Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cyber Warfare

To follow up on my Cyber Diplomacy post, here are some fascinating articles on Cyber Warfare and Internet Freedom that have popped up in the news over the last few days:

In a Computer Worm, a Possible Biblical Clue

The internet: The web's new walls

Internet Privacy

Thanks to everyone who sent them my way!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cyber Diplomacy

Last night I had the pleasure of attending my first official "state" dinner. It was at the Canadian Consul General's residence in Los Angeles. On the evening of the hottest weather ever recorded in downtown LA, we dined by candlelight, as the heat killed the electricity, and discussed cyber politics, warfare and diplomacy. In attendance were a few USC colleagues, a professor from that institution on the other side of town, the Canadian Fulbright chair, the very interesting Dr. Ronald Deibert of the Munk Centre at the University of Toronto, and of course the Consul General.

Now, for the most important part, the guests enjoyed a delicious four course meal, starting with a cilantro chili corn avocado soup [which I am going to have to figure out how to recreate], a farm fresh greens salad, halibut & salmon with veggies and pilaf, and a delicious berries, cream and meringue dessert.

Over the course of the meal we discussed the power of the internet, the capacity for interdisciplinary work, the inconsistency and lack-there-of government policy regarding internet security and the political will/absence-of-will to change the path that the world is heading towards--the cyber arms race.

From a PD practitioner's perspective, the conversation yesterday evening left me with the desire to look further into the ability to turn the cyber arms race that is occurring globally -- which many/most of us don't know about or understand -- into a moment for cyber public diplomacy. There are so many actors at play in this field, from governments to private corporations to civil society actors and individuals--most of whom have a lot of money at stake [Google, RIM (BlackBerry)]-- that there are just enough influential actors that might make PD possible in this scenario. I learned in more than one MPD class that in order for a PD initiative to have a chance at succeeding all of these actors and the international institutions must "buy-in" and fund the project/initiative/campaign.

So I'd like to turn the potential fear of cyber arms race -- which could also lead to over-regulation of the free and public internet by democratic (and non-democratic) governments -- into a moment in which public diplomacy can shine. These various actors should come together to discuss this "cyber world" and advocate and push to avoid the cyber arms race and restriction of internet freedom (and the unforeseen consequences that could arise from that action). Cyber diplomats need to use this key moment to bring the cyber world closer together and fight to maintain the internet freedoms that we support and use every day. If we stopped thinking of the world with eyes from the 20th century - where the biggest and strongest wins the war -- and turn to the 21st century where public diplomacy, transparency and multilateralism can provide security far better than cyber guns, bombs and firewalls -- we could turn the cyber arms race into cyber diplomacy.

Interestingly enough, over the next few days, the U.S. government, along with 12 other countries and 60 private firms are launching the first tests with the new "plan of attack" against a "cyber-blitz" that could be launched by an enemy at our power, water and banking systems. Clearly, the cyber arms race has already begun, once again, the public diplomats must race to catch up...

Mr. President - Step it Up

Interview from the October Issue of Rolling Stone:

One closing remark that I want to make: It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. There may be complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises. But right now, we've got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.

The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible.

Everybody out there has to be thinking about what's at stake in this election and if they want to move forward over the next two years or six years or 10 years on key issues like climate change, key issues like how we restore a sense of equity and optimism to middle-class families who have seen their incomes decline by five percent over the last decade. If we want the kind of country that respects civil rights and civil liberties, we'd better fight in this election. And right now, we are getting outspent eight to one by these 527s that the Roberts court says can spend with impunity without disclosing where their money's coming from. In every single one of these congressional districts, you are seeing these independent organizations outspend political parties and the candidates by, as I said, factors of four to one, five to one, eight to one, 10 to one.

We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. Bringing about change is hard — that's what I said during the campaign. It has been hard, and we've got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place.

If you're serious, now's exactly the time that people have to step up.

Thank you Mr. President. Now, continue to step up and stand up for what you believe in and be our commander in chief. 

Returning to our Values

Donniel Hartman of The Jerusalem Post has finally said to the Israeli public what I have been advocating for the last year - to return Jewish values to the Jewish State. 

"To state it more clearly, if Zionism means a willingness to occupy another people, and where the holiness of the land takes precedence over the moral principles of our people, then many will want to shed the Zionist ideal, leading to a post- Zionist identification. In the world, even among our most loyal friends, the occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank is viewed as contrary to international law, antithetical to Israel as a democratic state and in opposition to Jewish values, which are rooted in the equal treatment of all human beings created in the image of God.

Ending the occupation and maintaining a morally defensible position until which time that we are able to bring it to a close while preserving our legitimate security needs are thus of critical significance to Israelis who care about Zionism and Jews around the world who want to maintain a strong and viable relationship with the state. Zionism will not be strengthened through educating Israelis and Jews about its history, but by ensuring that it is the expression of moral excellence."

Please read the full article, titled, The Future of Zionism Depends on Moral Excellence.

Toda Paul for sending the article my way.

Monday, September 13, 2010

PD Ideas

PD ideas are floating around in my brain and I can't sleep. Too wired and excited as the creative juices are flowing. Forgot how much I missed this part of the PD world....

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Being a Jew in the U.S.--A View from my Father

This posting comes from my Father in regards to the closure of a Jewish Day School in the area of FL that my parents live. I am posting this because it is the Jewish New Year and really, the piece demonstrates the values of plurality and how it is to be a Jew living in the US as an integrated citizen holding a distinct tradition, culture and religion. With all of the politicization fo religion and discussion of integration v. isolation in the discourse already, I'd like to share this post and how it represents the values I was personally raised with -- how to be a good Jew living in a multicultural, open and free United States. It also demonstrates how to reflect, grow and change as a community. To not blindly follow the status quo but to truly consider alternate paths (for whatever issue anyone is tacking). The 21st century brings many challenges to humankind and navigating the religious and secular ways of our society has come into the forefront in the last few days. If anything, with this New Year, we should all be reflecting and considering different options for many different issues having to do with religion and civic life and to provoke thoughts to create a better future for all. Wishing everyone a happy, sweet and healthy 5771.

Jewish Day Schools – A Contrarian Viewpoint

I write this as a Conservative Jew, and as someone who served on his Temple Board for 15 years, including 6 as Chairman and 4 as chairman of the Ritual Committee. For me, there are so many things wrong with the whole concept of Conservative Jewish Day Schools that it is hard to know where to start and how to limit myself to a length appropriate to a letter to the editor. So let me ask the parents of day school students two
questions –Do you believe that all Jewish children should receive a good Jewish education? Or just yours? Do you believe as a Conservative Jew that we should live in society or apart from it?

I grew up in the New York City area before the development of Solomon Schecter Schools. We had a vibrant Talmud Torah [after-school Hebrew school[ taught by well educated and observant teachers and a community wide Hebrew High School. What I have seen over the last 40 years is the widespread decline of the Talmud Torah system. This seems to be due to four factors: Parents, students, teachers and demographics. Each of these factors is complex, and I have clearly oversimplified the issues. First, there are simply fewer children and how they are split between two systems. When it comes to teachers, the most qualified teachers have been skimmed off by the day school.

The parents who seem to care the most about Jewish education send their children to day schools. A large proportion of those who remain primarily care about getting to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah with a minimum amount of effort. They pressure the schools not to give homework, reduce class hours and generally make it easier to get through. The constant threat being that they’ll take their children and their membership somewhere that expects less. So the pressure on the schools is to become less and less rigorous.

If that weren’t bad enough, the peer leadership has been stripped from the Talmud Torah. Those children who are motivated and would set a high standard for others are mostly in the day school. Jewish education becomes something that prevents children from doing other things, instead of being of value in and of itself.

As much as the Talmud Torah students are injured by this system, the day school students also lose out. They go through school without having to negotiate being a Jew in a secular world, without learning how to be different without feeling left out. We throw them into the deep end in 9th grade or in college without ever having taught them how to swim. Many will feel that their choice is between having no friends and abandoning what they’ve been taught. Is this the choice we want to give them? Should we be surprised at how many abandon observance and marry non-Jews?

As I see it, the competing systems of Day School and Talmud Torah are a detriment to the community. The demise of the PCJDS is unfortunate. However, before we jump back in to recreate what I see as a failed system, perhaps we should seriously consider alternatives that serve the whole community. Perhaps we should consider a consolidated Jewish educational system that serves all students, whether they chose to attend public schools for their secular education or not. Perhaps we should give up on the model where every Temple has its own school. Whatever we do, let us not squander this opportunity by blindly following the model of the past. 
-  Dr. Ronald S. Leight

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

PDiN Monitor - Digital Diplomacy

Check out the latest issue of PDiN Monitor from the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. It's all about Digital Diplomacy!