Sunday, November 30, 2008

Soft Power

They say that, today, America is the world's sole superpower - a nation far above the rest in terms of influence over the others are overall global superiority. But let's ask ourselves, what exactly is power? In a nutshell: It is the ability to get others to do what you want them to. In today's society, because of America's overall dominance, we can get other nations to do our bidding easier than others can.

So how does one exert power over another? Think of it in terms of carrots and sticks. There are three ways to get someone to do what you want:
  1. Hit them over the head with a carrot until they give in to your devious demands
  2. Dangle a carrot in front of them until they acquiesce to your devious demands
  3. Attract people to you by example by showing them how many carrots you have, and showing them that if they follow your lead, they'll end up with the same fate. (And not be a jerk.)
The first two are the quintessential examples of hard power: Using military force and economic coercion or dominance to achieve one's aims. This has been the staple of America's foreign policy lately. Unfortunately, it's led to the decline of our global image and legitimacy in the global community: In other words, people don't like us anymore.

The third, however, is soft power: The power to influence others through cultural and ideological means. In other words, this means the power to attract other people to your ideals. It means diplomatic cooperation, taking the lead in global issues, and sensible foreign policy. And it means making sure that your country is viewed well by others.

Now, clearly, a country needs to use both types of power to achieve success. You can't conquer your way to success anymore, but neither can you just waltz around getting everyone to love you.

Nonetheless, America needs to focus more on improving its soft power if it wants to keep its role as a global superpower. We need to boost our legitimacy in the world if we want to stay competitive.

Besides, in the end, it costs you a lot less in carrots and sticks.

(If you're interested in this, read more about it at this link.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Day

Just checking in to wish my somewhere between three and seven loyal viewers a happy Thanksgiving. Even in the somewhat troubled times that we live in today, there really is so much that we have to give thanks for: Health, happiness, freedom... and, of course, food. Lots and lots of food.

That being said, I also encourage you all to take a look at our President-Elect's Thanksgiving Address. Good stuff.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Prospekt's March

On Novemer 24th, Coldplay will grace the world with yet another release in 2008, as they release a new EP entitled Prospekt's March. It includes never-released material from the recording sessions of Viva la Vida and a bit of other stuff like remixes and such. It's eight tracks long and solid.

I myself have actually had the opportunity to listen to this little gem of a release. While it's not quite the brilliance of Viva la Vida, personally, I'd say it comes awfully close. Personal favorites include Life in Technicolor ii (a lyrics-added version of the instrumental Life in Technicolor), Glass of Water (a dramatic, powerful ballad), and Prospekt's March/Poppyfields (you'll just have to listen for yourself.)

That being said, if you'd like a listen before the actual release, head on over to this link where you can hear a full stream of the album.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Ugh, speechwriting is quite the heavy burden on a debater's life. Quite the burden indeed...

On the other hand, I can now knowledgably engage in conversation on such enlightening subjects as blocking Georgia and Ukraine's admission into NATO, offshore dilling, foreign relations with Azerbaijan, Social Security privatization, amnesty to illegal immigrants, Carbon Taxes, making college tution tax deductible, tranferring troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, and diverting biofuel research funds to nuclear research.

So. Fun.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Pretty Cool Future

The past few years haven't given this nation (USA, to our international readers) a whole lot to be hopeful for in the coming years. Threats of economic turmoil, terrorists abroad, shady governmen behaviors, and just an overall decline in America as a whole have lead to some pretty bleak prospects.

Still, the election of a new, inspiring president gives the people of this great nation, and the world as a whole, a lot to be hopeful for. Imagine, for a moment, that in one day, though, everything went right.

This giant link is a fake Special Edition of the New York Times. I suggest you read it - realistic it is not, but inspiring, it is. One can only hope that a fraction of this stuff pops up in headlines in the coming years... but, hey, we can hope.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I Like Meat

Vegetarianism has always made a lot of sense. Big agribusiness treats animals horribly, and I've always been in favor of only killing when necessary. I mean, I don't step on spiders. Mosquitos are the only bug that I'll kill 100% of the time, and that's because they actually do cause harm. Yeah, the whole killing animals thing never made much sense.

But oh my God, I could never give up meat. It is so amazingly tasty. I mean, big juicy hamburgers, steak, even chicken, it's all just like... I live for several things, and delicious food is a big one of them. And meat is at the top of those.

I like meat a lot.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Congratulations, Barack Obama

Congratulations to Barack Obama, the next President of the United States. I'll keep it brief: I hope that he can deliver on his promises. I really, really hope so.

Good night, and good luck.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Judgment Day

Well, there may not be fire and brimstone hailing down from the heavens, but yeah, it's a pretty big day. Today millions of Americans go to the polls to decide... the future of their nation.

Admittedly, I'm not hugely thrilled with either candidate. They both have their flaws, whether it be a questionable economic policy (Obama), a questionable foreign policy (McCain), etc. etc. etc. etc. The point is, neither one is the new Lincoln or FDR... but they both represent a hope for a brighter future. And right now, that future is pretty dark.

It's been a rough eight years - at the turn of the millenium, things were really looking up - we had a budget surplus, a rapidly growing economy, and, well, no wars. I'll admit - things weren't perfect, and the seeds had been sown for many things, including our current economic troubles, even before then. But, well... things have gone pretty badly in these last eight years.

So here's to a brighter future. Let's hope that America makes the right choice... and that whatever the choice be, that it all works out okay.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The World is Full of Jerks

My iPod got stolen yesterday. My $400 iPod touch. My baby that I used to take with me everywhere, which had all of my music, and also my personal calendar and various other doodads. It was also shiny. And cool.

I am very annoyed that someone would have the indecency to nab this from my gym locker. I am very annoyed that I can no longer listen to my music anywhere but on my computer speakers. And I am very confused because I no longer know what I'm doing this Wednesday or when I'm teaching my next piano lesson.

Curse you, world! Or at least, Curse you, jerky inhabitants of the aforementioned world!