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The Big 4 Blogging…Well 3?

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

The speed and vastness that is the Internet will never cease to amaze me, especially when it comes to blogs. Obviously, I have one (even though I’m poor at updating it). Blogs are everywhere and for everyone, including the chief executives of nations. I’m sure this is not news to those who live in cyberspace, but who would think that the leaders of 4 major national powers would be blogging (when they probably should be attending to more pressing national issues – poverty, inflation, unemployment, raising taxes, etc.).

Who are these 4 nations – Russia, The United States, Japan and China. You can get to the first 3 of these blogs very easily, just hit the links. Apparently there was a rumor that Hu Jintao, President of China, did some microblogging, but I could not find it (didn’t really put all that much effort into it).

Out of the 3 I could easily find I am not surprised by the look and feel of Obama’s or Medvedev’s. Both really reflect the men, and how I think they see themselves and their nations. Obama’s is sophisticated and polished, and easy to navigate, much like Obama himself. As far as I’m concerned Obama isn’t hard to understand, if you listen to the man, and not the diatribes of the dimwits who roast him. He hasn’t done everything I would like, but he surely hasn’t put the U.S. on a course of disaster any more than Dubya and his cronies did. If the Republicans actually had some ideas and could actually present them in an articulate manner then maybe things would be better. Will the real conservatives please step forward!

President Medvedev’s blog is very clean cut and easy on the eyes. Like the man himself. It looks like it could have been conceived by a well-trained lawyer who also served in the Russian military, like Medvedev. For a nation with all the problems of Russia, the mere appearance of the blog gives me some hope that this nation with great potential will one day come back to full form, but with a more benign and humane profile.

Like I said, the Chinese blog was not found, except for the rumor that President Hu did some blogging somewhere. I gather the blogger Hu Jintao is much like the man himself – brief and to the point, but also elusive from the camera’s eye, or reporters’ questions. The blogs look would of course highlight the very best of China, and be cast in read and yellow. It probably would also be very serious and not send any indication that China is lesser than any other major world player. If the Beijing Olympics was any indication of the grandeur and sophistication of China look for a blog equally as grand, but also very sophisticated and intelligent.

The final blog is the most interesting (I think) because it fully characterizes what I think Prime Minister Kan means to the people of Japan – a bit of a cartoon. Anime and manga might be big in Japan, and a cultural export the Japanese have marketed to perfection, but it doesn’t need to appear on the blog of the Prime Minister. Kan’s header is basically a big caricature of himself. I have been trying to give Kan the benefit of the doubt, and take him seriously in all that he says, but the blog just looks unsophisticated and unintelligent. I’m not talking about the commentary, I’m just talking about the look. Japanese aesthetics might be grounded in minimalism, but the minimalism also has some taste and style to it. This looks like the blog of an elementary school child. Compared to the sophistication of Obama’s and Medvedev’s blogs I can’t really take Kan’s too seriously.

Now, maybe I’m just looking at this with a pessimistic perspective. Kan could very well be taking the piss of himself when it comes to the illustration that heads his blog. If so, more power to him, but after being in Japan for some time now, and knowing Japanese people the way I do, I think these people deserve more and better from their leader. I do like that Kan, apparently, writes comments himself, and posts regularly. That said, Japan has some big issues to deal with. I hope Kan can balance dealing with structural deficit that will collapse the nation, and attending to his blog.

So, what does this all mean? Not much, just that leaders of nations feel they need to connect with people and to do that blogging is great. All the sites are seemingly nationalistic and promote the overwhelming positive aspects of the nation. Why not? What would be the point of posting critically negative stories? Ironically (or not if you think about it), and for what it is worth Medvedev’s blog is set-up to appear in multiple languages (Russian and English).

Peace

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Obama’s Consistent Message and Media Muddle

Usually, I love to watch NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Probably some of the best straight ahead news telling on network TV. That said, I am a bit at odds at how they are covering the U.S. health care situation. Actually, I am a bit miffed at how network media in total have been covering the health care debate.

1) Republicans have done something by doing nothing, and instead of calling it like it is, mainstream media really looks past this.
2) Instead of continuing to repeat the same old poll numbers, why not try helping people “make sense of it all” by discussing the actual contents of the bill. Spend some time, energy and money, and break down what the bill is actually saying. Help people understand.

Last and most important point.

3) Why do pundits and reporters continue to say that President Obama has entered this race too late, and that he should have been more engaged all throughout the process? What the hell was holding a joint session of Congress to discuss health care for? He sounded pretty impassioned at that time. Or how about President Obama going on the road and holding town hall meetings to specifically address healthcare? I saw some of those and he was speaking up and telling people what was going to happen. Oh, and there was that trip out west when he was sitting with Max Baucus, point-senator on the Senate version of health care, sitting to his right as President Obama layed out what was in the Baucus Bill. Again, he sounded pretty impassioned to me.

Now it is crunch time, and people are looking for a real decision to be made. Obama did what the Clintons could not, he played the system right. I wish the White House had not retreated and conceded a certain kind of defeat when it said that the message might have gotten lost over the summer. Obama and his crew let Congress write the necessary bills. Congress has to approve and pass law. Obama let them do their jobs. Then after it was all said and done, the President took the best of both worlds and produced a single piece of legislation that should be voted on. The Republicans had plenty of opportunity to be in the mix. If John Boehner could not get a meeting with House Democrats, then that says more about his ability to lead than Democrats shutting out the Republicans. If McConnell wanted to talk with Reid I’m sure he could have.

When this behemoth of a bill gets passed I just hope the President is fully engaged in the implementation process because that will be the true test of successful legislation.

Peace

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

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 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

Buy American Clause Not So Bad

March 8, 2009 1 comment

So as I’ve been following the recent downturn in the world economy, and paying a special note to the blame being given to the United States for being the cause of this bleak situation. I guess turnabout is fair play. I mean, U.S. leaders try to dictate to the rest of the world how it should act, and we often play the blame game, so I guess it’s our turn. We took some stupid risks, and now everything is messed up…Sorry. I would like to hear more concrete solutions than blame, but what do you expect it’s human nature, right?

Within this time of note, I’ve been paying particular attention to how this new administration is going about things. President Obama and his team seem to be trying to get the U.S. back in shape, not only for the short term, but for the long term. This brings me to the subject of this post.

In the new stimulus package, that was recently signed into law, there is this little clause headed, “Buy American – Sec. 1605. Use of American Iron, Steel, and Manufactured Goods.” This little clause seems to be getting all the attention, as it apparently rings of protectionism towards U.S. industries. Interestingly enough, since this whole global downturn started many countries seem to implementing “protectionist” policies. From Sarkosy looking to help French automakers by floating them money to Russia raising tariffs on imported cars to India restricting certain ‘made in China’ products from entering its nation, the protectionist swing is going on, and it seems to be the hippest move.

Okay, back to the ‘Buy American’ clause. I don’t know what the problem is? If you read the whole thing, it’s really not that bad. Check it out:

BUY AMERICAN
SEC. 1605. USE OF AMERICAN IRON, STEEL, AND MANUFACTURED
GOODS.
(a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made
available by this Act may be used for a project for the construction,
alteration, maintenance, or repair of a public building or public
work unless all of the iron, steel, and manufactured goods used
in the project are produced in the United States.
(b) Subsection
(a) shall not apply in any case or category
of cases in which the head of the Federal department or agency
involved finds that—
(1) applying subsection
(a) would be inconsistent with the
public interest;
(2) iron, steel, and the relevant manufactured goods are
not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably
available quantities and of a satisfactory quality; or
(3) inclusion of iron, steel, and manufactured goods produced
in the United States will increase the cost of the overall
project by more than 25 percent.
(c) If the head of a Federal department or agency determines
that it is necessary to waive the application of subsection (a) based
on a finding under subsection (b), the head of the department
or agency shall publish in the Federal Register a detailed written
justification as to why the provision is being waived.
(d) This section shall be applied in a manner consistent with
United States obligations under international agreements.

The heading is all tough and protectionista like, but the actual body of the clause sings a different (at least in my opinion). First of all, this clause is referring to PUBLIC BUILDINGS OR PUBLIC WORKS. The private sector can do whatever it wants, and if a project is found to be INCONSISTENT WITH THE PUBLIC INTEREST things can change. Not convinced that this leaves the door open for foreign competition, well how about if the manufactured product you want is in short supply, too expensive, or just downright sucks? You can opt for an alternative. Oh, and to top this all off this clause states that it SHALL BE APPLIED IN A MANNER CONSISTENT WITH UNITED STATES OBLIGATIONS UNDER INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS.

Can I get some relief, and some calm? Of course any project manager that wants to waive this clause so he/she is not in violation of U.S. law, will need to put everything in writing (small price to pay…okay more paperwork – say it…Bigger Government!).

Maybe what the Obama administration is trying to do is motivate U.S. industries to raise their product quality, while making sure things remain fiscally sound. Again, this is pertaining to public projects, so maybe Obama is trying to make the Federal Government fiscally sound?

Personally I think the central government should use homemade products. I would take it as a source of great pride to know that my tax dollars when to the construction of a building that uses quality American goods, produced by my fellow citizenry.

So this doesn’t pertain to fuel, cars (unless built for government use), homes, cotton, food, etc (at least that’s how I interpret it). If China can spend billions upgrading it’s physical infrastructure, and encourage its population to buy Chinese made goods, why can’t we do the same?

In any case, I hope the global community doesn’t get in too much of a huff (I might be too late on that one) over the ‘Buy American’ clause. It’s not as tough as people have been making it out to be.

Peace

Recklessness, or Will to Succeed?

In these first months of Barack Obama’s presidency we have seen him take his campaign rhetoric to the Oval Office. He has lobbied for his programs and seems to be using his mandate given by the American people to do what he believes is necessary to improve the status of the United States. One might say enacting a huge measures that target areas for stimulus, but also lay foundations for future stability, plus tackling the financial sector, the housing market, budgetary deficits, and now health care is a reckless venture into the unknown – he’s doing too much at once. I disagree with those pessimists.

I would say Obama is exercising the will to succeed that has defined great U.S. American Presidents, and the country as a whole. I simply ask, “Why can’t we ‘fix’ the healthcare system to work for everyone? Why can’t Wall Street work for ‘Main Street’ without destroying it; there is such a thing as healthy risk taking? Why can’t we remain the most robust economy on the Earth – a superpower; and at the same time not ostracize the world at large?” I think this is how Obama thinks. Instead of always saying, “That’s not possible,” he’s saying, “Why can’t we…!”

Isn’t that what we want from our leaders? Of course we want them to have thoughtful dialogue and not be overbearing demagogues, but we at least want them to exude a confidence that shows they have the will to succeed.

If you look at the United States objectively (just try); it has a wealth of natural resources (either in low amounts or great amounts); it has ample open land which can be use to feed its own population, and have bounties leftover for others; it has been the home to great innovations (believe it or not the car was invented in the U.S.); it is home to some of the greatest universities and think tanks on the planet (Harvard, MIT, UC-Berkeley, The Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, etc.); major industries from film to finance, movies to motors, energy to environmental have bases of action within it’s borders; some of the wealthiest people in the world reside within her borders, and don’t seem to want to leave; I could keep going.

Yes, the epicenter of the global recession we are in is the United States, but what would one expect when so many entities large and small rely on this nation? If the U.S. sneezes then everyone catches a cold, or even the flue. We were foolish in our spending habits, and reckless in trying to make our visions realities. Transparency was anything but; regulations were on permanent vacation; and greed was the order of the day. That said, the drunken party seemed to extend to nations far and near. Some stayed sober, but some did not. They hold some of the fault. But let’s just place the blame where it started – The U.S. We’re adults and can handle our responsibility.

Now looking at all those positives, and the current amount of negatives, why should any leader with an ounce of confidence and ability be pessimistic in the U.S.’s ability to get out of the current quagmire and back on firm ground that will carry it, and the world into the future? Because one thing is for certain, take the U.S. out of the global economy and who is ready to replace it?

I will continue to watch, listen, read, and where necessary criticize Obama and his lofty ambitions, but I will never let my support wane because I know he is saying, “Why can’t we…,” and that means, at least to me anyway, he has the will to succeed, and believes the United States does as well.

Peace