Blog Weather: Sporadic for the next couple of weeks

Posted: 2:53 am EDT

I’m exploring funding sources for 2016 and traveling the next couple of weeks. Blogging may be sporadic for bit but I remain reachable through this blog and via email. Also testing a few ads via Amazon to see if it fits the blog.  Pardon the dust and feel free to send comments. Thanks!

Image via Imgur/zimgodo

Image via Imgur/zimgodo


A Word About Our Blog Champions and Sponsors …

Posted: 12:10 am EDT

How did we burn the year so quickly, so fast?  Half way through the year and I pause here to give thanks to OneFSO, TwoFSO, 373 blog angels, and all who helped spread the word and made this year possible for Diplopundit!

I have completed sending out invitations to the members-only forum:  It will probably take sometime to build our online community but hopefully, it will get there.  A forum on bidding and 4th of July event ideas have been suggested. If there is enough interest, I will add those as new forums to the members-only site. If you have not received your invitation, please contact the blog here.  All forums are accessible only to the supporters and funders of the blog. I understand that some of you may not have the time nor the inclination to join; the invitation was sent out in case of interest, you are under no obligation to join.  Right now, we have forums set up for the following:

The blog has so far hosted two “open forums” on topics of FS interest. These “open forums” do not/do not require membership or forum registration ( PTSD | Open Discussion and | Open Discussion) and are provided as a public service to the blog’s general readership. The blog will continue to host an occasional “open forum” on various topics as needed.

If you are not a donor/sponsor but is still interested in joining this blog’s online community, please contact us at  We are hoping to add, perhaps, a sustaining membership option for later this year.

And — sending an air hug to Nena S., real-life friend and personal cheerleader who has never been in the Foreign Service but who donated $1,100 towards  the blog’s upkeep for 2016.  I am grateful for your unending encouragement and affection N!

Also, check out the blog’s two corporate sponsors who helped make this year workable!

Embassy Risk Management |;
On FB and on Twitter: @EmbassyRisk

“With over 50,000 policyholders, more than 140 years of experience and an “A” (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best, Embassy Risk offers the convenience of having your international auto and property insurance covered with one comprehensive policy.”

A shoutout to Lloyd for helping sustain this blog! Thanks to Deborah, too!


Silver City Mountain Resort California |
On FB:

“Imagine spending a few days at a mountain retreat where food is fresh and local; where fellow guests come from all over the world and where wildlife surrounds you when you wake up in the morning or go for that evening stroll into California’s only historical alpine settlement – the Mineral King Valley. It all takes place in a small rustic resort that is almost a century old and with a history that pre-dates the founding of the state of California.”

Many thanks to Philip and Kalina for their support for this blog. Thanks to Michael, too!



Temporarily Disabling Comments For Security Reason

Posted: 11:45  pm EDT
Updated 4/29/15 6:25 pm PDT issue resolved.


There is a WordPress flaw that can be exploited through the comments section of WordPress sites. We are temporarily disabling all comments/not approving comments until we can confirm that this issue has been resolved. Thank you for your patience –DS



State/IRM blocked this blog’s evil shadow, and it’s a good thing!

Posted: 7:24 pm EDT
Updated: 4:06 pm EDT


Last week we blogged about some reported issues with accessing this blog from the State Department. There were reports of this blog displaying as a blank page, and another of this blog being categorized as “suspicious.”

Two things to remember — first, if you’re connecting to this blog from a State Department network and you get a blank screen, check if you’re using Internet Explorer 8. If you are, you need to switch to Chrome if you want to read this blog.

Second, if you get the “suspicious” prompt or a block that prevents you from connecting to Diplopundit, make sure you are connecting to the correct URL – the one that sounds rhymy — diplopundit.NET, and not/not its evil shadow diplopundit.COM.

Here is the back story.  We thought it was a question of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, it wasn’t that. Nothing to do with the tigers either. So our apologies for thinking that.  The firewall did bite but it was not done out of any wicked reason. It was merely a coincidence of two unrelated issues that occurred around the same time.

After we’ve blogged about issues with access from State, Ann from State/IRM’s Information Assurance office reached out to us to help see what’s going on.

“Suspicious” Category

So folks who attempted to access Diplopundit but typed .COM instead of .NET were blocked by, and will continue to be blocked access. And that’s a good thing.


IRM/IA’s Ann did some sleuthing and discovered that somebody is domain camping on, a domain registered out of Australia under protected status, so it’s not clear who owns it. Apparently, it is a very common attack to buy up domain names that are similar to a popular one, with different endings, common typos, etc, and then camp malware on them. She notes that “It’s especially awesome to do this to sites that have a high likelihood for targeted visitors, like, oh, maybe Department of State and other governments.” Running the domain through some site reputation lookups came back “suspicious.” threat intelligence: Suspicious : Suspicious returns

IRM/IA tried to access and the site is redirecting to another site that tells users their computers are infected and to click on “ok” to begin the repair process. DEFINITELY malicious.  IRM/IA’s IT ninja concludes that not only did the State Department’s security systems work as needed, someone is using the reputation of Diplopundit to try to infect users who type the wrong URL.

Ugh!  So watch what you type.  She’s not sure if this is targeted or just criminal botnet activity but whatever it is, stay away from diplopundit.COM.  Also, make sure you’re not sending any email to diplopundit.COM, as that email would end up with whoever owns that shadowy domain.

The Blank Screens

Internet Explorer  (IE) is the browser compatible with the Department of State’s IT system. A couple of years ago, Chrome became an optional browser. IE8 and other old browsers are less stable, and much more vulnerable to viruses, and other security issues. It also doesn’t support a lot of things including HTML5 and CSS codes used in WordPress. In fact, we’re told that WP’s support for this browser version was dropped a while back.  Microsoft has also reported that they will end support for it themselves. So it’s not about what script is in this blog, it’s more about the IE8 browser not playing nice with the blogs. This blog displays properly on Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and on Internet Explorer 9. Our tech folks suggested that IE8 users upgrade to IE9 if at all possible.

Our readers from State can’t just do that on their own, so we asked IRM. The word is that the State Department will probably skip IE9 due to resource constraints on testing each incremental version. The good news is, it will move everyone directly to Internet Explorer 11 in December. That may sound a long way off but we’re told that the move forces everyone from 32-bit to 64-bit servers, which is not an insignificant jump for all the developers (including those for Consular Affairs and the financial services). So there is that to look forward to at the end of the year.

Our most sincere thanks to State/IRM especially to IA’s Ann who pursued this issue to the end and also WP’s Grace and her team for helping us understand what’s going on. Merci.


The Great Firewall of State Bites, State/IRM Now Considers Diplopundit “Suspicious.” Humph!

Posted: 11:43 am EDT


The cornerstone of the 21st century statecraft policy agenda is Internet freedom. The policy contains three fundamental elements: the human rights of free speech, press, and assembly in cyberspace; open markets for digital goods and services to foster innovation, investment, and economic opportunity; and the freedom to connect—promoting access to connection technologies around the world. A third of the world’s population, even if they have access, live under governments that block content, censor speech, conduct invasive mass surveillance and curb the potential of the Internet as an engine of free speech and commerce.

— 21st Century Statecraft
U.S. Department of State


We’ve made references in this blog about the Great Firewall of State, most recently, when we blogged about the FS promotion stats on race and gender (see 2014 Foreign Service Promotion Results By Gender & Race Still Behind the Great Firewall of State),  What we did not realize is that there is an entire operation at the State Department running the firewall operations from Annex SA-9.  It is run by the Firewall Branch of the Bureau of Information Resource Management, Operations,  Office of Enterprise Network Management, Perimeter Security Division (IRM/OPS/ENM/PSD/FWB).

Sometime this week, some folks apparently were no longer able to access this blog from the State Department’s OpenNet.  OpenNet is the Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) network in the Department. It provides access to standard desktop applications, such as word processing, e-mail, and Internet browsing, and supports a battery of custom Department software solutions and database management systems.

At this time, we believe that the block is not agency-wide and appears to affect only certain bureaus.  Not sure how that works. We understand that some employees have submitted “unblock requests” to the State Department’s Firewall Operations Branch and were reportedly told that has been categorized as “Suspicious.”


Holy moly macaroni!

We don’t know what constitute “suspicious” but apparently, under State’s Internet policy, this gives the agency the right to block State Department readers from connecting to this blog and reading its content.

But … but … this is the blog’s 8th year of operation and State has now just decreed that this blog is “suspicious”? Just for the record, this blog is hosted by WordPress, and supported by the wonderful people of Automattic. Apparently, the State Department’s DipNote also uses WordPress. Well, now that’s a tad awkward, hey?

Unless …

Was it something we wrote? Was it about the journalists who ran out of undies? NSFW? Nah, that couldn’t be it.   Was it about the petty little beaver? Um, seriously? Maybe that nugget about the aerial eradication in Colombia was upsetting? Pardon me, it’s not like we’re asking folks to drink the herbicide. Come again? You have no expectation of privacy when using the OpenNet? Well, can you blink three times when we hit the right note?

What should we call our State Department that’s quick to criticize foreign governments for blocking internet content for their nationals then turns around and blocks internet content for its employees?

Wass that?  The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing? Blink. Blink. Blink.

We sent a couple emails to the IRM shop — and Dr. Glen H. Johnson, the senior official in charge of IRM ops asking what’s going on.  It seems the emails were chewed to bits, and we haven’t heard anything back.  Looking for Vanguard contractors to blame? Blink.Blink.Blink.  We’ll update if we hear anything more.


Happy Birthday To Me, or Why I’m Thrilled To Be 2,556 Days Old

Posted: 11:11 pm PST


I started this blog in Blogger ( exactly 2,556 days ago. I moved to  on February 6, 2012. In blog years, I am officially old.

Yes, I’ve got stretch marks and all, and my eyes are growing bad, but I’m so thrilled to be here!

OneFSO, TwoFSO, and 373 blog angels made sure I made it to my 7th birthday.  FS blogs Diplo-DenizenSadieAbroad, @FS_ProblemsForeign Service Test, some affinity groups and pals on Twitter helped spread the word. Thank you all for helping save this one blog! Apologies if that sounds a tad dramatic but I would not be here now without the small village of people who care. via


I must confess that it feels good to be back! Did I realize that doing something else just wasn’t as much fun? Of course!

A bit of housekeeping —

The GoFundMe folks informed me late last week that they’ve officially moved the funds and I should have it sometime this week. I’ve been called a worrywart and I supposed I am. So  I am especially grateful that I can devote time and energy here with one less thing to worry about this year.

I also want to thank Eric S. for helping me cross the T’s, and Michelle for her patience and assistance in helping me dot the I’s (get better soon!). Many thanks to the fantastic Abi Daker ( for the panoramic line drawing we have on the banner.   Appreciation also to Lloyd of Embassy Risk Management, and Philip and Kalina of Silver City Mountain Resort, our two main sponsors here.

The blog has an updated Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.  Please take a moment to check them out.

Finally, there’s a Diplopundit forum in the works. It needs a few more tweaks. Once ready, I will start sending out invitations to the blog’s supporters so you all can check it out and join if you want to.




Crazy Little Thing Called Love — Send Us Your Valentines (Deadline February 11)

Posted: 18:53 PST


If you’d like to, you know, send a love note, to the next corridor, the one across town, or to the other side of the world, Diplopundit wants to help. This year, we will publish our readers’ valentines, so get cracking.

Submit your valentine (no more than 50 words) to diplopunditvalentines[at]  Deadline is Wednesday, February 11, 2015 (midnight).  If there is enough interest, the valentines received will go online on February 14.

For now, check out the Valentine’s Day candy conversation hearts. Made in Revere, Massachusetts, this classic candy has been around for almost 150 years!

[grabpress_video guid=”ff9fccd145c3242a23d470afb152fdeb712834da”]

Saw the “blog is dead” meme, and then, amazingly, you folks showed up to save this one!


OMG_yay reactiongifs

click image to visit theGFM campaign siteimage via


Thank you all and to the tireless volunteers who mounted an unbelievable campaign. Pardon the dust in the next few weeks as we go through a redesign. A new banner won’t be ready for a couple of weeks but some updates I want are now in the sandbox so we’ll get there in a bit. I’ll have have a longer post on this later.  Now, I need more Kleeeeenex! Oh, and then let’s go!


So hey, listen, the end is here … and I’m running out of Kleenex

Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan which started on October 7, 2001 officially ended its combat mission last Sunday, December 28, 2014, marking the formal end to our longest war in history.  In 2015, a follow-on mission, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, is set to begin, “to help secure and build upon the hard-fought gains of the last 13 years.” According to the WSJ, some 18,000 foreign troops—about 10,600 of them American—are staying under the terms of two security pacts the Afghan government signed with the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this year.

There goes the cue for our scheduled exit.

The clock is ticking but we’ve got a few hours for one more story. Did we ever tell you how this blog came to be? No?

Well, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …two things happened in unrelated order. One, there was a town hall meeting organized by DGHR to talk about Assignment Iraq with the press in attendance.

[Direct assignment] notices, which most diplomats first learned about from the news media as the e-mails sat in their office computers over the weekend, appeared to have catalyzed unease that has been swirling through the Foreign Service over issues that include Iraq, underfunding and inadequate recruitment, perceived disrespect from the U.S. military and the job performance of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

What could go wrong? I watched the fallout of that and thought, holy gracious macaroni, the American public has no idea why FS personnel asked those questions.  And to this day, I still do not know know how many DGHRs went on to serve in war zones after twisting the arms of ordinary folks to do so.

Two, I was overseas. There was not much to do or see, and I was awful at quilting or painting. I was bored to death talking to two cats every day! Believing that an inactive brain accumulates rust and gradually is reduced to soft crumbling powder — well, I did not want any of that. It was a depressing time. I figured I could start a blog and try to learn something new everyday or I could make friends with Bourbon, Scotch and Rye.

I started Diplopundit and stuck with coffee.

My first blogpost went up on March 12, 2008. It was about prospective retirees and how to contact Congress about their unused sick leave.  To blog about the kind of topics I was interested in meant I had to do it anonymously to preclude subjecting loved ones and friends to potential pressure and blowback.  In practical terms, it also means I could not brag about the blog, could not put it on my resume, could not use it to gain favors in real life (don’t laugh! An FSO friend already called this ‘a first world problem’)…

Anyway, one time, I received a rant via email, and I blogged this: If You Can’t Walk Your Own Dog …Get a Fish.I could not tell who sent that rant, but I was at one post where the COM behaved in a similar fashion with similar reactions. It was good thing no one forced the mission to pick a motto or “follow the leader” would have been most laughable. At one post, during the embassy’s Christmas bazaar, the ambassador’s secretary and an official residence employee were tasked with selling crafts owned by the ambassador’s wife. During office hours. Nobody was nutty enough to say anything.

One day, the Office of Inspector General came for a routine inspection. The team had its own phone and email. I called for an appointment. I was told somebody would call me back. The next thing I knew, the team had left post.  I was to learn later that a friend on the Country Team who was juggling three jobs and had spent considerable time preparing files and folders for the inspection team barely was given time with the inspectors. No one was interested in his folders.

Months later, the OIG inspection report was released and post was mercifully declared perfect.

Those are a few of the things that shaped the formative period of this blog.

So that’s the story, no one went after me with an ax, not much of a thriller, huh?

Aaaand, the end of the blue line is here and dammit…I’m running out of Kleenex.

The attempt to save this blog is ongoing, and the friends of the blog who have been working mighty hard remain hopeful. But I’ve got to get off this train for now. I’ve made a promise to brush up the old resume and pound the sidewalk somewhere. If things work out, I hope to relaunch this site. If they don’t, I may need to buy more shoes!

In either case, I’ve enjoyed being your opinionated blogger and monitor of things, um …undiplomatic.  To those who patiently answered my questions, and to those who were kind enough to share their experience and perspective, my grateful appreciation. To all, thank you sincerely for your interest and support over the years.   Domani spero. Mwah!


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