Pundit Wire

Author Archives: Charles Crawford

The diplomacy of the Ukraine autonomy deal explained

UkraineDiplomacy often looks like a precise, punctilious activity: dapper, discreet officials armed with quill pens and cucumber sandwiches crafting cunningly worded documents with multifarious shades of meaning. That’s an important part of it. But peep behind the curtain, and you see all sorts of squalid manoeuvrings and double-crossing.

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How to Stop Students Peeping at Their Mobile Phones?

cell phone in class One of the worst things about being a teacher or trainer these days is the fact that the joys of the classroom have to compete with Rival Attractions.

Back in the 1960s when I was at school in St Albans in England, our Maths teacher kept steely control. When (as he invariably did) he spotted you fiddling with something beneath the level of your desk instead of paying attention, he would stroll across the classroom to where you were sitting. He would then daintily pick up the offending object between thumb and forefinger, give you a nod of thanks, walk across to the window, drop the article out of the window.

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Ukraine/Russia: Self-indulgent Speechwriting Pretending to be Policy

Russia Ukraine Let’s hop back to 7 July 2009. President Obama is addressing New Economic School students in Moscow, his first major speech to a Russian audience since his election. Vice President Biden will soon be in Ukraine to spell out the new Administration’s policies there too.

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Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Is West ‘Provoking’ Russia?

russiaFascinating question: if X responds badly to your action and cites your action as a reason for behaving badly, how far are you responsible for what X does?

Three scenarios…

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Vladimir Putin, Crimea and ‘Double Standards’

putin On 18 March Russia’s President Vladimir Putin delivered a major speech to Russia’s political elite aimed at explaining Russia’s policy towards Crimea and Ukraine. Plenty of commentators have analysed it (and attacked it mercilessly) on points of substance. See for example this brisk piece for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty…

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Posted in Campaigns & Elections, Civil Rights, General, History, National Security, Political Rhetoric | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slippery Slopes, Slippery Language, Slippery Logic

frog in water We all use metaphors to make a point. Speechwriters adore a good metaphor: get the right one and the speaker sounds wise, folksy, sassy and astute all in one go.

The trouble with such metaphors is that they capture your imagination but deaden your brain.

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Posted in Culture, General, Political Rhetoric, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Syria: The Shrek/Onion Paradigm

syria speechAny speechwriter’s toughest assignment: what words to use when the policy is in utter disarray? President Obama’s team last night made the best of a dismal job.

Syria is a classic example of what I call TSOP: The Shrek/Onion Paradigm. Issues are like onions are like ogres: they have layers. Look at some of Syria’s layers, in ascending order of abstractness.

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How To Deal With Abuse? Always Agree With It!

Cyber Bullying Back in 1976 Margaret Thatcher did something extraordinary that defined her political career. She opened a speech to the Finchley Conservatives by responding head-on to a jibe at her made by a Soviet journalist.

Mrs. Thatcher did not angrily denounce the intended insult. Instead she ‘owned’ it; she seized it for herself. This had various effects. It neutralised at a stroke the Soviet point. It made her look confident. And it gave her a ready, tough political nickname that she went on to exploit to fine effect.

As in politics, so on the Internet.

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Posted in Culture, General, International | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments