Monday, December 26, 2011

December 26

"[D]efinitions are often false friends."

--Mary Beard, "Do the Classics Have a Future?," New York Review of Books; image from


The Government's Single Biggest Boondoggle? - John Layfield, "I’m on a five-year personal quest to climb Mt. Everest, but a bigger quest I have undertaken is the attempt to find the biggest government boondoggle and waste -- and to offer solutions. I have a leading candidate in the Office of Cuban Broadcasting (OCB), Radio and TV Marti. … The OCB was first developed in 1983 by Ronald Reagan to broadcast Spanish-speaking programs into Cuba to fight communism. Radio Marti (named after Cuban writer Jose Marti) launched on May 20, 1985, and TV Marti launched in 1990. The current budget of Office of Cuba Broadcasting is $60.6 million ($54.2 million public cost and $6.4 million intra-government cost) as part of a larger strategy of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) budget of $798.3 million. However, while BBG has detailed reports of listeners for its other programming, there is none for OCB. In detailed analysis of all departments of BBG, one theme is common: after OCB 'n/a' follows, the only program in the BBG to have that distinction. Voice of America, the largest portion of BBG, has a budget of $362.6 million and reaches 141.1 million people in places like Afghanistan, Georgia, Africa, China and the Middle East. VOA promotes independent news in places with targeted efforts in authoritarian and closed places. The success of the BBG is in debate. The Government Accountability Office questioned whether the structure of the BBG was effective way back in 2004, and Senator Tom Colburn took it one step further in 2010, stating, ‘The BBG is the most worthless organization in the federal government. It's full of people who know nothing about media or foreign policy.’

The BBG defends itself with facts from the Arab Spring followup survey pointing out that 25% more people in Cairo and Alexandria got their news from Alhurra and Radio Sawa (divisions of BBG) than from CNN and the BBC, and the audience doubled during that time to 8 million in the Middle East. Also, BBG points out the life-saving tips given during humanitarian disasters to hundreds of thousands of people. However, no dispute is made about OCB-Radio and TV Marti. TV Marti is effectively blocked throughout Cuba -- a survey done by International Broadcasting Bureau showed less than 2% of Cubans listen to Radio and TV Marti and only a third of 1% in another survey watch TV Marti. Both radio and TV are blocked in Havana and in most of Cuba. In fact, the scrambling of TV Marti is well known, but the extent is not; we are spending millions to send a TV signal into a place that perhaps no one, or virtually no one, even receives, much less watches." Image from

Minister: Arabs are 'a Lowly Nation': Minister Yuli Edelstein says as long as Arabs invest in terror, there will be no peace - Gil Ronen, "Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein

described Arabs in harsh terms Sunday. 'As long as the Arab ummah (nation) continues to be a lowly nation that continues to invest in terror infrastructures, in education to hatred and in the welfare of the families of shaheeds,' he said, 'there will be no peace!' He was speaking at a public diplomacy conference in Or Yehuda. While Arabs and other Muslim officials routinely use derogatory terms to describe all Jews, generalizations like Edelstein's are very rare among Israeli officials." Edelstein image from article

Deutsche Welle: Negotiations with Politics - "Deutsche Welle (aka Voice of Germany) is a public broadcasting corporation, or, more specifically in German, a public broadcasting institution in accordance with federal law. Most domestic publicly-owned broadcasters, with a few exceptions, are governed by interstate law – which isn’t federal law but a treaty collectively entered by the states. In Die Deutsche Welle im Rahmen von Public Diplomacy (Deutsche Welle in the Framework of Public Diplomacy)1), Christian Michalek, in 2008 and 2009, tried to assess journalists’ self-image (or self-concept) on the one hand, and the Welle’s political mandate (politischer Auftrag) on the other. ... While Michalek interprets assertions by the foreign office‘s officers and/or the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media’s representative as an expectation that Deutsche Welle should convey German perceptions (Deutschland und dessen Sichtweisen), Deutsche Welle representatives he also interviewed maintained that a journalist’s primary task should be to transmit news, and that a task of generating interest in, appreciation of, or understanding of Germany – as well as presenting the Federal Republic as a role model (Vorbild) – should

only come second. ... Michalek points out that the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media – not the foreign office – is exercising control of legality over Deutsche Welle. This arrangement puts some distance between the Welle and the foreign office (the latter of which, after all, is likely to be the one within government to take the greatest interest in the station as a tool for public diplomacy). That said, Michalek also refers to non-binding, formal and informal intercommunication ('unverbindliche, formelle und informelle Austauschprozesse') between Deutsche Welle and the political arena, particularly the foreign office, which were hoped to serve a congruent international German appearance." Image from

Uzbekistan, Tajikistan discuss value of public diplomacy: Cultural ties help improve relations between Central Asian neighbours - Dilafruz Nabiyeva and Shakar Saadi, "Talk of public diplomacy has increased in Tashkent and Dushanbe recently, as citizens consider ways to improve their countries’ relations. Each country has a sizable diaspora from its neighbour – Tajikistan’s population is 15% Uzbek, while Uzbekistan’s is 5% Tajik – and shared cultural values. Those factors indicate that public diplomacy, an approach used frequently in Central Asia, could lead to significant progress in bilateral ties, observers say. ... The two countries share many links in their long-standing relationship. 'In addition to political co-operation, our country is co-operating with Tajikistan on cultural issues, in accordance with an inter-state agreement ... signed January 4, 1993,' said Mamazair Huzhamberdiyev, chairman of the Uzbek Senate Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Sports. The countries signed an agreement of eternal friendship, and inter-governmental agreements on co-operation in education, culture and humanitarian issues, he said. ... 'These days, public diplomacy should effectively represent the will of civil society and be an equal partner to the state in developing international communication and co-operation,' Linura Yuldasheva, an Uzbek political analyst, said. 'Today there are no nonstop flights between our countries, but for public diplomacy there is no iron curtain or shortage of communication channels,' she said. 'Public diplomacy feeds off higher values that are intrinsic in man: the desire to live in peace and safety, be on good terms with other peoples and the striving for justice and self-empowerment.'”

Image from article, with caption: Tajik citizens cross into Uzbekistan at the Patar checkpoint in August. Uzbeks and Tajiks say they want peace between the two countries.

PD, IO and SC Resources - To Inform is to Influence: "My thanks to Ambassador Brian Carlson

for compiling and sharing [a] list of Public Diplomacy, Information Operations and Strategic ... Communications resources." [Blog contains list.] Carlson image from article


U.S. Prepares for a Curtailed Relationship With Pakistan - Eric Schmitt, New York Times: With the United States facing the reality that its broad security partnership with Pakistan is over, American officials are seeking to salvage a more limited counterterrorism alliance that they acknowledge will complicate their ability to launch attacks against extremists and move supplies into Afghanistan. The United States will be forced to restrict drone strikes, limit the number of its spies and soldiers on the ground and spend more to transport supplies through Pakistan to allied troops in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials said. United States aid to Pakistan will also be reduced sharply, they said. In one of the most visible signs of rising anti-American sentiment in this country, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Lahore and Peshawar this month. And on Sunday in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, at least 100,000 people rallied to support Imran Khan, a cricket celebrity and rising opposition politician who is outspoken in his criticism of the drone strikes and ties with the United States.

Taliban on Twitter: How congressional attempts to block them is asinine on 2 levels - JD Rucker, Attempts to block users who have an opinion that differs from the US government is a dangerous direction to head. When does it stop? Where is the line drawn? Offensive content is subjective but much easier to judge. Offensive accounts pushes the boundaries towards blanket

censorship. The potential for using Twitter to gather intelligence is clear and indisputable. Rather than trying to stifle the Taliban and other organizations from using Twitter, they [JB: not clear who they is] should be embracing it, collecting it, and using it to plant false intelligence as well as learning more about counterintelligence. It would not be very hard or expensive to track the activities, gather photos, and find the locations of supporters of these organizations. Image from article

Congress Wants To Ban The Taliban From Twitter - Jonathan Moormann, The last thing we need to do is set an additional precent [sic] that people saying objectionable things online should be silenced by the government.

Candidates for Worst Political PR… - Gershom Gorenberg, The Israeli political right is wont to argue that Israel’s only real problem is PR. We’re doing the all the right things; we’re the only real democracy in the Middle East; we want peace and the Palestinians don’t, they proved that in 1947 when they rejected the partition plan and – so goes this brand of kosher whine – we are terribly misunderstand. We need to make our case better. The complaint is sometimes echoed by the kind of “pro-Israel” voices abroad that fail to distinguish between supporting Israel and supporting the policies of the current government, destructive as they may be. Well, if the government and its supporters want to prove that’s the problem, they’ll have to do a better job at PR than they’ve done in recent days. There are no candidates for best hasbarah (Heb. n.: information, PR, propaganda, bull); only candidates for worst.

Syria: Calls to end the violence are well justified - Jerry Dandridge, Everyone hopes that Syria finally finds peace and that the violence comes to an end. But as long as the Western interests do not achieve their questionable goals, there will be no peace in Syria. We condemn some Western governments, the NATO and other organizations for forcing violence and bloodshed because of imperial interests – even while the feast of love – Christmas.

The condemnations of these terror acts in the Syrian capital Damascus by Britain, United States and other Western governments are totally hypocritically. You cannot support the “insurgents” within Syria and abroad with money and weapons and meanwhile condemn such a horrible act of terrorism which took place in Damascus one day before Christmas. Smells like hypocritically propaganda. Uncaptioned image from article

Is Iran’s launch of Spanish-language HispanTV propaganda? - Latiff Kassidi, The inauguration of “HispanTV“, Iran’s first Spanish-language news channel, which can be received in Europe and America, shows the relevant role that the Goverment of Tehran wants to play in LatinAmerica. The launching of “HispanTV” will be follow by the inauguration on January 1st of the “Cordoba TV“, a new media owned by the Foundation for the Message of Islam who presides Saudi Sheikh Abdulaziz al Fawzan and has the backing of the Saudi royal family. The Iran’s Channel will be commended and directed by Ezatollah Zarqami, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), an organization that conglomerate together all the public broadcasters in Iran – it is the only one that exist in the country. The Spanish-language channel is a new example of Iran’s effort to create TV channels away from “the media giants.” The question here is why in Spanish? And The Guardian reports that Ezatollah Zarqami, the head of Iranian State TV, says because half of the world speaks Spanish. Other reports and blogs said that HispanTV is an Iran-Cuba joint propaganda effort. Daniel Sergio López, the head of Cuban radio-TV networks, calls the channel ”first-hand, authentic news,” reports Miami Herald blog “Cuban Colada.” The truth is that Iran is trying to reach Latin America with HispanTV in Spanish to explain his “ideological legitimacy”, as was announced on May 3rd by Iranian chain PressTV. Now with the rise of socialism and social

revolutions, the launch of a Spanish-language network is clearly aimed to Spanish-speaking world, most of which are in Latin America. This is a clear example of the new battle for power information aimed by many Islamic governments – specially Iran and Saudi Arabia- whom are putting all their efforts to promote, and improve their own view: Iran’s TV will focus on spreading the Shiite Islam, the dominant religion in Iran, while the Saudi TV will focus on the Islamic doctrine of Wahabism, the ultra-conservative form of Islam that reigns in Saudi Arabia. Image from

Censorship and propaganda in Norwegian schools - Tore Kvæven, Gates of Vienna: "I suspect that many Norwegians’ views are a result of politicised opinions found in Norwegian schools and in Norwegian society."

Propaganda and chocolate - The Endeavour: The blog of John D. Cook: In his book China Road, Rob Gifford mentions the odd mixture of government propaganda and commercial advertising he saw flashed on the side of a building in Shanghai every five seconds. ■Welcome to Shanghai. Tomorrow will be even more beautiful.■1,746 days until the Shanghai World Expo.■Sexual equality is a basic policy in our country.■Eat Dove chocolate.

Roma, Caffè Propaganda con Stéphane Betmon e Arcangelo Dandini - Ha aperto il 17 novembre a Roma, a due passi dal Colosseo, CAFFE’ PROPAGANDA un bistrot dall’atmosfera parigina dedicato alla gastronomia di altissima qualità. Tre i soci fondatori, il dj Giancarlino, Maurizio Bistocchi e Richard Ercolani, un pool di imprenditori, da molti anni nel settore dell’intrattenimento e della gastronomia romana e non solo, che si sono lanciati in una nuova avventura guidati

da una grande passione per cibi e bevande di altissima qualità con l’obiettivo di intercettare quel pubblico che sceglie di mangiare e bere con consapevolezza e alla ricerca di un piacere alimentare responsabile. Nasce proprio da qui l’idea del nome Caffè Propaganda: l’intenzione è quella di “propagandare” un tipo di alimentazione sana e legata al territorio. Caffè Propagadanda image from article.


America the Generous: Despite the economic hardships of so many Americans, the nation remains charitable - Jason L. Riley, Wall Street Journal: "After the Britain-based Charities Aid Foundation released a survey this week that ranked the U.S. first in giving, I contacted Adam Meyerson of the Philanthropy Roundtable for a reaction. Given the economic hardships of so many Americans in recent years, was he surprised by the results? 'Not at all,' said Mr. Meyerson. 'This study is consistent with many other studies showing that America is by far the most charitable country on Earth. We give about 2% of our national income to charity; most other countries give 1% or much less.'

The report is based on more than 150,000 interviews conducted in 153 countries. People were asked about their behavior in the previous month, including whether they had donated money to charity, volunteered time to an organization or helped a stranger. Sixty-five percent of respondents in the U.S. said that they had given money; 43% had volunteered; and 75% had helped someone they didn't know. The top-ranked U.S. was followed by Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. Mr. Meyerson said that American largess stems in part from the can-do spirit that free societies nurture. 'As Tocqueville observed back in the 1830s, unlike in Europe, in America people don't wait for the government or local noblemen to solve problems. We step up and solve them ourselves,' he said. Also, 'philanthropy and charity have always been part of American business culture—from Ben Franklin, who started the first volunteer fire department, to Andrew Carnegie, who brought public libraries to communities all across the country, to Bill Gates, who's trying to eliminate malaria.' Mr. Meyerson added that charitable giving also helps the U.S. maintain a thriving civil society. It's the 'life-blood' of our public discourse, he said. 'Name a great issue that we're wrestling with today—the role of government in our health care, pensions, retirement security, same-sex unions, school choice, all these issues. It's charitable giving that has made possible a vigorous debate on both sides.'" Image from article


Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, left, kisses her girlfriend of two years, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Va., on Wednesday, after Gaeta's ship returned from 80 days at sea. From the Los Angeles Times


From via Boing Boing

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