30 December 2004 - Thursday

Building a brand

Michael Beschloss just caught my attention on television. He suggested that the US government tends to respond best in foreign emergencies when American interests are at stake. The Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe, for example, was developed to counter Soviet influence on the continent. If America is going to respond decisively to the crisis in the Indian Ocean, we need a "foreign policy imperative."

I'll give you a foreign policy imperative. Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population, and is actively engaged in a civil war against extreme religious elements. Meanwhile, American public diplomacy, particularly where Muslim nations are concerned, is not in very good shape.

Unfortunately, it looks as if the biggest problems in Indonesia and elsewhere are not related to parsimonious allocations of aid on the part of outsiders, but local logistic chaos and mismanagement. It would be nice if the transportation power of Western militaries could be allowed into the disaster areas to help with that.

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29 December 2004 - Wednesday


Have you ever noticed that some people have distinctive ways of walking? Sometimes it is possible to identify someone at a great distance, even when details such as height and build are difficult to ascertain, by observing the way they move.

One of my friends walks very slowly, as if preoccupied. She walks a very narrow track -- her feet stay close together. Her arms and shoulders remain very still, with a backward slouch. She keeps her hands at her side but faces the palms toward the back.

Another friend has the same habit of keeping his hands at his side with the palms facing backward. When he walks, however, he slaps his feet down as if shuffling through a puddle; the effect is more dramatic because he wears sandals. He keeps his head down and slouches forward. His arms and shoulders swing limply.

Another friend walks with his legs wide apart, toes pointing outward. He knees bend only slightly; his entire body seems to swivel from one side to the other as he puts first one foot down and then the other. He takes small steps, however.

Another one takes small steps but lets his knees do a little more of the work. He keeps his head high as he walks, even tilting it upward. His shoulders roll a bit with each step, and his arms, which hang outward rather than straight down, swing back and forth without any bending of the elbows.

Another friend, however, barely moves his upper body at all as he walks. He has short but frequent strides.

Then I have a friend who takes very long steps, inclining his body forward and his head downward. He usually keeps his hands in his jacket pockets. None of his joints seem to move at all except his hip joints; he lifts his legs from the waist.

I can identify any of these friends a long way off, even when detail is very hard to pick out. Funny how the brain works.

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