Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22

--Natural Harvest: A Collection of semen-based recipes, a book on the shortlist for the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of the Year; cited in J.C., "The moral game," Times Literary Supplement (March 9, 2012), p. 34; image from 


A Call to Action on Public Diplomacy - Morris Jacobs, American Diplomacy: "[T]here are several modest steps the Executive and Congress should take immediately to help ensure that we are able to conduct an effective and robust public diplomacy. None of these actions are particularly controversial or difficult. The full Senate should vote on Tara Sonenshine’s nomination [as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs]. In addition to recruiting a qualified candidate to serve as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the White House should replace (or reappoint) BBG members currently serving on lapsed appointments. These nominations should be considered and acted upon by the Senate as quickly as possible. In fact, the Senate could follow the spirit of the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, which it passed with a large majority in June 2011, and act upon these nominations without hearings.

This bill, which is awaiting action in the House of Representatives, reduces the number of executive branch positions subject to Senate confirmation, including officials below the assistant secretary level and members of boards, commissions and other advisory bodies. The Congress should re-authorize the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, and the White House should take steps to reinvigorate it by recruiting qualified individuals to serve. Former military leaders and civilian officials, experts in private industry, the nonprofit world, universities and think tanks offer deep and broad expertise that could and should be brought to bear in assessing how the U.S. is conducting its communication with world publics. Since 9/11, senior officials at the White House, State, and Defense, and members of Congress have repeatedly stressed that they view public diplomacy as an important instrument of national security policy. Now would be a good time to act on that belief." Jacobs image from article

Hip Hop Diplomacy - Sean Aday, "Dan Sreebny (@pd_dan) has had a couple of interesting tweets lately about various cultural diplomacy programs by the State Department featuring Hip Hop music and dance. In Egypt, the U.S. Embassy and the Brooklyn Academy of Music teamed up to bring the Rennie Harris Puremovement Dance Company (RHPM) to perform as part of a Middle Eastern tour. In Lebanon, Chen Lo and the Liberation Family performed as part of State’s Rhythm Road program, which sends American bands around the world.You can get a sense of Chen Lo’s group from this concert in Algiers. These efforts are part of a long tradition of using music as an integral part of U.S. public diplomacy efforts abroad. This blog’s name is an homage to those programs, which in their earliest days featured 'Jazz Ambassadors' like Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong. A major underlying rational for these programs is that music and other arts are seen as being less overtly political than traditional diplomacy and thus able to bridge gaps created by policy differences between the U.S. and other countries, something USC’s Phil Seib blogged about last week. ... Contrary to the purported apolitical intent of many cultural diplomacy programs involving the arts, I think their value lies precisely in their manifest and latent political content. Sure, State isn’t about to send Nas on a world tour (though that would be awesome on many levels…), but there is still a great value in not being afraid of a musical genre just because it has a negative stereotype among certain circles in the U.S., including many political circles. Yet these same domestic political issues force the State Department to walk a tightrope with these programs: They can’t promote even remotely controversial artists lest they raise the hackles of members of Congress who control the purse strings for such programs.

This is especially difficult for public diplomacy programs because, for many reasons including their long-term effects horizon and measurement issues, it is often difficult to 'prove' their worth empirically to legislators looking for reasons to slash budgets. Programs tainted with being 'politicized' are especially likely to receive scrutiny. Yet I’d argue that perhaps the greatest value of the Jazz Messengers was precisely that they sparked conversations about America’s race problem, something many Americans would prefer to ignore, while at the same time celebrating not only American culture generally, but African American culture specifically. In that case, there was also an added benefit of subtly demonstrating American values by opening up such a discussion of race, something that shows, I think, the difference between good public diplomacy and propaganda." Image from, with caption: Hip-hop and Milwaukee.

US Ambassador to Jamaica Dodges Soft LGBT Question - "Last Tuesday I blogged about submitting questions to the State Department's Dip Note blog's request for questions to be asked of the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, career diplomat Pamela Bridgewater. Not only were my questions posted to the Dip Note, but they were asked during the chat with Bridgewater and Ambassador Curtis Ward, former ambassador of Jamaica to the United Nations and currently President of the Caribbean Research and Policy Center, which took place at the department on March 16. The conversation was moderated by deputy assistance secretary Cheryl Benton. ... Kudos to the State Department of hosting these conversations, engaging with the public for questions and issues to be addressed, and many thanks to Bridgewater and Ward for participating. On behalf of Gays Without Border, I applaud this public diplomacy effort by the American government."

Broadcasting Board of Governors – Ides of March in the Voice of America Newsroom - The Federalist, USG Broadcasts/BBG Watch: "The Voice of America (VOA) Newsroom is not a happy place: The Voice of America (VOA) Newsroom is not a happy place: It is one of the primary targets in the proposed 30% reduction in VOA broadcast operations. It is a place with an estranged relationship with its managers who are seen as defensive at best, vindictive at worst. It is being saddled with a set of production objectives which are impossible to meet, mainly involving the time-consuming requirements to integrate the disparate needs of radio, television and agency websites. . ... There are certain things which VOA does well. They should be the top priority, rather than the BBG/IBB 'flim flam plan' approach of trying to reinvent the wheel. The BBG/IBB likes to throw caution to the wind, rely upon cheesy and arrogant pronouncements and tamper with core operations. It is a place with an estranged relationship with its managers who are seen as defensive at best, vindictive at worst. It is being saddled with a set of production objectives which are impossible to meet, mainly involving the time-consuming requirements to integrate the disparate needs of radio, television and agency websites. ... One of the things the agency doesn’t do well is television, with elongated production costs, staff and time requirements. In this regard, too much of what the agency is doing is cheap television done badly.

Shortcomings in other areas aside, this is the one thing capable of taking the whole place down. One of the principle fault lines for this is the Newsroom. It is no secret that we are big believers in radio: it is immediate, it is right now, it is covering the news as it happens. Everything else comes – later. The message to Mr. Ensor [VOA Director] and the BBG/IBB is simple: play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Start with the Newsroom. Bag the notion that big cuts to the Newsroom operation will make things better. Forget it. It won’t. Not even remotely." Image from

Building A Community of Practice - "The Mistah Foundation thru its Director for Strategic Partnership recently partnered with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Civil Military Operations (CMO) School (, in the conduct of Lecture Series for its students. ... The program strategy of this lecture

aimed to develop a multi-stakeholder approach to peace and security. 'The AFP CMO School will invite distinguished and eminent individuals to deliver lectures on the following concepts: good governance; peace; human rights and international human rights law; social development; conflict resolution and management; inter-agency and public diplomacy; ethical leadership; mass movements and role of the civil society; public and intercultural communication; culture and indigenous peoples; and other concepts related to peace and security,' says Major Jo-ar Herrera, Project Director." Uncaptioned image from article

BBC Arabic airs "Electronic Spring" documentary about role of new media in the Arab uprisings - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

Al Jazeera documentaries about Poland involve "cooperation" with Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting

The Hajj Comes to London: A Step Forward for Cultural Diplomacy - Philip Seib, PD News
– CPD Blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy: “'Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam,' the exhibition at the British Museum that has drawn more than 80,000 visitors since it opened in late January is a remarkable achievement. First, it is glitz-free, relying on its intellectual content rather than the son et lumiere approach on which so many museums today rely. It explains, in a straightforward way, the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken each year by about three million Muslims. Participating in the Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, required of every Muslim who is able to make the trip. The exhibition also addresses the controversial topic of what Islam is about. ... In the West, cultural diplomacy is sometimes seen as an effort to export Western culture to benighted peoples elsewhere. From Van Cliburn in Moscow to Herbie Hancock in Algiers, the flow is generally one-way – West to East or North to South – with little reciprocal exchange.

The condescension inherent in this approach cannot be ignored, but the lopsided nature of cultural diplomacy is partly caused by the reluctance of non-Western countries to share their own cultural assets with the rest of the world. ... The arts can push politics aside and allow the true spirit of a people to emerge and be viewed by the rest of the world. Through culture, the remote becomes proximate, and in this case a religion that is often reviled appears as it really is: a spiritual pilgrimage that manifests itself as a pilgrimage to Mecca – the Hajj." Image from, with caption: Prince Charles at the Hajj Exhibition, British Museum

Joseph Nye on China - Public Diplomacy and International Communications: Thoughts and comments about public diplomacy, soft power and international communications by Gary Rawnsley: "I have just found this short clip of a lecture delivered by Joseph Nye in 2011.  I think that there are two problems with Professor Nye's ideas and these are issues that have troubled me since I have revisted his work for my current research. First, I do not understand why soft power has to be located within a competitive framework. Why should we be so concerned if China is 'catching up' with the US in soft power terms? Surely this is a mindset that feeds the irrational debates about the so-called 'China threat', when understanding the soft dimension of power is a way to circumvent such competitive inclinations. It also demonstrates that the de-Westernisation of soft power is an urgent issue, since this competitive frame is a consequence of understanding soft power via the Anglo-American approach. Second, the clip demonstrates how confusing the whole idea of soft power really is.

If soft power is an intangible, something that cannot be strategised and is ultimately a consequence of who you are and what you do, rather than what you say or what you claim to be, then such a worry about China 'catching up' is misplaced, as is a measurement of soft power based on quantifying and analysing such outputs as the number of Confucius Institutes, the number of TV stations broadcasting from China etc. Professor Nye is correct, however, to identify the consequences of China's political decisions and actions on its soft power capacity; polls repeatedly show that the more China invests in soft power activities (and it is the highest spender in Asian on such activities) China's image has actually gone down. In other words, there is no clear correlation between investment in soft power and the capacity to persuade audiences to embrace a more positive image. Policy - who you are, what you do and what you stand for - will always be the most important consideration." Image from, with caption: Baskin Robbins: BOGO Soft Serve Cones

Djokovic given Serbia’s highest honor - CNN, posted at Over Caffeinated Scrolls Penned By A Fornicated Screenwriter: "After winning three out of four grand slam titles in 2011 and clinching the Australian Open in Melbourne last month, Djokovic was given the Order of the Karadjordje’s Star of the 1st degree by Serbian president Boris Tadic. ... Serbian Tennis Federation president Vuk Jeremic described Djokovic, who was part of Serbia’s Davis

Cup-winning team in 2010, as the greatest sporting hero the country has produced. ... As well as the impact Djokovic has had on the court, Jeremic also hailed the positive impact he has had on Serbia’s image around the world. 'No athlete in our history has become such a national hero. And as far as Serbia’s image abroad is concerned — can you think of a better public diplomacy vehicle?'” Image from posting.

Leading the Narrative [review of Leading the Narrative: The Case for Strategic Communication by Mari Eder, Naval Institute Press, 2011] - Matt Armstrong American Diplomacy: "Strategic Communication (SC), much like public diplomacy (PD), is many things to many people. Strategic communication, without the 's,' can be used to describe a process, or an activity. Some seem to argue that it is a bureaucracy, or at least activity to be controlled by a bureaucracy. The Defense Department defines SC as an 'effort' to 'understand and engage key audiences...for the advancement of U.S. Government interests, policies, and objectives' through coordinated and synchronized actions across 'all instruments of national power.' ... The book Leading the Narrative: The Case for Strategic Communication purports to be a 'primer on the art and science of strategic communication.' ... The author, Mari Eder, is a U.S. Army public affairs officer with experience in public relations.

The book is offered as providing useful analyses and lessons for strategic communication in today’s complex environment of multiple voices and agendas. By the description and the title, one would expect a discussion on narratives and engagements that span communication mediums, organizations and time. Unfortunately, instead of providing useful advice for commanders and policy makers today, the book is a compilation of shallow snapshots of the past framed through grumbling reminiscent of Spiro Agnew's 'nattering nabobs of negativism.' The nostalgia for centralized information dissemination, and near disdain for engagement, and for a 'hypodermic needle' style of communication is palpable." Image from article

R.S Zaharna, “Strategic Stakeholder Engagement in Public Diplomacy,” paper presented at the International Studies Association Conference, Montreal, March 15-19, 2011 -

Officials In Chicago, Belgium Prepping For NATO Summit - "Allison Hart, the Public Diplomacy Officer for the U.S. and Canada at NATO HQ, said 'So many people here at NATO have never been to Chicago, they haven’t gotten to visit.

They’d like to and they ask me about it, but this – being able to walk around and say ‘This is what Chicago looks like. This is what you’re going to see,’ tomorrow, when they have the food, ‘This is what you’re going to eat,’ – it’s so exciting.” Image from article


Sustaining success in Afghanistan - John McCain, Joseph I. Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, Washington Post: To sustain this fragile progress, it is critical that President Obama resist the shortsighted calls for additional troop reductions, which would guarantee failure.

Image from article, with caption: Afghan children enjoy a ride in a playground in Kabul at twilight.

Tolerating Hamas Invites a Mideast War: The United Nations ignores 12,000 rockets launched into southern Israel [subscription] - Ron Prosor, Wall Street Journal: "War is the unfolding of miscalculations." So noted historian Barbara Tuchman decades ago, yet this principle continues to fall on deaf ears in the international community. As terrorism in the Gaza Strip increases, threatening to set off instability across the region, the continued roar of rockets into Israel should keep world leaders up at night. But most remain mute and missing in action. Their choice to stand idle is a grave miscalculation. The consequences for the region could be tragic.

Five myths about Syria - Roger Owen, Washington Post: 5. The international community has to intervene to stop the violence. As the recent history of such interventions demonstrates, the desire to put an end to what are regarded as the evil policies of an evil regime can easily cause politicians to neglect the other side of the balance sheet: the number of civilian lives that will undoubtedly be lost in the attempt to save them. Think, for example, of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who’ve been widowed since the Russian invasion some 30 years ago. Better, as the Obama administration is doing, to undertake a more long-term strategy of isolating the Assad regime with punitive sanctions designed to cripple the Syrian economy, coupled with travel warnings and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s statement that Assad fits the definition of a war criminal.

Uganda Attempts to Counter Image Presented by ‘Kony 2012’ - J. David Goodman, New York Times

Vatican: Pope's Cuba trip should help democracy - Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, posted a The Vatican's No. 2 has dismissed suggestions that Cuba's Communist government could exploit Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming trip as a propaganda tool, saying the visit should help promote democracy on the island. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, said he expects an outpouring of support for the pope because he is the head of the Catholic Church and the visit will only make things better for the Cuban church.

Madonna to Speak Up for St. Petersburg Gays - Emerging Europe Blog, Wall Street journal: Pop singer Madonna said that she’s planning to speak up against a Russian ban on “homosexual propaganda” in St. Petersburg when she visits the city with a concert on Aug. 9. “I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community, to support the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed. I don’t run away from adversity. I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity,” Madonna wrote on her Facebook page on Wednesday.

Two days earlier journalist and writer Masha Gessen in her New York Times blog called for a boycott of St. Petersburg, where local officials authorized the anti-gay legislation earlier this month. She specifically addressed Madonna, as well as Mercedes-Benz and PepsiCo—companies that signed on as partners of the St. Petersburg economic forum. She urged tourists not to visit Russia’s second-largest city. Image from article, with caption: Gay rights activists take part in an anti-Putin rally in the central Arbat area in Moscow, on March 10, 2012. The partly seen makeshift poster (right) criticizes some “Russia’s homophobic laws.”

Gay-themed movie by Serbian director helps overcomes Balkan ethnic divide and … - The movie has drawn more than half a million people since its release in October. It has been equally acclaimed in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia — something no local film has managed since the 1990s wars between the ex-Yugoslav republics. “The whole region is united for the first time in liking this film,” director Srdjan Dragojevic said in an interview. “The Parade” — which won an award at the prestigious Berlin film festival this year — is set in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, where a gay couple tries to organize a gay pride event in the face of threats and violence from far-right groups. To make it possible, they enlist a Serbian war veteran to protect the parade; he brings in a group of ragtag former fighters from other Yugoslav republics — a Croatian, a Bosnian Muslim and a Kosovo Albanian. Using an uproarious plot spiced with dry humor, Dragojevic tackles Balkan prejudices and the highly sensitive topics of gay rights and postwar relations. Film critic Milan Vlajcic says Dragojevic’s success lies in the fact that he managed to send a universal message of tolerance, without turning the film into a propaganda tool.

A New Nation Tests Its Strength [review of Among the Powers of the Earth by Eliga H. Gould] - William Anthony Hay, Wall Street Journal: Scholars of European history have long argued for the primacy of foreign affairs in driving state formation and shaping politics. But American observers—scholars and generalists alike—have rarely applied this idea to the history of their own country before 1900.

America in its formative stages is usually viewed apart from the international system—as a promised land separated from the rest of the world by two oceans and shaped by its own lofty ideals. But in fact, as Mr. Gould shows, America came into its own only by claiming full membership in the community of nations. Mr. Gould is right to give greater attention to this neglected theme in American history. Image from article

George Orwell's "1984" Being Remade - Imagine Entertainment, a production company ran by director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer, is planning a remake of George Orwell's "1984." While acquiring the rights to the property, Imagine teamed with street artist Shepard Fairey, who is best known for the Barack Obama "Hope" campaign poster. Fairey will serve as a producer on the new movie.

The book is set in a dystopian society in a perpetual state of war, which in turn leads to a state of paranoia. Propaganda, surveillance, and mind control - all concepts seen in totalitarian and fascist states such as Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union - were taken to new levels. The story centers on a man named Winston Smith who works for a government branch named the Ministry of Truth, where he alters facts and histories but secretly harbors desires of rebellion, as well as desires of a forbidden love affair. "1984" was previously adapted for the big screen in 1984. It was directed by Michael Radford and starred John Hurt. Image from article

Then and Mao: Red propaganda posters from China on display -- A striking exhibition of original Chinese propaganda posters showing an idealised view of life in the Mao Zedong era - Red in politics and red in ink, a striking collection of original Chinese propaganda posters from the Mao Zedong era have gone on display in Manchester. They were designed by some of

the most talented Chinese artists in the 20th Century, showing an idealised view of life under the country's leader who established the People’s Republic in 1949 and ruled until his death 27 years later. Many of the posters seem cartoonish at first glance – even like a Chinese version of Where’s Wally - but upon closer inspection it becomes clear how much artistry went into their production. Image from article


No slots or showgirls at new Vegas culture megacenter - Kitty Bean Yancey, USA Today: Las Vegas never has been known as a cultural oasis. That changed March 10 with the opening of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, a $470 million facility including a stunning 2,050-seat concert hall (seats are chocolate-colored mohair, the acoustics amazing), jazz club, outdoor stage and other venues. The Center will host children's educational programs as well. The opening night event, hosted by actor Neil Patrick Harris, enlisted stars including Jennifer HudsonWillie NelsonMartina McBride dueting with Pat Monahan of Train for a show taped for future airing on TV. Medleys from Broadway hits also were featured. The Smith Center later will host acts ranging from theAlvin Ailey American Dance Theater, to The Pink Floyd Experience, to full-length Broadway shows — not the usual Vegas 90-minute condensed version.

A well-regarded cover band, The Pink Floyd Experience is due March 30 to perform the Brit band's hits and Wish You Were Here album in its entirety. The Las Vegas Philharmonic also will play here, instead of at theUniversity of Las Vegas as it did before. The impetus for the center, funded in large part by the city and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation: "We're the entertainment capital of the world, but we don't have a truly world-class arts center," says Smith Center CEO Myron Martin. That's changed, and there's not a slot machine in sight. Image from article, with caption: Opening night of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, March 10. Smith Center image from

Nuns, strippers to be next-door neighbors - By Andrea Billups - The Washington Times: On one side of the fence are women in habits and wimples who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. On the other side of that fence, if a developer gets his way, will be women in G-strings in the business of nudity, dollars and prurience. The scene for the clash between these two competing visions of femininity is a retirement home for nuns in Chicago’s western suburbs, which is scheduled to have soon as a neighbor a giant $3 million strip club.

Get It gentlemen’s club is on track to open this spring in the 5,000-resident village of Stone Park, Ill., just feet from the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo’s retirement home. Image from article, with caption: Odyssey, a strip club in the Tampa, Fla., area. Citizens of Stone Park, Ill., are fighting a similar club’s attempts to open next-door to a convent.

No comments: