Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

Other countries and America      It wasn’t until I was a pre-teen that I understood what it was to be a proud American. All those times before than, when I held my hand above my heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance it didn’t quite sink in. Not until I started the learn and care about the history of this country and even African-Americans who were enslaved, tortured and mentally subjugated had a large part in the formation of this country. In the land of the milk and honey I also wondered how other countries viewed Americans and what influence this has on our relationships with them. Below I got research from different points of views from “spokesman” who have the inside track of how our allies and enemies view us aboard.

Asia– I found an article in the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs by Kishore Mahbubani explains that the numbers of Asian students attending American universities rose from 70,000 to 160,000 and the numbers keep going up. He even goes on to say his son and daughter went to Yale to study during their college years. He then adds that Asians love the American spirit of enterprise. Mahbubani goes onto say that America is the only country where success stories like Google, Facebook and Microsoft can emerge out of nowhere. They admire the capacity for Americans to create great enterprises and why it’s such a mystery as to why no other country has achieved anything like it.

Mahbubani also points out that America is a place where you can come as a foreigner study hard and become a CEO of a major company. Indra Nooyi who was a MBA student is now the CEO of PepsiCo, Vikram Pandit who heads Citibank and Muhtar Kent who is the CEO of Coca-Cola. He goes on to say, “I want to try it in America”. This is the part that won’t be so flattering for Americans to hear, but need to if we are truly concerned for foreign affairs.

One thing that changed in the eyes of Asians is our moral compass and the use of torture. Mahbubani states “Chinese intellectuals said to me in privatein the past, even when the Chinese used to disagree with America publicly, they would say, “I have to disagree publicly, but in my heart, I agree. You are right. We are not as good as you are.” But after you brought in Guantanamo and torture, they said, “Excuse me, we are no different now. Don’t lecture us anymore.”

Another negative area is the American antipathy toward the Islamic World. He mentions the film that made negative headlines on Youtube that led to demonstrations. He adds the importance of changing the minds of the Muslim world and working hard to change the perception of how to coexist. Kishore’s next point is the ignorance of the impact of American power. He makes the example of taking corn subsidies and turning them into ethanol can lead to hunger in other parts of the world. Another example he used is quantitative easing and pumping it into the money supply leads to inflation in the rest of the world. Mahbubani adds that most Americans aren’t aware the actions they make domestically affect the world globally.

One positive thing he mentions is that American philanthropists like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett agreeing to give away most of their money in their lifetime is an amazement. One that David Rubenstein in Singapore tried to unsuccessfully replicate this by attempting to persuade Asian philanthropists of the same “Giving Pledge” that their American counterparts did. It didn’t work out so well. One such negative example is the use of money in politics. In a democracy each individuals vote should and does count equally, but the issue is when the process of democracy becomes distorted when large sums of money come into the circle.

One major issue in the eyes of Asia is America adhering to International Laws. His claims that the US refused to accept International Court of Justice judgments, or refuses to ratify International Criminal Court, or Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Law of the Sea treaty. Another thing, according to Purchasing Power Parity term China’s GNP within ten years will become bigger than America. In China there is a deep suspicion that America wants China from succeeding even though China as a whole wants American to remain a superpower.

Middle East– It wasn’t after 9/11 that I began to know about the Middle East and the Muslim world and what terrorism meant. The ties with America and the Middle East goes far before that though. The US has failed in attempt after attempt to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict. When Israel gained a victory over the Muslims back in 1967 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger decided that Israel was the bigger power and he wanted to maintain that by giving the Palestinians money and guns to keep the Arabs and Russians out. This helped the momentum ultimately leading to the October War in 1973. Kissinger’s plan was to exclude the Palestinians from the post war settlement and the Egyptians from the Arab military line up. This move eventually led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979.

For the next 30 years Israel’s supremacy showed the power of Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians. Israel invaded Lebanon and killing 17,000 people in the process in 1982. Israel seized Beirut and started a massacre of right-wing Christians that left 800 Palestinians dead the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. For the next 18 years they remained in control in South Lebanon until Hizballah Guerrillas drove them out. The US called the guerrillas “terrorists” which did not sit well with the them. In the Middle East Palestine was only one reason for the cause of 9/11, the other was when the US removed the Iraqi’s from Kuwait back in 1991 and then back that with crippling sanctions said to cause the death of over a million Iraqi babies.

Yet another piece was when tens of thousands of Arab fighters who were trained by the US and given weapons to fight the Russian threat in Afghanistan. Once the Russian withdrew their military arm in 1989 so did the US with the mujaheddin . Large numbers of the Afghan Arabs were left angry, military trained and dangerous to roam in their home countries or even join Al-Qaida. George Bush’s “War on Terror” certainly did help any foreign repair when the US went into war with Afghanistan, a war that is still going on today over twelve years later. The US then decides to go after Iraq in which the neo-cons wanted anyway after the Iran Iraq war. An estimated 1.4 million Iraq’s died and 4,500 US soldiers died as well.

Even today as President Obama authorized  drone attacks against Afghanstan, Yemen, Pakistan and other Islamic militant group locations. The problems happen when the US is acting in the better interest of Israel through sanctions, wars and demonizing tactics.

Africa– For many in Africa the US represents a beacon of racial harmony. South Africa and the US both share a dark racial past between slavery and the apartheid regime. When the election and re-election of Barack Obama embraced the US it renewed faith in Africans that the US has better race relations then they did previously. It’s the African and African-American relationship that can get dicey at times. Even though African-Americans ancestry is largely in Africa there seems to be still a lot of ignorance and hatred toward Africans and the homeland. This bond was between the two cultures and people was broken and never healed properly.

One would think this would be the easiest bond to mend since we share past, present and future, but more often than not you can hear a black woman or man making descent and even execrable remarks about lions walking around villages. People imitating an African dialect with a series of mouth made clicks and clack sounds that are horribly misrepresentative of a beautiful and robust set of different languages that has dates back more than 100,000 years, which most scholars agree on.

Msia Kibona Clark, a visiting assistant professor at Howard University’s African Studies department said in a student newsletter that, generally, African-American students think “Africans are backwards … and that all Africans are poor”. Some students, she says, “question the presence of big cities [in African nations]. They think that all Africans come from a village.” Many African American still believe Africa is a place for famine, poverty, HIV, corruption and civil war. On the other end of the road the common misconception about African-Americans is that they have a “chip on their shoulder” and are not interested in becoming educated.

This is a problem that NEEDS TO BE FIXED since the numbers of Africans coming to America are only increasing from 110,000 between 1961 to 1980 to 530,000 from 1980 t 2000. The faces that reflect African-Americans are changing and the times and sensitivity to them need to aggrandize with the times were are in.

European– When you talk about what Europeans think about US culture. Europeans think that American politics are extremely negative and they are not favorable of American cuisine, but do favor TV and films as exports. A market research firm hired by the Wall Street Journal polled more than 18,000 people in 18 different countries in Europe. They found that France in particular did not like the Bush presidency and that the French more than any other country did not American Food. With the election of Obama the views of American politics has changed for a more positive position.

In Italy 39% had the citizens had a positive impression as opposed to the 25%  who had a negative impression. The U.K. (38% to 31%), Poland (32% to 24%), Bulgaria (29% to 25%) and Romania (29% to 26%) also logged more positive than negative responses.Luigi Mattirolo, an Italian civil servant in Rome says The American “way of thinking makes it possible for the people who really believe in something to achieve their goals. At least [in the U.S.] it happens more frequently than in Europe.”  Greece however has more negative views of American culture with 58% having a negative impression. Russia follows them with 45% and Hungary with 40% with negative impressions.

When it breaks down by category 30% of those surveyed believe that movies and tv shows were the best thing about American culture, then sports with 12% of those surveyed and music with 11%. On the other hand though 21% of those surveyed said “I don’t know” or “nothing” when asked what is the American contribution to world culture. Among the worst contributions is food from American culture with 66% of French respondents, 56% of Swiss respondents and 52% of German respondents. When the European countries were asked how America was looked at in regards to politics most of the countries had mostly negative responses, but Romania, Bulgaria and Poland were the only countries with the least negative responses. Romania views America as the land of hope and light especially after the oppression Romania faced from Russia.

Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria and Russia all have more positive than negative views of America since President Obama began his term when they were questioned about political influence.

Latin America– According to the Pew Research Center’s “Global Attitudes Project a large portion of Latin countries has a positive view of the US. El Salvador had the highest favorability with 79% with Brazil right behind with 73%, Chile 68%, Mexico with 66%, Bolivia 53%, Venezeula 41% and Argentina with 40%. Currently 1 in 5 people from El Salvador lives in the United States and uses the US dollar as their currency. It seems in countries where US intervention has been the most frequent and dramatic also seems to be the same countries where US is in high favor(El Salvador,Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama).

Bolivia, Argentina and Venezuela are a few of the countries who have less than favorable attitudes toward the US. 73% of Argentines thinks that the US ignores their interests. This number coincides with the 41% favorability with the US. Chile is in a odds place though on both sides of the spectrum saying Chile feels positively about the United States, even though they also feels the US ignores its interest. Here is a list of the countries who thinks the US is not favorable and thinks  the US ignores its interests: Argentina 73%, Chile 61%, Bolivia 59%, Mexico 45%, Venezuela 42%, Brazil 38% and El Salvador.

I wrote this blog because our perception in the world does matter. We want to and need to become a country that is more compassionate and sympathetic.


I got such a great response from my last blog about cheating and the increasing percent of women cheaters, I thought to myself I want to continue this discussion.It turns out that there are actually websites devised with the sole interest of meeting, hooking up and covering up individuals who are looking for an affair or a fling outside their current relationship. I wanted to know more about this industry and exactly how their business works.

Ashley Madison a site that has expanded its brand of discretionary avocations across the globe. While the site has 70% male visitors the rate of women is increasing according to CEO Noel Biderman. In an article of GQ a few women are interviewed to understand why they are looking outside their marriages or relationships to find something new and in particular why are they using Ashley Madison to do it. They are called “Lady Don Drapers” in the article. The first woman Megan who has worked for one the highest political figures this generation admits to having an affair with not one, but two men per year and some women here and there. Megan refers to herself as “I’m a dirty old man in a woman’s body.” Her preference is young men in particularly “eye candy”. Megan calls her husband “super-vanilla” and says they have a happy household and he’s great with the kids. So what am I missing here?

Another woman Gloria praises Ashley Madison for finding her way to publishers of magazines, CEO’s, politicians, and managing partners at law firms and investment firms. Gloria says love still holds the marriage together, even though she admits that she doesn’t believe one person will fulfill her needs. She says even if she divorced her husband and married someone else it would only be a matter of time before she would lose interest physically. Gloria admits that she loves her husband, but she not willing to give up her strong sexual urges.

The company is getting some unexpected,but equally welcomed business from recent political scandals. Noel Biderman notes that says the once largely taboo topic is making more and more headway into the mainstream. “Tide is starting to turn” notes Biderman. “As the Spitzers and Weiners come back onto the stage,” so he hopes investors from “Wall Street and Canada’s Bay Street will look at this business as something they want to fund.” Biderman shares with Bloomberg magazine that his family and friends funded the website initially and within six months he was able to return the investment of 1 million dollars.

Ashley Madison is now the third largest paid dating site in the world with members in over 26 countries and 90 million dollars in revenue for 2012. With over 20 million members the company is setting it’s eyes on infidelity in Asia. In June the marketed in Japan and were able to snag over half a million people in just three months. “It was our most successful launch ever,” says the CEO. They since launched in Hong Kong its 29th market which has 80,000 members. “There is an unfaithful, sexual revolution,”…….Usually Asian culture is seen as being more conservative, but Biderman uses the argument that infidelity is in our DNA.

Biderman defends the website, making the point that he doesn’t force people to cheat. He provides the platform for those individuals who have already made up their minds to step out on their spouse. Out of the 160,000 women on the Japanese site 68% of them are married women. A lot of them are the ones who stay at home while their husbands go to brothels and massage parlors which are legal in Japan. Biderman has noticed that the percentages of unfaithful women does vary region to region. Typically Latin American women have lower female adultery rates when compared to North American and European women.

18% of single men signed onto the Hong Kong website where generally only 9 – 11% would sign up. The company expects to expand to 10 – 11 more markets in Asia before 2014. With no marketing Ashley Madison had over 325,000 trying to sign on in mainland China. While the company has had a fair amount of advertisements on radio, tv and social media. Some stations are not willing to partner with the company still. Facebook refuses to air any ads from the company and Fox and NBC wouldn’t air any commercials during the superbowl for the company. Biderman is still optimistic for the company’s future. Biderman believes infidelity can save marriages, Dr Sandy a lecturer at the department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong says that infidelity may not destruct a marriage depending on the couples outlook on the institution of marriage.

Considering that there are couples who cannot find there sexually or emotionally significant other within the structure of their marriage they may find comfort and satisfaction with someone else. Dr Sandy makes the point, that when couples can’t agree and have deceived the other party in the relationship that is when the problems occur. Another opinion shows the popularity of the company and the website a sign of the times. The sign that people are becoming more self-centered individualistic and less likely to sacrifice for marriage and family when it comes to self-fulfillment. Biderman sees himself side by side with other industries that profit off of infidelity like hotels, jewelry stores, pornography, strip clubs, and massage parlors.

What do you think? Is he just filling a void with his company? or is Ashley Madison becoming more of an enticement to make it easier for those to cheat?  Let me know what you think?