Monday, April 30, 2012

Grounds for Gastrodiplomacy

In a wonderful and innovative bit of gastrodiplomacy, Turkayfe— a Turkish nationbranding project that is sponsored by a number of Turkish businesses and associations— has created a mobile Turkish coffee house. 

This mobile Turkish coffee house is driving up and down the East Coast, handing out free cups of delicious sweet black Turkish coffee. The Turkish coffee truck launched its efforts by setting up shop at George Washington University on Friday April 27 to hand out free cups of Turkish coffee to all that passed by. Then, on Staurday April 28, the Mobile Turkish Coffee House set up shop in Georgetown, handing out over 1,000 cups of the rich Turkish treat to the posh patrons on M St.

The Mobile Turkish Coffee House will head on to dispense a bit of gatrodiplomacy in Baltimore (May 1), New York (May 4-5), at Yale University (May 8) and in Boston (May 11).  And for a bit of "I see public diplomacy in your future," there is even an online fortune teller to read your future in the coffee grinds.  Great project!  Nice work, Efe (Sherefe!).


Saturday, April 28, 2012

On memories

"Memories-- They define us-- They locate us-- They remind us from where we have come and how long the jouney remains..." -Rabbi Danny Zemel

Friday, April 27, 2012

Homeland Security

An unscreened baby caused an hour-long security shutdown at an NJ airport.  Dirty diapers at bio weapons threat?  Oh, America and homeland security. Such a sad joke.

On academe

‎"The reason academic politics are so bitter is that so little is at stake." -Henry Kissinger H/T to SPowers. Sadly some of the best professors I have had in both undergrad and grad school end up being denied tenure. Perhaps because they actually spend time teaching, rather polishing their publications in pointy-headed obtuse journals.

Calling a spade a spade

Amen to Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann for eloquently making the case that is indeed the Republicans fault for why things are so f'ing dysfunctional.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yom Huledet Sameyach

Happy Birthday Israel.  I wasn't sure how i was going to weigh-in.  I have been disappointed of late with Israel's policies, such as the recent settlement legalization of settlements.  But I am reading a great book on the 14th century by Barbara Tuchman called "A Distant Mirror," and while reading about the persecution and pogroms the Jews faced for "causing the Plague" and was reminded of the historical need and desire to have our own country.

But just as The Palestine Post proclaimed the State of Israel'sbirth, so too do I long to see The Jerusalem Post proclaiming that the State of Palestine is born.  Two states for two people.  It was right 64 years ago, it is right today.

On Communication

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”
-J. B. Priestley 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Information Overload

Too much information is apparently nothing new.

Glorious Nation Thanks Borat!

As I have long contended, Borat was actually great for Kazakhstan, and its Foreign Minister finally admitted as much:
Kazakhstan's foreign minister on Monday thanked "Borat," the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy that the Central Asian nation once banned for lampooning its people, for massively boosting its tourism.
"With the release of this film, the number of visas issued by Kazakhstan grew tenfold," local news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov as telling a session of parliament. 
"I am grateful to 'Borat' for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan," the foreign minister said.
Exactly what the Bernays-Barnum School of PD holds to be true, that (almost) all attention is good attention when it comes to nationbranding.  More than anyone else, Borat put Kazakhstan on the map.  Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan can only dream of such wonderful, free public diplomacy.

Sour Grapes

On Writing

Anna Quindlen has a great oped on writing:

I hate to write. I have to force myself every day to sit down and begin. This is the first thing that I always tell students, who have absorbed the peculiar modern notion that if you are practiced at something you must find it effortless and pleasurable. Sometimes they ask how I continue, and I reply, glibly, "Because of contractual obligation." But I only manage because I live a humdrum life, in which the drama takes place mainly on the page.
The day begins with a period of mindless and repetitive activity. My one-hour power walk is nominally cardio, but it's actually composition—scenes, characters, even dialogue. (There must be people in my neighborhood park who think I'm a lunatic since occasionally I move my lips while composing on the fly.) One of the reasons I so fear the over-scheduling of today's children is that most creative thought happens when you are staring into the middle distance, doing nothing at all.
"Inspiration comes during work, not before it," Madeleine L'Engle once wrote, and for that to happen you must sit down in a chair. I don't believe in writer's block. It's not that sometimes you can't write, it's that you can't write well. Experience has told me that writing poorly sometimes leads to something better. Not writing at all leads only to reruns of "Law and Order." Which I love, but still.
When I am writing a novel, I have a totem that helps me to fall back into its world, like the old Hamilton wrist watch with the sepia face that I imagined on the wrist of my protagonist in "Blessings." Stephen Sondheim says that his writing utensils are unvarying: Blackwing pencils, yellow legal pads with precisely 32 lines, both so essential that he has laid in a lifetime supply. For my part, I need Sondheim in the background. It's not so much the music as the familiarity of it, like wallpaper in the workroom of my imagination.
My schedule, too, is set to music. I've heard endless stories of young mothers rising at 5 a.m. to fit in a few hours of writing before the children were up, but I can barely make coffee at 5 a.m. My productive hours are between 9 and 3, an elementary school schedule, once the only predictable part of my working day (unless one of the children got an ear infection and then all bets were off). If I go out for lunch and interrupt my rhythm, I'm sunk. I think that all of those lunches were what diminished Truman Capote's output.
Or maybe it's that he talked too much about his work. If you talk it, you won't write it; it's as though the words turn into vapor in the air. If you write other stuff, you won't write it either. One of my Barnard writing professors, B.J. Chute, used to tell us not to take jobs that included writing of any kind because there was no chance we would then go home at night and take up our own material. But she predated the Internet, which is more dangerous than a copywriting gig.
I'm convinced that there are only so many words per day in the human body: If you do some longish emails and a few tweets, you feel done.
Finally, how you start each day depends on how you finished the day before. I never knock off at the end of a chapter, or the end of a paragraph, or even the end of a sentence. I always stop in mid-sentence. Starting a new chapter or a new paragraph first thing in the morning might be too much to bear. But I can always manage to finish a sentence. And one sentence has a way of following another if everything else around me is routine enough.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Land of Dreams

The Brand USA campaign (DiscoverAmerica) has a new video from Roseanne Cash

I love it. Now, I am just wondering if those coming to find the Land of Dreams will get visas. Even more ironic is that those who are applying for such visas just paid for the advert with $14 levied on to visa applications to pay for the initiative.  But I will refrain from snarky criticism, cause I think this is indeed a positive start.


"Justice, justice shall ye pursue."

For those who knew about the situation with my roommate (see under; The Hurricane): all is well that ends well.

Public Transit Propaganda

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.

We have seen the enemy...

David Rothkopf has a great piece in FP on America's real enemy...look in the mirror:

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.  
Many in the United States have a rampant, untreated case of enemy dependency. Politicians love enemies because bashing them helps stir up public sentiment and distract attention from problems at home. The defense industry loves enemies because enemies help them make money. Pundits and their publications love enemies because enemies sell papers and lead eyeballs to cable-news food fights.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


A few weeks back I caught up with my friend Nora, who mentioned to me a fascinating documentary she saw called Timbuktu.  The premise of the movie was to track West African Islamic customs in African-American communities today.  In short, much of West Africa is Muslim.  Places like Senegal, Mali and Mauritania are historically Muslim communities.  They were also the major places of much of the slave trade.  Something that I had never considered until Nora drew the connection for me from the documentary is that many of the slaves taken in the trans-Atlantic slave trade were actually Muslims.  

Nora noted that the documentary looked at West African Muslim traditions, and how some of those traditions were perceived in American slave society.  Also, about some of the West African Islamic traditions that furtively survived in African-American communities.  I guess I had largely thought of the victims of the slave trade as animist (images of Kunta Kinte, etc) not realizing that these were people likely drawn from West African Muslim communities.  Fascinating to think of West African slaves trying to maintain their Islamic traditions of prayer, fasting and the like amid the vile institution of slavery- it was just not something that I had thought of prior.

Water, Water Everywhere

I am finding that the real world is having a real deleterious effect on my blogging.  Working backwards, I attended a USC Center on Public Diplomacy briefing in DC on Water Diplomacy last monday.  The event was a follow-up program to the Water Diplomacy conference that CPD hosted in LA earlier in the spring.  The program opened with CPD Director Prof Seib discussing the notion that public diplomacy is not about advertising but rather service.  He also made a good point related to niche diplomacy about how it can both reduce global maladies while advancing national interests.

The discussion continued with The World Bank's manager of Water and Sanitation projects  Jaehyang So.  She noted the necessity of access to water for green growth, and that lack of access could cause serious issues to developmental growth.  She pointed out that 2.5 billion people around the globe lack access to clean sanitation, some 600 million in India alone (fyi, more people in India have cell phones than access to clean sanitation).  So noted about water access as shaping innovation differently, for example using cell phone based mobile app to map water points.  She also discuss a program called the Water Hackathon, and the role of using networks to address water access issues.  This program essentially crowd-sourced support to deal with water access issues ("Random hacks of kindness").

So also pointed out about how evidence collected is being used to inform policy goals.  For example, there is a 6.4% loss of GDP in India due to lack of clean sanitation, so getting policy makers to appreciate that it isn't just an issue of development but also economics.  There was also discussions about partnerships in the 21st century focus on dealing with such issues, and seeking out public/private partnership as a means to address the surrounding issues.

The next speaker was Katherine Bliss the Director of the Project on Global Water Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  She discussed such policy measures as the 2005 Paul Simon Water for the Poor.

Next my friend Naomi Leight, who is CPD's Asst Director for Publications and the driving force behind the program spoke on what public diplomacy tools can help address water issues.  She spoke about the need for listening, and hearing the interests of the communities affected not just our own interests.  She also spoke about the role of international exchange and tech training.  Furthermore, she highlighted the role that pd's advocacy can play is raising the issue of water access.  Naomi pointed out that the U.S. invested $3.4 billion in water aid, the 4th largest of any country.  She forwarded the notion that as a long term goal, the US can be a leader in coordinating international working groups on water issues.

During the Q&A session, we heard about some work that VOA is doing regarding a $300,000 campaign to use its radio broadcasts and expertise to help with access to water (I think- unfortunately, the details escape my notes).

I asked a question related to the fact that this was a good middle power niche diplomacy issue, and asked which countries were using access to water as a niche issue for PD focus.  The answer was a little muddied. The Netherlands, which had a rep on hand at the meeting, is doing a lot of work on issues of access to water.  Other countries like Germany and Spain are investing in water aid.  I think the issue of desalinization as a niche diplomacy issue could be a good issue for countries like Kuwait, which does a lot of work on desalinization.  Israel has done some PD development work on water issues and drip irrigation in its developmental aid through MASHAV.  But in short, there don't seem to be any countries that have internalized the need to make water a central niche diplomacy focus.

On the whole, the program was quite good.  I applaud CPD for putting on a fascinating program that really had the full conference room brimming with thought and discussion.  CPD did a nice job convening experts and academics together to have a tangible discussion on a significant issue.  I raise my glass of DC tap and offer a cheers to CPD for a great program.

PS: there was an interesting 5 myths piece in WaPo a bit back on Water that is also worth a read.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Korean-Jewish exchange

I have discovered a new way for Koreans and Jews to bond: cream cheese and kimchi on toast.  Delish.  Probably even better on a bagel, but we work with what we got in the gastrodiplo kitchen.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Aborting Santorum

Graduate School Arrested Development

Yep, grad debt is causing arrested development for my generation.

Gastrodiplomacy on trial

I was called to testify today in a truly Hurricane Carter-esque farce of a trial. I won't get into the details as the trial is still ongoing. But I was called in to testify on my gastrodiplomacy interactions with paneer- the soft Indian cheese. Yes, really. Gastrodiplomacy is actually holding a man's freedom in the balance. It's enough to give anyone indigestion.

PS: It seems as if my gastrodiplomacy testimony might really swing the balance of the case. Perhaps a little masala justice might be coming.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On God

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me."
- Emo Philips

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ink Diplomacy

I was watching CCTV the other night (yes, I love international broadcasting, and sometimes tune in to RT, NHK and France24) and I saw something on the ticker that made me laugh: apparently, the most popular tattoos in China these days are English words.  So years after the stupid craze of getting Chinese characters inked on Occidental skin, now the Chinese are getting semi-poignant words printed on their skin-cum-canvas.  As I noticed across the Straits, in Taiwan- where there is a large Buddhist population- people were opting for Sanskrit.

Having been to China, and seen the muck of Chinglish that exists on signage ("Racist Park" in Beijing, among a slew of anecdotes I could name), perhaps a good bit of business could be made in teaching English to tattoo artists, and offering proofreading for people planning on getting tatted up.  Someone could set up a stand outside parlors, and proofread for a lil kwai.  Maybe it could even be a public diplomacy exchange.  Why do all our vocational exchanges need to be high brow?  Why couldn't we sponsor some vocational exchanges for tattoo artists?  The Bernays-Barnum School of PD approves such guerrilla cultural exchange.


A little late to the party, but loved the response from  Norm Chad to the idiocy that transpired with Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen's comments about Castro:
"Naturally, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement supporting the Marlins’ decision to suspend Guillen, saying, “Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. . . . Mr. Guillen’s remarks have no place in our game.”
Interestingly, Selig sat side-by-side with Castro when the Orioles traveled to Cuba for an exhibition game in 1999. Hmm. I’m not sure what message of social responsibility it sends to America when the commissioner-for-life rubs elbows in the stands with the comandante-for-life.
How can Guillen be condemned for his lack of judgment while Selig — who authorized an MLB appearance in Cuba and then validated Castro by chatting him up — waves to the crowd?
And as always, Bill Maher is on point.

American Brain Drain

While we in America were fighting wars abroad and culture wars at home as our infrastructure grew dilapidated, the rest of the world started growing up.  Now, the children of those crossed the seas to find the American dream are finding that energy that once drove such dreams in their parents back in their ancestral lands.  This strikes me as an encapsulated failure of the American dream, but having been to China, India and Brazil, I can attest to that frenetic energy that simply doesn't seem to exist here these days.  

The Father of Propaganda

A good video on the legacy of Bernays.  Good find, JB.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The news may be good...

“VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.”
 -Voice of America Charter

 Last week, I made my way over to VOA for a meeting to discuss possible collaborations. I will share about such business later.   But prior, I got to partake in a fascinating tour about Voice of America.

I ended up having a personal tour, as the tour group that was slated to join me never materialized. As I was waiting for the tour group that didn't show, I got to admire some of the beautiful WPA murals by Seymour Fogel and Ben Shahn.  See under: When Art Worked. I couldn't help but think how shocking it would be today to try to re-institute such a program.

Anyway, my tour kicked off with a stroll down VOA memory lane.  There was an interactive component with a head set.  Picture displayed of FDR's initiation of the Voice after the commencement of World War II, as well as the famous words from the first broadcast from William H. Hale: "The news may be good.  The news may be bad.  We shall tell you the truth."

Moving forward, I got chills when I heard Willis Conover's smooth, smokey voice introduce Jazz Hour.  And also Satchmo's gravely welcome.

There was also a great quote by JFK on VOA at its 20th anniversary:
The Voice of America occupies, I believe, a key part in the story of American life. What we do here in this country, and what we are, what we want to be, represents really a great experiment in a most difficult kind of self-discipline, and that is the organization and maintenance and development of the progress of free government. And it is your task, as the executives and participants in the Voice of America, to tell that story around the world.
Also an interesting anecdote that 615 million people tuned in to the VOA for Neil Armstrong's broadcast from the moon, the largest in broadcast history.

The tour continued inside with a map showing all the language areas that VOA covers (43 to be exact) and a brief video introduction. There were great quotes from Lech Walesa about how there would have been no victory over communism without VOA, and from the Dali Lama about the importance of the VOA to Tibet.

We passed by the television studios and the newsroom behind it, and I heard about how the newscenter is staffed 24/7/365.  The guide mentioned that it was one of the largest newsrooms in the world.  Also that there are 22 radio dishes on the roof that beam to a satellite.  I also heard a bit more about VOA's production capabilities in tv and radio.

I passed by a radio studio where a host was giving a broadcast of Radio Ashna, which is for Afghanistan and reaches 8.8 million adults weekly.  If my notes serve me correctly, it reaches nearly 48% of Afghans, with 4 hours in Dari, 4 hours in Pashto and 4 hours of Special English (English in educational format).  The tour ended with another short video, discussing some of VOA's efforts and challenges.   I got a little broader tour after with my PD colleague Rick Barnes, who showed me some of the radio studios and program spots.

On the whole, the tour was quite good and should be mandatory for any PD student passing through DC.   I should hope that AU, GW and the Syracuse PD students stationed here in the city visit as part of class curriculum.  I have a great deal of respect for the work VOA does, and I think it is unfortunate that more of the general public doesn't know about its work.  I also think it is unfortunate that it is continually fighting rearguard actions to save itself.  I am reminded of a piece I previously penned for CPD on the need to use popular site like the Newseum to advocate on behalf of the field of public diplomacy.  Given that VOA already has a museum exhibit, it seems like such an easy partnership and way to get the work of VOA on a more public radar.

Yesterday and Today

"To acknowledge the truth of the old Arab proverb that says we have less reason to fear what may happen tomorrow than to beware what happened yesterday" -Lewis Lapham, "Ignorance of Things Past" in Harper's Magazine May 2012 (from the future!)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On historical repetition

"History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme." -Mark Twain


Caught a case of newmark? First Mr. Craig's list kills newspapers, now his list is possibly helping spread syphilis. Social media meets social diseases. #penicillin


Reading Hamlet in Cairo

Interesting article on Hamlet and Nasser, and the new book "Hamlet and the Arab World"

Speaking of Egyptian kings, Passover is officially over and I helped end it in full style with jumbo slice and DC Brau.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Of interest

A few articles that caught my eye:

-On "besuboru," Japanese baseball.  I would have loved to have seen a game when I was in Japan but didn't have time.  I watched a bit on TV.

-A good article on the "Colombian Miracle."  Colombia has done a pretty good job of late on the nationbranding front, with the Colombia es Passion campaign and the "only risk is wanting to stay" campaign.  I still think that there is more to be done on the overall public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy front, but the solid coverage is a nice way to change perceptions.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

On History

"History never repeats itself; man always does." -Voltaire

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Creators

South Africa and its musical heritage during the apartheid period and the years to come. Nice work, Laura.

Game of Thrones in IR perspective

Foreign Affairs has a great piece on Game of Thrones in an IR context.  Luv it.  Nice find, CH.  I haven't found much of a pd angle for the show.  Definitely little use for soft power, as we got a rebuke to the notion that "information is power" with a reminding dictum from Cersei Lannister in the first episode of the second season that "power is power."  Prof. Pat James at USC teaches a class on IR and Middle Earth; maybe a Game of Thrones class could be in the offing.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Go O's!

Looking forward to a great season of Orioles baseball.  Apparently, they couldn't beat a community college team.  Maybe if we relegate them a level like they do in EuroFootball, they might be competitive.

Twain on Travel

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime"
-Mark Twain

The irony is that I have read Mark Twain's travel writings (Innocents Abroad) and he was not so broad, wholesome or charitable on his Oriental adventures.  So it goes.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Missing the memo

Hey Santorum, I think you should continue fighting all the way to the convention.  You make a great point that Romney is not a rock-ribbed conservative.  You have trounced him all throughout Redstatelandia, and you did just win the last vote in Louisiana- which leaves me curious why the narrative is suddenly all for Romney. But I readily admit that I have my own self-interest for such advice.  I hope you never get the memo that the Republican establishment doesn't want you or think you have a chance.  "Fight on, Santorum!" says this good Democrat :)

Granny is screwed too!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

APDS Conference: The Future of PD

The USC APDSers are having their annual conference this week, and it sounds to be a interesting engagement. The conference is on "The Future of Public Diplomacy" and hits some good areas of PD in both the theoretical and practical levels.  PDniks in Lalaland should stop on in for what sounds to be an interesting program.

Friends of Syria

Oh, the Onion.  Sadly so true: Alien World to Help out Syria Since This One Refuses To.  TY NS.