Sunday, September 27, 2009

September 27

“Question: Why do WASPs not engage in more orgies? Answer: Too many thank-you notes to write.”

--Francine Du Plessix Gray, in her review of Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor by Tad Friend; image from article


Perhaps a record for the amount of misinformation packed into two sentences - Kim Andrew Elliott discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: "'The State Department has been reluctant to push for more funding for democracy promotion in Iran. Nor have the organs of U.S. public diplomacy, such as the Voice of America, made a concerted effort to encourage democratic change.'" Lawrence J. Haas, The North Star National, 25 September 2009. [Comment by Elliott:] The Voice of America and other elements are not 'organs of U.S. public diplomacy.'

And, as news organizations, they do not 'encourage democratic ch[a]nge.' Instead, they overcome the misinformation and disinformation from Iranian official domestic media, providing Iranians the information they need to form their own opinions about current events. This is an essential building block in the development of democracy. As for 'concerted effort,' VOA's Persian News Network has, with
the addition of a two-hour breakfast show, increased to seven hours per day of original television content, repeated over 24 hours. VOA PNN radio is five hours per day (5 1/2 according to this schedule). RFE/RL's Radio Farda is 24 hours a day. Also, the official US public-diplomacy product is available at Can't get much more 'concerted' than that." Image from

Foreign languages more foreign to US students - Associated Press, Canton Repository: "American companies lose an estimated $2 billion each year because of employees’ inadequate language skills and poor cultural competence, according to the Committee for Economic Development in Washington, D.C. 'It’s always been a good thing to know more about the world and to speak another language, but now it’s become an issue of our economic security, our national security and our public diplomacy,' says committee President Charles Kolb. 'Speaking a second language gives our young people an edge in terms of the competition we’re facing around the globe. Believe me, you win kudos if you’re negotiating in another country and you’re fluent in that language.'”

The Return of Victor Ashe - Roane County Democratic Party: "Victor Ashe, who served 16 years as mayor of Knoxville, ended a stint of more than five years as ambassador to Poland on Friday and is returning to his home town. …

[Ashe:] My time as Mayor gave me a good foundation and framework to understand the politics, public diplomacy, personal relationships, public relations and the need to reach out to all segments of the Polish society I encountered while Ambassador." Ashe image from

Play Fair - James Hayes-Bohanan, Environmental Geography: "Coffee is not the only industry that treats its producers unfairly. Dean Cycon is supporting fair trade in manufacturing -- something that the world could use much more of. By supporting a fair-trade factory in Pakistan, Dean is also doing a critical bit of public diplomacy. The more good will that is spread in this critical part of the world, the better."

What a long, strange week it's been

– Paul Rockower, Levantine: Numerous references to Rockower's public-diplomacy related academic pursuits. Image from

The British press' Obama complex - Kenneth P. Vogel, NBC Miami: "Stories about the special [U.S./UK] relationship … have been a staple of British media since the Cold War and have shaped the way Brits see the world, said Nicholas Cull, a U.K. native who directs the masters program in public diplomacy at the University of Southern California. 'British people come here and they’re surprised that America has special relationships with a lot of countries,' he said. 'It’s rather like finding out that you’re father is a bigamist. I found it to be a very strange experience to find that the story that I’d heard growing up wasn’t necessarily so.'”

China according to The Global Times - Madhurjya Kotoky, The Public Diplomacy Blog: "I read the Global Times fairly regularly. I find it an interesting public diplomacy initiative of the Chinese. The Global Times,

the Chinese say, is an attempt to promote an 'accurate' image of China abroad since international reporting, especially the Western media, on China is often flawed, lacking in understanding of China and the Chinese culture. Almost Al-Jazeera like, its an attempt to get a share of voice in a world dominated by Western media conglomerates and present the Chinese viewpoint on important developments. Intended for an international audience/readership, the Global Times also tries to allay fears of a resurgent China threatening to disturb the present international order." Image from

Public diplomacy and social media – the dissertation - abeccacaddy, little online pick 'n' mix: "Basically my dissertation aimed to analyse Israeli use of social media after Operation Cast Lead – the Israeli military operation at the end of 2008. I began by looking at a broad spectrum, but narrowed the research down to the efforts of the Israel Consulate in New York – who generated a lot of on and offline buzz by holding a ‘citizen’s press conference’ on Twitter. I focused on the @IsraelConsulate Twitter account, blog and Israel Politik blog. I found that the Israel Consulate’s use of social media was a bold, brave step in the right direction, utilising some vital conventions and paving the way for public diplomacy in this relatively new space. However, some of the blogs simply acted as news feeds, pulling in biased information from different sources with little consideration of feedback and engagement. The ‘citizen’s press conference’ seemed impressive, with a lot of direct engagement between the consulate and Twitter users across the globe. However, elements of the event showed how inadequate Twitter can be to communicate in this manner with sensitive and often confusing information."


Cuba's Mega–Rock Concert: A Win-Win for Juanes - Tim Padgett, Time: "President Obama has pledged to thaw U.S.-Cuba affairs as a way to promote democracy on the island. Though he favors keeping intact the 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, he eliminated restrictions on travel to Cuba for Cuban-American families, and his Administration is now in talks with Havana about improving immigration and postal service between the two countries. Erikson says the concert by Juanes, who lives in Miami,

was a reminder of the 'soft power tool kit' the U.S. should wield more often. 'Obama needs to bring more of that kind of cultural diplomacy back into the arena,' he says, 'but so far it's taking a backseat.' Obama, however, seems less than impressed with such arguments. Sunday morning, in an interview with the Spanish-language television network Univisión, he said that while he didn't think events like the Juanes concert hurt U.S.-Cuba relations, 'I wouldn't overstate the degree that it helps.' If that indifference seems to contradict the spirit of U.S.-Cuba engagement that Obama expressed in his presidential campaign and at the Summit of the Americas earlier this year, it may be because he's found that conservatives can still give him headaches over Cuba and the Latin-American left." See also. Image (from article) Singer Juanes of Colombia performs during the concert for Peace Without Borders, featuring some 15 Latin-American, Spanish and Cuban performers, at the Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, on Sept. 20, 2009

How Helpful Is Cultural Diplomacy? – Michael Kaiser, Huffington Post: "[W]hile some American embassies abroad have been active in bringing American artists and arts groups to 'their' countries in recent years, this is still a very minor activity of the Department of State. But does traditional cultural diplomacy work? Do we need state-supported tours by American performing arts groups when without federal funding so many of our performers and performing arts groups are appearing all over the world [?] … My response, not popular with my peers running arts organizations across the United States, is no. …

But that does not mean that cultural diplomacy should be discarded. … Given our reliance on private funding, Americans have a great deal to teach abroad. We can teach how we build sponsorship by corporations and especially individuals. We can teach how we use marketing to expand the reach of our arts organizations. We can teach the importance of long-term program planning for building new sources of support. I have been pursuing this form of cultural diplomacy for six years, and have now taught arts managers in 60 countries. … While the Kennedy Center's international work is privately funded, maybe the State Department could support a program that allows other American arts organizations to teach abroad. (The money saved could be given to arts organizations to invest in programming, marketing and touring.)" Image from

David Pogue on Twitter as a tool of cultural diplomacy - Gina Chen, Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard: "Can Twitter be a tool of cultural diplomacy? That was the heady topic David Pogue, New York Times technology columnist and CBS News tech correspondent, addressed Monday during a symposium at Syracuse University. He was part of a panel trying to figure out how to transcend conflict through culture.

Now, the way I understood it, cultural diplomacy is just a million-dollar term for a rather simple concept: Sharing culture through the arts, music, etc., as a means to help all of us who live on this earth get along. Pogue explained that Twitter could be part of this because it has the potential to cut out the traditional separations between groups of people. … Panelist Marjane Satrapi, author and illustrator of the Persepolis graphic novels, urged that Twitter is 'too fast and furious' to do the slow work of cultural diplomacy. But I agree with what Pogue was saying." Pogue image from article.

Women's rights prove to be progressive everywhere - Krystie Yandoli, The Daily Orange: "[Marjane] Satrapi is the author of the famous, autobiographical graphic novel series, 'Persepolis.' It is the story of a young female growing up in Iran during the 1979 Iranian Revolution and Iran-Iraq war. The main character, Marji, takes us through her daily life with illustrations that are often more powerful than the actual words on the page. Satrapi came and spoke as part of a panel at the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in as a part of The Cultural Diplomacy Symposium, specifically on the United Nations' International Day of Peace yesterday."

MetroStar Systems Announces the X-Life Games "Who Am I?" Poetry ContestNews Blaze: "MetroStar Systems, a leader in full-service IT solutions and Social Media strategies, has announced a Poetry Contest dubbed, 'Who Am I?' in support of their already popular and renowned X-Life Games project. The contest, which started September 14 and ends October 20, will be orchestrated through the existing X-Life Games Facebook Fan Page. The concept of cultural diplomacy is a key initiative of the X-Life Games mission.

The contest encourages participants to be creative and express themselves by composing and submitting a poem that describes 'who they are' while sharing ideas of tolerance and respect for other cultures, societies, and environments around the world." Image from

The Embassy: A Multi-Disciplinary Group Show will be Held during Frieze Art Fair - "LONDON.- The Embassy is a multi-disciplinary group show being held during Frieze Art Fair. A parody of outmoded cultural diplomacy, The Embassy is that of an anonymous country, a dystopia whose tyrannical government has tested the patience of its people and brought them to tipping point. Less than 100 metres from Regents Park, the BBC headquarters and opposite the Chinese Embassy, The Embassy will take place at the former residence of the Sierra Leonean ambassador to Britain, 33 Portland Place. As the Internet allows the art, culture and news reportage of countries to become ever more accessible to each other, what were once bastions of this exchange – the embassies of countries wishing to create a dialogue with their host nation – now retreat behind metres of concrete, becoming fortresses of espionage. Globalisation has rendered the sometime patronising kind of cultural exchange once conducted by embassies dated. Yet, occupying a privileged position apart from their host nation – indeed, retaining their sovereignty in a foreign land – these buildings and their interiors provide a revealing glimpse of how a country chooses to represent itself abroad. The Embassy tells the story of a deposed diplomat representing a government that has just been overthrown at home. A pastiche of the manner in which embassies promote their country’s culture abroad and set across the two floors of 33 Portland Place, works from over 15 artists will speak of themes relevant to the mismanagement of a country – greed, egotism, repression, theocracy, malnutrition, gluttony, tyranny, currency, geography and sex – because the dictator always gets the best lines. … A mixture of painting, sculpture and installation, works featured in The Embassy include a national anthem by the pianist Rosie Chan, a presidential palace built from mud by Alastair Mackie,

an emblem by Tom Gallant and straitjackets made from reconfigured military uniforms by Michael Lisle-Taylor. Image (from article): Alastair, Mackie Mud-hut."

Let's Beat the Extremists Like We Beat the Soviets - Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Post: "During the Cold War, containment did not preclude engagement, and it shouldn't today. To the extent that the United States can encourage liberalizing tendencies in the Islamic world, it should do so -- albeit with modest expectations. Sending jazz musicians deep into the Eastern Bloc in the old days was commendable, but Louis Armstrong's trumpet didn't topple the Soviet empire."


Brand Ghana CEO to speak at Branding Africa Masterclass - - Mathias Akotia, announced as the CEO of the newly formed Brand Ghana office, will provide the opening keynote presentation at the Nation Branding Africa Masterclass event in Ghana next week.

The Brand Ghana office was launched on 16 September 2009 by the President of Ghana, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, to build a “compelling image for Ghana”. Akotia has stressed that, whilst appointed by the Government, his vision is to evolve Brand Ghana as a non-partisan, non-political entity owned by Ghanaians. The Nation Branding Africa Masterclass will be led by Simon Anholt, a leading expert on managing and measuring national identity and reputation. Via. Image from

McChrystal Says Insurgents Are Winning Communications Battle - Walter Pincus, Washington Post: The United States and its allies in Afghanistan must "wrest the information initiative" from the Taliban and other insurgent groups that have undermined the credibility of the Kabul government and its international backers, according to the top U.S. and NATO commander in the country. "The information domain is a battlespace," Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal wrote in an assessment made public on Monday, adding that the allies need to "take aggressive actions to win the important battle of perception." As an initial step, McChrystal wants to change the goal of public relations efforts in Afghanistan from a "struggle for the 'hearts and minds' of the Afghan population to one of giving them 'trust and confidence' " in themselves and their government. At the same time, he said, more effort should be made to "discredit and diminish insurgents and their extremist allies' capability to influence attitudes and behavior in Afghanistan." Below image from

Go All-In, Or Fold: In Afghanistan, Splitting the Difference May Be Obama's Most Dangerous Choice - Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post: All the options Obama faces in Afghanistan are unpalatable. The idea of sending thousands more troops will be a tough sell to Congress. Pulling back to a far more narrow mission could open Obama to charges of flip-flopping -- he told veterans as recently as last month that the conflict in Afghanistan is a "war of necessity" that is fundamental to American security.

Obama's choice in Afghanistan: With support for the war slipping, the president must decide whether a counterinsurgency strategy involving more troops is the way to win - Doyle McManus, Obama may well give the generals the 12 to 18 months they've asked for to give counterinsurgency a try. That's probably the right answer, but he should do so only if Afghanistan has a working government first.

Obama at the Precipice - Frank Rich, New York Times: How can American forces protect the population, let alone help build a functioning nation, in a tribal narco-state consisting of some 40,000 mostly rural villages over an area larger than California and New York combined? Even if we routed the Taliban in another decade or two, after countless casualties and billions of dollars, how would that stop Al Qaeda from coalescing in Somalia or some other criminal host state?

Obama's A-Team:

Remarkable Cohesion on National Security
- David S. Broder, Washington Post: Official Washington is starting to realize that in addition to his personal skills, Obama has assembled a highly professional and effective national security team that serves him and the nation very well. … What got me thinking about the skill with which this team has functioned was the Sept. 17 announcement that the United States was abandoning its plans for anti-missile installations in Poland and the Czech Republic and, instead of targeting long-range Iranian missiles, would use seaborne weapons to combat Iran's short-range missiles. A-Team image by djhomicide from

Beware of Iranians Bearing Talks - Ray Takeyh, Washington Post: Ahmadinejad should not be afforded the luxury of international forums and dialogue with the great powers without being held accountable for his country's flawed electoral processes and its entanglements in terrorism, as well as its nuclear violations.

Nuclear Pushback - Jim Hoagland, Washington Post: The Obama White House has made the president's personal popularity and the need to change America's image the driving forces of its foreign policy. It needs to show some substantive results for that effort. Otherwise more Americans will join foreign analysts in asking the question that politicians and PR practitioners most fear: "Where's the beef?"

Image from

Obama's nuclear-free fantasy: Mr. Obama Punts . . .. . . And the left cheers as the president embraces what it once decried as a lawless detention scheme – Editorial, Washington Post: The Obama administration announced last week that it did not need and would not seek new legislation to govern indefinite detention of some terrorism suspects at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In so doing, the administration has chosen the politically expedient and intellectually dishonest route.

Strategic realities trump feel-good slogans – Editorial, Washington Times: If nuclear arms are outlawed, only outlaws will have nuclear arms.

Combative cartoons: Samples from the forthcoming book "Dr. Seuss & Co. Go to War" - Andre Schiffrin, Los Angeles Times: The forthcoming "Dr. Seuss & Co. Go to War" offers the work of many others who became famous in the New Yorker magazine and elsewhere.

Along with columnists such as I.F. Stone and Max Lerner, they pointedly showed the concerns of the American left before and during the war. The biggest surprise in the new compilation is the nearly 50 cartoons by artist Saul Steinberg -- he of the famous cover for the New Yorker showing the rest of the United States seen from Manhattan. Steinberg had been drafted into the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's predecessor. His talents were soon recognized, and he was asked to draw cartoons for the newspaper that the OSS sent into Germany. Making fun of Hitler was unthinkable and highly dangerous in Nazi Germany. Steinberg's cartoons, published in the new book -- amazingly for the first time in the United States -- show his brilliant satire and political insights.

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