The Jackdaw Journal
A Publication of M2 Communications

jack-daw [JAK-dah], n. 1. a glossy, black, European bird, corvus monedula, of the crow family, that nests in towers, ruins, etc.; has a proclivity to collect bright objects that attract its attention; can include bits of ice, things round or square, twigs, filaments of light bulbs; specialist on the lookout of what fits the construction of its nest.

jackdaw journal [JAK-dah JERN-al], n. 1. a repository of bright objects — wit, wisdom and whimsey — collected and/or created by Michael McKinney.   2. a web log or blog


Politics Archives
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Think Empathy Before You Get on Your Soapbox

January 23, 2009

Eliot Cohen, who serves as a counselor to government – most recently the Department of State – writes that empathy, as opposed to sympathy, is an essential quality for a successful pundit. He advises:
Do not prescribe a policy that the current group of officials cannot hope to implement because of who they are. I have had highly intelligent individuals -- including some with senior government experience -- sit in my office and lay out perfectly plausible policies that the current team, limited by time remaining in office, the pressure of competing and more urgent crises, and the all important mix of personalities, could never hope to put into effect.

Moreover, core beliefs and style constrain policy makers profoundly. So don't ask them to do something outside their range of psychological possibility by, for example, proposing cold-eyed realpolitik to a band of idealists or vice versa. There are no platonic ideal-type policies, valid no matter who is in charge. What may make sense for one administration may make no sense for another, not because of the external environment, but because of who has to execute the policy and live with its consequences.

High-quality commentary reaches audiences (including those overseas) who may not affect daily policy making, but whose opinions matter in subtler and longer-term ways. Well done, it sharpens a larger discourse -- and besides, it's more therapeutic than shouting at your television set. A prudent commentator should be modest in his aspirations, conscious of his limitations, and sparing with his exhortations.

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The Obama Generation

January 22, 2009

Interesting post today by Jeremiah Owyang on the Obama Generation:

These juniors and seniors are about to enter the workforce, and they’ll have experienced this in a different way then any previous generation has. What’s so different? they’ll always have been in the workforce and known that:
  • Their President was always their Facebook friend.
  • Their President was always the top Twitter user as far as they can remember.
  • Their President has always addressed them on Saturday mornings on YouTube.
  • They’ll be connected to their friends to discuss topics and join causes in social networks.
  • The “Mall” won’t just be about shopping but also refer to the Washington Mall.
  • Blackberry’s are the new scepter of power, and a status symbol.
Read more on his blog.

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The Prophet Isaiah on Foreign Policy

April 10, 2007

From the The Review of Faith and International Affairs Winter 2006, I found an interesting perspective on foreign policy that is worth thinking about. It's from Scott M. Thomas, an economist at the University of Bath and author of The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations. He explores "Isaiah's vision of human security": "Isaiah's famous oracle (Isaiah 2:4-6) is embedded in a religious narrative that expresses Isaiah's theology of international relations. This theology shows how cultural and religious authenticity is related to peace, security, and economic development. Isaiah's narrative is about the decay of Israel's religious life, not the absence of a religious life as in a modern secular society. Isaiah is concerned about the decay, corruption, and distortion of genuine religion by a people who think they are being religious and fulfilling the demands of worship and Torah obedience (Isaiah 1:2-6; 2:6-22; 3:1--4:1; 5:1-7, 8-30). Yahweh's judgment of their disobedience through Isaiah's oracles focuses on the paradox of how an outwardly 'religious' nation in terms of ritual and public worship can be, from Yahweh's perspective, a godless nation. Dramatically, Isaiah asks, how can a people truly worship Yahweh when they have blood on their hands? They lack knowledge, discernment, or understanding of what is really going on in domestic and international politics because they are no longer trained by the Torah to interpret the world in this way (Isaiah 1:16; cf. 10:6; 29:13-14)."

For Thomas this then begs the question: "What is Judah or Israel (for)? This is the question underlying Isaiah's prophesying. By analogy today we might ask, what is the United States (for)? Or the European Union? Or any modern political entity that wields power? These are questions of identity and significance, and social constructivists have shown us that choices in foreign policy cannot be reduced to problems in quandary ethics. A state has to have a national self before it can have a national interest. What kind of polity does a people seek for itself in the world, and what kind of world does it seek for its polity? Questions of meaning, identity, and foreign policy are inextricably bound up.

"Isaiah's criticism of Judah's foreign policy occurs because its rulers have a narrow conception of national security that underplays the importance of cultural authenticity for genuine human development. They sell out their birthright and abandon their responsibility to promote shalom, settling for the immediate gratification of idolatry, political stability, and material prosperity. All this occurs in a society that while it claims to be living by the Torah and truly worshiping Yahweh, is really based on injustice and economic oppression. Does this sound familiar?"

“Isaiah’s Vision of Human Security.” is rumored to be published in Swords into Plowshares: The Prophet Isaiah and International Relations Theory edited by Raymond Westbrook and Raymond Cohn, in 2007 from Palgrave Macmillan.

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