Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 5

"We were not so much an empire ... as an umpire."

--San Diego State University Professor Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, regarding the United States's role in the world in times past; cited in "Come Home, America," New York Times; image from


The death of Josef Stalin [in Polish] - wiadomosci.dziennik.pl. Image from entry [Comment by MT on Facebook: "This fascinating and disturbing piece of obituary propaganda is in Polish, but easy enough for any Russian speaker to follow – or any non-Russian speaker, for that matter, as the pictures and lugubrious narrative tell the whole Orwellian story eloquently by themselves. (Stalin himself speaks for a minute or so starting at 6:56.) The first large-scale anti-Soviet riots in Poland began within weeks; from even a few minutes viewing this film, it is wholly apparent why."]

The mystery of Stalin's death - Russia Today; via SL


Announcing the Sister Cities International 57th Annual Conference Agenda! An exciting line-up of expert sessions, off-site visits, receptions, and speakers awaits you in San Antonio, Texas at the 2013 Sister Cities International Annual Conference, July 12-13, 2013 - sarasotasistercities.blogspot.com: "Invited Keynote Speakers include: The Honorable Tara Sonenshine, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy"


Twitter for diplomats: A guide to the fastest-growing digital diplomacy tool - Istitutodiplomatico.wordpress.com: "DiploFoundation and Istituto Diplomatico of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have published Twitter for Diplomats by Andreas Sandre (@andreas212nyc). It is the first publication in a series designed to analyse how social media diplomacy helps create – and maintain – a true conversation between policymakers and citizens, between diplomats and foreign public.

The book is not a technical manual, or a list of what to do and not to do. It is rather a collection of information, anecdotes, and experiences. It recounts episodes involving foreign ministers and ambassadors, as well as their ways of interacting with the tool and exploring its great potential. It wants to inspire ambassadors and diplomats to open and nurture their Twitter accounts – and to inspire all of us to use Twitter to better listen and open our minds." Image from entry


US Combating African Extremism with Public Diplomacy - Pamela Dockins, voanews.com: The United States is working to counter violent extremism in Africa by providing an "alternative narrative" and "alternative scenarios," according to Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine.

In an interview with VOA's Press Conference USA, Sonenshine said the goal is to help Africans see alternative routes to extremism - such as education, employment and health care. ‘Our job is to make those opportunities available and to push back on the violent extremist narrative,’ said Sonenshine. ...  The undersecretary also commented on China's widening influence in Africa. China surpassed the U.S. in 2009 to become Africa's largest trading partner. Angola, South Africa and Sudan are among the continent's top traders with Beijing. Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged $20 billion in new loans to Africa during a July summit in Beijing. Sonenshine said the strengthening Sino-African trade ties is not something the U.S. should worry about, but it should prompt the U.S. to 'sit up straight' and 'up' its game by putting more resources into U.S. public diplomacy. 'I think of it as a good challenge,' said Sonenshine." Image from article, with caption: U.S. Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine being interviewed by VOA's Press Conference USA. See also.

Soccer is Life; Love is Basketball [includes videos] - hermeticahealth.blogspot.com: "'Sport is a language everyone of us can speak,' UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, and its power as a tool in a country’s public diplomacy arsenal is being increasingly recognized. Mixing sport and diplomacy can help meet various foreign policy objectives: to bring about regime change, open the door for dialogue when it is closed to politics and to arouse a sense of national pride. This mixture however, is by no means 'new.' ... Sports-diplomacy can be a ‘soft’ way of exploring or signaling a foreign policy shift between estranged states. The best example of this is, of course, the 1971 case of Ping-Pong Diplomacy . ... When you think of diplomats and foreign policy specialists, you probably envision people in suits and ties, carrying attache cases, clustered in meeting rooms with interpreters rapidly talking between them. But an integral part of the U.S. State Department’s mission is carried out by envoys in shorts, T-shirts, and cross-trainers with nary a briefcase or file folder in site. ... Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said, 'Actually, our sport’s [ambivalent use of the apostrophe --  JB] exchanges are the most popular exchanges we do. And when I go to other countries around the world and we talk about what kind of exchanges that people are looking for, very often a leader will say, how about a sports exchange?' ... [M]aybe sending someone like Dennis Rodman to meet with the leaders of North Korea is a good thing."

Broadcasting Board of Governors – Information War Lost – IBB: The Babble-Ramac - The Federalist, usgbroadcasts.com: "The agency is dead. ... Former Secretary of State Clinton has it right: 'Defunct.' And don’t believe for a moment that an insubordinate and defiant IBB or some CEO magically popping up out of nowhere will save the agency or its mission."

Dhaka's blood, sweat and tears - Saurabh Shukla, indiatoday.intoday.in: "India should build a new relationship with Dhaka, work on new strands, get the public diplomacy machinery active and ensure that the good ideas of democracy can be shared and implemented.

It will require a creative diplomatic approach, using the social media and engaging with young Bangladeshis." Image from article, with caption: Children pose as Bangladshi freedom fighter.

Yao Ming wants to use CPPCC role to promote role of sport: Former NBA star wants to use CPPCC status to promote the role of athletes and their welfare - Keith Zhai, scmp.com: Former basketball star Yao Ming has called for Chinese sports to get back to basics and not be viewed solely as a way of advancing national honour. The 2.26-metre-tall former Houston Rockets centre, who played in the United States' elite NBA competition for eight seasons and spearheaded a basketball boom in China, said he was feeling some pressure in his new role as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

'My dream is that sports can become more than a way of winning national glory but a way to cultivate robust bodies and inspiring minds,' Yao said. 'My basketball career has ended, but I will continue to push sports development forward.' ... Yao also talked about another new role, as vice-chairman of the Shanghai Public Diplomacy Association. He said public diplomacy was an effective channel for expanding the influence of a nation's 'soft power' and enhancing cultural communication." Image from article, with caption: Former NBA player Yao Ming says he will continue to push sports development after attending the CPPCC session.

Judith A. McHale Named To SeaWorld Entertainment Board Of Directors - prnewswire.com: "SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., a leading theme park and entertainment company, announced today that Judith A. McHale has been named a member of the board of directors of SeaWorld Entertainment. McHale, who recently served in the U.S. State Department as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, joins SeaWorld with more than three decades' experience in public service and the private sector. "


Could Dennis Rodman’s North Korea Trip Affect U.S. Policy? - Michael Crowley, Time: While hanging with Dennis Rodman—who in his post-NBA life has become an oddball reality TV character—might reveal Kim’s comfort with American culture, that shouldn’t surprise, either. Both Kim Jong Un and his late father, Kim Il Sung, are known as fans of American movies and other cultural exports: “Hollywood and NBA may be American icons, but Kim’s demonstrated

affinity for such forms of amusement does not signal an overture to Washington,” adds Sung-Yoon Lee of the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. “It certainly does not indicate intentions of reform or opening, coming just a couple of weeks after a nuclear test.” At the State Department on Monday, there was little sign that top officials would be contacting Dennis Rodman to hear about his quality time with Kim Jong Un. Image from article

Come Home, America - Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, New York Times: Sharing the burden of security with our allies is more than a fiscal necessity. It’s the sine qua non of a return to global normalcy.

Dam and other Afghanistan projects being scaled back as U.S. picks up pace of withdrawal - Rajiv Chandrasekaran, washingtonpost.com: USAID has decided not to complete the most critical part of the $266 million project. Instead, the agency intends to hand over to the Afghan government the challenging task of installing a large hydropower turbine.

USAID officials insist that the U.S. government is not abandoning the turbine project. The agency, they noted, will still pay for the installation, estimated to cost $70 million. But instead of having a U.S. contractor perform the work, USAID intends to give the money directly to the Afghan state-run electricity company, which will be responsible for hiring experts and managing the construction. Image from article, with caption: he United States has worked for years to secure and repair the Kajaki Dam in Afghanistan. Now, USAID intends to hand over to the Afghan government the challenging task of installing a large hydropower turbine.

The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan: "My time in the Obama administration turned out to be a deeply disillusioning experience" - Vali Nasr: It was to court public opinion that Obama first embraced the war in Afghanistan. And when public opinion changed, he was quick to declare victory and call the troops back home. His actions from start to finish were guided by politics, and they played well at home. Abroad, however, the stories the United States tells to justify its on-again, off-again approach do not ring true to friend or foe.

They know the truth: America is leaving Afghanistan to its own fate. America is leaving even as the demons of regional chaos that first beckoned it there are once again rising to threaten its security. America has not won this war on the battlefield, nor has the country ended it at the negotiating table. America is just washing its hands of this war. We may hope that the Afghan army the United States is building will hold out longer than the one that the Soviet Union built, but even that may not come to pass. Very likely, the Taliban will win Afghanistan again, and this long, costly war will have been for naught. Image from article (Holbrooke on the right); via macilibe@aol.com

Egypt Needs to Act - Editorial, New York Times: President Obama’s decision to provide $250 million in aid to Egypt is a vote of confidence in a country that is critical to stability in the region but is also teetering on the edge of economic disaster. It is now up to Egypt’s government — and its opponents — to create the political and economic consensus that can leverage the American money to turn around their failing state.

A Russian 'frenemy': Washington and the Kremlin have gone as far as they can for now in finding common ground - Leon Aron, latimes.com: The White House is trying to revive the "reset" with Vladimir Putin's Russia. It is likely to be a wasted effort. The reset is dead not because of someone's ill will or mistakes. It is because Washington and Moscow have reached the limit of accommodation that neither could overstep without compromising the central elements and moral content of their foreign and domestic policies. The challenge for the U.S. is to find the middle ground between hubris — thinking we can shape and guide Russia's domestic evolution — and resignation — thinking we can't do anything "from the outside."

From the presidential bully pulpit down to the bowels of the State Department, the message should be loud and clear: A free, democratic, stable and prosperous Russian state, at peace with its own people and the world, would be an immense geo-strategic boon to the United States, and America would be deeply gratified to welcome it as a friend and ally. Image from article, with caption: Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the 104th Guard Air Assault Regiment of the 76th Guard Air Assault Division in Pskov.

Conceived in Delusion, Sold in Deception - Paul Waldman, prospect.org: "The campaign to sell America on an invasion of Iraq was probably the most comprehensive and dishonest propaganda effort our country has seen in the last [sic] century. As we discuss it over the next few weeks, those who continue to hold that it was a good idea—akin to saying to this day that the Titanic was unsinkable—will claim that though there was certainly bad intelligence, the Bush administration did not actually lie about Iraq, that their intentions were good and they forthrightly made their case to protect America. Don't let them get away with it, not for a second. The truth is that they planned and executed a campaign designed to muddle heads and bring terror to hearts, one so shameless we may never see its like again (if only the plan for war itself had been constructed with such care). It was an all-hands-on-deck effort, with Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and so many others trotted out to deceive and dissemble, mislead and misdirect. The examples are so numerous we can't even scratch the surface here."

Child’s quibble with U.S. ‘poverty superpower’ propaganda unravels a sobering story about insular Japan - Debito Arudou - The Japanese public, insufficiently trained in critical thinking, will remain intellectually blinded by jingoistic and xenophobic propaganda.

Image from entry, with caption: Be very afraid: An image used in the Chagurin magazine for Japanese schoolchildren that is supposed to illustrate the effects of a poor diet on American children's health actually shows a boy wearing fake Halloween teeth.

Ghostwriter turns to Kickstarter to fund Kim Jong-Il autobiography - Ian Steadman, wired.co.uk: North Korea's Kim Jong-Il may have died last year, but his life was covered in dozens -- if not hundreds -- of books produced by the country's propaganda machine. That's the source material that professional ghostwriter Michael Malice wants to turn into the world's first unauthorised autobiography of the Dear Leader.

He's using Kickstarter to fund the $30,000 (£19,913) project, and has even visited the country to stock up on books from which to draw information, written both by the regime's writers and purportedly by the dictator himself. Malice isn't going to allow his decadent western scepticism to cloud his judgement -- what Kim says happened, happened, be it his ability to control the weather or that his birth caused rainbows to appear in the sky. Wired.co.uk had a chat with Malice over the phone about the book. Uncaptioned image from entry

Soviet antireligious propaganda - rosswolfe.wordpress.com: Trotsky, also writing in 1922, about the need for the Communist Youth (the Komsomol) to spread militant atheist propaganda. The journal Godless

was funded through the Komsomol, amongst other branches of the Soviet state: "Religion is a sop and a leash. Religion is a poison precisely during a revolutionary epoch and in a period of the extreme hardships which are succeeding the conquest of power. This was understood by such a counter-revolutionary in political sympathies, but such a deep psychologist, as Dostoevsky. He said: ‘Atheism is inconceivable without socialism and socialism without atheism. Religion denies not only atheism but socialism also.’ He had understood that the heavenly paradise and the earthly paradise negate one another. If man is promised a hereafter, a kingdom without end then is it worth shedding his own and his brothers’ and his children’s blood for the establishment of a kingdom just like this here in this world? That is the question. We must deepen a revolutionary world-outlook, we must fight the religious prejudices in the youth and approach the youth, including those having religious prejudices, with the maximum pedagogical attentiveness of the more educated towards the less educated.

We must go to them with the propaganda of atheism, for only this propaganda defines the place of man in the universe and draws out for him a circle of conscious activity here on earth." Images from entry: above -- Cover to Bezbozhnik, Godless (1923); below -- image depicting a lynching in America with the mocking title, “God’s country”

Propaganda Posters For The Impending Robot Takeover - giantfreakinrobot.com: If we learned anything from the fiasco that followed Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, it’s that we must constantly keep reminding ourselves of the differences between art and reality. Before viewing the following pictures, use this as your mantra: It’s only an illustration. It’s only an illustration.

For now. Animator, illustrator and deviant ART user Tom Kyzivat’s posters of Giant Freakin’ Robots ominously calling for humanity’s doom recall the early days of non-charming robots, using Fritz Lang as an obvious influence. Though the images aren’t new, they’re particularly timeless and beautiful, and also prove that, no matter what you think you’re expecting, robots will always be one step ahead. Image from entry


To be men! That is the Stalinist law! . . .

We must learn from Stalin

his sincere intensity

his concrete clarity. . . .

Stalin is the noon,

the maturity of man and the peoples.

Stalinists, Let us bear this title with pride. . . .

Stalinist workers, clerks, women take care of this day!

The light has not vanished.

The fire has not disappeared,

There is only the growth of

Light, bread, fire and hope

In Stalin’s invincible time! . . .

In recent years the dove,

Peace, the wandering persecuted rose,

Found herself on his shoulders

And Stalin, the giant,

Carried her at the heights of his forehead. . . .

A wave beats against the stones of the shore.

But Malenkov will continue his work.

--Pablo Neruda (1904–73); Stalin-Neruda image from