Pundit Wire

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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Gas Exports and Liberty

DSCF1077 On my last visit to Budapest about a year ago, I was treated to a dramatic illustration of the power that Vladimir Putin’s Russia exercises over its former satellites through their dependency on imports of Russian natural gas.

Near Hungary’s parliament building is a park called Liberty Square. The park was created to honor the Hungarian patriots who died in an unsuccessful rising against Habsburg rule in 1848-49. But the park also has two other monuments to Hungary’s liberators.

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That’s blasphemy!

ingersol The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an agency charged by Congress with monitoring liberty of conscience around the world, has just issued a report on prosecutions for blasphemy in other countries.

Predictably, the leading offenders are Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Iran, Bangladesh, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Pakistan is cited as “the most egregious example … where blasphemy charges are common and numerous individuals are in prison, with a high number sentenced to death or life terms.”

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Ireland’s Gay Hero

casement New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh are boycotting their local St. Patrick’s Day parades because the organizers will not permit gays and lesbians take part if they openly proclaim their sexual orientation.

This is a very old controversy, and every time it flares up I am once again amazed that no one thinks to mention Roger Casement—a man who is unquestionably one of Ireland’s greatest heroes and who was also unquestionably gay.

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Once Upon A Climate Change

SONY DSC I wonder what would happen if the world’s storytellers and artists were to throw themselves into making the 2014 summit succeed. Invite the wizards of digital creation and distribution, the social media entrepreneurs and software geniuses, the networks and studios, to lend their talents to a communication campaign. Imagine if film-, video- and game-makers, musicians, photographers, screenwriters, graphic novelists, comedians, actors, essayists and fashionistas were inspired to tell the tale of climate change. Think of what designers, logo makers, branders and advertisers could contribute.

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Growing Up With Nelson Mandela

nelson The greatest American civil rights leader of my lifetime was a South African. I say this not just because Nelson Mandela’s fight for equality and justice followed a path blazed by Henry David Thoreau and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I say this because he carried the torch for freedom at a time when it was under siege throughout the world. He held it high and with dignity, never letting it be extinguished by violence and recrimination.

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Teaching The Vietnamese How To Write Speeches

vietnam I’m giving a workshop for diplomats on speechwriting, with material I’ve used dozens of times. But this first day hasn’t gone well in Hanoi.

Yes, Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, the country that once consumed me and my friends, then mostly left our minds in 1975, shortly after Marine helicopters lifted the last refugees and Americans off the roof of the US embassy. The country that in the past four decades has tripled in population, reduced poverty, and, not without missteps, created a nimble hybrid of communism and capitalism that’s brought 6 percent economic growth a year since 2000.

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Iran No-Spoiler Alert

iranSo where are we in the Iran narrative?

I mean no disrespect to the victims of Iran’s terrorist clients, or the existential fears of Israelis and world Jewry, or U.S. security interests in the Middle East by calling it a narrative. Real events do happen in the real world, but people can’t help trying to fit them into larger stories.  We love to connect the dots.  Storytelling isn’t some atavistic remnant of our pre-scientific past; it’s how our brains are hardwired.

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