Category Archives: Blognotes

A Note About the Burn Bag

– Domani Spero

 

Just a quick note on the Burn Bag — we’re not always able to publish the entries you send us, or as quickly as you may want.  The intent remains the same, it’s cheaper than therapy.  We’re still talking about the “I’m feeling blue, I want to scream” things that you can’t put on your blog, things that’s making you tear out your hair or stuff you can’t tell your friends here or at post because — admit it, you live in a very large fishbowl.  As a reminder, kindly check the guidelines for sending your Burn Bag entries here.

One of our regular readers, a former ambassador suggested that some of these Burn Bag entries ought to be submitted not to this blog but to the OIG Hotline. That, of course, is not/not up for us to decide but for the writers/senders of these Burn Bag entries.

In any case, we promised to remind you about the Hotline.

If you need to report waste, fraud or mismanagement, please contact the State Department Office of Inspector General Hotline.   If you need to, you may contact the Hotline via email: oighotline@state.gov or call 202-647-3320 or 800-409-9926.

According to the State/OIG website, examples of allegations that should be reported to the OIG Hotline include misuse, embezzlement or theft of government property or funds; contract or procurement fraud; contractor misconduct; passport and visa malfeasance; fraud, waste and mismanagement of Department and BBG operations; employee misconduct, such as misuse of official position; bribes or unauthorized acceptance of gifts; conflicts of interest and other ethical violations; and defense trade control violations.

Please check out the rest on the OIG Hotline page here.

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Earth Embassy Ganymede Administrative Notice #04-010103: Morale, WD-40, Duct Tape

– Domani Spero

Originally posted in Diplopundit on April 18, 2013. Republished today for a very good reason.

Administrative Notice #05-011300: Morale

It has come to management’s attention that there has been a lot of chatter and hyperspace email about morale and safety at this outpost.  This notice serves as a reminder to everyone under Ganymede outpost authority that discussion about morale is an unproductive use of work time. Morale is self-esteem in action; individuals who perceived that morale is lacking may need help in improving their self-esteem. Please make every effort to schedule an appointment to see the quadrant psychiatrist.

Ganymede management fully believes, like the 34th American President Dwight Eisenhower, that the best morale exist when you never hear the word mentioned. In that sprit, management formally informs all departments and employees that morale is not/not an issue and is not/not a subject to be discussed in hypermail, text, video, radio, verbal or any alternate manner of communication within and outside the mission.  Anyone caught peddling these stories will be subject to disciplinary action, including but not limited to curtailment of current assignment or a lengthy TDY to the outermost prograde moon of Carpo.

In an effort to be responsive to all concerns, below are some FAQs that the section  had the pleasure of addressing the last 12 moons. We hope that the answers are useful to you and your families and help alleviate persistent concerns.

English: WD-40

English: WD-40 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
EaEmbassy Ganymede

Is Ganymede a family-friendly post?

Absolutely. It is the most family-friendly assignment in the quadrant with excellent schools and some of the best apartments available in the sector. Living conditions are approximated to be similar to the home planet and the quality of life is super-excellent.  Consistent demand for assignments to this outpost has repeatedly resulted in a long wait list at every rotation cycle.

I’ve been thinking of asking for a transfer to Ganymede.  But I heard that life there is a big joke … I don’t get what’s the joke.

Life in Ganymede is not/not a big joke. Once you understand that Ganymede is too big to fail, you’ll find your groove. This is the place where you want to be.  No other outpost will afford you the challenges and opportunities to excel and earn a fast-tracked promotion.

How safe is Ganymede given that riots are breaking out in all parts of the hostplanet:

Safe. Very safe, if you’re careful.

Ganymedeans breached the outpost walls, they can do it again, should I worry?

There’s no reason to worry.  Ganymedeans are not/not anti-Earthlings, anti-humans or what have you.  They were blowing off steam. Period. Now that they have, things should return to normal. If you think things have not returned to normal, give it time; things should return to normal. Soon.

There are assaults reported daily, it sounds like traveling around the hostplanet has become extremely dangerous. Is that perception correct?

Ganymede is the largest moon in this sector. Like any large, densely inhabited city on Earth (e.g. New York City, New Delhi, Bogota, Buenos Aires), crime is ever present. This is not/not unique to this outpost.  Travel in pairs if needed, and bring your stun gun, if necessary.

The Manager for Planetary Services reportedly quit over extreme bureaucratic bullying, is this true?

Absolutely not. The manager quit because the official got too old for the job. Other employers in this sector throw old officials out the airlock. Fortunately, EaEmbassy Ganymede has a generous separation package specifically for older workers traveling back to the home planet.

There are rumors and allegations that some of the top Ganymede officials have, on several occasions, pushed and bossed around subordinates and threatened them with penalties. How accurate are these stories?

Have you ever heard of American poet, Robert Frost?  He said that the reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.  Isn’t that an excellent point?  Stop listening to rumors. Stop worrying. All our top Ganymede officials were handpicked and subjected to a battery of reviews and 360 feedbacks from friends, peers, and colleagues. All with spectacular results. They are all as lovable and huggable as Alaskan polar bears.

I used to have an open mind, then I got to Ganymede and my brains kept falling out. What am I doing wrong?

To keep an open mind, a person needs only two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn’t, use the tape. This works even in Ganymede.

I am terribly upset that my concerns have not been taken seriously.  How do I set a laser printer to stun?

The management office works hard to address all of your concerns and aims to make every assignment to Ganymede a satisfying one.   Unfortunately, all laser printer at post at this time do not have a stun setting.  However, the procurement section is exploring the possibility of adding a stun setting to all laser printers with end of year funding.

 

Note that this is from a work in progress.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Morale is self-esteem in action,  is a quote by Avery Weisman; WD-40 and laser printer quips are found items around the net.

Ugh! Just saw that the Russians are interested on Ganymede, now.  Well, dammit, I am not changing my fictional embassy’s name again, so don’t write to complain about that.

 

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Dear Diplopundit’s Friends, Thank You! — Every Blog Dies Eventually, But Not Everyday, and Not Today

–Domani Spero

Dear blog funders and supporters, thank you for your generous support!  I hope I have thanked each of you personally.  For the few anonymous donors who did not leave their contact email, please know that you have our deep gratitude for supporting our efforts.

Our crowdfunding project concluded over the weekend. We raised a total of $4,110.  Several additional contributions were sent through our Friends of Diplopundit via PayPal.  The total raised was not an unexpected result.  We know there are folks who consider what we do to be merely a “stamp your little foot hobby,” but we consider it work that requires time, dedication and energy. We  set the  goal of 40k to approximate what your blogger earned as an analyst some years ago.

The truth is that while your blogger is doing this kind of work, the hubby is responsible for bills.  And he’s not getting any younger.  In the real world, this has created what we would politely call a low-intensity conflict in the domestic front.  He means well.  He’s worried that your blogger may end up as a bag lady with bad teeth.  In any case, to avoid that end and further conflict, your blogger is looking at 2014 as a make or break year.  That means cobbling together enough funds this year to show that she can sustain what she’s doing financially.  In addition to the funds you have contributed, we are actively looking at ads, and sponsorships. We are also talking to a few “angel bundlers” who are interested in helping sustain the blog.  Whether that comes in separate funding or institutional support we still don’t know. We will update you when we know more.

In the short term, your blogger won’t be working the floors at WalMart.  The blog will continue as before.  Whether or not the blog remains after 2014 depends on what happens this year.

This past week, we learned that somebody we featured in this blog finally received the  help they needed.  What wonderful news!  To those reading this blog and made that happen, thank you!

In any case, we’ve got work to do — but for now, being alive is what counts.

And as our favorite Doctor would say, “We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”  We hope to make it our best one yet.

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A Nigerian prince is tantalizing us with promises of West African riches but …

We are on the last six days of our crowdfunding project.

And those African riches potentially involve a bloody shootout.

Captain X, commander of the Special NATO coalition force in [insert war zone] is also anxious to split USD [insert amount] million in exchange for smuggling money in the burn bag. Our burn bag?!

These charmers are rather suspicious.  So we’re ignoring them for the moment.   If you want to help keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub.  We heard from a couple who encountered some difficulties with using the DPO address.  If you want an alternative way to donate, you may use the Friends of Diplopundit PayPal page here.  Or if you’d rather send a check, you can, too, but you need to mail it to RocketHub.  Email us separately for instructions on doing that at contact[at]diplopundit[dot]net.

If not, you may skip the clip and watch the Marvelous Ed Sheeran sing The Beatles’ In My Life.

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Diplopundit’s Pins and Repins on Pinterest — Mascots and Muppets Coming Soon!

– Domani Spero

Our collected photos from this blog is now on Pinterest. Check it out We’ll add some more to the pins and albums as we’re slowly going through the photos from the last six years.

Made with Pinco

(click on image to visit Pinterest page)

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Second to the last week — “If found on ground, please drag to finish line.”

A quote from Doctor Who a runner’s tshirt for our 3600th post.  We are on the second to the last week of our crowdfunding project. If you want to help keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub. Grazie!

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Because Doctor Who Said, “Now …… Just Run” ─ ─=≡=≡°◦┏( >_<)┛

Screen Shot 2014-01-06We’re running our crowdfunding project from January 1 until February 15, 2014. Please see our crowd funding page via  RocketHub. Thank you!

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Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase — Crowdfunding for 2014

– Domani Spero

Diplopundit has been running almost continuously since March 2008.  It has published over 3,500 blog posts and is on track for nearly two million visits.  In 2013 Diplopundit doubled the number of visits it received in 2012.  Over the last two years the blog was viewed more often than it was during its first four years combined.

During its six-year run Diplopundit has exceeded the typical life span of most similar blogs by twelve times.  Take that, Grim Reaper of Blogs!  Some readers have been with this blog since its beginning, and we are grateful.  Thank you for sticking with us all this time . . . even when we were not especially funny or when our rants went over the top.  To our newer readers, welcome and we hope you are finding visits to Diplopundit worth your time.  The blog tries to be timely, informative and, well, witty.  It does not always succeed at that, but never for lack of trying.

As it turns out, your blogger had reached a milestone this year, too.  She has counted more than a dozen strands of gray hair and discovered that she is officially old.  Okay, ADEA or AARP old, but not dead. But, hey, the last time she looked in the mirror, she was, well … a babe and now, ugh! she’s not.  Anyway, whenever she start obsessing about that stranger in the mirror, one of you inevitably pulls out from somewhere a white rabbit that runs around, muttering something like, “Oh dear! Oh dear! Something is happening over there!”  And there we go with another chase down the hole; sometimes it’s pretty and fun, and sometimes it’s really not – especially the heartbreaking bits.

In any case, your blogger is not sure how much longer Diplopundit will be able to stay around chasing rabbits. That will depend principally on you, our readers.  Your blogger has been entertaining thoughts of running off to Colorado to join the weed stampede of “potpreneurs.”  Apparently, that is the greatest new business opportunity since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  However, your blogger has no idea which weed is pot and which weeds are not, so — the learning curve would be pretty high.  She would much rather continue to follow the goings on in international affairs and the institution of our Foreign Service.  But following these interests can no longer be exclusively the chasing of a diplomatic white rabbit down a  hole to learn what delightful or frightful adventures might be discovered there.

Pardon me?  Oh, well, yes, she’s grown up and is now required to balance her check book and pay her bills.

On average, roughly 130,000 visitors return to this blog each year. If everyone reading this gave $1, we would not have to worry sustaining this blog and your old blogger for three years. But we all know, it’s not as simple as that.

If you find our work interesting or useful, or even entertaining at times, we hope you will support Diplopundit’s crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub.

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If you want to donate without displaying your name publicly, please see the following steps: 

  • Go to Dashboard then My Profile
  • Scroll down to Update Your Account Info, fill in the name you want to display publicly. You may use your real name, an alias or “Anonymous” if preferable.
  • Click on the “Fund This Project” red button.

Thank you!

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Some Top Attractions From 2013 – Goodbye Old Year, and Happy New Year!

– Domani Spero

 

Embassy Row’s Dirty Little Secret: Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers by Diplomats

Near, far, wherever you are, Benghazi will go on and on … oh, but do you want to buy a Benghazi thong?

US Embassy Ukraine Gets High Marks and Yay! State/OIG Now Discloses Names of Inspectors

US Mission Kenya: USAID FSN’s Wife Ruhila Adatia-Sood Killed at Westgate Mall Attack

US Embassy Malta Gets a Viral Video But — Not the Kind You Want

$630K To Buy Facebook Fans — Is That Really Such a Sin? Only If There’s Nothin’ But Strategery

After 1,989 Day-Vacancy — President Obama Nominates Steve Linick as State Dept Inspector General

Raymond Maxwell: Former Deputy Asst Secretary Removed Over Benghazi Pens a Poem

State Dept Issues New Guidance for 2013 Fourth of July Embassy Events – More Zombies, Please

State/OIG on Diplomatic Security’s Special Investigations Division – The Missing Firewall

In the Foreign Service: Death, Too Close An Acquaintance

2012 State Dept Annual Awards: Greatest Achievements in Many Fields, Mostly By Men

 

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Reposting below U.S. Embassy Bangkok’s New Year 2014 video. Wishing you all a more peaceful and prosperous new year. DS

 

 

 

 

 

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State Dept Issues New Guidance for 2013 Fourth of July Embassy Events – More Zombies, Please

A newly leaked cable from the State Department provides new guidance to embassies and consulates for this year’s Fourth of July events.  Apparently, in an effort to step up outreach to a fast expanding demographic, Independence Day festivities will have a theme for the first time ever in diplomatic history.  According to Foggy Bottom, this year’s celebration will focus on the pop-culture theme of “Zombie Apocalypse” to better connect with the younger population. The cable marked Routine and Unclassified is published in full below:

VZCZCXRO3921
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHC #8174/01 2922053
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010033Z APR 13
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0357
RUEHRY/AMEMBASSY CONAKRY 2019
UNCLAS STATE 108174

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ATRN, AMGT, AFIN, KSEP
SUBJECT: NEW GUIDANCE FOR 2013 FOURTH OF JULY EVENTS OVERSEAS

This is an action request. Please see paragraphs 2, 10,  and 11.

1.  Summary.   It is that time of year again for your Foggy Bottom team to send its annual guidance for Fourth of July celebrations around the world.  This year, we will celebrate the 237th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with non-traditional Fourth of July events. With over 1.8 billion young people in the world today, and an expected 89.5 percent growth by 2025, we must step up our public diplomacy efforts aimed at youth.  To that end, this year’s celebration will focus on the pop-culture theme of “Zombie Apocalypse.” End Summary.

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Fourth of July Events
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2.  Department requests that all posts conduct zombie-themed Fourth of July or U.S. National Day events.  While we understand that majority of posts’ host country contacts belong to older demographics, a concerted effort is necessary to reach host country nationals in the 18-24 age bracket.  Posts will invite no more than 60 percent of its traditional local contacts and should allocate 40 percent of the invitation for our target age group.  Posts will provide these celebrations the greatest possible exposure on social media in order to attract younger populations to American culture and values. Posts are welcome to stage variations of the theme — such as a “Zombie Walk”, a “Living Dead” cocktail reception or a “Walking Dead” party — each with zombie-themed food or  games. To the maximum extent practicable, posts should use American products particularly finger foods, as well as American wine and cheese in these events.

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Acceptance of Cash and In-Kind Donations
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3. Management officers at post may accept cash and in-kind donations for official embassy-sponsored July Fourth events in their host countries. In addition, ambassadors and other principal officers at post may solicit, or authorize the solicitation of, such donations without prior authorization by the Under Secretary for Management.

4. Donations may be received from U.S. firms (or their foreign subsidiaries, franchisees, or distributors) or organizations only when the firms and/or organizations neither are seeking substantial assistance from post nor would be substantially affected by a pending post decision. This is a reminder that post must show no preference among U.S. firms and/or organizations in receiving donations, as, for example, by accepting donations from one U.S. firm and refusing donations from a competing firm, unless such a distinction is justified based on the criteria listed in 2 FAM 962.1-6, subparagraphs a(1) and a(3);

5. To the extent possible, the official authorized to accept in-kind donations must ensure that there is some variety in the goods accepted and/or solicited. For instance, brains and livers are extremely popular zombie food fare and are desirable but cannot be the only two items accepted as this would severely limit the food choices for guests. Posts are strongly urged to be creative and may accept free labor and assistance from eligible family members within the mission in putting together zombie-appropriate feasts for embassy guests.

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Pre-Approved Expenditure
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6. Where economical to the U.S. Government and authorized by agency regulation, agencies may permit the bulk purchase of zombie costumes as long as such attires are tasteful, not culturally offensive to host country nationals and are only used for official purposes(eff. 03/29/13 TL:SR-670). Guests should be encouraged to attend the national day events in their favorite zombie attire. Shoes and high heels optional.

7. Posts are authorized to hire extra waiters, busboys, zombie extras, make-up and special effects artists or other temporary help to serve at this function, and to pay overtime for ORE staff serving at these official representation events; (eff. 10/29/06 TL:SR-670). Temporary and extra help employed at posts are expected to come in their Zombie get-up with no additional assistance or compensation from the mission.

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Made in America for Oenophile Zombies
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8. Among the best wine for enophile zombies are the Grosses Gewachs riesling, a top-level dry wine from Germany, the  Barolo from the northern Italian region of Piedmont and apparently the  chardonnay from the Maconais in Burgundy. While the embassy’s sommelier may insists on any of these wine as the best pairings for zombie food, we remind you of the importance of buying American.  To the maximum extent practicable, use shall be made of American products, including specifically American wine and spirits.

9. Posts are cautioned to limit serving to no more than two Zombie cocktail per guest. The drink’s fruity taste works to conceal its extremely high alcoholic content. If planning to serve Zombie cocktails, posts are authorized to bulk order rum from the nearest military PX. Alternatively, rum may be shipped via the Diplomatic Post Office if ordered no later than May 30, 2013. Where economical to the U.S. Government, rum may be purchased locally as long as it is American in brand.

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Zombie-Themed  Events Before End of Fiscal Year
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10. We understand that some posts already have celebrated Fourth of July or held national day events in February and March.  Those posts will be required to host at least one zombie-themed event before the end of the fiscal year. Events may include but not limited to: a “Zombie Townterview” with the chief of mission, a “Twittersation with Diplomatic Zombies,”  a social media conference on “Diplomatic Protocol for Zombies”, a movie marathon of the “Top Ten Zombie Movies”, or “Culinary Diplomacy for Zombies,” to name a few.  Whatever event you decide to do, be creative.  Let’s show that you can go big and be bold, and not just on the Fourth of July.  Remember that when you go out and talk to somebody on behalf of the United States of America, you are carrying our values, you are sharing how people can connect to those hopes, how we work together with rule of law, with a set of standards by which people can actually improve everybody’s lives.

11. Department requests posts assistance in documenting these Fourth of July zombie events via social media – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram and other previously approved platforms. The chief of mission wearing zombie regalia who attracts the highest number of online followers within a 24 hour period following online posting of Fourth of July videos/photographs will received special recognition. As always, thank you for all that you do and for being part of this extraordinary team.

KERRY
BT

We particularly like the fact they they want posts to serve other dishes besides brain fritters, that is considerate. Can’t wait to see all the photos!
sig4

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