• John McCain, Human Rights and Our National Mental Illness

    May 9, 2017 // 27 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    mccain obama bff



    There’s that lay definition of mental illness where you come to believe you’re the only sane person left in the room. I think that’s where I am right now.


    In last week’s address to State Department employees, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated out loud what has been America’s foreign policy forever, the idea that basing our policy too heavily on values creates obstacles to advancing our national interests. Tillerson basically restated the Kissinger line of realpolitik, which is what the U.S. had been doing since WWII even without a snooty name to it: offering lip service to rights and human values and democracy as expedients while supporting scum bag dictators as they fit our real needs.

    That’s how you got the CIA overthrowing regimes in Iran and throughout Central and South America, why the U.S. supported terrible autocrats in South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and where the roots of American backstopping of non-democratic regimes such as in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria lay. The plan was pretty clear: make nice speeches (“Women’s rights are human rights”) in China calling out America’s adversaries while doing nothing to promote those same ideals in America’s allies in places like Saudi Arabia.



    But as with so many traditional American travesties that have long existed but were not spoken of pre-Trump, things are different now. And so in a full-on flag waving Op-Ed, America’s Crusty Old Man McCain uncorked a lengthy rebuttal to Tillerson’s plain speaking. McCain got in every cliche from the oldest John Wayne movies to the latest Chevy truck commercials in standing up for ‘Merica the world’s human rights policer. Here’s a taste of what he wrote:

    Human rights exist above the state and beyond history… They inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be abridged, they can never be extinguished. We are a country with a conscience. We have long believed moral concerns must be an essential part of our foreign policy, not a departure from it. We are the chief architect and defender of an international order governed by rules derived from our political and economic values. Our values are our strength and greatest treasure. We are distinguished from other countries because we are not made from a land or tribe or particular race or creed, but from an ideal that liberty is the inalienable right of mankind and in accord with nature and nature’s Creator.

    Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in. It could cost our reputation in history as the nation distinct from all others in our achievements, our identity and our enduring influence on mankind. Our values are central to all three.


    I can’t be the only one stunned by the irony here.

    McCain’s seminal experience — surviving as a prisoner of war under torture in North Vietnam — was as part of a horrific war the U.S. waged against the agrarian nation in Vietnam for… no clear purpose. Millions of civilians were killed to “free” them, with aerial bombing taking away their rights to life in the crudest fashion. The Vietnamese people voted after WWII to become a single (Communist) nation, and the United States intervened to put a stop to that. Every single prediction of the time that was made to justify that war turned out to be wrong; Vietnam today prospers, and continues to seek ways to join closer to the world system McCain imagines the U.S. created as something akin to an act of God.


    But don’t believe me. Let’s ask the relatives of those killed and maimed by America in Vietnam if they agree with McCain that “We are a country with a conscience.”

    After that, let’s chat up some of the Koreans tortured by the U.S.-supported dictator Chung-hee Park, or Filipinos under U.S.-supported Ferdinand Marcos, or the families of those murdered by American drones across the Mideast. Or maybe those still currently under American torture at Guantanamo. Let’s ask the ghosts of those killed by American weapons in (deep breath) Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Grenada… oh, you go look up the rest. Or call John McCain’s office and ask his staff for a complete list.

    And of course I’m focusing on foreign policy hypocrisy here. But America the nation of conscience practices hypocrisy at home as well. Despite being among the wealthiest nations globally, America stands alone without a comprehensive health care system. And so suffers 6.1 deaths for every 1,000 live births, higher than Hungary, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Finland and Japan had less than half the rate of the United States. America has the highest rates of incarceration in the world, and stands by as 1 out of 5 children live short of food. Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries. Our elections are undemocratic mish-mashes of gerrymandering, voter fraud, foreign hackers, and the influence of massive amounts of corporate money and payoffs. America clung to slavery as a economic foundational element long after most of the world moved forward.


    The truth? You can’t handle the truth. The truth is the United States maintains a bloody, warist, hypocritical record that would at least find a touch of purity in admitting we conduct our foreign policy with the greatest of self-interest. The only question left is to ask who is crazier at this point: McCain, who may believe the hogwash he is peddling, or the Americans who read it uncritically.




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  • Your Tax Dollars Pay for This Douche

    January 9, 2015 // 11 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    oreck


    See that? It is a Christmas card, with the official seal of the United States on it. See the guy on the card? He is the American ambassador to Finland. You pay his salary. You paid for his Christmas card. You pay for him to be a douche and represent your country.

    The guy of all guys you see is Bruce Oreck. Oreck earned his lifetime title of ambassador and job by being the major son of famed vacuum cleaner manufacturer David Oreck, and by being a major Obama bundler and Democratic contributor ($500,000 in donations.) Oreck also served as Executive Vice President for his privately held family business, the major Oreck Corporation. So yeah, a self-made man.

    Oreck is what is called a “political appointee,” someone who gets a cushy job like ambassador just because the president wants him to have it. No qualifications other than being tight with the president by buying his favor.

    Fun Fact: Close to half of America’s ambassadors are “political appointees.” This tradition, pretty much unique to the U.S. and third world crap nations, crosses all party lines and is warmly embraced by both Democrats and Republicans. These political appointees range from mildly competent to complete idiots, with a heavy lean toward the latter. See above.

    But Oreck is no slouch. As an ambassador, Oreck’s signature accomplishment so far, not including the photo here, has been to get the U.S. government to spend more money on the very important U.S. embassy in Finland. Indeed, an official USG report acknowledged that “the embassy renovation project would not have been funded or advanced at an accelerated pace without the constant pressure of the ambassador, both from Helsinki and during frequent trips to Washington.” Oreck picked up 250,000 frequent flier miles (ambassadors fly first class, ‘natch, and get to keep their taxpayer-funded miles for personal use) in dozens of trips between Washington, D.C., and Helsinki to personally address concerns. Luckily, he was able to divert scarce State Department building and security funds from dumps like Benghazi.

    In case you are not sure by this point if Oreck is or is not a douche, check out his Facebook page.

    The worst insult of all, however, is the kindergarten level Photoshopped tattoos. Look at his upper right shoulder. Steroids really fry your brain.

    Proud of you America!



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  • First World, Third World: A Travel Essay

    October 8, 2014 // 3 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: #99Percent, Economy, Minimum Wage




    You travel a bit, and you wonder what happened.


    (I)
    Streets, laid out in the 19th century, are jammed with traffic that was never anticipated. Not just more cars; Americans traveled on foot or by horse the last time these were thought through. After moving two miles in 45 minutes, we cross a bridge built in 1901.

    The bridge handles the traffic decently; it was built quite wide for the trains that used to transport Americans. The over-engineering on the bridge, common in the days before computers, would prove prescient as it would be several decades before the city, the richest in America, would build modern ones, and the last of those opened in the 1960’s.

    The infrastructure is old and tired but can’t be fixed it seems. Too expensive. Though the current Iraq/Syria war has already cost over one billion dollars, and the previous one over two trillion dollars, somehow there is never enough money.


    (II)
    The subway might be faster, but the segment I’d use for part of the journey was first opened in 1904 and is a hodge-podge of patches and repairs today. The girders holding up the street have been painted by generations of workers over the last hundred years such that when a chip appears, it is deep and noticeable, a sort of archaeological find. Theodore Roosevelt was president when the first coat of paint was applied.

    The subway isn’t really an option anyway. Public transportation to the airport, one of America’s busiest, is limited to a single bus that runs irregularly, with limited space for the luggage of the poor souls who need to check something, and drops off at stops at the airport equally convenient to no one. The bus isn’t yours anyway; it is designed for persons commuting out of the areas it passes through headed to work at the airport, staffing your Cinnabon. Some smiles there that don’t reach eyes. At least remember to say thanks.

    On your way you pass through their crumbling neighborhoods where the open businesses are often check cashing places, we buy gold cubbies and pawn shops. Some fast food places, who pay minimum wage in the neighborhood while exporting profits to midtown banks. You can actually see over the roofs into Manhattan where the money goes, and where the morning newspaper has an article on “affordable” condos priced at over two million dollars.


    (III)
    The airport, originally built in 1939 (Franklin Roosevelt was President and WWII was just starting for the Greatest Generation) and randomly added to over since, is chaotic at best. At security, foreign tourists look around for validation as they are yelled at to remove their shoes. It all seems inexplicable to many from Third World places the U.S. can’t bully into following America’s security theatre script. The floor we walk on in our socks is still a bit sticky from some spill. Everyone holds their hands over their head inside the scanner, a position of submission prisoners assume. The analogy is only slightly an analogy. But people either believe in it for their freedom as they are told, or just put up with it to avoid the bullying that follows displays of even quiet resistance. Be glad you are allowed to fly at all and have not been put without your knowledge on the No-Fly list for some Josef K. offense.

    Everyone on the plane, which departs late without explanation offered to you, is sorted into class. Those with the right credit card, or those who paid more, are treated one way, right down to a silly scrap of red carpet at check-in that to be fair does seem to validate something to some of them, judging by the smiles and the glances back into the lines. The other people are pushed onto the plane in a scrum of unintelligible “groups” to struggle against one another for the limited resources of space to sit, or to store giant amounts of luggage they are forced to carry to avoid usurious fees. The fee has nothing much to do with the airline’s biggest cost, fuel, as the weight is the same in or under the plane. The fee just is there. It’s a kind of modern icon, in other places called disingenuously a “convenience fee,” a fee you pay to buy something else.

    On the plane everyone speaks in a bully’s (that word again) passive-aggressive verbiage. Sit down or we won’t take off, and it’ll be your fault, and God help you if the other flyers turn on you. You can’t congregate near the restrooms, even though there is only a tiny space anyway, because supposedly 13 years ago that’s what the 9/11 hijackers did. You are not passengers, or customers. You are all potential terrorists and will be treated as such. Here’s half a Diet Coke as a reward for being compliant.


    (IV)
    Flying over the Midwest, even at 25,000 feet midday on a Tuesday, you can’t miss the huge factories and warehouses, all surrounded by empty parking lots. No jobs it seems, even at this altitude. On the ground, in three different cities over a week, you see neighborhood after neighborhood that has been “gentrified” as part of what seems like a last gasp to salvage the hunk of America that isn’t New York, the L.A.-San Francisco corridor or wherever the federal government is still hiring.

    In these neighborhoods tens of thousands of skilled blue collar jobs that once paid a living wage have been replaced by only hundreds of minimum wage, part-time jobs for baristas and waiters, many serving a few. A lot of people now in America don’t really make anything, besides a few apps maybe, so they serve a very few who only make deals. See it all the time. Did you enjoy your meal sir (please tip, I don’t get paid much)?

    The people on the ground still hope it might work. They are not stupid and this is not to mock; they know they have been handed the dirty end of the stick in the long con and are trying what they hope might work, though hope takes time and that is another thing they don’t have. You don’t have to be an economist to see how it can’t really work, do the math, but you’ll enjoy a decent cup of coffee on the way down.

    There are exceptions, good ones. The young mayor of Louisville has dedicated himself to attracting companies to his city. He talks like a man running for his city’s life, in about the best way you can run for your life. But it is a tough race.



    (V)
    Oh, these are “first world problems.” That’s the point, true to a point, but indeed America claims to be the most exceptional nation in the first world, so the problems are worth talking through. And this all isn’t nostalgia; it’s history.

    America also has its third world problems– lack of equitable health care (The U.S. ranks 56th internationally in infant mortality, worse than Cuba, Poland, Bosnia, and Serbia), malnutrition among the poor (one of five kids in America is food-at-risk), homelessness, murder and drug abuse rates rivaling any outside of combat zones, the highest percentage of a population in prison in the developed world, acts of random violence in our schools and workplaces, racism and inequality that regularly erupt into violence suppressed by militarized police.


    First world, third world, you see them all and you wonder what happened, now, to us.




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  • It’s the Guns, but It isn’t Just the Guns

    May 28, 2014 // 22 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy




    The killings in Isla Vista by one misogynist thug represent a terrible loss of life, most killed with a gun. Of course people can die so many ways, and the Isla Vista murderer managed to stab three people to death and run one down with his car. Still, the focus is and should be on the quickest, easiest way and thus most dangerous way to kill a lot of people: guns.

    Joe the Plumber

    Enter Joe the Plumber. You remember Joe, right? He was a pathetic, semi-employed, non-union plumber from Ohio that pathetic Republican candidate for president John McCain plucked out of a pathetic crowd in 2008 and tried to make a pathetic campaign meme out of. Working man, pull up by his bootstraps, that old garbage. Joe (which isn’t even his real name) had a few minutes of faux-fame alongside the other sideshow to that freakish campaign, Sarah Palin, and both more or less crawled back into the mud from whence they came. Or should have.

    For reasons quite unclear, people still feed and diaper Joe the Plumber, interview him, and perhaps even listen to him. And for a reporter desperate for some new angle on America’s latest mass murder, what better to do than look up ol’ Joe for a comment. Here’s what Joe said:

    I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: [sic] As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights. But the words and images blaming “the proliferation of guns”, lobbyists, politicians, etc.; will be exploited by gun-grab extremists as are all tragedies involving gun violence and the mentally ill by the anti-Second Amendment Left.

    I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through, having had your child taken away from you. However, any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those.


    Second Amendment

    Leaving aside the simple insensitivity of speaking that way to grieving parents whose kids were just murdered by a loon allowed to own multiple handguns and carry 400 rounds of ammunition in his car, my hat’s off to Joe for turning a tragedy around and making it all about him. Classy.

    In addition, though Joe likely don’t read no much no more, the Second Amendment is about the only part of our Bill of Rights that hasn’t been gutted post-9/11. Right to privacy? Ask the NSA. Freedom of speech? Check with jailed Occupy people. Right to a fair trial? How’s that going Chelsea Manning? Nope, nobody is grabbing any guns Joe. Repeat after me: It. Is. All. In. Your. Head. Now stop mixing oxy and vodka shots, ‘Kay?

    What Joe missed was the chance to decry how “nothing could have been done about this.” Yeah, sure, the cops checked the shooter out ahead of time, but, well, they didn’t search his house or look at his social media as if he were, you know, a brown Muslim. And those reports about him being mentally ill. Well, sir, that’s no crime either.

    What could have been done? How can we as a nation reconcile this terrible tragedy with what Joe the Plumber had to say?

    America as No. 1

    To start, it is sadly clear America has a lot of mass shootings. 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States. In second place is Finland, with two entries. Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country. It seems to be getting worse: there have been at least 21 during the last six years. School shootings seem an American speciality. The number of such incidents in the U.S. was only one less than in the next highest 36 countries combined. Americans die from violence in general, and gun violence in the specific, at higher rates than pretty much anywhere outside of actual war zones.

    It’s the Guns, but It isn’t Just the Guns

    There are many other countries where guns are abundant. There are also examples of mass murders by the mentally ill around the world. But it seems that the two only collide with, well, such violence, in the United States. For Joe the Plumber, Joe, relax. No one is going to take your guns away. Americans will continue to be able to purchase whatever kinds of firearms they wish, in any quantity, and with any amount and type of ammunition. The nation barely even throws gun control lip service any more, even after (another) mass shooting.

    The Second Amendment long ago swerved so far from the Founder’s intent, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” that it no longer seems to exist within today’s context of the Bill of Rights. The confluence of huge corporate interests represented by the NRA, carpetbagging politicians owned by the NRA and frightened people protecting their own fears ensures this amendment alone will forever stand untouched. The guns are not going away.

    So that leaves us. Why are we so violent? Why, after a workplace slight or a turn-down by a woman, is the go-to move for too many Americans to pick up a gun and slaughter unrelated and innocent people? I hate to end this way, but I don’t know why. I want some sort of gun control, but I know while it is necessary, it won’t be sufficient. I wish I knew why. I wish I knew.



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  • The Tao of Political Ambassadors

    February 17, 2014 // 20 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Democracy, Embassy/State

    The United States is the only first world nation that allots ambassador jobs as political patronage.

    You don’t have to know anything, or have any specific background or training, to be the president’s personal representative abroad and conduct foreign policy on behalf of the World’s Most Powerful Nation (c). You do have to donate heavily to the president to buy one of those appointments.

    Back during my own 24 years working for the State Department as a diplomatic serf my mother asked what I’d have to do to make ambassador. The answer was simple: dad needed to die young, and mom should donate the entire inheritance to the winner of the next presidential election. I’d get appointed and hobnob with State’s elite!

    For so many reasons, I am glad dad is still alive.

    What is an Ambassador?

    The U.S. ambassador is the head of the embassy in a particular country, and serves as the senior representative for the United States there. S/he interacts personally with important leaders of the host country, negotiates on behalf of the U.S. and serves as America’s public face and mascot, appearing in the media, making public appearances and hosting social events that in some parts of the world are the primary venue for serious business. Some say it’s an important job. Guys like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson did it once.

    Embassies are otherwise primarily staffed by foreign service officers, folks from the State Department who are diplomatic professionals. The question here is between those two groups– political hacks or trained professionals– who should be an ambassador?

    Is the U.S. Exceptional?

    The U.S. is exceptional, because every other major country in the entire known universe answered the question already: being an ambassador is a job for professionals. It makes sense that a person who likely has already served in a country, who probably speaks the language and who is familiar both with U.S. foreign policy and the mechanics of diplomacy might do a better job than a TV soap opera producer who turned over $800,000 to the president’s campaign (true; see below.) Why, in almost any other setting other than U.S. politics, that would be called corruption.

    Bipartisan Patronage

    A quick note to people of the internet. Every political party in power doles out ambassadorial appointments as patronage, and has, from the 19th century to the present day. Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, the Boston Tea Party and all the rest did it and do it. Obama is slightly ahead of the 30 percent historical average, though many pundits are over-weighing his second term picks because he is filling his First Class (i.e., political posts) before the generally mediocre locations allocated to career jobs. This is true bipartisan sleaze, an issue we can all get into regardless of our views on other issues.

    Yet despite the clear record of patronage, the State Department insists that political campaign donations have nothing to do with diplomatic nominations. “Either giving or not giving money doesn’t affect either way. It doesn’t make you more or less qualified,” deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters this week. Talk about your credibility. You could almost watch it drain out of the spokeswoman as she spoke the words with a straight face.

    Why It Matters

    Many, many politically appointed ambassadors are frighteningly unqualified. Sure, many don’t have a clue about the country they’ll serve in and very, very few have any language skills or experience in diplomacy. Some haven’t even been abroad, except maybe a bus tour or two. The latest crop, however, are reaching new heights of stupidity:

    –The nominee to China admitted he’s no expert on China;

    –The nominee to Argentina never set foot there and speaks no Spanish. Same for the nominee to Iceland, who never visited and also does not speak Spanish, though that is less important in Iceland;

    –The nominee to Norway insulted their government in his Senate approval hearing (he was approved by the Senate anyway!)

    –Then there is Colleen Bell, the nominee for Hungary, whose qualifications include being the producer of “The Bold and the Beautiful” TV soap opera, and of course raising $800,000 for Obama. She stammered her way through testimony to the point where John McCain basically begged her to just shut up as a kind of mercy killing.


    Political Appointees in the Wild

    What happens to these kinds of boneheads abroad is not hard to imagine. Some wonderfully extreme cases include the American ambassador to Finland, who sent out official Christmas cards with him in “Magic Mike” beefcake poses and whose signature accomplishment is basically renovating his own office. A political appointee ambassador to Kenya paralyzed his embassy with personnel demands, including internet access in his executive toilet. The political appointee ambassador to Belgium was accused of soliciting sexual favors from prostitutes and minor children.

    As for many other political appointees, some, like Caroline Kennedy in Japan, understand they are just living photo-ops and stay out of the way of the adults working (which may sum up Kennedy’s entire life.) A few appointees become sentient and actually turn out to be decent managers based on their business backgrounds before being sidelined by State’s incestuous culture. The best political appointees are old pols like Howard Baker, whose Washington connections and political savvy make them at least effective stooges for the president’s personal political agenda, if not always America’s.

    Why It May Not Matter

    The bad news is that there are equal inconsistencies on the side of State Department professionals who become ambassadors outside the political appointee spoils system.

    Many, especially to smaller nations (think Africa, parts of the Middle East), have spent most of their careers in the neighborhood, and have built up significant, trusted relationships. Many of these career ambassadors got to know young leaders long ago, and have kept the relationship intact as those men and women ascended into positions of authority. Pretty cool to call your old buddy and sort out a diplomatic problem using first names and shared experiences as a base.

    There are exceptions to excellence; watch one of our career ambassador’s in a Congressional hearing not know how much money his embassy is spending in Afghanistan nor the U.S. death toll for the year.

    Unfortunately, even for out-of-the-way places, it is very hard to make it to ambassador without sucking up to State’s big shots, even if you have the chops to do the job well. Every careerist at State (i.e., everyone) wants that title, the big house and the limo that comes with the job. As an autocracy, just being the most qualified for anything inside State is rarely enough. That leaves plenty of suck ups, wankers and toadies of the higher ups mucking around to get into an ambassador’s chair. It’s unavoidable.

    The last sticking point on why foreign service officers can make lousy ambassadors is the dual nature of the job. While in most cases the ambassador’s primary task is headline-level “policy,” s/he also is the head of the embassy. Many administrative and personnel issues rise to the ambassador’s office. Most State Department ambassadors have gotten as far as they did based nearly 100 percent on those policy things, and many thus make very poor managers. The best defer the decisions to their own management staff; the worst dive in, wielding power without responsibility and the very worst use the position to settle old scores and promote the interests of their own lickspittles.

    Why It Really, Really Doesn’t Matter

    Critics of political appointee ambassadors inside State are quick to point out that people don’t get appointed as generals in the military. Senior leaders in the Army are expected to have come up through the ranks. Admirals have captained ships. Marine generals have eaten snakes, that sort of thing.

    The reason big campaign donors don’t get appointed as generals in the military is because what generals do can matter, matter beyond at least embarrassing the nation. Not to say all or even most generals make the right calls, but to say that generals need technical knowledge of the services they work for, and the decisions they make literally affect lives and can shape world events.

    Ambassadors are increasingly becoming curios left over from a distant past, before instant worldwide telephone and internet communications, before senior White House officials could jet around the world, a past when ambassadors actually had to make big decisions in far-off places. Nowadays most ambassadors don’t change their socks without “conferring with Washington.” Their own jobs matter less and less, as does the State Department they work with.

    So never mind ambassador slots, which often stay empty for months as donors wrangle for the prime positions. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows that more than one fourth of all U.S. State Department Foreign Service positions are either unfilled or are filled with below-grade employees. These vacancies and stretches at State are largely unchanged from the last time the GAO checked in 2008.

    In government, what matters most gets funded most. There are more military band members than State Department foreign service officers. The whole of the Foreign Service is smaller than the complement aboard one aircraft carrier. The State Department is now a very small part of the pageant. The Transportation Security Administration has about 58,000 employees; the State Department has 22,000. The Department of Defense has nearly 450,000 employees stationed overseas, with 2.5 million more in the U.S.

    In an age of military ascendancy, when State and diplomacy are seen as tools to buy time for later military action instead of as potential solutions themselves, it just might not matter who is ambassador anymore. Of course the man or woman in the chair might best avoid sexual solicitation of minors and inane, embarrassing acts, but really, that’s just a nice thing, not a requirement.

    Old-school political patronage was about giveaways, handing over some largely ceremonial job to a hack. The medieval kings had it down, appointing dukes and grand viziers and equipping them with plumed hats and lots of gold braid while ensuring they stayed out of the way.

    Political appointee or career foreign service officer as ambassador? Why does it matter?



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  • Bruce Oreck, Former Douche of the Week, Reclaims Title as America Weeps

    December 18, 2013 // 24 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    Ambassadors are a nation’s principle representative abroad.

    In the case of America and the U.S. Department of State, the ambassador is considered the ranking American government official in-country, the head of the embassy and indeed the president’s personal and direct representative to that foreign nation. Symbol, figurehead, molder of America’s image in the eyes of foreigners.

    Many of you will remember how about this time last year we named U.S. ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck “Douche of the Week,” a prestigious title to go along with his official one. Oreck rose to these heights by sending out Christmas cards with the photo shown to the left. Oreck fancies himself a well-built fellow, with a cheeky sense of humor. He is beloved by millions of his staff for presenting a regular guy image; he is beloved by millions of Finns for confirming their belief that Americans are complete idiots who should never be allowed to travel.

    Signature Accomplishment: Renovating his Own Office

    As an ambassador, Oreck’s signature accomplishment so far, not including the photo here, has been to get the U.S. government to spend more money on the U.S. embassy in Finland, because that somehow must be good for the Finns. Indeed, an official USG report acknowledged that “the embassy renovation project would not have been funded or advanced at an accelerated pace without the constant pressure of the Ambassador, both from Helsinki and during frequent trips to Washington.” Oreck picked up 250,000 frequent flier miles (ambassadors fly first class, ‘natch) in dozens of trips between Washington, D.C., and Helsinki to personally address concerns. Luckily, he was able to divert scarce State Department building and security funds from dumps like Benghazi.

    Oreck of course has a long resume of living off his family’s money. Oreck earned his lifetime title of ambassador by being the son of famed vacuum cleaner manufacturer David Oreck. Ambassador Oreck then went on to serve as General Counsel and Executive Vice President for the Oreck Corporation. Oreck’s most important contribution to diplomacy was to bundle more than $500,000 in donations for Obama in the 2008 election.

    Merry Douche Christmas

    We all know asshats like Oreck, and we all know they feed off of lower people like ourselves calling them asshats. Kind of perks them up, and so they go out of their way to bait us, begging for a response. As hard as I have tried not to feed him, Oreck did it again. Here’s his Christmas card for this year, as posted on his Facebook page:




    I guess it is supposed to be some kind of meta-social commentary thing, like because last year everybody called him a douche for posing with his bicep curled, this year he is wearing a shirt and tie in a place where you’d expect him to be shirtless. And it is also of course “culturally sensitive” because it is in a sauna, and Finns like saunas. As with the State Department’s goofy videos, if this kind of ambassador-with-a-sense of humor thing is such an effective “tool” of diplomacy, why is it only the U.S. that seems to have cottoned on to that?

    Oreck also has on Facebook lots of “I’m not really a frustrated, closeted gay man, even though that’s cool” photos. Here he is with Richard Branson, and there is he checking out the Old Dog’s package.



    So, America, in this Christmas season, let us rejoice. Taxpayers, you are paying for all this. But in a larger sense, rest easy knowing that our bumbling idiot of a nation is in fact quite accurately represented in Finland.




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  • Your State Department Douche of the Week

    December 22, 2012 // 15 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    Fun Fact: Close to half of America’s ambassadors overseas are “political appointees,” meaning they are friends of the president who typically donated large sums of money to his reelection campaign and are rewarded for this by being named ambassador somewhere. This tradition, pretty much unique to the U.S. and most third world crap nations, crosses all party lines and is warmly embraced by both Democrats and Republicans.

    These political appointees range from mildly competent to complete idiots, with a heavy lean toward the latter. And that allows me to introduce America to its ambassador to Finland, Bruce Oreck. Bruce’s official Christmas card is shown above. Oreck earned his lifetime title of ambassador and job by being the son of famed vacuum cleaner manufacturer David Oreck, and by being a major Obama bundler and Democratic contributor before getting the appointment to Helsinki. In addition to his private legal practice, ambassador Oreck served as General Counsel and Executive Vice President for his privately held family business, the Oreck Corporation. Oreck’s most important contribution to diplomacy was to bundle more than $500,000 in donations for the 2008 election.

    Not that Oreck is into himself or anything. Just if you look at the embassy homepage there’s his photo, and of course his official bio and list of really important official things he did in 2012. And then his Facebook page, and a video he made for the embassy Christmas thingee. If you watch the video you can see the mansion Oreck gets to live in that you pay for with your tax dollars.

    The good news is that your taxpayer dollars did not pay for the douchey Christmas card, that was on Oreck’s own dime. Your taxpayer dollars instead paid for Oreck’s “official” Christmas card, below, which still shows he is a douche.



    But there is good news about political ambassadors to come. Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of US Vogue, was announced as a possible candidate for the post of US ambassador to the UK or France. Wintour co-hosted a $40,000 a head event in June at actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s home, and in August hosted a Connecticut dinner that cost $35,800 per person at movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s house. By the end of the campaign she was one of Obama’s top ten fundraisers.


    We can hope that at a minimum she will have classier Christmas cards.



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  • American Embassy Kabul Uses The Twitter

    January 19, 2012 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    Social media is all the rage now at the State Department (for some old timers, this is all hilariously reminiscent of the late 1990’s when State suddenly discovered that the internet existed and set out to conquer what was then called e-Diplomacy by created some new-fangled “home pages”).

    But Geocities this ain’t Tweeps. Here, as an example of how “with it” the social media boffins at the American Embassy in Kabul are, is one of today’s Tweets:



    So that’s it– we just needed to clarify that for the Taliban, with the RT from the American Embassy Finland because, well, nothing says bureaucratic safety like following someone else, courageously.

    What do you think? Maybe needs more animated gifs? 🙂





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