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Archive for April, 2009

Proper Use of the Military – Killing Pirates

April 24, 2009 1 comment
Pirates Abay!

Pirates Abay!

I may have written about this before, but I find myself struck dumb with this whole pirate situation. In discussions with an elder very close to me, I came to realize that we are just simply misusing our military to the Nth degree.

The United States spends like 700 billion U.S. dollars on defense. Most nations on this planet don’t have budgets that large. Yet, we spend that much on defense. We have fleets of nuclear submarines with stealth technology. We have planes that fly at break neck speeds, and can’t be picked up by the most sophisticated radar systems. We have the best special forces troops in the world. We have intelligence agents scattered in places that one couldn’t imagine. One could say there is no where anyone can hide from the U.S. military force. Yet, unsophisticated pirates with pansy-archaic weaponry (by comparison) can hijack supertankers and in no time receive 25 million U.S. dollars in ransom money for the safe return of crew, and maybe cargo. What’s wrong with this picture?

Is it possible to direct some that 700 billion towards eradicating piracy? Instead of using unmanned CIA drones to bomb Afghan villages during weddings, how about using them to bomb the hell out of the pirate enclaves in Somalia.

I’m no military genius, or defense budget guru, but when I hear/read Katie Couric questioning Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about how the Chinese may have “acquired” sensitive information regarding the F-35 joint strike fighter jet, I ask myself, “Are the Chinese hijacking boats in the Indian Ocean….Why are we building F-35s when we should be killing pirates?” I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned by the Chinese hacking U.S. military computers, but we should be killing pirates!

So to sum up: Good uses of military might – killing pirates. Bad use of military might – building useless, and very very very expensive, F-35 strike fighters.

F35 Joint Strike Fighter by Lockheed Martin

F35 Joint Strike Fighter by Lockheed Martin

Peace

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Obama In Turkey – An Exercise in Cross-Cultural Awareness

April 15, 2009 4 comments

Over the past week, President Barack Obama was up to quite a lot. He had a few things on his plate – the G20 Summit, a speech directed at nuclear non-proliferation, a meeting in Turkey with political, religious, and future leaders, approving his kid’s new dog, etc. You can read more about Obama’s busy schedule in the article I wrote entitled, “A Busy Busy Obama.”

Through all the excitement something struck me that goes to the heart of why Obama will be a GREAT president. During his town hall with Turkish university students he mentioned that he wanted to finish the town hall before the Call to Prayer. Check it out at 3 minutes and 20 seconds (3:20) into this video.



Why does this grip me so? Well, a few years ago I did a seminar/presentation on cross-cultural understanding in the business world. The whole presentation centered around a simulated business meeting, where one group had to do business with another. One group however was deeply religious and had something similar to the Call to Prayer they had to do.

During this simulation everything went well, and business was looking good except for when the religious group realized the people they were dealing with were insensitive to their religious beliefs. And to be fair, the other group wasn’t really privy to such general but detailed information. (I withheld such information, and only told the non-religious group that the people they would be dealing with are very socially conservative and deeply religious.)

Both groups asked me how I would have dealt with such a situation. I told them I would have done my research concerning the others’ religious faith and customs. The moment I read, “deeply religious,” in my briefing report I would have asked follow up questions. I told the group I would have vocalized and stated that I was aware of their “call to prayer.” This little step would have made all the difference during the initial negotiations.

Acknowledging these cultural characteristics, even in a lip-service way shows, at least, that you are aware to some degree of the difference in the room. From that point on people know that you know about them, and can feel that you are taking everything into account.

By acknowledging the Call to Prayer Obama showed that he was culturally sensitive to the people he was engaging. If Obama shows this level of thought and sensitivity to another people, something tells me his policies are not fly-by-night suggestions.

Peace

A Challenge to the Court

It had always been a dream of mine to become a Supreme Court Justice. I wanted to be the next Thurgood Marshall. Imagine being the highest law in the land? It WAS a dream of mine. I don’t long to be one any longer (not that I wouldn’t accept the position if offered).

I read something from Clarence Thomas via the New York Times Online where he was speaking to group of high school essay contest winners about his role on the Court, and his private life. They also asked him questions, and he gave answers. Pretty cool, if you are the high school students. Sweatin’ bullets if you are Justice Thomas.

Anyway, Justice Thomas commented that people like law professors believed that his job was easy. Justice Thomas disagreed with that sentiment, of course. This brings me to the next article, which is an op-ed written by a law professor critiquing the job of judges.

Quite interesting how one reflects on the other.

The main point of the second article is that justices – Supreme Court or any other – are able to hold their positions for life, which could do more harm than good. The only way for appointed judges to “step down” is to be impeached, and no one wants to go through impeachment hearings.

The article was very interesting in that although the argument was against absolute life time tenure, it proposed real alternatives to the current system. I hate it when people just bash and trash. This article gave some real ideas that are very doable.

I wonder if the Justices of the Supreme Court are humble enough to check out this article? I hope so.

Peace

Discovering Cohen, Finally

April 7, 2009 1 comment

I made a discovery. Not the lost city of Atlantis, or Black Beard the Pirate’s buried treasure. Nope, it was a treasure worth more than all the gold and fortune that exists in sunken ships around the world and throughout the generations – Leonard Cohen.

The Writing Man's Musician

The Writing Man's Musician

I discovered this golden warm voice, and music master while listening to the live concert series on NPR (National Public Radio). Actually, I get the podcast so it was easy listening. I thank NPR for opening my world to a decades young legend. I wasn’t even at the concert (Leonard Cohen Live at the Beacon Theater, NYC), but was utterly captivated. The cool rasp of his voice, the poetic verse sung so emotionally and eloquently, it was as if….Well, nothing I’ve ever heard. He had me from note 1.

Leonard Cohen has been around for decades, and hopefully will continue for a few more. That said, I’m just glad to see this legend now, in his “prime.” Please discover for yourself.

Peace

A Busy Busy Obama

April 1, 2009 1 comment

So, in his first couple of months and what has he done…? Well, how about leading an effort to spend trillions (check out my article on big numbers, if you can’t count this high – I know I had some trouble) of dollars of tax payer money to help boost the U.S. economy, lay out plans to tackle the housing market, propose a budget outline of historic proportions, re-organize a broken financial sector, and oh, all but nationalize an American icon. Guess what, he’s not done yet. President Barack Obama is now on an international trip that will see him visit the G-20 Summit in order to bolster international support for solutions to the ailing global economy; he’ll meet with leaders who at one point or another had it in for the United States, as well as those who love and support us; and he might even give us a great speech as he ends his visit in Turkey (that is just my speculation). Is this guy for real? I think after his first 100 days, he will have laid the groundwork for a historic presidency, and a change to U.S. political and societal culture that will take us into the next generation. (If you couldn’t guess I support him.)

I just want to say that people need to get their acts together because this brotha ain’t showin’ up on colored peoples time. Presidents and CEOs beware, he will do what it takes to get the economy going. That said, if you honestly work with him, he will work with you. Remember, he is one of the rich guys as well. Case in point of this proactive attitude, he “nudged” out the president of GM. Some may say this is a dangerous precedent. I say, if you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. The auto industry, more than any other, fuels the U.S. economy and job market. From car makers to part suppliers it touches everything. It can’t fail, and Obama knows that. He needs to worry about this. Whether bank CEOs get bonuses or not is small peanuts compared to if GM lives or dies. Bernacke and Geithner will see to the banks. And with all the authority they’ve been granted to oversee the financial system – no worries mate. The auto industry is entirely different. No czars there, so Obama has to be the czar.

At first I was a bit skeptical and wondering if he was going too far, but I realize his vision of what government can do is different, and sorely needed. He sees government as being an engine of creation that when used wisely, responsibly, and proactively can cause good things to happen. The big thing, which I hope happens, is people have to believe and not be afraid. We have to shed the old paradigms and muster the will to believe. If people do that, everything will be okay. Maybe we are seeing what smarter government can look like, at least coming from the Executive Branch. Now only if Congress can follow suit.

Read up on Obama’s deals, and politics in general via the New York Times politics section. This is just where I start. Please follow-up if you have the time. And most of all, ask questions, and demand answers.

Peace