Monday, November 19, 2007


The State Department, departing from traditional public diplomacy techniques, has what it calls a three-person, "digital outreach team" posting entries in Arabic on "influential" Arabic blogs to challenge misrepresentations of the United States and promote moderate views among Islamic youths in the hopes of steering them from terrorism.

The department's bloggers "speak the language and idiom of the region, know the culture reference points and are often able to converse informally and frankly, rather than adopt the usually more formal persona of a U.S. government spokesperson," Duncan MacInnes, of State's Bureau of International Information Programs, told the House Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism and unconventional threats on Thursday.

"Because blogging tends to be a very informal, chatty way of working," MacInnes said, "it is actually very dangerous to blog." So State has a senior experienced officer, who served in Iraq, acting as supervisor and discussing each posting before it goes up. "We do not make policy," MacInnes added.

The State Department team's approach is to join a blog's conversation, often when it turns to the motivation for U.S. policy toward Iraq, and when others are claiming that the U.S. occupation is meant to help Israel or to secure oil. "Our job is to address that motivation issue and show them that that's not the motivation," MacInnes said.

"You can't just say, 'Well, here's our policy,' and drop it into the blog. You have to have what I call a bridge," MacInnes said. He then described using a sporting or current event or even poetry that would "allow one to get to be in a conversational mode with people."

Even though the State Department employees were not going into hard-core terrorist sites, the worry, MacInnes said, was that after identifying themselves and using their own names, "we would be, in the parlance of the Internet, 'flamed' when we come on" -- meaning their entries would be subjected to intense attacks.


Coming to a blog near you, they have been practicing blog warfare, spying and trolling like the slimy little trolls usually do and we have witnessed on more than one occasion on the old Cornblog. Now they are going international with their pain in the ass program.

The State Department, meddling in everyones business, quite a use for your tax dollars, no wonder America is going broke.



micki said...

My first impression: This scheme smacks of the idiotic *thinking* a la Karen Hughes

Duncan is a career diplomat and a senior Public Diplomacy officer with extensive field experience. He has recently been asked by Karen Hughes to lead an inter-agency effort to come up with a reinvigorated PD counter-terrorism strategy.

micki said...

At State Department, Blog Team Joins Muslim Debate

I thought I had read about this at an earlier date -- looks like WaPo is a little behind the curve. Must be time to resurrect the story -- for some self-serving reason.

One does wonder about the usefulness of this *program* -- part of my skepticism, admittedly, is rooted in the fact that it comes from an administration known for its lies, deviousness, lack of candor, and general stupidity.

micki said...

DIPNOTE: Official U.S. Department of State Blog Site

Some of the comments make me think the participants have their "office etiquette" handbook opened to the page titled, "How to Kiss up to the Boss" and other apple-polishing techniques.

DEN said...

I missed the first issuance of the story, I think there are better things to do like being HONEST in foreign relations instead of sneaking and misinforming, and lying and....

Integrity needed.

Carey said...

A good morning to my favorite peeps!

About an hour and a half ago I tried to tell you all that Stephen Cohen was on CSPAN 3. He's my pick of the Soviet historians--has been since the mid-eighties. Just love the man. So, so smart. He along with professors at the university assisted me in achieving historical ephiphanies--just listening and reading him intently. I glom onto the good ones.

At any rate I couldn't get on the computer again. Martin, my brother-in-law, will look at it next weekend. We've been busy.

The State Department thing sounds like just another extension of Bush "policy". Fake friendliness and show of concern in order to get someone's goodies. It's an effort to infiltrate and control everything, every aspect of everybody's life. The metaphors of Animal Farm no longer apply. We're past it now.

I bet this effort by the State Department is done, somehow, in conjunction with Blackwater. I don't know, but at this stage, I wouldn't put anything past them.

My fingers are quite lazy this a.m. Every other word is a typo. I hate that.

On the recycling of new stories:

Oh yes, there is a concerted effort to pass off old stories as new. It has become so noticeable it has one yelling at the source of the news.

There are times, though, when laziness is the obvious culprit.

Carey said...

This is Tim Rutten on the debate last week and the form of the debates in general. It addresses our concerns.

Micki, I dedicate the first couple of paragraphs to you. Your disgust at the nature and style of the debates is absolutely spot on. It's almost worthless. Soundbite hell. I think I may give up the debates. Effin boring--nothing of substance.

It angers one so to see the country so fallen.


Barnum & Bailey & CNN

IF you're one of those dutiful souls who felt that the responsible exercise of citizenship required you to watch Thursday's debate among the Democratic candidates on CNN, you probably came away feeling as if you'd spent a couple of hours locked in the embrace of a time share salesman.

We're not talking about the candidates here, but about the shamelessly high-pressure pitch machine that has replaced the Cable News Network's once smart and reliable campaign coverage. Was there ever a better backdrop than Las Vegas for the traveling wreck of a journalistic carnival that CNN's political journalism has become? And can there now be any doubt that, in his last life, Wolf Blitzer had a booth on the midway, barking for the bearded lady and the dog-faced boy?

It all would be darkly comedic if CNN's descent into hyperbole and histrionics simply represented a miscalculation in reportorial style, but it signals something else -- the network's attempt to position itself ideologically, the way Fox and MSNBC already have done. In fact, we now have a situation in which the three all-news cable networks each have aligned themselves with a point on the political compass: Fox went first and consciously became the Republican network; MSNBC, which would have sold its soul to the devil for six ratings points, instead found a less-demanding buyer in the Democrats. Now, CNN has decided to reinvent itself as the independent, populist network cursing both sides of the conventional political aisle -- along with immigrants and free trade, of course.

Carey said...

All the debates serve to do, in these god-awful formats is homogenize the candidates.

Carey said...

One thing that bothered me, for some stupid reason, at the debates was Hillary's face. Either she had way, way too much pancake makeup on or she's been botoxed to the hilt.

She could still glare like she does. She needs to control that.

Carey said...

I forgot to mention, yes, it does smack of Hughes.

I cringe when I think of her.

David B. Benson said...

Micki --- You are welcome, but it was Den who pasted the story.

I suggest yoou have a cookie problem. Go delete all the cookies which could possibly have anything to do with IHC. If that doesn't do it, try deleting all your cookies.

DEN said...

Watch our economy fall apart at Reuters

Tough times ahead.

DEN said...

MMMMMMMM cookies!

DEN said...

Hugo sez:
"Soon we will not talk about dollars because the dollar is falling in value and the empire of the dollar is crashing," Chavez said in comments translated into Farsi from Spanish.

"Naturally, by the crash of the dollar, America's empire will crash," Chavez said at a joint news conference with Ahmadinejad. The two presidents share the same viewpoint in denouncing U.S. influence in the world.
See what happens when you act like a bully to the world, now these tinhorn dictators are laughing at our folly while doing their own brand of it.
Pot, you know the kettle?

micki said...

Chavez and Ahmadinejad will soon sponsor a blog together and give a whole new meaning to the word gasbags.

micki said...

U.S. State Department officials will post at their blogsite to explain how good and pure the U.S. is.

micki said...

Oops. Sorry for the mistake....thanks, Den, for posting the story. Dr. B, thanks for noting my mistake.

micki said...

Man, Carey, if I could write like Tim Rutten does, I would have written that! :-))

micki said...

I heard from Jeanne yesterday. I don't think she'd mind if I told this story.

She was walking with a friend, and a runner approached them -- a man whose facial appearance said he could be 100 YO, but in great shape -- who stopped and talked with them.

He looked directly at Jeanne and gave her some advice. He said, if you're getting a divorce don't marry again unless you meet a man who can be your best friend. Jeanne thought, how weird is that? She had said nothing about her divorce!

The man, it turns out, is a psychiatrist.

Carey said...


Thank you so much for the tidbit from Jeanne. Two things about that: the doctor's psychic and she had no ring.

I've noticed a difference in the way some people approach me now that my ring's off. When you're our age, if the ring's off, you're thinking of remarrying.

Shit!!! Hell no Jeanne. No more of those stupid legal entanglements called marriage. Don't you dare. Me neither!!

David B. Benson said...

Me neither.

Carey said...

Tim Rutten is a fine writer. Thought you might appreciate his art.

Well, folks. Fasten your seatbelts. This is going to be a bumpy ride this Christmas.

All politics. Campaign aides becoming devastatingly nasty, fighting tooth and nail, which is the way it's supposed to be. Cut throat tactics like backbiting and cheating through fraudulent leaks bother me. And through the holidays no less. Pondering that development really blights the experience, doesn't it?

Carey said...

I wasn't here this weekend, David. Thought of you when I saw the U.N. Report on climate change.

They pretty much summed it up well, no?

micki said...

Yesterday when I was walking from the Bay to downtown Bellingham, I stopped in at a holiday bazaar, just to look at the "stuff."

I was impressed with the local offerings -- nicely done pottery, weavings, photography, etc. There, among all the usual, but tasteful, items was a COUPON BOOK FOR LOCALS for 10 bucks. I flipped through the pages and saw a $200 coupon offered by a divorce lawyer who specializes in FUNCTIONAL DIVORCE.

A coupon?!! "Functional divorce" -- what is that?

I left empty-handed. Very empty-handed. I wear a ring about half the time, if that.

micki said...

U.S. Jesuits to pay $50m in Alaska abuse settlement

More of the same, but with a new wrinkle...

Now, the police will have to warn residents when a Catholic Church moves into their neighborhoods. (Just kidding....)

David B. Benson said...

This is one of the foggiest days ever (here).

With global warming comes increased water vapor in the air...

micki said...

Goldman Sachs downgrades Citigroup to "sell."

Gee whiz. I thought things were getting rosier.

Carey said...

New Poll:

Obama 30%
Clinton 28%
Edwards 22%

Carey said...

That's a Washington Post poll.

micki said...

Seattle averages 41 days of dense fog a year (with visibility of 1/4 mile or less) with (surprise!) October being the foggiest month of the year with an average of 7 days of fog.

The foggiest year was 1954, where we had 65 days of dense fog.

And those of you who were here during the Holidays in 1985 must have wondered if the fog would ever lift, as the 13 days between Dec. 16 and Dec. 28 holds the record of most consecutive days with dense fog.

If you're trying to dodge the fog, stay away from Oct. 16, Dec. 13 and Dec. 16 as those are statistically the foggiest days of the year, each with 16 instances of dense fog over the past 49 years.

Carey said...

Oh my goodness, Micki. The illness, pedophilia, is like alcoholism. The more the temptation, the more insatiably consumed.

Multiglobal corporation/Catholicism. It's acting to protect itself.

Despite that, nothing new for the Church. A real role model--all the way round.

Carey said...

Did I tell you guys that I actually read the entire Catechism? I was finding myself and dating a Catholic.

Sexism stuck out like a giant sore thumb. Next, the rich/poor hypocrisy. It shook me. I was young and naive.

I have so many Catholic and collapsed Catholic friends. We share the "old liberal" values.

David B. Benson said...

Positive feedbacks already operating" says Dr. James Hansen

Say goodby to Galveston...

Carey said...

One thing I find lacking in the standard coverage is no one, absolutely no one, really discusses Obama's peculiar tasks ahead of him in Iowa.

Barack focuses on change as the major ingredient, this is good. He has to balance an extrememly fine line here, though. Obama has to sound like he represents change without appearing scary. "Black" scary. This is the parochial white Midwest.

The media is overwhelmingly white too. There is no changing that. It's never going to understand Obama's specifically racial tasks at hand. I find that embarrassing. This is our country--racist to the core.

Carey said...

Geez, I'm using my normal glasses.

I meant Clinton 26%/

micki said...

Carey, back during the '04 presidential election, I was so sad to see that the Vietnam ghosts were resurrected to cast aspersions on John Kerry and, also, that we had to go through another endless "hunt" to prove that bush went AWOL from the Texas National Guard. I was sick that we couldn't get beyond that ridiculous war! That was then....this is now...

Even though I recognize that racism is alive (but not well) in this country, I think Obama's challenge is more a generational challenge than a racial challenge. Other blacks have run for president, but the difference with Obama is that he is young and not a Baby Boomer. (Well, and he's not Alan Keyes!!!!!) The only way that Obama can be elected is if voters his age and younger support him.

If Obama was a smarter campaigner, he'd be talking about climate change in his campaign. No, really! He has a forum, and an opportunity, to bring younger people into his "change theme." What better way to set himself apart than to be a leader for change where it's critically important -- on climate.

If he gets the nomination, I'll vote for him. But, reluctantly. I'm not too impressed.

micki said...

Where's Carol? Where's Gerald?

micki said...

This'll help.

Larry Flynt has announced his support for Dennis Kucinich.

David B. Benson said...

On Alternate Reality Gerald said he was tired of blogging. (We'll se how long that lasts.)

Carol is probably trying to keep warm...

Carey said...

Dr. B.

Positive feedback loop.

Wow. I'm emailing that to people.


Yes, it's a generational change he's talking about, and his argument is damn good. What I'm referring to is practical reality.

It is a reality that racism lurks in even unconcious actions and words. You can pretend it's not hanging out with us, as everyone is doing with Obama, "cuz he's really kind of white".

It is in the very fabric of our American essense, unfortunately. It affects every single move Obama's planners make. It's just not talked about. It can't be.

But it's huge. It's almost as if we're trying to slip it past people. That just isn't going to work. It appears as if I'm making a difficulty where none lies.

I wonder if it isn't denial?

Then I wonder if I'm overstudying this. I don't think so. It will real its ugly head.


Carey said...

I guess the reason I'm saying all this is Obama's ahead in the Iowa polls. I find that really hard to believe in a way.

He's black, for God's sakes. Ahead in Iowa? Huh?

micki said...

Well, Carey, he does have Secret Service protection. Which is unusual for a candidate, at this point. (Hillary is an exception, because she'd have it whether she was a prez candidate or not.)

I can guess that he has SS protection because of threats. Why else?

micki said...

I made that comment about Obama needing to talk about change in the context of climate change, partly because of this comment from Dr. B's positive feedback link:

JH: The two primary actions required are a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants (until technology for carbon capture is ready) and a gradually increasing price on carbon emissions. The latter can be done in a way such that the small user, by making choices to save more emissions than the average, can actually gain financially. Government leadership is needed to make these two actions work, e.g., rules for utilities must be changed such that they make more profit when they help improve energy efficiency -- now they make more money if they sell us more energy.

In addition to these two primary actions, we need some focused programs to reduce the non-CO2 climate forcings, especially methane emissions and black soot.

micki said...

This Krugman column might shed some light on your incredulity about Iowa, Carey:

The New York Times

November 19, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Republicans and Race

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of commentaries about Ronald Reagan’s legacy, specifically about whether he exploited the white backlash against the civil rights movement.

The controversy unfortunately obscures the larger point, which should be undeniable: the central role of this backlash in the rise of the modern conservative movement.

The centrality of race — and, in particular, of the switch of Southern whites from overwhelming support of Democrats to overwhelming support of Republicans — is obvious from voting data.

For example, everyone knows that white men have turned away from the Democrats over God, guns, national security and so on. But what everyone knows isn’t true once you exclude the South from the picture. As the political scientist Larry Bartels points out, in the 1952 presidential election 40 percent of non-Southern white men voted Democratic; in 2004, that figure was virtually unchanged, at 39 percent.

More than 40 years have passed since the Voting Rights Act, which Reagan described in 1980 as “humiliating to the South.” Yet Southern white voting behavior remains distinctive. Democrats decisively won the popular vote in last year’s House elections, but Southern whites voted Republican by almost two to one.

The G.O.P.’s own leaders admit that the great Southern white shift was the result of a deliberate political strategy. “Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization.” So declared Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, speaking in 2005.

And Ronald Reagan was among the “some” who tried to benefit from racial polarization.

True, he never used explicit racial rhetoric. Neither did Richard Nixon. As Thomas and Mary Edsall put it in their classic 1991 book, “Chain Reaction: The impact of race, rights and taxes on American politics,” “Reagan paralleled Nixon’s success in constructing a politics and a strategy of governing that attacked policies targeted toward blacks and other minorities without reference to race — a conservative politics that had the effect of polarizing the electorate along racial lines.”

Thus, Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud. He never mentioned the woman’s race, but he didn’t have to.

There are many other examples of Reagan’s tacit race-baiting in the historical record. My colleague Bob Herbert described some of these examples in a recent column. Here’s one he didn’t mention: During the 1976 campaign Reagan often talked about how upset workers must be to see an able-bodied man using food stamps at the grocery store. In the South — but not in the North — the food-stamp user became a “strapping young buck” buying T-bone steaks.

Now, about the Philadelphia story: in December 1979 the Republican national committeeman from Mississippi wrote a letter urging that the party’s nominee speak at the Neshoba Country Fair, just outside the town where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964. It would, he wrote, help win over “George Wallace inclined voters.”

Sure enough, Reagan appeared, and declared his support for states’ rights — which everyone took to be a coded declaration of support for segregationist sentiments.

Reagan’s defenders protest furiously that he wasn’t personally bigoted. So what? We’re talking about his political strategy. His personal beliefs are irrelevant.

Why does this history matter now? Because it tells why the vision of a permanent conservative majority, so widely accepted a few years ago, is wrong.

The point is that we have become a more diverse and less racist country over time. The “macaca” incident, in which Senator George Allen’s use of a racial insult led to his election defeat, epitomized the way in which America has changed for the better.

And because conservative ascendancy has depended so crucially on the racial backlash — a close look at voting data shows that religion and “values” issues have been far less important — I believe that the declining power of that backlash changes everything.

Can anti-immigrant rhetoric replace old-fashioned racial politics? No, because it mobilizes the same shrinking pool of whites — and alienates the growing number of Latino voters.

Now, maybe I’m wrong about all of this. But we should be able to discuss the role of race in American politics honestly. We shouldn’t avert our gaze because we’re unwilling to tarnish Ronald Reagan’s image.

micki said...

Thanks for the input/opinion on Gerald and Carol's absence, Dr. B.

Speaking of staying warm...we might get snow tonight!

What is going on??!! It's too early in the season.

Carey said...

Okay, I finally figured out what I'm trying to say. Everybody allows for Clinton's needs to strategize around being a woman. Her aides de camp explain away some of her choices and behavior because of it.

No one is analyzing Obama that way. I find that troubling. Where is the social and historical commentary about race and American presidential politics?

You know what it is. I'm really, really hungry. Too many cooking shows on Thanksgiving. The goodies, just thinking about them. Oh my! Can't think properly. I have a terrible sweetooth. It's very difficult to ignore around the holidays.

No, it's not the sweets. It's all the incredible sidedishes creative cooks have come up with.

Carey said...

I also thought Dr. B's comment on that blog was done well.

Krugman's words are those of a kindred soul. I also realized Micki, like duh me, I'm not reading that much.

What the hell am I complaining about?

DEN said...

Another day of blog-o-riffic exuberance!

Terrible Tuesday up next.

Could be Terrific Tuesday up next.
(glass halfulempty?)