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Patricia H. Kushlis
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It is August 15th, 2015. The third Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in as many years was approved yesterday by the Greek parliament and the Eurogroup – the unelected European finance ministers organization to which most European political leaders have abdicated their power. In antithesis to the past six months, hardly anyone I have met in the last weeks in Athens or on the island Kythera is talking about it. What is going on? Though I am no psychologist, what I believe to have observed over the past three weeks is a generalized sense of burn-out induced depression. Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2015 at WhirledView
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But what about the EURO-zone, the EU, the ECB and the German government plus all the rest of those countries who support austerity policies so dogmatically regardless of the consequences? A little less austerity and a bit more Keynes would likely have pulled the EU out of recession several years ago. Germany’s export driven policies which buoyed that country’s economy have relied on sales elsewhere – especially throughout Europe – but if other countries do not have the wherewithal to buy German products how long will this approach succeed? Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2015 at WhirledView
Bill - Sorry but the correlation between national security interests in 1953 Europe and German debt relief really don't mesh from the standpoint of whether or not austerity economics works or doesn't. The fact is, the Germans were granted debt relief and the economy turned around. So sorry I don't buy that argument. I'd suggest looking again at the Irish situation (perhaps not as rosy as you suggest) and think about other factors that have been affecting the British economy including capital inflows from the Middle East and Russia and perhaps an easing of some of the most strict elements of austerity economics - something, of course, the UK could do but Greece could not. I would also ask the question regarding unemployment: maybe high youth unemployment doesn't mean much to you but I think it may well have a lot to do with the siren song of militant Islam (now ISIS) among Europeans from Muslim families. Re Latvia: I'd have to know a lot more about the economy and the society to argue one way or another.
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William - you raise important points but I did not suggest that an alignment and support from Russia would be a real option for the Greeks. As I have pointed out elsewhere but did not here for the sake of brevity, Greece needs to align itself or retain alliance with the major power or powers that control the Eastern Mediterranean. This is an axiom of Greek politics. The last time I looked that was not Russia. Re Euro-Zone vs EU membership. One can quibble about who does and does not pay taxes and where the money goes as well as who is profiting from the Greek debt bailouts. There's an excellent article on the latter in the current Foreign Affairs arguing that the ECB, IMF bailout money is profiting German and French banks not the Greeks and that the Greek economy had turned around in 2013 and the budget had gone into surplus. Unemployment, however, did not. There are excellent op eds/columns in the NYT and an interview in Die Zeit of Thomas Pikkety on this topic. Could and should the Greeks reform and "modernize" their tax and employment/labor system - yes. I couldn't agree more. But I question whether this the way to do it. All it seems to have done is weaken the political center and strengthen the extremes on both ends of the political spectrum. This is dangerous and it's not happening just in Greece. Re the weakening of Europe: I guess we disagree. Yes, I think Greece should stay in the European Union regardless but I also think there are at least two fundamental problems with the EURO and the way the EURO-Zone is being run which weaken and divide Europe and which Mr Putin will exploit/is attempting to exploit - 1) structural e.g. a vision of political unity which outpaced economic reality. As a result, the current financial system is not structurally able to cope with national economic differences and weaknesses - after all that's why the US became a federation not a confederation; and 2) the implementation of controversial harsh economic austerity terms on debtor countries which hasn't worked elsewhere and won't work here because they do not help get an economy back on its feet in terms of employment if nothing more. And armies of unemployed workers are a threat to national stability.
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Brian - as I understand it, the Greek government was not the only country to have "cheated on the numbers" early on. I tend to think that the test is as big, if not bigger, for the continued functioning of the EURO-zone as for Greece. By this I mean whether it is possible to have a single currency for a confederation of this size and complexity. After all we tried it and it failed. It took a federal system to make the US work. As far as cheating is concerned, Krugman argues persuasively that the Greek government did do about 93% of what the Troika demanded. Figures show that the budget was in surplus for the last two years and the economy was predicted to grow by about 2.5% in 2015(not going to happen now). But the biggest problems are extremely high unemployment - a by-product of austerity economic policies - and the fact that the banks had substantially raised the interest rates on outstanding loans essentially helping to kill the country's turn around. I'm not sure a number of countries qualify for EURO-zone membership and I don't think German behavior helps.
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The prospect of potential disarray in the wider EURO-zone and beyond is real – although we’re told this is far less likely than when the Greek economic crisis first emerged in 2009. But just from a political standpoint a fragmented Europe will have far less influence and power internationally than a cohesive one. Mr. Putin, who is doing his best to help bring about this weaker Europe for his own purposes has undoubtedly taken note. Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2015 at WhirledView
Thank you Father Mercado - you, of all people, should certainly know.
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Powell’s latest book Terrorists at the Table: Why Negotiating is The Only Way to Peace to be released in the US June 30, 2015, tells the Northern Ireland story from the position of one of the major negotiators. But he does much more. He uses it as a vehicle, an example of lessons learned (and too often forgotten), to argue that there are times when governments need to talk with an opposition that uses violence to fight for its goals because, he argues, violence is not an end in itself but a means to an end and that end is foremost political and access to the state’s scarce resources. Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2015 at WhirledView
Sorry, Bill. But it has. Read our history again - I believe it was started in South Carolina by former slaves - and also ask why we should be honoring the media (watch the PBS video)? I have great respect for war correspondents but I don't think the private sector should be so honored nationally when members of our own government are not. Also take a look at the civilian cemeteries on Memorial Day. I remember my grandmother paying special tribute to family members who had died - military service or not. And she wasn't and isn't the only American to do so.
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Why shouldn’t the American public be just as cognizant of the lives and stories of the sacrifices American diplomats made and continue to make for this country as they are of uniformed service members or, for that matter, the journalists who cover the conflicts? Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2015 at WhirledView
Sounds like a nightmare. You might want to call (not e-mail) call your US Congressperson's office and ask for help from the Constituency representative. The Congressional staffer can call the appropriate office at the State Department and ask for an update as to when you should expect your passports. You should let the Congressional staffer know what happened re photos, give the person the processing numbers from State and that you will be traveling in less than two weeks. There still should be time to get them - but I'd be very nervous too. Let us know. Good luck and safe journey.
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What ever happened to the professional American diplomat? Or can the world’s second oldest profession even still be considered a profession in these United States? Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2015 at WhirledView
Even during the darkest days of the Cold War, leaders of the US and the Soviet Union met to discuss areas of agreement and disagreement to keep international conflicts from escalating out of control. Such was Secretary John Kerry’s recent meeting with Vladimir Putin in Sochi – the intent of which, I think, was badly mischaracterized in Dale Herszenhorn’s report in the New York Times May 16, 2015. The headline of that article was “Kerry’s Visit Marks Diplomatic Victory, and Affirmation, for Putin.” Herszenhorn’s sources? Spokesmen – or quasi-spokesmen – for the Kremlin. Only many paragraphs down does he describe the reason for the visit from the US government perspective. . . Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2015 at WhirledView
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Yet before the fall of Saigon to Ho Chi Minh’s forces and the messy US evacuation from South Vietnam, came the US evacuation of its embassy in Cambodia, an event that has, for the most part, sunk into obscurity. In fact, the US government had already left Phnom Penh – evacuating its remaining embassy staff - and the killing fields of Cambodia 18 days before the Saigon departure began. Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2015 at WhirledView
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What makes the film Leviathan different from those of the Communist period – and even a powerful movie like “Burnt by the Sun” made in its aftermath – is its visual window dressing, not the underlying depiction of power and its excesses. That was always there. Yes, the characters dressed like they belonged to the 21st century and drove newly minted western vehicles. But the scenes could have been filmed years before – just substitute the Communist Party’s First Secretary for the Orthodox priest - and the result would have been the equivalent. Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2015 at WhirledView
As this story suggests it takes time, timing, research, political and public affairs skills to build a case and accomplish fundamental change. Even then, success is not always a foregone conclusion. In this case, however, getting the lead out of gasoline has made a difference. Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2015 at WhirledView
Through Nemtsov’s murder they have also just created a martyr - a potentially powerful symbol to rally the opposition. And yes, there still is an opposition. The several hundred thousand person march in Nemtsov’s honor that took place on Sunday in front of the Kremlin Walls that ended at the memorial on the bridge where Nemtsov was shot demonstrates as much. Could Putin and his acolytes have finally bitten off more than even they can chew? Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2015 at WhirledView
Dear F.C. The US government negotiated cultural agreements with the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries throughout the Cold War because we could not have operated cultural, educational and information programs in those countries without them. The chief US negotiators with the Soviets were USIA/CU officers at post and in Washington. IREX and Fulbright were represented as well. Yale Richmond was a major player in many of those negotiations. I was ACAO Exchanges in Moscow from 1978-80 and on the negotiating team for the renewal of the US-USSR Cultural Agreement. It was never signed because the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan intervened and the USG refused to conclude the negotiations as a result. The level of programming dropped dramatically although IREX and other exchanges continued at lower levels. The agreement was renewed in the mid-1980s then discontinued after the fall of the Soviet Union. A Fulbright agreement which established a joint Commission took over the Fulbright program. Looking at the situation now - I wonder if eliminating some sort of written agreement with the Russians wasn't a mistake. Anyway, take a look at the texts of a few of the agreements negotiated during the Cold War and you'll see that there are clauses re finances which tie neither side to fixed amounts. Also numbers and types of exchanges (the agreements encouraged the establishment of private university to university exchanges for instance as well as government funded ones) and defined who financed what and how exchangees should be treated. You should be able to get copies via FOIA or perhaps State's office of the historian. I found the agreement very useful when dealing with the Ministries of Higher Education and Education. Many countries negotiate Cultural Agreements for different reasons but the US is an outlier and I think often for spurious reasons (the most common is that an agreement ties us to a specific amount of funding - but in reality it doesn't need to.) Hope this helps.
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The Department of State's organizational structure has not kept pace with a rapidly changing world. Issues, inventions and circumstances in the 21st century – globalization, terrorism, information technology and cyber threats, climate change, energy security and more – require an institution that can respond rapidly to unanticipated challenges through innovative, pragmatic policies. These new policies must be firmly rooted in a well-organized, well-run and nimble administrative bureaucracy. Ending the parade of scandals of the last several years and providing the underpinnings for the conduct of an effective 21st century foreign policy can only be achieved with full-scale reform of the Department's management structure. Such reform is imperative – not only to comply with modern organizational practices and controls -- but for the success of America's foreign relations worldwide. Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2015 at WhirledView
What would it take to get people on board in Germany? Talks with coworkers the week since my return suggest that Syriza faces multiple challenges, not the least “Greek fatigue,” skepticism and cynicism, austerity fixation and cultural blinders. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at WhirledView
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As I read Peter Pomerantsev's recent book The Surreal Heart of the New Russia: Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: the Surreal Heart of the New Russia about his nine years as a producer of documentaries for Russian television after the end of the Cold War, I thought back on my own experiences in the country and wondered how much had actually changed. Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2015 at WhirledView
In October 1926 Philip Arnold Heseltine, composing under the nom de plume of Peter Warlock, wrote a set of six dances called "Capriol" based – likely loosely - on Renaissance dances from Thoinot Arbeau’s Orchesographie, a manual of Renaissance tunes also published the same year. Drawn to the study of Renaissance music himself as well as much drink and sex, Heseltine’s own life was certainly as bawdy and out of control as “Matachins” (The Sword Dance)” but perhaps also at times as soothing and smooth as “Pavane” and “Pieds en l’air.” Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2014 at WhirledView
By Patricia H Kushlis It’s been nearly four months since we asked the State Department to grant open and public access to its statistics - broken down by gender and race - regarding promotions in the Foreign Service in “What's... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2014 at WhirledView
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By Patricia H Kushlis CALAIS-ISTANBUL: All Aboard! I have long been an Agatha Christie fan, especially of her murder mysteries set in the Middle East. The Murder on the Orient Express, of course, is the classic - but rumors to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2014 at WhirledView
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It must be very difficult to be a Russian public diplomacy officer working for the Kremlin's master chef these days. No I don’t mean a propagandist or a disinformation specialist – those officials are clearly having a field day thinking up and then propagating all sorts of wild fabrications. But public diplomacy is about government officials connecting with the people of another country in order to gain influence or at least understanding. To do so effectively means gaining trust – and trust comes from truth telling, not lying. Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2014 at WhirledView