Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 23

"Machines will never replace humans in poetry seminars."

--Daniel de Vise, "At Virginia Tech, computers help solve a math class problem," Washington Post; image from article, with caption: At Virginia Tech, computers take over teaching math:  The Math Emporium is the Wal-Mart of higher education, a triumph in economy of scale and a glimpse at the possible future of computer-led learning. Lessons are self-paced, and instructors are merely roving guides that provide help on demand.


Exclusive Interview with U.S. Diplomat  Peter Van Buren on American Public Diplomacy - John Brown, Notes and Essays; Van Buren image from his blog


a) The Power of Propaganda - In order to start war, a country must first dehumanize another nation: The Shocking Video Muslims Don't Want You to See

b) TRAILER: Nazis At the Center of the Earth - John DeNardo


State gets new window to American cultural studies‎ - timesofindia.indiatimes.com: "With an intention to promote American studies in India and strengthening Indo-US relations, American corner and American Studies Curriculum (ASC) was launched in Isabella Thoburn (IT) College on Monday. The launch of two will help students in Lucknow to have a better understanding of the uniqueness of American culture. Present on the occasion, minister-counselor for public affairs and public diplomacy, American Embassy, New Delhi, Michael Pellietier said, 'American corner is the first one in UP. The main idea is to make resources available to cities where we have embassies. With the help of the Indian government, we are working on the community college model to expand American education.' He apprised the audience that at present, the American corner is at Guwahati, Patna, Chandigarh, Ahmadabad and Bangalore. The one stop resource centre for information and cultural exchanges, American corner will be opened for IT College students during the college hours. However, the college is thinking to open it for rest of the people in Lucknow during the non-teaching hours. The American Embassy plans to open similar centres in Aligarh, Kanpur and Varanasi. The ASC includes two courses; the first is the foundation course on America studies which includes social sciences, literature, gender issues, popular culture and foreign policy and international relations and understanding issues of peace and conflict resolution. The second course is the advanced course on American studies that will deal with social sciences, literature, emerging gender and transgender issues, popular culture, foreign policy and international relations, understanding violence/non-violence and strategies for conflict resolution and peace building and education, health, science and environment. Head, department of English and European languages, Lucknow University, Prof Nishi Pandey said, 'The two courses are add-on courses. The course is open to all who have passed class XII. It can be taken up by UG, PG students or a research scholar also. We are hopeful to launch the course in LU and associated colleges in the academic session 2012-13.' Few teachers in the city have been given training for the pedagogy in a workshop organised by LU's English department. Excited about the launch of American corner, a student said, 'In the age of globalisation, it is important to connect with the rest of the world. By understanding the American culture, we will be able to connect ourselves in case we visit the country in future.' College principal ES Charles said, 'The American Corner has elegantly bound classics of American literature, modern American poetry as well as books on history and culture, making it a reader's paradise.With an intention to promote American studies in India and strengthening Indo-US relations, American corner and American Studies Curriculum (ASC) was launched in Isabella Thoburn (IT) College on Monday. The launch of two will help students in Lucknow to have a better understanding of the uniqueness of American culture.'"

Image from, with caption: Ann Marie Everitt, an Exchange Officer with the US Embassy, had an interactive session with students about the life and culture of people in the USA at the American Corner, Chandigarh. The other speaker was Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, president of the Punjab Youth Congress.

Twitter trail - Indian Express: "While the Prime Minister’s Twitter page has understandably attracted thousands of followers since its debut in January attracted thousands of followers since its debut in January, the person handling the account is careful about who the PMO is seen to be following. There are just 11 Twitter accounts that the PMO currently follows. Not surprisingly, this list includes the White House, the UK Prime Minister and the Russian President. The PMO also follows global multinational forums like the World Bank, UN, WHO, UNICEF and the African Union. Only two Indian entities make it to this select list — one is the official handle of the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs and the other that of Sam Pitroda, an advisor to the PM on information infrastructure and innovations. Incidentally, Pitroda is not even very active on the site. His last post was on March 30!"

Bahrain’s Protesters Fail But Win - P. G. Crowley, takefiveblog.org - “Bahrain’s monarchy was determined, having cancelled last year’s Formula One Grand Prix due to violent unrest that necessitated an armed intervention by neighboring Saudi Arabia, that this year would be different. The race would go on! And so it did, with Sebastian Vettel the winner. The early race reporting highlighted that it was “incident-free.” Hardly. The grand prix was overshadowed by clashes between protesters and security forces in the days leading up to race day. Protesters demanded political reforms that Bahrain’s ruling family have promised, but so far not delivered. They hoped to create enough mayhem to force the government to cancel the race. The opposition was not successful, but they probably got more attention with the race being held than they would have otherwise. … The protests put Bahrain back in the headlines. and not in the way the monarchy had in mind.

The government promoted the Grand Prix as “UniF1ed – One Nation in Celebration.” The Al Khalifa family, Sunni rulers over a Shia majority kingdom in the shadow of more powerful and feuding neighbors Iran and Saudi Arabia, hoped the race would reverse its public diplomacy fortunes and once again depict the Kingdom as a progressive (in relative terms of course) financial, cultural and sports center. It tried to put to replace the images of political repression from a year ago. Instead, it only updated them. And, in terms of U.S. public diplomacy, the Obama administration’s muted comments about respecting human rights and encouraging the Bahrain government to do more to implement the recommendations of an independent commission report issued late last year stand in stark contrast to its loud and repeated calls for political and social reform in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Given the crisis in Syria and complex dance with Iran over its nuclear program, the United States has been largely an interested spectator with Bahrain over the past year, watching from the grandstand as the government and protesters go round and round the track. Unfortunately, like the Grand Prix, a year later, they remain pretty much where they started.” Image from article

Public Transit Propaganda - Paul Rockower, Levantine: “Be it that I live in DC, I often find instances of public diplomacy/propaganda around the city.  There are two examples that seem to be somewhat ubiquitous these days. The first is a series of adverts related to Khojaly by the Azerbaijan America Alliance.

The advertisements essentially indict Armenia for a massacre in the Nagorno-Karbakh region during the N-K War. The sign for Khojaly (with graphic design tear) states: '444 men -106 women -63 children // A Human Tragedy Against Azerbaijan // Honor the dead...Help Azerbaijan and Armenia find peace[.]'  Forgive my cynicism, but using this issue as a propaganda bludgeon doesn't exactly strike me as honoring the dead or helping Armenia and Azerbaijan find peace. Meanwhile, there is another sign around Metro bus stops from the Emergency Committee for Israel that excoriates Obama on Iran [.] It states 'He Says a Nuclear Iran is Unacceptable. DO YOU believe him?  DO THEY?' with pictures of I'm-a-Dinner-Jacket and Khameini looking buffoonish.

Thanks Neo-Con shills for a ridiculous attempt at painting Obama as soft on Iran. The Emergency Committee's board includes Bill Kristol, the man bright enough to serve as Chief of Staff to VP Dan Quayle. If you think Quayle makes sound political judgements and Obama does not, then I guess we probably don't have much more to discuss. Dear Emerg Comm, do Israel a favor and don't conduct such ham-handed advocacy campaigns supposedly on its behalf that aren't very convincing and just come across as puerile propaganda. Please, spare my metro voyages from all this rank propaganda.  It insults the intelligence of all us metro riders. PS: Don't even get me started on the RethinkReform campaign." Images from entry

The New Public Diplomacy: A Greater Role for Domestic Civil Society? - isabelletreat, Public and Cultural Diplomacy 6: A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University

Refuse to be your enemy - modmeducu, Public and Cultural Diplomacy 2: A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University: "[C]itizen diplomacy is an important tool in diplomacy today."

Celebrity Public Diplomacy: is it so bad? - cal0265, Public and Cultural Diplomacy 4: A group blog by students at London Metropolitan University

Qorvis info/contacts dump – Y U HELP DICTAT0RS 0PPRE$$?! - cyberguerrilla.org: "http://www.qorvis.com/staff/greg-lagana Greg Lagana [:] Lagana was formerly senior vice-president for communications and marketing at DynCorp International, a major services provider for the United States government. Prior to which, he spent four years in the Bush (43) White House, as a member of the Coalition Information Center staff and then as associate director of the Office of Global Communications. For more than two decades, Lagana served in the U.S. Foreign Service in public diplomacy and public affairs with the United States Information Agency and the Department of State."


A smaller, smarter military - Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, posted at: Ask Gen. Raymond T. Odierno of the Army, bull-necked artillery officer what new initiatives get him excited, and he doesn't talk about new tanks or combat helicopters; in this budget, the Army isn't getting them. Instead, he talks about a new doctoral program to train officers in strategic planning, and he talks about educating more officers to become experts on Asia and the Middle East, about "cultural awareness" and "the human domain." One of the chief lessons he learned during his three combat tours in Iraq, Odierno said, is that the best-equipped army in the world can still lose a war if it doesn't understand the people it's fighting. "There's so much we don't know," he said.

Pentagon increasing spy presence overseas - David S. Cloud, latimes.com: The Pentagon is beefing up its spy service to send several hundred undercover intelligence officers to overseas hot spots to steal secrets on national security threats after a decade of focusing chiefly on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The move comes amid concerns that the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s spy service, needs to expand operations beyond the war zones and to work more closely with the CIA, according to a senior Defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because

he was not authorized to speak publicly about the classified program. The new Defense Clandestine Service will comprise about 15% of the DIA’s workforce. They will focus on gathering intelligence on terrorist networks, nuclear proliferators and other highly sensitive threats around the world, rather than just gleaning tactical information to assist military commanders on the battlefield, the official said.Image from article, with caption: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey speak during a press conference at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Secret Service sex scandal proves some men cannot resist a party - David Horsey,latimes.com: Three Secret Service agents have already lost their jobs after it was revealed that 11 agents and 10 U.S. military personnel engaged the services of as many as 20 prostitutes in one wild night while they were doing advance work for President Obama’s visit to Colombia. According to preliminary reports, the dusk-to-dawn drunken sex spree came to light when one of the women – who insisted that she was a high-paid call girl, not a common street hooker – got upset when one agent refused to pay her a fee worthy of her status.

To be fair, these particular agents were not part of the elite cadre that protects the president and there is, as yet, no evidence other agents at other times engaged in the same sort of activity. Plus, as noted, what they were doing was not against the law. Nevertheless, the incident dominated news during the president’s visit to Colombia and it has given a big black eye to the Secret Service, which, until now, seemed to epitomize moral rectitude and selfless loyalty. America’s image in Latin America took yet another hit from this and it gives the president one more mini-crisis to manage that Republicans will certainly try to use against him. Image from article, with caption: Secret Service sex romp proves some men are prone to party. (David Horsey)

Cartagena’s night life spelled trouble for Secret Service - William Booth, Washington Post: When the news broke that 11 Secret Service agents and officers were sent home for romping with hookers on the eve of President Obama’s trip to the Organization of American States summit, many Colombians were amused. “It is normal, no? These are our beauty queens,” said Elgoyo Payares, owner of La Bodeguita del Medio, a Cuban-style restaurant-bar in the old city.

“And a man, even a secret agent type, does not leave his private parts at home when he travels.” But the lighthearted response shifted when it became clear that the Secret Service scandal was overwhelming the good news about a peaceful, prosperous Colombia. Image from article, with caption: A prostitute, right, walks on the square of the old city in Cartagena. The coastal city hosted leaders from the Western Hemisphere during the sixth Summit of the Americas on April 14 and 15.

Heroes - lewrockwell.com: Writes John Cook: "Been watching MEET THE PRESS and hearing the Secret Service repeatedly described as 'heroic' and 'willing to die for the President. ... If you ask me, the "hero" is the Colombian hooker who blew the whistle on the parasite."

Much Ado About Afghan War Photos: Sometimes men do dumb things. This is one of them, little more - Anne Marlowe, Wall Street Journal: Last week's U.S. military "scandal": Some young enlisted men from a platoon in the 82nd Airborne, most barely old enough to vote, posed for photos in 2010 with the remains of Afghan suicide bombers. These young men should never have taken those photos. But that is the extent of their "crime." Was the picture-posing culturally insensitive? Probably less so in Afghanistan than it would have been here. Afghans themselves have often denied Islamic burial to suicide bombers. When I was embedded with U.S. troops in Khost province several years ago, the Afghan governor allowed one bomber's body parts to be left in tree branches as a deterrent to others. The Afghan National Police—who lost 1,555 men between mid-2010 and mid-2011, according to figures reported by the Washington Post, most to improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks—hate suicide bombers as no one else does. Afghan civilians mainly feel the same way. Male aggressivity serves a purpose in a healthy society—as many of us realized for the first time when the U.S. had to fight back after 9/11. And sometimes, men do dumb things. This is one of them, and not much more.

American Soldiers Committing Atrocities: Placing the Blame Where It Belongs -flaglerlive.com: Soldiers will do gruesome things in war. They always have, they always will as long as wars are fought. It doesn’t excuse what the soldiers did in any of these circumstances. But let’s add a little perspective. Look around: the soldiers are acting barbarically, but they’re in barbaric environments where behavior is routinely debased. The Taliban is barely more than a death cult. Its public executions and torture sessions such as stoning and maiming supposed miscreants cheapen life and make a mockery of the religion in whose name the Taliban claims to be fighting.

The soldiers who burned Korans at Bagram Air Force Base were stupid, being well aware of the powder keg they were lighting. But stupidity isn’t a crime. Rioting and murder is. The Afghans who caused the death of at least 40 people subsequent to the Koran burning are the fanatics, the barbarians, the murderers. Which raises the question: why the hell are Americans losing their lives fighting for these people? And a more pertinent question: Who’s really at fault, the young soldiers who are under immense strain, fighting a war they shouldn’t be fighting, in a place they shouldn’t be, and committing gruesome acts and atrocities along the way, or the commanders in chief who put them there, having known for years that there is no such thing as victory in Afghanistan? Yes, American soldiers are committing atrocities. But put the ultimate blame where it belongs: on a military and political leadership that’s leaving them there for an 11th year, for no useful purpose, with no end in sight, no love from Afghans and no strategic gains on the battlefield. That’s the real atrocity. Image from article, with caption: The Pentagon's propaganda machinery is reliably well-oiled. U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Isaiah Schult, a 20-year-old Indianapolis native and improvised explosive device dog handler, jokes with Afghan children in November. (Centcom)

Kony 2012 Campaign Flop: Life goes beyond computers - Isabel Cortina: So, whatever happened to Kony 2012 and to the millions of people that pledged to mobilize and "cover the night" with all this anti Kony propaganda? Well, the campaign has proven to be a complete flop. The campaign to hunt down Joseph Kony did not only fail only because those who clicked "like" on Facebook, or shared the video on Twitter, or wasted 26 valuable minutes watching a documentary, which made them cry, failed to take action and get off their couches. It failed for many reasons; in part apathy and in part legitimate flaws with the campaign. Kony 2012 failed because the initiative was a self-serving marketing campaign for the producers and directors of the "documentary" and their organization Invisible Children. In it's video the nonprofit corporation failed to clarify that for the most part, Joseph Kony's crimes occurred in the past. Kony has also moved away from Uganda into other African regions. Different reports claim that funds from Jason Russell's organization are also being funneled to a revolutionary army. However the biggest problem is that this world is dealing with thousands, millions rather, of self-proclaimed activists who can't move a finger. Their idea of taking action is clicking the "like" button on Facebook. They think that clicking around and watching videos on YouTube can replace real action. Young and old have stopped to consider the value and power of their actions. Hopefully people will learn from this Kony 2012 experience. We encourage everyone to research a cause before publicly pledging a support they cannot give. Never trust on a single source of information! Don't let yourself become one of the digital demonstrators who have become the real "Invisible Children."

Punishing North Korea's people: Editorial The Obama administration never should have linked food aid for North Korea with the military actions of the regime - Editorial, latimes.com: As a general policy, the United States should do its utmost to alleviate starvation and malnutrition without regard to geopolitics. Food aid should not be promised or withheld for political, diplomatic or strategic reasons.

The Enemy Within: Since the end of the Cold War, America has been on a relentless search for enemies. But the real dangers are at home - David Rothkopf, The United States is a bit like a 375-pound middle-aged man with a heart condition walking down a city street at night eating a Big Mac. He's sweating profusely because he's afraid he might get mugged. But the thing that's going to kill him is the burger. Since the end of the Cold War, America has been on a relentless search for enemies. I don't mean a search in the sense of ferreting them out and defeating them.

I mean that America seems to have a visceral need for them. If America stopped searching for goblins under the bed, it might actually be able to reset its economic priorities and start investing in the things that would make the country stronger, more prosperous, and safer again, from infrastructure to energy security to better schools. What's more, Americans might find that a foreign policy that identified real risks but kept them in perspective and was more about deepening ties, finding common ground, and avoiding unnecessary conflict would work better than the tired us vs. them formulations of the recent past. Image from article. Via PR

How do you entertain a house full of Europeans? Play ball! - John Kelly, Washington Post: "We had a family of Danes staying with us last week, which means we spent the previous few days madly scrubbing, vacuuming and dusting. ... What they mainly wanted to do was shop. I long ago gave up resenting foreigners who think of America the way Americans used to think of Mexico: as a place full of cheap goods. Just give us your euros, yearning to be free, I say. We spent a day at the Leesburg Premium Outlets, where the Danes loaded up on Nike, Levis and Old Navy — and where, I noticed, ads are broadcast over the PA system in German and Chinese."

“They live” - cosinusdomina, WeWasteTime: Annoyed by unsolved burning issues in

Serbian cultural policy as well as in society in general, Maja Pelevic and Milan Markovic, artists with no permanent job, came up with an unusual idea – to become members of almost all political parties at once and tackle them from the inside. Their artistic performance resulted in a dramatic text, audio-visual materials, and a blog.

From February 13 to 21, these two screenplay writers applied for membership of the Democratic Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Progressive Party, the Democratic Party of Serbia, United Regions of Serbia, the Social Democratic Party, and the Socialist Party of Serbia. As a cover letter for their application, they used a changed version of a 1928 speech by Goebbels called “Knowledge and propaganda”. The text with a name “Idea-Strategy-Movement” was slightly adapted to suit political parties’ public image. Instead of “Hitler”, the artists inserted the name of the party leaders or ideologists. Instead of “National Socialism” they’ve used “democracy” or another suitable term. Instead of the word “propaganda”, which was frequently used by Goebbels, the artists came up with the word “political marketing." “It was exciting when we signed our Application Form, but when they called us to join and participate more immediately in councils, and boards for culture… I didn’t feel so good anymore. I wasn’t sure who was using whom, because we didn’t have a clear plan of what to do after we joined parties as a part of our performance, so I didn’t have the need to bluff. To me, the value of what we do lies in the sole fact we are not bluffing, because this divides it from investigative journalism.” Images from entry

Pop Culture Propaganda – Captain American History 101! - nerdshavenothingbettertodo.wordpress.com: In a now famed 1940 special for Look Magazine, Supes creators Siegel and Shuster had the man of steel end the war in a shallow 2-page spread. By simply flying to Germany, lifting Hitler and Stalin in a swoop, he effortlessly drops them off at the League of Nations. This now somewhat undermining feature made its way to the lion’s den itself. Upon seeing the comic, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, in typical anti-Semitic hate, is claimed to have claimed Superman was Jewish. He even mocked Siegel as “physically and intellectually circumcised.” Suddenly truth, justice and the American way just didn’t seem American enough. Jewish writer Joe Simon predicted his country needed a hero in shining golden back-light. He set out to create a statuesque role model to lead the rally call to arms. The people needed inspiration. Alongside the pop art God that is Jack Kirby, the star-spangled adventurer was unleashed. Born to “lash out at the Nazi menace,” the land of the free was introduced to its truest patriot – Captain America! Before the more iconic attire, Steve Rogers appeared in somewhat prototype fashion. He branded a short-lived angular shield and wore what then was more hat than mask. His infamous cover punch to the jaw of der Furhrer

certainly helped put the mein kampf in Hitler. It grew to becoming so celebrated that it sold nearly one-million copies. At his side was the long forgotten (and recently revived) Bucky Barnes. Think Robin-like boy sidekick…but with sexuality not nearly as questionable. When the Army camp mascot busted Rogers changing into his Americana, Cap did what every responsible superhero would do. Instead of swearing Bucky to secrecy, he enlisted the tot into the trenches to fight the goose-stepping Gestapo.

Together they become the greatest foes of the Axis, battling baddies in events like “The Ageless Orientals Who Wouldn’t Die” and “The Queer Case of the Murdering Butterfly and the Ancient Mummies.” With antagonists like the Butterfly, (oh the humanity!) it often seemed more like some wacky episode of Hogans Heroes. These classic stories had Cap and Bucky often comically dodging their Army superiors to run off and fight more incompetent bunglers than any true Nazi menace. The only real exception was the Red Skull, a murderous Nazi agent who came across so sincerely frightening that he became forever branded the arch-nemesis. Modern America seems despised by many foreigners. In the vein of all the nationalistic hatred galvanized globally, Captain America can seem slightly dated in concept. For all the contemporary criticisms the country of the free bears, nothing remains more relevant today than the ideals upheld by the first and only super soldier. At his core, it’s not really about America – it’s about what’s right.