Archive for the ‘Lessons Learned’ Category


Iranian Nuclear Proliferation is World’s Biggest Issue By Far

December 15, 2009

This recent article about the Iranian & North Korean threats was right on the money.  Both are substantive threats to the world but I thought I would use the lessons from Lies, Bribes & Peril to outline why the Iranian threat is so much more dangerous.

Never mind the Israeli problem with Iran having a nuclear capability, that is just the beginning of the problem. We all realize potential threat to world peace by the fact the Israelis may take unilateral action (most likely bombing of each facility) to prevent the Iranians from further enrichment strides. While this would be very perilous for the world, it most likely would not be catastrophic (The US would rein in the Israelis & the Russians would temper the Iranians).

No, the largest threat of an Iranian nuclear capability would be the certain proliferation of an Arab capability. I’m puzzled by that statement—it seems redundant? Well it’s not and there’s a significant Cultural issue most Westerners are not aware of.

Iranians are Persians (speaking primarily Farsi), not to be confused with Arabs (speaking, of course, Arabic). Both groups, Persians and Arabs see themselves as Culturally superior. The historical issues begin in the seventh century when the Arabs conquered the Persians, not only eventually wiping out the Persian alphabet, but their religion (Persians until that time practiced primarily Zoroastrianism) as well. The Persian defeat began the tidal wave of Islam  throughout the Asian sub-continent that would crest with the Turks expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the eleventh century.

The fourteen or so centuries since have not lessened the Cultural differences, prejudices, and wounds. Today, there exists an Arabic Logic that basically contends that any nuclear capability developed by Iran would need an Arabic equal. The problem with that Logic is that the Arabic countries of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt all feel they should be the ones to have nuclear capability equal to Iran’s.  All have the ability to begin nuclear programs with the development of a weapon a quick and sure outcome.

If Iran is allowed to continue their nuclear weapons development the result will be a Middle East with no less than six countries with nuclear weapons—an increase of over fifty percent of the world’s current nuclear powers. 

Here the proliferation nightmare is obvious and, I think, the certain eventual use of nuclear weapons in the region.


Shamelessly copying the tradition of ESPN’s PTI program, here’s a ‘Shout Out’ to Lara Logan

December 14, 2009

Colbert Report, December 10, 2009. Guest Lara Logan

Not only have I had a yearlong crush on Lara Logan, the beautiful, intelligent correspondent for CBS & 60 Minutes, but I’ve admired her desire, her apparent eager willingness, to go into the worst places on earth. The traveling I’ve done and the places, the perils, I’ve faced have nothing on Lara (the genesis of my fascination I think–this amazing broad seeks out areas and situations that, even in my bulletproof twenties, I’d have been reluctant to jump into).  I’m not sure there’s anything she could learn from my book Lies. Bribes, & Peril but I do think (ok, hope) she would wholeheartedly relate to its cultural lessons and perspectives.

Now, the suspicious naysayer in me (c’mon, admit it, our cushy existence leaves us way too much time to think like this occasionally) thought it was just about her career,–an easy way (as long as really dangerous places don’t bother you) to get ahead. How wrong that thought was.

After watching her appearance on the Colbert Report last week, my crush on Lara Logan evolved to include a very deep respect. I now understand why I was attracted her in the first place. It had nothing to do with the pretty face and sexy South African accent.

During Logan’s appearance on Colbert she very eloquently argued why Afghanistan is no Vietnam (those on the very political left will feel horribly betrayed by one they would normally embrace as their own) and explained her personal sense of motivations– heartfelt thoughts I think would be a benefit not only to most Americans but Westerners in general. Teased by Colbert about how her danger-seeking was self-indulgent, she spoke about how being in areas like Afghanistan, seeing and actually living the line that defines the essence of existence, made her so much more appreciative of the everyday things in her life, a good meal, relative security, a warm place to sleep–that not a day or event goes by that she is not thankful. 

Well, here’s the shout out Lara…extremely well said. If more people could only experience, witness, or at the very least gain an appreciation for, this struggle for existence; where the day is spent totally consumed with obtaining the barest necessities of life, and understand the happiness and pride that those that live life in this way derive from it, well, it just flat engenders a humility and gratefulness that is not only profoundly moving, but life altering–as it obviously has been for Lara. 

A notable outlook engendering the very best of the human spirit for the Holiday Season.

Happy Holidays 2009 Everyone!


Bailout for Main Street Instead of Wall Street

December 14, 2009

Reacting to the ever-widening cultural chasm that the economic meltdown and its aftermath has caused between Main Street and Wall Street, the current Administration is finally trying to do something for Main Street. Taking Cultural, Face and Logic Lessons from my book, Lies, Bribes, & Peril and demonstrating how they are applicable right here in the US should help to show their universal application…and, I hope, offer an interesting perspective.

What caused the cultural chasm to widen and who is to blame?  Well none other than the US Government.  Now, every Administration going back to Clinton shares plenty of blame, but the current Administration is responsible for the circumstances, the jack hammer if you will,  severely aggravating this domestic intra-cultural chasm.

How did we get here?

The ever loosening policies of the USG across the economic spectrum led to the environment causing the meltdown. Wall Street took too many risks and created risky financial instruments that no one understood by grabbing onto the Logic made famous by Gordon Gekko, one of the top fifty movie villains of all time; “Greed is good”.  Not to be outdone, Main Street also internalized that Logic and overleveraged, overspent, and overindulged on a scale to match Wall Street. Never mind the ethical abyss that is so evident everywhere, that’s a generational issue and way above my pay grade, schools and parents have their hands full for the next few decades at the least! So both Main Street and Wall Street are culprits in the meltdown–maybe not equally but, hey, let’s not split hairs.

So, we have the meltdown and both Wall Street and Main Street should have been equally hammered—oops not even close to correct. Here Logic begins to frame the cause of the Cultural rift. Most of Wall Street gets anointed “too big to fail” leading to companies and jobs that, from a Darwinian perspective, should not have survived, but did. Moreover, the Administration not only gives huge sums of TARP money to these “should-have-failed” businesses, but grants many of them new status as full-fledged “banks,” hence allowing access to huge sums of Federal Reserve monies at practically zero interest.  OK now that’s like giving the fox not only the keys to the hen-house, but the deed as well!  If Bernanke and Geithner did not realize these new “banks” would channel all their money and efforts to lucrative trading activities (whose huge profits yield no worthwhile product or service benefitting the overall economic system), while putting zero effort into lending activities to Main Street (widely reported in the media and by the USG), then we are in really in big trouble. What did Main Street get? Cash for Clunkers?

This past fall the huge trading profits begin to roll in to Wall Street while Main Street continued to reel, realizing no tangible benefit from the Bailout. To say that Main Street has been having trouble following the Logic of the Bailout would be an understatement. Then Wall Street, oblivious to Main Street’s ongoing agony, starts crowing about their profits and making plans for huge bonuses. C’mon, the Administration can’t be surprised that a cultural divide has occurred, heck, the real story is that it hasn’t evolved to something much nastier (The UK has seen attacks on bankers such that many dress for work in jeans instead of suits!).

The incredible inequity of the Administration’s Logic underpinning the Bailout has unleashed a wave of outrage across Main Street that remains unsurpassed in my lifetime. The outrage actually derives from the “Face Issue”—intrinsically linked as it always is—of immeasurable proportions. The disrespect, the subliminal unimportance and inconsequential-ness, exhibited by both Wall Street’s actions and the Administration’s Logic, clearly attached to Main Street’s role in the US economic recovery has been the main reason for the huge cultural tear in our societal fabric.

 It’s about time the Administration did something. Let’s hope it works!


The Knox Affair—A “Serious Trial?” Not to any American…

December 11, 2009

For sure, a system that

  1. allows 14-15 hr abusive interrogations
  2. allows a prosecutor, Mignini, under indictment for prosecutorial misconduct & abuse of power to head the case (and a prosecutor that speaks to dead priests and follows the advice of a satanic “expert”)
  3. stands by while that prosecutor puts forth the exact same crazy motive as attempted in another high publicity case (and then abandons it in final arguments)

… is not a ‘serious’ legal system from an American point-of-view and that is the important distinction.

From an American point-of-view perception is reality and the perception is, unquestionably, that Mignini is all about Mignini and the facts, evidence, logic are merely inconsequential to his opinions. Mignini is obviously a devout follower of the Steven Colbert “truthiness doctrine”—but the problem is, no one is laughing in this case.

The story is not about whether Knox is guilty or not.  This is about a foreigner, an American and her family, dealing with a strange, often termed inept and corrupt, Italian legal system.  Now (and not to be judgmental) the system is perhaps fine and acceptable to Italians, but terribly flawed to any American dealing with it.  Nevermind the unfathomable prosecutorial issues, no American would have expected the procedural shortcomings and delays that have transpired.

Right from my Legal Lesson (in my book) American travelers need to understand and be forewarned!  Perhaps if Knox had been forewarned she would have fled immediately (as she should have) after the murders, thereby requiring extradition from the US. This would have prevented the abusive interrogation she endured and would have added an intense layer of both legal and diplomatic scrutiny.

Maybe then the Italian government would not have allowed this case to proceed in this way and oh, don’t think for a second that might not have happened! The “Law of the Land” was and is in effect here requiring a completely different approach than one might take in the US. That’s the vitally important learning experience any American needs to take from this unfortunate affair. 

No one will ever have a clear idea of whether Knox is innocent or not—-that alone is a shame. But again, an American trapped in that system HAD to understand the “Law of the Land” and react accordingly.


US Envoy visits North Korea

December 9, 2009

As a part of a continuing story highlighting both Negotiation and Face Lessons, this meeting was, without doubt, set in motion by the series of events culminating with the trip President Clinton made to North Korea last August to ‘negotiate’ the freedom of the imprisoned journalists Lisa Ling and Euna Lee.

After grabbing Ling and Lee, thus obtaining the Negotiation Leverage he needed, Kim Jung Il broke from the six party talks in April and then proceeded to make a nuisance of himself on the world stage, acting more in keeping with a South Park episode than running a country. He launched numerous missile tests (worrying even the Chinese as gosh knows no one thought the North Koreans had any clue as where they might go after being fired) and even threatened Hawaii on the 4th of July (Okay, not even Stan & crew would be so outlandish).

From both a Negotiation and Face standpoint, the Administration and all concerned handled it well and that’s why it was successful.

As I said on various radio programs (during that time) it was a great way to bring Jung Il out of his cartoon world.  By saying “they had nothing to do with it, The Administration could open a dialogue without seeming to acquiesce to Jung Il–a major Face issue for the Administration. Jung Il gets to seem (to his own people) like a major world player by the visit of former President Clinton (in most Asian cultures a former US President holds a unique revered status reflecting their reverence of age & wisdom)—a major Face coup for Jung Il.

The true Negotiation was held well before President Clinton got on that plane.  All was set in stone to insure Face was enjoyed by all.  The Administration could condone but not appear to overtly participate & Jung Il looks like a bona fide world leader at home. Letting the Negotiation for the journalists freedom play out precisely as it did, and thereby ignoring the crazy missile launching and threats, enabled this meeting and perhaps a shot at bringing North Korea in line with world regarding nuclear proliferation.


The Amanda Knox Verdict: NBC and Dan Abrams missed badly this morning!

December 7, 2009

This this happens to be my first post. I wanted to touch base on typical news situation as it pertains to international business and communication–which includes legality issues.  Let’s talk about the Amanda Knox verdict.

This is the  Legal “Lesson” from my book  Lies Bribes & Peril: Lessons for the REAL Challenges of International Business on many counts.  Amanda and her family have been going through their own version of the “Midnight Express experience” for some two years now. In that case the defendant, Billy Hayes, was at least guilty of carrying drugs. However it the best evidence against Amanda Knox is not at all that compelling and it definitely was more than reasonable doubt. 

You gotta love the ‘talking heads’ on the morning programs.  In my opinion, Dan Abrams (MSNBC) was, waaaay off base today on the TODAY SHOW when he mentioned that “Italy was a ‘serious’ judicial system…”  Well it IS if you also consider the Daily Show with Jon Stewart a ‘serious’ news program!  You see the Mafia has had their way with the Italian legal system forever. It is a corrupt and flawed system right on par to that of a developing country.  Even moderate research would show the rampant corruption evidenced in recent verdicts involving politicians & Mafia.

The other “Lesson” here (and it’s always involved to some degree) is Face.  At this point the Italian legal system is exposed and most likely embarrassed.  Another mistake Abrams made was to say that diplomatic involvement would do nothing.  Now this is a guy who definitely needs to read my book and for gosh sakes get out and travel a bit!  Putting pressure on the Italians would be the thing to do — because in the end I think they will probably end up overturning the verdict on appeal. That’s how things happen in Italy.

Lastly, many in the news are saying the this verdict is more about anti-Americanism, but I don’t agree. I think it’s more about a bad legal system.  Knox and family should have played by the Italian “Law of the Land” from the very start and not doing so has her in this nightmare. You know it’s worse than I thought! Catching up on the news about the case and the prosecutor Mignini and the fact that he’s being prosecuted for lying on the Monster of Florence investigation is appalling.  And then there’s the Knox expose on the CBS 48 Hours program that is unbelievable not to forget to mention that Mignini is also currently under indictment for “abuse of power” and into all this satanic stuff–having used it in both cases! All I can say is that the  “Law of the Land” in Italy had better get it. Yes, NBC and Dan Abrams missed badly this morning!