Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Ministry of Culture?

The "Culture Grrl" Blog has an interesting story about a proposal for a US Ministry of Culture. See: Culture Grrl obviously does not like the idea. Others do. See:

I suspect this idea is not a high priority for the new President. However, if the idea ever gains serious traction, I wonder if a US Department of Culture would take on at at least some of the responsibilities of the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The State Department has been criticised in the past for using import restrictions as bone to throw to other countries (which, of course, is not provided for or contemplated by the governing statute, the CPIA). Thus, Canada allegedly received (now lapsed) import restrictions to help assuage anger over Canadian companies being targeted under the Helms-Burton Act. Italy was allegedly awarded import restrictions as an expression of sorrow after a Marine Corps jet negligently caused the deaths of some skiers riding in a gondola that had its cable cut in a freak accident. And, of course, Cyprus received a then unprecedented extension of import restrictions to include ancient coins of Cypriot type after the small, island nation agreed to temporarily host American refugees fleeing fighting in Lebanon. It also probably did not hurt that Cypriot advocacy groups awarded then Undersecretary of State Burns with the "Livanos Award" only days before the decision was made by Burns' subordinate, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Dina Powell. See:

If a US Department of Culture ultimately takes over the responsibilities of ECA, the diplomatic reasons for offering import restrictions as a quid pro quo will likely change to ones more closely related to cultural issues. However, unless the provisions of the CPIA are honored in anything other than their flagrant breach, the same ultimate concerns with fidelity to the statutory mandate will persist.

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