The Ideal Man: Jim Thompson and the American Way of War – Book Review Essay

Jim Thompson himself, though, was a mystery and that contributes to questions surrounding his disappearance. Joshua Kurlantzick’s The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War (Johnathan Wiley and Sons, 2011) tries hard to solve that mystery but in the end the trail runs cold. The only thing we’re pretty sure of is that Thompson had a number of enemies as well as friends, was likely not eaten by wild tigers or other four legged predators then inhabiting the Cameron Highlands, did not commit suicide and would not have taken a fatal misstep and slipped into some ravine. Read more »

Red Flags over Lhasa

Of course, there’s life in China, the intellectual and creative sort as well as the human sort, but it seems to have retreated underground, where it’s safe from the authorities but inaccessible to short-term visitors unversed in Chinese. As a result, all the new construction in China seemed rather ghoulish to me, like fingernails growing from the digits of a corpse which belongs, not to the Chinese people, but to the all-suffocating party that rules. Read more »

Sochi Ho: Some Sensible Words of Warning Before You Go

My advice: if this a trip to Sochi for the Olympics is something you plan to undertake, print the State Department Travel Advisory out before you head off, take a copy with you, heed its contents, and watch the website for updates. The information will have been coordinated with the US Embassy Consular Section in Moscow. And a special unit from the US Consular Section (tough but likely busy duty?) will be at the Games to help American citizens in distress. Read more »

Delhi’s Marvelous Metro and What’s Missing

Metro is very impressive technologically. It’s obviously very popular, too, with office workers, with tradition-scorning students and solid-looking middle-class women. But here’s my question: do Metro’s expansion plans include a bridge or a tunnel over the river to areas where the standard of living plunges? Can there be a fare plan to fit the poor, who would surely ride if they could. Indian railroads were built on a class system. Pay more. Travel more comfortably. Pay less and be glad to get where you need to go. Metro appears to be democratic. Everyone pays the same. But some people are being left out. Read more »

The Biter Bitten

Poor Mitt Romney. He thought he was talking to the in-crowd, the people who are interviewing him for the leadership slot, the people who want to buy him the presidency, the people who expect he will act to protect them, the people who sneer at losers—and the word got out. Read more »


This past year, I’ve followed the adventures of Occupy Oakland with great interest. I thought our vacation to Germany this summer might provide me with other examples of grassroots demonstrations. Europe had been simmering with demonstrations against ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) for months now. Perhaps I could find a demonstration while I was in Berlin. . . . In three weeks, most of it in Germany, we saw police only a few times. Granted, we were in tourist areas the whole time. We saw police once in Berlin, once at a traffic accident on the autobahn, and once hauling away drunks in Prague. . . . Mentally I contrasted this with urban police in Oakland and Anaheim who dress in full SWAT regalia and roam the streets as though they think the people in the neighborhood are insurgent guerrillas. Read more »

On the Edge

Yet what troubles me the most about California is its decades of dysfunctional government, polarized politics and too many selfish voters unwilling to understand that their welfare and wellbeing also depend upon others. This has undermined the state’s prosperity and indirectly America’s as well. Sadly, it could have been so much more. Read more »

Discussing Social Media in Egypt

For all my work with new media for public diplomacy, the best engagement is still the oldest: face-to-face discussions. “The last three feet”, as Edward R Murrow put it, allow for more personal interaction than the sometimes detached and often anonymous online type. Working from Washington, D.C., where we are so removed from the field, […] Read more »

Barriers and Bridges: Visiting the West Bank

Some days it feels like I have the best job in the world. This week I had one of those days. For the past several days I’ve been working with our Embassy in Tel Aviv and Consulate General in Jerusalem on their public diplomacy social media programs. This focuses mostly on sharing best practices from […] Read more »