Sunday, August 31, 2014

On leadership...

A lot has been said during these last few weeks about our president...and his feckless foreign policy.

A lot.

The "back story":
  • Across the Pacific, the Chinese are "projecting power" with their growing blue water navy, harassing neighboring nations and threatening expansion. The ChiComms are being so aggressive that Vietnam is turning to its old nemesis, Japan, for aid; and Japan, no friend of nuclear weapons, is giving serious thought to changing its constitution to allow its military to have nukes. (The wild North Koreans also figure into the equation.)
  • In Eastern Europe, Vlad Putin is doing his best to restore some bizarro version of old Imperial Russia. First, it was Crimea (now a wholly owned subsidiary of Moscow); and now, Ukraine is seeing its sovereign territory nibbled away...daily. Next up: Lithuania? Can we get a Estonia? Latvia? How about Poland? (And you thought the Cold War had ended.)
  • The worst appears in the guise of a rogue bunch of "non-state actors," who are tearing-up the Middle East and threatening everyone else. Known as ISIL, ISIS or "those bat-sh** crazy bastards," the group (once called the "jayvee" team by President Barack Obama), has now swelled to more than 20,000 strong. Nerves were further rattled when, last week, Obama said he had "no strategy" in place to deal with ISIL/ISIS...a group that has been steadily menacing for close to a year. (Even The Washington Post's editorial board took notice!)

Which brings us to the following. Below is a perfect dissection of the problems at hand...chief among them: a lack of leadership -- on the part of our president.

This piece is by Kevin Elliott, a Bay Area public relations professional who knows a thing or two about leadership, strategy and communication. The White House would be smart to follow his lead(s) here. But then, that's probably expecting waaaaay to much.

The Bliss Index gives you Kevin Elliott:

I've been trolling the news this morning and it is interesting to see how ideology colors pronouncements by various news outlets. Various outlets that are either balanced or conservative in their editorial policy point to the British Prime Minister -- the man with a plan -- as the example of leadership. 

The same outlets reflect the frustration of the nation at the President's announcement that he doesn't have a plan to deal with the growing threat that his defense secretary has called, "unlike anything we've ever seen." 

Enter the other side... The Huffington Post is beside itself that American conservatives are praising David Cameron's no-nonsense tough talk. HuffPo points out that at least we are bombing the terrorists. And then they go on to lament the daily cost of the military action on the Islamic State. 

In Britain, the left opposition is answering Cameron with a call for (wait for it) mandatory programs for deradicalization for young jihadi wanna-bees. Okay, so if some nut wants to run off and fight for the terrorists, the Labor Party wants to send them to a mandatory government program. 


Where is Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill? Okay, at least the British have their clear leader... But why is it wrong for us to ask -- no, demand -- clear and unambiguous leadership? 

President Obama has made his position clear repeatedly. The threats against our country are of our own making, he believes. They are the result of generations of exploitation at home and abroad. He was elected, he believes, to get us out of foreign conflicts and he has declared those wars in the Levant and Afghanistan to be over. 

We will not get a firm, clear word from the White House that we are committed to defeating or destroying the Islamic State. It's not his style and doesn't fit his narrative. So, instead, we will have an election this year...and another in 2016. 

And if anyone doesn't believe that elections have consequences, you need look no further than this week...either here in the US or over in the UK.


Bonus add: Dilbert gets it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

That crazy Kim Jong Un!

North Korea is mad! Dance video features Kim Jong Un

From NPR:

He grins, he fumes, he fights — and through it all, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dances his way in and out of preposterous situations. That's the premise of a video that has become popular in China and reportedly sparked a protest from North Korea.

Citing "a source in China," the reports that "the North feels the clip, which shows Kim dancing and Kung-Fu fighting, 'seriously compromises Kim's dignity and authority.'"

The newspaper says that after North Korea asked China to stop the video from spreading, "Beijing was unable to oblige."

In the video, Kim's face is superimposed onto a kitchen sink's worth of videos, in scenes taken from everything from viral dance videos and TV shows to the vaudevillian action film Kung Fu Hustle. In one segment, Kim pirouettes in a dance studio — before being hit with a kick delivered by President Obama. Other world leaders also make appearances, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

And while a couple of sequences make fun of Kim's fascination with weaponry, we'll note that the video doesn't accuse the North Korean leader of not having rhythm.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Some thoughts on "the Beautiful Game"... and America

June 30, 1994

Why Americans Will Never Love Soccer

By Jeff Bliss

DESPITE THE MEDIA-DRIVEN FAUX EXCITEMENT, we Americans will never go crazy about the game of soccer. And without sounding too much like Joe McCarthy, I have to say soccer is un-American.

Let me explain. Soccer is not about anything Americans appreciate. The very fact that it's called football elsewhere enrages enough red meat gridiron fans to keep soccer from ever being popular here.

First, real football players must weigh as much as an Army tank and wear twice as much protective armor. Soccer players run around in little more than their underwear. Americans like equipment: first-baseman's mitts, helmets, and menacing face masks. Soccer has precious little of this.

Second, we didn't invent the that means it can't be all that great. OK, you think you're smart because you know about baseball's ties to cricket and American football's ties to rugby. The truth is we took these games and improved them. Soccer, on the other hand, belongs to the world (like the metric system).

Suggestions from the United States to modify soccer, such as allowing eye gouging and body slams, have been largely ignored. If it ain't ours and if it can't hurt you, we don't want it. (Suggestions to return the game to its pre-Columbian roots, with the losing team facing execution, have also been dismissed.)

Third, and most importantly, sports symbolize a people. As an example, let us compare baseball and soccer. Soccer is the perfect metaphor for the rest of the world. Baseball, our national pastime, is the story of individuals banding together for a common goal. Everyone has the same chance to be a hero or a goat, and every player has a specialized skill used for the good of the team. Additional examples, like baseball statistics, go on ad nauseam. Believe me.

Soccer, on the other hand, is about a bunch of guys who wander around a field chasing a ball. It's a game of turnovers: I've got the ball. No, now you've got the ball. No, I have the ball. No, you have the ball. No, he has the ball. . . well, you get the idea. We don't like that in a sport or anything else in our lives. We want stability. Also, there's "diving"  (falling to the turf and pretending to be grievously fouled). Actually, there's a lot of diving. A lot. As soon as their team gains an advantage, the "injured" players always make a speedy recovery (the quickness rivals any faith healer's powers).

One more thing. Soccer, played on a field only slightly smaller than the continent of Asia, is ridiculously low-scoring and tie games are not unusual. We like scoring. We like it so much, we made touchdowns worth six points. A total of six points in a soccer game is usually regarded as scandalous (no one ever worries about a juiced-up ball in soccer). I know what I'm talking about. During my short-lived career as a high school and college soccer player, I scored a total of one goal -- just a few short of what most pro players score during their entire careers. OK, so it was against my own team . . .

And please don't mention youth soccer. I acknowledge its popularity -- I played it. But the secret is youth soccer is a conspiracy of parents across the nation: get those youngsters out there running their heads off for an hour or more on Saturday mornings and they're less likely to raise hell around the house the rest of the weekend. Why do you think I made my kids play?

All kidding aside, soccer is a great game.

It's just not our game.
(Note: I wrote this piece when the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994. A few minor alterations have been made.)