Category Archives: Elections

John Kerry in Kabul: Brokering an Election Dispute Agreement in Photos

– Domani Spero

 

Via NYT:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Secretary of State John Kerry spent a second day here in the Afghan capital on Saturday shuttling between the top two presidential contenders and the presidential palace in an effort to forge an agreement on how to audit recent elections and preventAfghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power from collapsing.

The two candidates, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, spent the day inside the United States Embassy building holding separate meetings with Mr. Kerry, according to campaign officials. Mr. Kerry then traveled to the palace to talk to President Hamid Karzai. Talks were continuing into early evening without food or drink because of Ramadan, for which Muslims fast during the day. Mr. Kerry complained, jokingly, to Mr. Karzai that his embassy had “starved” him, according to pool reports.

Here are some photos from his latest Kabul trip to broker an election dispute agreement between Abdullah and Ghani.

Stand Together

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appears before reporters with Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah on July 11, 2014, after he arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan for a meeting about steps to resolve the country’s disputed presidential election between him and fellow candidate Ashraf Ghani. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stands with Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani as he addresses reporters on July 11, 2014, after Ghani arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan for a meeting about steps to resolve the country’s disputed presidential election between him and fellow candidate Abdullah Abdullah. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Shake-hands

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Resolve this or no more aid

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Embrace of Rivals

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Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, left, prepares to embrace rival Abdullah Abdullah, right, at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 12, 2014, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry helped broker an agreement on a technical and political plan to resolve the disputed outcome of the election between them. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Harder than it looks

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah, left, and Ashraf Ghani, right, at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 12, 2014, after he helped broker an agreement on a technical and political plan to resolve the disputed outcome of the election between them. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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Filed under Afghanistan, Elections, Foreign Affairs, John F. Kerry, Photo of the Day, Secretary of State, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Kabul

Donor Ambassadors Are Here to Stay Because — #1 Elections Cost Money, Money, Honey (With ABBA)

– Domani Spero

On February 14, WaPo did the top 10 reasons to keep political ambassadors. It wasn’t terribly funny. The 10th item on the list, “The system is unlikely to change anytime soon” drove our friends insane.  They haven’t recovered yet from that shock and awe. Meanwhile, the uproar over the nominees who bungled their confirmation hearings continue to make waves.  Despite all that, former Senator Max “I’m no real expert” Baucus was confirmed as our next ambassador to China.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had also cleared the way for the full Senate vote for  the other nominees who did their made for Comedy Central moments at the SFRC.

For those who are shocked that an Obama nominee has never been to Argentina, might they also be awed that a George W. Bush ambassador had only visited Canada once–more than 30 years ago on a trip to Niagara Falls, prior to his appointment and subsequent confirmation?  Another George W. Bush ambassador was out of the country 37 percent of the time. (WaPo reported that the nominee’s mortgage company was investigated by 30 state regulators so that may have something to do with the absences.) Not to be outdone, an Obama ambassador to the Bahamas was also absent from post for 276 days during a 670-day period.

These are not the cringe-worthy parts.  But the thing is, this controversy over the nominations of political donors to cushy ambassadorships is a story that regularly repeats itself every few years.  They are typically followed by quite a rumpus ruckus, only to settle down after a short while, and to reappear after a few years.  We do think that political ambassadors, particularly the sub-group of wealthy donors and bundlers who gets appointed as chiefs of missions to our embassies will not go away anytime soon. We’re going to chop down the top reasons why … well, this piece kept getting longer so we’re posting this in parts.

Donor ambassadors are here to stay because –

#1. Elections Cost Money, Money, Honey

If we were a band, we’d write the song,  Money, Money, Money — ohw, but ABBA did it already!

In 2004, President George W. Bush won his second term over John Kerry with 286 of the electoral votes. That presidential election cost $1,910,230,862.  In 2008, President Obama won against John McCain with 365 electoral votes. That presidential race cost $2,799,728,146. In 2012, President Obama won reelection over Mitt Romney with 332 electoral votes.  That race cost slightly cheaper than the previous election at only $2,621,415,792 but there is no reason to believe that we’re on a downward spiral when it comes to big money in politics.

Here is Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics last year:  “You do not wage a financially viable campaign without hundreds of millions of dollars,” she said. “There is far greater reliance on the bundling operation, and I don’t see any evidence or reason to be hopeful that the donor rewards that are attendant to this system will diminish anytime soon. They go hand in hand.”

We imagine that the cost of the 2016 presidential election will be for the records book. All that money will not come from a money tree.

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Filed under Ambassadorships, Elections, Foreign Service, Hall of Shame, Political Appointees, Politics, Realities of the FS, State Department

2013 AFSA Election Results: 3,505 Out of 16,000+ Members Voted, Plus Vote Count By Candidate

—By Domani Spero

In 2009, AFSA had 13,905 dues-paying members and 23.91% of the membership voted.  In the 2011 election,  the AFSA website indicates dues-paying members of over 15,000.   Only about 17% of the members voted in that 2011 DOL-OLMS-supervised election.  As of 2012, AFSA has about 16,000 dues-paying members and about 22% of the members cast their ballots this year.

Retired Ambassador R.W. “Bill” Farrand, the Chairman of the AFSA Committee on Elections announced the results of the 2013-2015 AFSA Governing Board election. A total of 3,505 ballots were received of which 3,502 were valid (3 were voided due to irregularities). The following AFSA members have been elected:

Officer Positions on the Board

President:  Robert Silverman, 2,841 votes

Treasurer: Charles A. Ford, 2,918 votes

Secretary: Robert F. Ritchie, 2,868 votes

Retiree Vice President: Lawrence Cohen, 849 votes

State Vice President: Matthew Asada, 1,016 votes

Gregory Hicks, 919

Donald Moore, 112

USAID Vice President: Sharon Wayne, 187 votes

FCS Vice President: Steve Morrison, 69 votes.

FAS Vice President: David Mergen, 37 votes.

Via afsa.org

Via afsa.org

Constituency Representatives of the Board

Retiree Representatives (4 vacancies):

Marshall Adair, 630 votes

Tex Harris, 595 votes

Edward Marks, 452 votes

David Greenlee, 406 votes

Barry Friedman, 378 votes

Chris O’Donnell, 337 votes

Stephen Keat, 321 votes

Leon Weintraub, 311 votes

State Representatives (11 vacancies):

Lillian Wahl-Tuco, 1,145 votes

Sue Saarnio, 1,124 votes

Nancy Rios-Brooks, 1,105 votes

Clayton Bond, 1,098 votes

Elise Mellinger, 1,065 votes

Ken Kero-Mentz, 1,001 votes

Michael D. Thomas, 977 votes

Everett “Alex” Copher, 962 votes

Todd Crawford, 946 votes

Chuck Fee, 940 votes

David Zwach, 899 votes

Tim Corso, 858 votes

David Jea, 838 votes

Andrew Burton, 824 votes

Ken Reiman, 749 votes

USAID Representatives (2 vacancies):

Jason Singer, 164 votes

Second Rep – To Be Determined

There are two USAID Representative positions.  The second Representative position will be determined by write-in votes.  It will require some time to contact those receiving write-in votes to determine their eligibility and interest.  The winner of the second USAID representative position will be announced as soon as possible.

FCS Representative:

Barbara Lapini, 66 votes

FAS Representative:

Rachel Nelson, 11 write-in votes

IBB Representative:

Andre de Nesnera, 4 votes

APHIS Representative:

No eligible write-ins; the new Governing Board will appoint an eligible APHIS Representative.

(.-.)

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Filed under AFSA, Elections, Foreign Service, FSOs

AFSA Elections 2013: Unofficial Results, Asada Defeats Hicks

—By Domani Spero

AFSA ballots and candidate statements were mailed on April 15, 2013.  On June 6, the ballots were counted.  Since most of the elected positions were unopposed, the only results not previously known were those of the State VP, State Rep and Retiree Rep. We have the unofficial results for the State VP and Retiree Representive races (confirmed by two sources), but do not know as yet the results of the State Representative race.  We will update this post when the official results are released by AFSA.

Probably the big news in this race is that Gregory Hicks, the former DCM of US Embassy Tripoli who was called a Benghazi “whistleblower” by the Oversight Committee failed in his quest to represent the Foreign Service. The winner of the State VP race is Matthew K. Asada, a “fourth generation Japanese-American and third generation public servant from Detroit. “ He joined the Foreign Service in 2003 and is currently an entry-level Career Development Officer.  He was first elected AFSA State Representative in 2011.

 

President:
Robert Silverman * (unopposed)

Secretary:
Robert F. Ritchie * (unopposed)

Treasurer:
Charles A. Ford *  (unopposed)

State VP: 3 Candidates/1 Elected Position
Matthew K. Asada (elected)
Gregory N. Hicks *
Donald L. Moore

USAID VP:
Sharon Wayne (unopposed)

FCS VP:
Steve Morrison (unopposed)

FAS VP:
David Mergen (unopposed)

Retiree VP:
Lawrence Cohen * (unopposed)

USAID Rep (2):
Jason Singer (unopposed)

FCS Rep (1):
Barbara Lapini (unopposed)

FAS Rep (1):
No candidate

IBB Rep (1):
Andre de Nesnera (unopposed)

State Reps (11):  15 Candidates/11 Elected Positions (don’t have results for this)
Clayton Bond *
Andrew Burton
Everett “Alex” Copher *
Tim Corso
Todd Crawford *
Chuck Fee *
David Jea
Kenneth Kero-Mentz *
Elise Mellinger
Ken Reiman
Nancy Rios-Brooks *
Sue Saarnio
Michael D. Thomas *
Lillian Wahl-Tuco *
David Zwach *

Retiree Reps:  8 Candidates/4 Elected Positions
Marshall Adair  (elected)
David Greenlee (elected)
Tex Harris (elected)
Ed Marks (elected)
Barry Friedman *
Stephen Keat *
Chris O’Donnell
Leon Weintraub

(* = member of the iAFSA Coalition slate)

(^-^)b

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Filed under AFSA, Elections, Foreign Service, FSOs, State Department

AFSA Elections 2013: Thin Candidate Selection Sends Troubling Sign of Persistent Indifference

One of our readers prompted us recently to check out the upcoming AFSA elections … and so we did. Here is part of the election announcement:

AFSA Committee on Elections has approved the following candidates (see below) for positions on the ballot for the AFSA Governing Board for the 2013-2015 term. All regular voting members of AFSA will be emailed or mailed a ballot and the special election edition of AFSA News on or about April 15, 2013. 

Completed ballots must be received by 9:00 a.m. June 6, 2013 in order to be counted. The new AFSA Governing Board will take office on July 15, 2013.

According to the announcement, for the first time ever, members with valid email addresses already available to AFSA will be afforded the opportunity to ditch the paper ballot and vote online. The announcement also says that “Any position for which there is no candidate will be filled by the eligible AFSA member who receives the most write-in votes. If no one is elected on this basis, the new Governing Board will fill the vacancies.”

You may check out the names of the candidates here but be warned that the selection is rather sparse. Except for State VP, State Representatives (15 candidates for 11 positions), Retiree Reps (8 candidates for 4 positions), all positions on the ballot are  unopposed.

Where are the AFSA candidates?

The American Foreign Service Association is the professional association and labor union of the Foreign Service. It has 16,000 dues-paying members. It says that it represents more than 30,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees of the Department of State, USAID, FCS, IBB and APHIS.

This is not a healthy sign.

Back in January, the outgoing two-termed AFSA president Susan Johnson penned an AFSA Needs Strong Leaders (pdf) column.  I understand that this was widely disseminated to FS-01s and the Senior Foreign Service. Excerpt below:

If you want to give back to a career that has enriched you immeasurably, AFSA offers that opportunity. If you want a stronger professional Foreign Service, better equipped for the challenges of contemporary diplomacy, better professionally educated and trained, better led and managed, and better resourced by Congress, then service on the Governing Board gives you an opportunity to advocate for these goals.
[...]
Now, more than ever, AFSA needs to speak with a clear, strong voice. We need the best of the Foreign Service to step forward to lead and govern our association and union, and to fortify our advocacy with management, our political leaders in the executive and legislative branches, and with the American public.

We’d like to know if she ever got any response back.

We heard that somebody  from State’s eDiplomacy office was a candidate but dropped out on the last day of the nomination. Tried to reach out to that individual on Twitter but we don’t think we’ll hear anything back.

In any case, that leaves one sole candidate in the running for AFSA president – Robert Silverman.  According to his Linkedin profile, he served in Riyadh as Economic Counselor (1 year, 1 month), as DCM in Stockholm (2 years, 11 mos), as Political Counselor in Tel Aviv (2 years, 3 mos) and is currently an advisor at the Bureau of Legislative Affairs.

Since the presidential slot is uncontested, it looks like Mr. Silverman is slated to succeed Ms. Johnson on July 15. Unless, of course, a strong write-in candidate pops out of the magic box.  Is that even possible?


The continuing indifference of the Foreign Service majority

We’re told that out of the last ten elections or so, about half have been unopposed for most of these positions. We have no reason to disbelieve that.

Is it that people do not feel connected to AFSA?

Is it that most people do not feel that service in this organization is worth doing?

Or is it that in the grand scheme of things, people do not think it makes a whole lot of difference who gets elected?

We cannot avoid but think that the thin line of candidates in this year’s elections is just one more manifestation of member disengagement.

It is not just fewer people are coming forward to serve but this disengagement with AFSA was also reflected in the 2011 election where only 17% of the members turned out to cast their ballots, 7% less than the 2009 elections. We understand that in 2007, 80% of the members also did not bother to vote.

In 2010, David T. Jones, a retired Senior Foreign Service officer dissected the 2009 election and came out with the troubling conclusion:

“The essential conclusion must be AFSA members regard the effect on their lives as so ancillary and/or the consequences from AFSA efforts so ineffectual that voting was not worth the few minutes to review candidates/platforms (or the cost of postage to return the ballot).  The result of this indifference was predictable:  those few who cared gained and held control of AFSA abetted by de facto abdication/ indifference of the Foreign Service majority. “

Mr. Jones also has a new must read article on Unionization, AFSA and the FS in the April issue (pdf)  of the Foreign Service Journal (p16):

“Although AFSA is legally barred from employing the strongest weapon a union can wield—the ability to take direct action/strike to defend its members’ interests—there are many other steps it could take. Instead, we whine, importune and send the equivalent of a flaccid note of protest when management tromps on our toes. 
[...]
An ambassador doesn’t like you? Out you go. Someone more powerful has a “favorite” in mind for a position? Even a director general’s decision can be reversed, without recourse.  Oversight is a joke, as well. State hasn’t had a permanent inspector general in more than four years, yet AFSA has taken no action to pressure the department or the administration to rectify the situation. Has it even issued a blistering press release deploring the signal this glaring dereliction of duty sends?”

And this we heard recently:

“It’s sad but perhaps reflects the perceived realities of today’s Foreign Service and its culture with a strong and perhaps excessive emphasis on personal career development, meaning  climbing the career ladder as fast as one can scramble.”

Tenure at AFSA is essentially a time out, or perhaps the better description would be a time freeze for the full-time AFSA officer positions.  That means time-in-class (that is, time in a single salary class) is suspended. And there are no EERs for the two-year tenure. Which also means the promotion prospects is nil.

So, there’s a reason right there, both good or bad depending on how you look at it.

We were going to suggest that the election rules be updated to require that the top four Governing Board positions should have at a minimum two candidates to give the AFSA membership a choice. But given the apparent difficulties recruiting candidates, that probably is a ‘dead as soon as read’ suggestion.

While it looks like majority of the candidates in this election cycle will get the positions they want, AFSA members have several weeks to get to know them better (unless, of course, you already knew them from prior posts). You can still learn about the candidates’ vision and reasonable goals for the organization, and inquire about their previous jobs and how well those positions and tenures prepare them for representing the Foreign Service not just before State management, but also to the Congress, and to the American public.

So ask questions. And then ask follow-up questions.

What did you say?

We should encourage all voting AFSA members to look into the conditions under which candidates left their previous post?!?

Wait a minute – were you the one who sent that to the burn bag? No?

Well, can’t you ask them that question during their debate, town hall meetings, or election forums? No?

¡Ay, carumba!

Dear AFSA election candidates, some people (we have more than a few emails) are interested on why you left your previous posts. Presumably you all have left one post or another since you’re now in DC.  Can you please, please talk about this in your election forum so people would stop sending us these anonymous and cryptic emails?

Now where were we?

Oh, as an interested bystander who sits on the wall, we cannot really nudge AFSA voters to vote if they don’t want to. But perhaps voters might look at it this way:

If you don’t vote because of limited choices, or for whatever reason — you are sending a signal that you do not care. You don’t want to be like those folks who boycott elections or threaten to move to Canada (but don’t) then come out with placards when they’re unhappy about one thing or another, do you?

If you do care, then ought you not consider voting? Even if you have to vote for [INSERT NAME]  as a write-in candidate? Why? Because then perhaps your organization might learn to read your smoke signals better and work harder to engage with you … well, try and think about it ….
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Filed under AFSA, Elections, Foreign Service

Election Night 2012 Roundup — What a Party!

Just when we were all feeling like the Bronco Bama girl, the elections ended just like that.  President Obama was re-elected with a wide margin in the electoral college contrary to what the pundits were predicting and in line with the  smart numbers guys who knew their numbers here, here and here.  He was re-elected with a 7.9% unemployment rate, the highest of any president returned to office since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.  Next to Bill Clinton, he became only the second Democrat since Roosevelt to win another term.

An interesting global poll conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA between July 3 and September 3, 2012, indicates that Obama is preferred to Romney in 20 of the 21 countries polled:

“Of all the countries polled, France is currently the most strongly pro-Obama, with 72 per cent wanting him to be re-elected and just 2 per cent preferring Romney. Australia (67%), Canada (66%), Nigeria (66%), and the UK (65%) are among the other countries with large majorities favouring Obama.

Pakistan, where 14 per cent want to see Romney elected compared to 11 per cent who prefer Obama, is the only country where the current President is not the favoured candidate—but here, three-quarters (75%) express no opinion. The countries with the largest proportions favouring Mitt Romney are Kenya (18%) and Poland (16%).

Around the world, there were election viewing events and parties at our embassies and consulates on November 6. Here are some of them:

US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

Via US Embassy NZ/FB
(click on photo above to view the slideshow)

US Embassy Santiago, Chile

Via US Embassy Santiago/FB
(click on photo above to see more)

US Embassy Islamabad, Pakistan

An the election watching party with Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam.

Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson with Lady Liberty and guests at the Election Day watch party
(click on photo to view slideshow)

Via US Mission Pakistan/FB
(Click on photo above to view more photos)

US Consulate General Karachi, Pakistan

Before the elections, Consul General Michael Dodman also hosted a  “Rock the Vote” event “for a fun, interactive discussion of democracy and the U.S. voting system.”

Via USCG Karachi
(click on photo to see more)

US Embassy Baghdad, Iraq

Ambassador Beecroft interviewed by #AP and #alhurra at U.S. Embassy election day event
Photo via @USEmbBaghdad
(click on image to see more photos)

US Embassy Canberra, Australia

The US Embassy in Canberra even had mock balloting.  “The room has voted overwhelmingly in favour of Obama/Biden with 85 votes, versus Romney/Ryan with 19. Amusingly, Ambassador Bleich also managed to pick up 14 votes!”

Ambassador Bleich joins Lyndal Curtis on stage — at National Press Club of Australia.
(click on image above for more photos)

US Embassy New Delhi, India

Via US Embassy New Delhi/FB
(click on image above for more photos)

US Embassy Moscow, Russia

Via US Embassy Moscow/FB
(click on image above to see more photos)

US Embassy London

At the Election Night 2012 party at the U.S. Embassy London, not only was Elvis in the building, he was at the door!

Via US Embassy London/FB

And that last one with Elvis is probably my favorite; now gotta get some more sleep.

 

 

 

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Filed under Ambassadors, Elections, Foreign Service, Obama, Photo of the Day, Round-Up, Social Media, U.S. Missions

US Embassy Port of Spain: Ambassador Beatrice Welters Resigns

The announcement about this latest resignation came from the US Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago:

Ambassador Beatrice W. Welters has resigned her post effective November 2, 2012 after serving as U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago for two and a half years. The Ambassador’s resignation is in keeping with the common practice of political appointees resigning prior to the Presidential election.

Ambassador Welters is looking forward to returning to her family and to her foundations in the United States, which work to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth. She will continue to work with NGOs here in Trinidad and Tobago in her private capacity.

In a message to the Embassy community she said: “I will leave this posting with a great sense of pride in what we have been able to achieve. Together our team at the Embassy has reached new heights in the areas of diplomatic engagement and cultural exchange here in Trinidad and Tobago and a lifetime of new friendships.”
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Ambassador Beatrice W. Welters, Major Lawrence Wilson and DCM David Wolfe. Major Wilson is the father of Private First Class LeRon Adrian Wilson, a Trinidad and Tobago national who joined the U.S. Army and served in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was killed in Iraq at the age of 18.
(Photo from US Embassy Port of Spain)

 

Actually, I thought the common practice is for all ambassadors (career and political) to tender their resignation when a new President is elected.  The career folks are usually kept on to the end of their three-year tours and political ambassadors turn over because the new President wants to bring in new people.

I imagine that if President Obama is reelected, there’s no need to submit those resignation letters.  But if there is a President Romney, all ambassadors need to have those letters in.

While it is not unheard of for political ambassadors to resign prior to the elections, as with the former ambassador to the Bahamas Nicole Avant, that typically happens long before the election (Avant resigned last year). In which case, they can go back to private life and actively support their candidate.

Ambassador Welters resignation was announced on October 25, 2012 and took effect on November 2, 2012.

Back in 2009, this is a post that actually made me write, Sunday Tanka: At Embassy Port of Spain.

Am I missing anything here?

 

Related post:

That did not work out very well, did it? US Embassy Port of Spain Sets Record/s

 

 

 

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Filed under Ambassadors, Elections, Obama, Political Appointees, Resignations, U.S. Missions

GOP Connie Mack IV Wants Nonexistent UN Election Monitors to Observe “Banana Republics” Not U.S.

FP’s  Joshua Keating recently reported that Florida Rep. Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy IV aka: Connie Mack IV (Republican for the 14th district), currently running for a senate seat has called for the United Nations to be defunded and “kicked off U.S. soil.”

Dear United Nations, what did you do to this man?

Here is what Mack’s campaign sent out:

MIAMI – U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Connie Mack and Chairman of the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee today strongly condemned reports that the United Nations is preparing to monitor the upcoming U.S. election – a function usually reserved for third-world countries, banana republics and fledgling democracies.

Mack said:

“The very idea that the United Nations – the world body dedicated to diminishing America’s role in the world — would be allowed, if not encouraged, to install foreigners sympathetic to the likes of Castro, Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Putin to oversee our elections is nothing short of disgusting.“

For years the United Nations has aggressively worked against the best interests of our country and many of our allies. The UN’s actions and intentions toward the United States have been nothing short of reprehensible.

“Every American should be outraged by this news. The United States must defund the United Nations. The United Nations should be kicked off of American soil once and for all. And the American people should demand that the United Nations be stopped from ‘monitoring’ American elections. The only ones who should ever oversee American elections are Americans.”

And – according to Tampa Bay Times, in case we miss it the first round, Mack’s campaign said that the U.N. monitoring “should be reserved for third-world countries, banana republics and fledgling democracies.”

They’re talking about those countries where income inequality stretches a mile, where there is a slim or nonexistent middleclass and where plutocrats are a rare breed sitting atop a pyramid or something?

Hey, waaaait a minute — is Congressman Mack IV also ranting about those OSCE election monitors masquerading as United Nations observers?

Holy mother of goat and all her genius nephews! We’ve written previously about the fears of quantum elections in Texas over those OSCE election observers.  The senate candidate from Florida is certainly entitled to his own outrage but we’re horrified that he could not get the target of his outrage well, straight. OSCE man, OSCE not the UN.

:Sigh: — and this is the guy who wants to replace Bill Nelson as one of Florida’s senators to the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”

Connie Mack IV

While you’re digesting that thought, here are some photos of Senator McCain (who apparently was close with Mack’s father, former Congressman and Senator Connie Mack III and campaigned with Mack IV) observing the elections in Libya this year (right there in the polling station, too), writing: “I had the honor of observing Libya’s first free elections in 60 years – an extraordinary achievement for the Libyan people.”

(Click on image for more photos)

 

Holycrap! One of our senators observing real democracy in action! And just as good as in the movies!

It looks like Florida’s 14th district pride is behind in the polls, but if there is a Senator McGillicuddy IV in after Tuesday’s election, we’ll be in a lookout for his trips to bananaland.

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Oops! What’s this?  Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) was on MSNBC earlier today sharply criticizing the confusion and long lines at some Florida polling places and said:

“I don’t know what went on in Florida, but I do have to say that in this day and age, it’s inexcusable that in this country, we have anything like this going on.” she said. “I’ve led delegations around the world to watch voting and this is the kind of thing you expect in a third-world country, not in the United States of America.”

Noooooooo!

 

 

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Filed under 2012, Elections, Politics, UN

Where “observing” also means “interferring” foreign election observers under threat of criminal sanctions

The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization with 56 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. The member states include the United States.  OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is conducting a limited election observation mission in the United States for the 6 November 2012 general elections. According to the OSCE, this is the sixth US elections the ODIHR has observed, without incident, since 2002 (wait until you hear about Texas). They also observed most recently the 2010 mid-term elections. Our US Mission to the OSCE extended an official invitation.  Similar invitations must have been extended in the past since the OSCE has observed elections in the United States in the last ten years.

Below via the US Mission to the OSCE:

The United States supports the work of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). ODIHR’s election observation methodology remains the standard for election monitoring around the world. The U.S. also supports ODIHR’s programs that increase transparency in the democratic process, encourage the rule of law, and develop a democratic culture by facilitating participation in the policy-making process.

The observation mission is headed by Ambassador Daan Everts of the Netherlands.  The core team members come from the UK, Germany, the Russian Federation, Greece, Italy, France, Netherlands, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Poland.  Forty-four long-term observers from member states arrived in the US in early October and has been deployed in teams of two throughout the country.

The Dallas Observer reports that it is “not actually clear if monitors will be placed in Texas, though it seems likely, given our state’s enthusiasm for voter ID laws.”

But if they are — Texas is apparently ready for them.

Via the Dallas Observer:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is threatening to bring criminal charges against European election observers who may be monitoring the general election process in Texas.

His always-entertaining Twitter feed suggests he would also be willing to throttle them with his bare hands. “UN poll watchers can’t interfere w/ Texas elections,” he tweeted yesterday. “I’ll bring criminal charges if needed. Official letter posted soon.” His hashtag added: #comeandtakeit. Delightful.

The AG’s letter with the following warning is now posted here:

The OSCE’s representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place. It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.

And @GovernorPerry cheers:

No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process; I commend @TXsecofstate for swift action to clarify issue.

Actually, these are not UN monitors; OSCE is an observer at UNGA and considers the UN its primary partner but is not the UN.

Now — are our Texas folks suggesting that in the very act of watching, the observers affect the observed reality? That these observers can affect these elections?  If true, that’s like foxtrot bizarre!  How did these election observers interfere in the last five elections they’ve observed in the United States?

Maybe that’s the October Surprise? Then maybe we can do recounts from all those five elections instead of suffering through Da Donald and Gloria’s hair show?

Meanwhile, over in Warsaw (Poland, not Indiana) Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), expressed his grave concern over the threat of criminal prosecution of OSCE/ODIHR election observers and reportedly wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the following emphasis:

“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” Lenarčič said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”

“Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way,” Lenarčič said. “They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.”

You think Ambassador Lenarčič is saying that unless you’re a quantum theorist, observe and interfere are two different things?

ODIHR is scheduled to release an interim report after the election and a formal report a couple of months after their observation mission.

In its latest update, ODIHR reports:

Some OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors stated that certain issues in administering elections stem from the fact that states cannot obligate the counties to follow some federal regulations. For example, some jurisdictions failed to send ballots to out-of-country voters 45 days before election day, as required by the Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment (MOVE) Act.7 The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), administered by the Department of Defense, reported to the OSCE/ODIHR LEOM that they are working with state election officials to introduce new state regulations that will require counties to adhere to all provisions of MOVE.

Political advertising continued being a major source for campaigning with large sums of money spent on TV advertisements. Independent organizations have been particularly active in political advertising and, in this respect, the impact of Super PACs and so-called Section 501(c)18 organizations on the outcome of primary and general elections is being questioned by OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors across the political spectrum. According to the data reported so far to the FEC, by mid-October, Super PACs have spent over USD 350 million in political advertising in the 2012 primary and general election cycle, while political parties have spent only USD 150 million. This excludes spending by 501(c) organizations, which are not reported to the FEC. The majority of election advertising in this election cycle placed on TV by candidates, parties, and independent groups has been negative.

Stop laughing over there.  So far, nothing there on Texas’ bright stars.  And no one has been hauled off as criminals for staring at voters casting their ballots. Well, not yet, anyways …

… for now just enjoy a photo of  US Ambassador Anne Patterson observing the polling station in Giza, Egypt in the 2011 elections.

 

 

 

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US Embassy Ljubljana: Where Ambassador Mussomeli Runs for Office in Election 2012

US Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph A. Mussomeli gets a starring role in this public service announcement urging U.S. citizens to register to vote.  Gotta give the brains behind this a thumbs up for fun and creativity. We particularly like the pan down of the ambo’s feet. Wait! He’s barefoot! And he’s running for president?  And he wears a shirt that says “I am awesome.” What’s this world coming to, only awesome people can run for the presidency?

In any case, if you don’t vote this guy will win, he has a 100% approval rating from a most ignored but easily swayed demographic.

New absentee voting info for overseas voters via the US Embassy in Slovenia:

New absentee voting laws are in effect for the 2012 elections.  You will no longer automatically receive ballots based on a previous absentee ballot request.  All U.S. citizens outside the United States who want to vote by absentee ballot in the 2012 primary and general elections must complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) every year if they wish to vote from abroad.  States are now required to send out ballots 45 days before an election.  No matter what state you vote in, you can now ask your local election officials to provide your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state).  You can now also confirm your registration and ballot delivery on-line.  Be sure to include your email address on the form to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option.  This is the fastest and most reliable way to receive your ballot on time, and we strongly recommend every overseas voter take advantage of it.  Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website www.FVAP.gov.

Go register and vote.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ambassadors, Elections, Foreign Service, FSOs, Public Service, U.S. Missions