinton: Who cares about Lou Dobbs?

May 1, 2009
Clinton: Who cares about Lou Dobbs?
@ 1:06 pm by Michael O'Brien
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said CNN pundit Lou Dobbs can buzz off during a townhall meeting with career foreign affairs officers on Friday.
One questioner, Jan Strasser, an employee at the United States Joint Forces Command, asked what Clinton thought about a system of global governance, referencing the work on the subject by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Clinton's nomination to be the State Dept.'s Director of Policy Planning.
"Well, I can just imagine what Lou Dobbs will say about that," Clinton said to laughter, referencing the CNN host who has emphasized economic nationalism and decreased deference to larger world governing bodies.
"You know what? Who cares about Lou Dobbs?" Strasser responded.
"I agree with that," Clinton shot back to more laughter, before refusing to specifically answer the question, saying that Slaughter is working on the subject.

My Exchange With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

I must apologize for not posting to this blog for an unwarranted amount of time. Some other things, family, work and teaching concerns took over my life, a trip to California and now an upcoming trip to Brazil, but I thought I could make up for it by posting the following exchange I had yesterday with Hillary Clinton at the State Department. The setting was a town hall meeting she held with foreign service retirees, an annual meeting, but her first as Secretary.

For a full transcript and full video of her remarks and other Qs and As, go to:


QUESTION: Good morning, Mrs. Clinton. I’m Dan Strasser and had the pleasure of meeting you over a decade ago when I was the executive director at Val-Kill and you were the First Lady. And I want to thank you for all the work you did to promote Mrs. Roosevelt’s legacy in our work then, and I’m sure she’s smiling down on you right now wishing you all the best and very proud of what you’ve accomplished even in the short time you’re here.

My question – I should mention right now I work for General Mattis at Joint Forces Command and still actively engaged in the issues that this Department is involved in as well. My question actually is this, or proposal – many years ago when the last Clinton Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, first came to the Department, he had a big town hall meeting like this for the staff, which was very good. And I asked a question then. I said, “Mr. Christopher, we just finished the Cold War and we know that a great diplomat came up with a concept to how to deal with the Cold War, and that was containment.”

And I asked him, “Do you have a concept to deal with the post-Cold War period that we’ve now entered?” And being the lawyer that he is, he basically said, “Well, no, we’ve got to deal with each problem one at a time.” I was never really satisfied with that answer. And listening to the various things that you are doing and also Deputy Secretary Burns – Under Secretary Burns’ list of things, I wonder if you feel that you have an umbrella over – an umbrella concept, an overarching concept in which to contain what it is that this Administration and you are trying to do to deal with what I call the problems of galloping globalization in the world. And I do hope that you might have one.


QUESTION: May I – I know you’ve talked about the three --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you have any ideas?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Good. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I nominate the concept of global governance, which I know that Anne-Marie Slaughter knows a lot about, and which was proposed back in the late ‘90s when you were in the White House by the UN Commissioner on Global Governance. I believe it still has a lot of very good proposals that probably need to be updated, but recommend to you, considering global governance, as that concept for this Administration. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can just imagine what Lou Dobbs will say about that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You know what? Who cares about Lou Dobbs? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I agree with that. (Laughter.) We – you mentioned Anne-Marie Slaughter, who some of you may not know is our policy and planning director, first woman to have that job, former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton. And we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. I mean, we don’t want to get hung up on coming up with a word. But we do have a pretty clear idea of the kind of approach that we’re taking. But I think she would be very disappointed if I were to preview any of it right now, so give me a little – give me a few weeks, okay?

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I’m going to try to talk to her --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Talk to her, (inaudible).

QUESTION: -- as well.


QUESTION: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.)


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Globalization 101 - The Threats, Parts I and II

Fragile, Failing, Failed States and Ungoverned Territories

–Weak state is either a result of or allows for internal ethnic or religious conflicts
–Anarchy results in human suffering, violence, criminal activities and trafficking
–Lack of governance results in non-existent or poor public services, corruption
–Allow safe havens for terrorist, extremist and criminal organizations
–Globalization makes negative impact on Rest of World (ROW), e.g. terrorism and piracy

Global Terrorism

•Harvard Political Scientist Samuel Huntington predicted a “Clash of Civilizations” between the West and the East
•Main threat is from Radical Islamic Extremism, e.g. Al Qaida and Associated Movements.
•Driven by a jihadist (religious war) ideology to create a modern Caliphate under sharia (Koranic) law.
•Al Qaida is “blowback” from war by US-backed Mujaheddin against Soviet aggression in Afghanistan in 1979.
•Resentment from “Arab Afghans” against resistance by own governments (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.) to give them a political/security role; resentment against US dominance of Middle East; presence of US troops on Holy ground and control of Middle East petroleum.
•Promoted series of bombings—First World Trade Center bombing, USS Cole, US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and finally 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
•US invasion of Afghanistan – Al Qaida leadership flee to Pakistan tribal areas
•Joined resistance to US invasion/occupation of Iraq.
•Continue to support Afghan Taliban and fight in Afghanistan
•Continue to plan and plot further terrorist attacks against Western targets
•Problem of terrorist presence on the WWW and of “home grown” terrorists in Europe and the US.
•First major national security reorganization in US forming the Department of Homeland Security.
•Other terrorist groups, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine Gaza Strip, represent state-sponsored groups supported by Iran and Syria, against Israeli and Jewish targets only.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Types of Globalization

Technological: IT, Biomedical, Green, Robotics
Population: Growth, Aging, Youth Bulge, Women, Labor, Migration
Economic: Commercial, Industrial, Communications, Services
Financial: Investments, Banking, Exchange Rates, Black Markets, Money Laundering
Cultural: Ideational, Ideological, Educational, Civilization, Pop Culture
Political, Democratic, Multinational Organizations, International Law and Regimes, Rule of Law, Civil Society
Military/Security: U.S. as a Super-Power, Nuclear Proliferation, WMD, Alliances, Rising Powers
Environmental: Global Warming, Bio-Diversity, Deforestation
Health: Pandemics, Potable Water, AIDS/HIV, Malaria
Resources: Water, Food and Agriculture, Energy and Fuels, Minerals
Terrorism: Islamic, Ethnic, Religious, National,
Crime: Organized Crime, Drug Trafficking, Piracy, Trafficking in Persons, Conflict Diamonds

Though there are specifically political forms of globalization, all globalization has political dimensions.

•The Threats:
–Sub-national Conflicts and Failed States
–Radical Islamic Terrorism – “Clash of Civilizations”
–Authoritarianism – From Self-Destructing Zimbabwe to Rising China
–International Organized Crime – Drug Trafficking
–Widespread Corruption
–Global Economic/Social Inequality - Displacement of Jobs
–Population Pressures
–Ecological Threats – Global Warming, Melting Ice Caps, Rising sea levels, Hurricanes
–Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
–Resource Wars – Fuel, Water, Food, Raw Materials
–Human Rights Violations, War Crimes and Genocides

•The Benefits
–David Ricardo and comparative advantage
–Expansion of trade, industrialization, finance and GDP
–Expansion of International Law and Organizations
–Expansion of Freedom, Democracy, Civil Society
–Expansion of Development and Foreign Assistance
–Expansion of Western Culture and Values
–US a principal beneficiary of Globalization
–Empowerment of individuals, women, groups, minorities

Monday, March 23, 2009

Globalization 101 - It's A Small World After All

It's a world of laughter
A world of tears
It's a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There's so much that we share
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all

Why Globalization?

•Globalization – A “smaller world”
•People are closer together
•A world closer in time and space
•A world without borders
•Goods, services and ideas move faster or instantly.
•Driven by technology
–Transportation – Shipping, Containerization Accessible Air travel
–Communication – Television, the Internet, Cell Phones, PDAs

Globalizations I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII

•Often speak of Globalization I (Pre-WWI) and II (Post Cold War), with a hiatus in the middle, but one can identify 7 phases of Globalization:
•I. Early Man: Globalization is inherent in the human condition; man originated in Ethiopia 200,000 + years ago and occupied the entire world 20,000 years ago.
•II. Ancient Empires: China, Rome, Italian explorers, Arab traders
•III. Colonial empires of Spain, Portugal, England, France, Holland – Mercantilism
•IV. British Empire - Naval Supremacy 18th /mid-19th Century to WWI
•V. Cold War – Post WWII - US vs. USSR, the UN, Decolonization, Independence movements, accelerated technological development, space exploration, micro processing, the internet
•VI. American Hegemony – Post Cold War, Rise of Islamic Radicalism, Transnationalism, NGOs, Uni-polarity
•VII. Post-Modern: 9/11, 2008/9 Recession, Multi-polarity, Uncertainty

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Globalization 101

I have said from beginning this blog that its principal concern is the issue of globalization and its implications for the people of the world and impact on the planet itself. Mostly, I am concerned with the political dimensions of globalization and will leave the economic debate over globalization to economists like Stiglitz and Bagwati. I have been preparing a slide presentation on the Political Dimensions of Globalization for a Globalization Seminar at Tidewater Community College, where I teach political science, and decided to share the content of these slides on this blog. This slideshow is still a work in progress, but I hope by presenting the content of one or more slides at a time, I can help others to understand what is meant by Globalization and how it is challenging the planet. Even more important, it will lead to my proposing more Out of the Box Solutions to these global problems.
. Defining Globalization
•No universal definition of globalization.
•Economic definition: trade, finance and communications
•Broader definition: Tom Friedman – an International System that replaced the Cold War
•A good definition I have found (Levin Institute, SUNY):
•“Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world.” (www.globalization101.org)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hopeful Choice for New Drug Czar

This news computes perfectly with the new "Drug War" philosophy I urged here two days ago.

Choice of Drug Czar Indicates Focus on Treatment, Not Jail
By Carrie Johnson and Amy Goldstein - Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 12, 2009; A04

The White House said yesterday that it will push for treatment, rather than incarceration, of people arrested for drug-related crimes as it announced the nomination of Seattle Police Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske to oversee the nation's effort to control illegal drugs.

The choice of drug czar and the emphasis on alternative drug courts, announced by Vice President Biden, signal a sharp departure from Bush administration policies, gravitating away from cutting the supply of illicit drugs from foreign countries and toward curbing drug use in communities across the United States.

Biden, who helped shape the Office of National Drug Control Policy as a U.S. senator in the 1980s, said the Obama administration would continue to focus on the southwest border, where Mexican authorities are facing thousands of drug-related slayings and unchecked violence from drug cartels moving cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine into American markets. But it remained unclear how the new administration would engineer its budget to tackle the problem.

Since President Richard Nixon first declared a war on drugs nearly four decades ago, the government has spent billions of dollars with mixed results, according to independent studies and drug policy scholars. In recent years, the number of high-school-age children abusing illegal substances has dipped, but marijuana use has inched upward, and drug offenders continue to flood the nation's courts.

"The success of our efforts to reduce the flow of drugs is largely dependent on our ability to reduce demand for them," Kerlikowske said yesterday at a ceremony attended by his former law enforcement colleagues. "Our nation's drug problem is one of human suffering, and as a police officer but also in my own family, I have experienced the effects that drugs can have."

Kerlikowske's adult stepson, Jeffrey, has been arrested in the past on drug charges, an issue that the police chief referenced in his remarks yesterday.
Kerlikowske's top deputy is expected to be A. Thomas McLellan, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania medical college and the chief executive of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, according to two sources in the drug control community, who said the selection underscored the administration's philosophy of rehabilitation and outreach.

On the campaign trail, Obama and Biden promised to offer first-time, nonviolent offenders a chance to serve their sentences in a drug rehabilitation center rather than in federal prison. In promoting wider use of drug courts, the administration is embracing an idea that has broad support in theory but has never been a main path for people with drug addictions who are charged with crimes.

The nation's first drug court originated in Miami in the late 1980s at the urging of Janet Reno, who went on to become President Bill Clinton's attorney general. By the mid-1990s, the federal government was providing money for communities to plan and set up such courts -- although not to help operate them in the long term.

John Roman, an Urban Institute researcher who has studied drug courts, said they now exist in most of the nation's medium and large counties, but they are used for only about 55,000 of the 1.5 million Americans with drug addictions who are arrested each year on criminal charges. The Obama administration has not said how much money it wants to devote to the courts' expansion.

In contrast to previous administrations, the Obama White House is not giving the position of drug control director a Cabinet rank. The move was intended to give a larger role on the issue to Biden, according to an administration source.

William J. Bennett, who became the nation's first drug czar during the George H.W. Bush administration, said he spent three weeks in a room with Biden, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hashing out the scope of the new job.

Yesterday, Bennett called on Kerlikowske to "get the public's attention, get the president's attention, get the attorney general's attention and put this issue back on the front burner."

Scholars said that emphasis on the drug problem waned after terrorist strikes on U.S. soil in 2001, and never regained the spotlight or its slice of the federal budget as attention and resources flowed to national security.

John Carnevale, an economist who worked at the Office of Drug Control Policy under three presidents, predicted that the Obama administration would concentrate on reducing demand for drugs through high-impact law enforcement and prevention efforts targeted at communities at risk.

Under Bush, money to international programs doubled, while funding for prevention and treatment fell by one-quarter, he said. The Bush White House devoted much of its attention to developing the 2008 Merida Initiative with Mexico and Central American countries to support law enforcement training and equipment there. In recent weeks, Mexico's attorney general traveled to the U.S. to discuss ongoing cooperation with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

"There was a complete mismatch between the rhetoric of the strategy, which emphasized treatment, and the budget," Carnevale added, referring to the Bush administration. "The long-run answer is for the U.S. to curb its demand or appetite for illicit drugs. . . . The national drug problem is a series of local ones, and they're not all identical."

The office has drawn controversy recently. The outgoing director, John P. Walters, was the subject of a congressional investigation for his role in announcing federal grants in states where Republican lawmakers confronted tight reelection efforts in 2006. Trade groups for narcotics police officers complained about Walters's reluctance to meet them to discuss policy and budget issues. Walters had written widely for the Weekly Standard and other publications advocating for stiff prison sentences and "coerced treatment."

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who served as drug czar under Clinton, said Kerlikowske's background as a street cop would give him special insight.
"I tell people, 'If you want to understand the drug issue, talk to any cop at random with more than 10 years on the force,' " he said.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.