Category Archives: Rants

Dear White House, About That John Kerry as Sandra Bullock in Space — Just. Stop. It.

– Domani Spero

 

Following the “chickenshit”flap, Mark Lander’s WH piece on October 29 via the NYT also includes the following:

Mr. Kerry is vocal and forceful in internal debates, officials said, but he frequently gets out of sync with the White House in his public statements. White House officials joke that he is like the astronaut played by Sandra Bullock in the movie “Gravity,” somersaulting through space, untethered to the White House.

Aides to Mr. Kerry reject that portrait, saying he dials into White House meetings from the road and is heavily involved in the policy process.

So then the Business Insider made this:

 

We can’t help but wonder what’s going on over at the White House.

 

Yup, you’re careening wildly all over the place, and undermining very publicly this administration’s Secretary of State, and you think there will be no consequences because it’s just a joke?  Didn’t you stop to consider that foreign ministries around the world may start questioning just how “untethered” the Secretary  is to the White House and that it could impact how they deal with him or his agency?

For Baracksakes, adult supervisors need to please step on the brakes here!

* * *

Oops, what did the WH say?

 

Right.

 

Today, Secreatry Kerry was at the Sixth Annual Washington Ideas Forum.

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Filed under Diplomatic Life, Foreign Affairs, Huh? News, John F. Kerry, Leaks|Controversies, Obama, Rants, Secretary of State, Social Media, Spectacular, State Department

Dept of Correction for the Record Fail — Diversity Statistics Still in Jaws of SBU Chupacabra!

– Domani Spero

 

Last week, we blogged about the State Department’s missing diversity stats from the FS promotion results (see Foreign Service 2013 Promotion Results — Gender, Ethnicity, Race Stats Still Behind the Great Firewall).  Previously, WhirledView’s Patricia Kushlis blogged about the State Department’s abysmal Hispanic record and gender inequality at the State Department (see  Unfulfilled Promises, Ignored Mandates: State’s Abysmal Hispanic Record and  State’s Female-Proof Glass Ceiling: Breaking into the Good Old Boys Diplomatic Club is Still Hard to Do).

Yesterday, WhirledView posted a new question: What’s the big secret with the State Department’s diversity statistics and why?  Patricia also  shared a fan mail from the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources.

Via WhirledView:

From: State/HR – Greenberg
To: WhirledView-Kushlis

Regarding: “Going back to 2000, the only year that State published promotion figures based on gender and ethnicity was in 2012, when they appeared in the June 2012 issue of State Magazine.  Those statistics disappeared from State Magazine in 2013 and 2014. “

The 2013 promotion statistics are available on page 32 of the June 2014 online issue of State Magazine at http://digitaledition.state.gov/publication/ and the 2013 Foreign Service promotion statistics will also be published in the July-August 2014 print and digital issue of State Magazine.

The 2014 promotion statistics are simply not out yet.  The promotion boards have just convened.

Brenda Greenberg
HR Public Affairs
202-647-4282

 

<RANT>Why … why… why … in heaven’s name are you wasting your time and other people’s time with this kind of mush?!</RANT>

The italicized portion above is a paragraph in Patricia’s blog post on State’s abysmal record on Hispanic hiring available here.   It is clear that Patricia is  referring to the published promotion figures based on gender and ethnicity. Which are, by the way, while mentioned on State magazine, are actually not included in the published edition. So the HR spox wrote to point out that the stats is you know, available on page 32!

Nope, the promotion figures based on gender and ethnicity are not available on page 32. Here is what State, June 2014 says:

Screen Shot 2014-08-25

Neither the original State mag publication of the promotion stats in June nor the corrected version in July/August 2014 include the gender, ethnicity and race statistics. They are available at http://intranet.hr.state.sbu/offices/rma/Pages/DiversityStats.aspx.  Let’s click on it, just for fun:

Screen Shot 2014-08-25

Ay, caramba! They’re still in the jaws of the SBU Chupacabra (pdf) ?!!

Look — SBU or “sensitive but unclassified” information must not be posted on any public Internet website, discussed in a publicly available chat room or any other public forum on the Internet. You folks know that, right?  Disposition of SBU documents is also important; it includes shredding or burning, or by other methods consistent with law or regulation like chewing and swallowing (Note: Perfectly okay to do this with beer 😉).

Hey, if a State Department HR official can cite a non-existent public report, we, too, can cite a non-existent citation on the FAM that goes well with beer. Because why not?

Also this via WhirledView:

“Why HR even needs its own Public Affairs Office is beyond me but that’s another question for another day er post.  Rumor has it that a piece of the incumbent’s job is to  block relevant WV posts and likely Diplopundit ones too keeping them from Bureau higher ups and staff supposedly under the ignorance is bliss category.” 

Oh, no — no need to block us, we are quite entertaining at times.

Subscription is easy and painless and we occasionally deliver sweet and sour news and opinion!

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Filed under Foreign Service, FSOs, Functional Bureaus, Rants, Realities of the FS, Staffing the FS, State Department

Alec Ross, State Dept Bundle of Joy Visits Pakistan for Twittersation on Innovation

One of the State Dept’s media digs recently announced that Alec Ross, the State Department’s Senior Advisor on Innovation has a presentation in Islamabad on “Developing a Culture of Innovation at Universities in Pakistan.”

Alec Ross and Pakistani innovators reportedly also got together for a “Twittersation” in Islamabad where the former answered questions about media freedom, innovation, entrepreneurship and other hot topics.

Photo from US Embassy Pakistan/FB

Wow, I’m almost speechless.

First there was Secretary Clinton’s “Townterview” in … gosh I forgot where now.  And now we have a “Twittersation”?

For those not terribly active online reading this, that’s a conversation consisting entirely of 140 character-or-less “tweets”on Twitter?.  What a great way to converse, but dammit :roll: “Twittersation” is messing up with my auto-correct again.

Obviously, developing a culture of innovation is exactly what is needed in the aftermath of the widespread protests in Pakistan which includes angry mobs attempting to storm our diplomatic compounds in the country.

And clearly, in a country where three-in-four Pakistanis (74%) consider the the United States an enemy, developing the country’s culture of innovation should be our priority item there.

Never mind the cultural misconnection in the world where we lived in; or explaining the idea of freedom of speech, even the freedom to insult religion, any religion as one of our fundamental rights (see Anti-Islam Protests: Monica Bauer explains the cultural misconnection in the world as it is).  The last few weeks showed us that a large swath of the Muslim world lack a basic understanding on why we tolerate even our nutty expressions in speech, in art, in crappy videos/movies, etc. or why we protect even the ugliest speech. And here we are talking about innovation. Right.

Below are sample of comments generated via FB:

Amer Rai @Alec Ross……you talk of freedom of expression but USCG Lahore blocked my id without prior warning ,yes i did violation ,i talked some racist but that was not very serious

Shahbaz Haider Most of the participants playing with there cell fones, lolz

Nasim A Sehar wat is the result??will drawn attacks stop?or taliban will stop doing bomb blasts?this situation is very difficult for pakistan.

Abbas Khan not just tweeting … do some thing man.

Shazy Ahmed Khan i want to come america but i have ot much money so help me

Ali Raza we hate america.america is a big terirost of the world

Farook Janjua Help us in getting our public transport system organized.

Aftab Alam we need people to people friendships and equallity between pak and usa

There were several more comments over there. And because social media is about “engagement”, the US Embassy Pakistan’s FB moderator did just that … with one.

U.S. Embassy Pakistan Aftab Alam we agree

Go ahead and talk about innovation, nothing to do until the next mob attacks. You never know when you get to chat up on innovation again. Jeez! I’m getting a stomach-achy feeling that this 21st century statecraft/internet freedom is just full of yabadabadoooo!

No?  Okay, well, then would you please whisper loudly to the somebodies upstairs to wake the foxtrot up because this looks utterly hyper-ridiculous?  Thank you.

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Filed under Americans Abroad, Facebook, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Huh? News, Pakistan, Rants, Social Media, State Department

Mystery Playboy: Consul General Behaving Badly – Just Stop Already!

The Consul General in a constituent post in Country X carried on with the consulate’s instructor then made her life miserable after they broke up — all without informing Mission management of this relationship with a subordinate.  As the CG apparently thinks his only job is to be a “playboy,” he delegated the running of the consulate to a “tyrannical” subordinate officer.

Quick quiz here:

Consensual relationship policy applies even to playboys
True or False

Several people curtailed
True or False

Embassy Front Office, nice folks but dysfunctional
True or False

The OIG has ignored all complaints about these problems
True or False

When one complains to the OIG’s hotline, they refer the complaints to the regional bureau! (exclamation point not mine)
True or False

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) accept calls at (202) 347-1122 and complaints here but advises that you do not use government phone, fax or computer.
True or False

When everything else fails — Al Kamen, the top afflictor of official Washington since 1993 entertains emails at intheloop@washpost.com and at kamena@washpost.com.
True or False

via Wikipedia

Now you, sir — over there – need to leave that girl alone.

If you have not read the consensual relationship policy see 3 FAM 1527(d)) ASAP.   The policy as we understand it was set up to avoid: (1) an appearance of impropriety; (2) creation of doubt regarding a supervisor’s objectivity: (3) actual or perceived preferential treatment; and (4) adverse effect on office morale and efficiency.  In addition, the policy is designed to avoid “relationships [that] may lead to allegations of sexual harassment.”

:shock:  … um, yes, we’re watching you.

Domani Spero

 

 

 

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Filed under Consul Generals, Foreign Service, FSOs, Hall of Shame, Non-Gov, Rants, U.S. Missions

In Diplopundit’s Mailbox: Proper Attire for CODELs?

“Will someone please tell CODELs to wear proper business attire in Kabul and Baghdad? Since when is it appropriate to wear casual Friday attire to an Ambassador’s residence or to a meeting with a President?  If in doubt, take a look around, the Embassy staff are wearing suits!”

Photo from US Embassy Kabul
Sigh! Didn’t you know that the congressional protocol person was fired in last budget crisis  and has yet to be rehired when money is appropriated after Easter? As to that casual Friday attire — what can I say? At least his socks match his khaki pants … and he’s not wearing his dark colored shades inside the palace …

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Filed under CODEL, Countries 'n Regions, Rants, State Department, U.S. Missions

Soldiers Will Continue to Fight But Stop Getting Paid, Congress Will Continue to Play Chicken and Still Get Paid

Something very wrong with this picture

The Cable’s Josh Rogin points out that the government shutdown would mean soldiers stop getting paid:

In the event of a shutdown, all uniformed military personnel would continue to work but would stop receiving paychecks, an official familiar with the government’s planning told The Cable. As April 8 falls in the middle of the Defense Department’s two-week pay period, military personnel would actually receive a paycheck totaling half the normal amount. A large number of Pentagon civilians would be furloughed without pay for the duration of the shutdown. Support structures for military families, such as military schools, would remain open. When the shutdown ends, the soldiers would get their back pay but the civilians might not.

Most personnel at U.S. foreign missions would be retained, the official said, although about two-thirds of the State Department and USAID staff in Washington would be furloughed. Non-emergency passport services for Americans would also likely be suspended. Up to three-quarters of the staff at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative would be sent home without pay.

U.S. diplomats and military officials would still be able to travel for important meetings, but “it will be a much, much, much tougher standard,” the official said, explaining that travel would be approved only “if it is integral to the foreign relations and safety and security of the country.”

The shutdown would also impact government organizations that help American companies do business abroad. For example, the Export-Import Bank would stop approving new loan guarantees or insurance policies, the official said, which could cost American exporters $2 billion to $4 billion each month in income and jeopardize deals already in progress.

Read more here:

Also from The Cable guy, about that bit on Congressmen still getting paid during the shutdown:

A senior administration official confirmed to The Cable that even if the taps are shut off, all Congressmen will later be reinbursed their entire salaries no matter how long the shutdown lasts. Staffers who are deemed essential enough to keep working through the crisis could also get paid, but most will be sent home, without pay for the forced leave.

On the conference call, the officials confirmed The Cable’s report that uniformed members of the military will not get paid during the shutdown, although they will get the money back later (not with interest). The officials also confirmed that the vast majority of Defense Department, State Department, and USAID civilians would be furloughed, as well as most White House staff.

“We expect that a significant number of DOD employees, unfortunately, would be furloughed during this shutdown,” the official said.

Read in full here.  


LA Times reported on what happens to law enforcement folks and the military and who gets paid when:

Federal law enforcement agencies would be up and running, and many in the military would still be working. Those employees, however, wouldn’t be paid for their work until a bill is passed.

“They will be paid once we have money again to pay them,” the first senior administration official said.

If a shutdown lasts only a few days, most in the military would receive their full paycheck April 15, officials said. But if a shutdown lasts beyond the mid-April pay period, they would get about half of their check on April 15 and have to wait until the next pay period for the rest.

The burden on military families, at a time when troops are deployed on three fronts, was a pointed reminder of how a 2011 shutdown could be markedly different from its infamous predecessors in 1995 and 1996.

Read in full here.

The Senate had passed a stand alone bill that precludes paychecks and retroactive pay  to lawmakers and the President in the event of a shutdown but the House of Reps has continued to danced around this paycheck issue and has refused to even consider a stand alone bill.    
Voters elect politicians who appears to be uncompromising. But what get things done is when our elected representatives actually do the hard work of hammering out a compromise that is acceptable to most of their constituents, not just to a tiny, loud, fraction of ideologues.

So if politicians are actually conducting negotiation in honest to goodness effort beyond old politics and ideology, then let’s follow the money.  If they don’t get paid, we’d know that they won’t be able to pay their bills like regular people working for Uncle Sam. We know that they are doing their darn best otherwise they, too, won’t get paid.

Lets call their congressional paychecks innocent hostages of our times. But they’d have more credibility when they talk about sacrifices and all. 

But if our representatives get their paychecks while 800,000 feds and I don’t know how many soldiers suffers the consequences of their juvenile antics, what does that tell us about our elected representatives?

Simply that they can’t do their jobs. And that they are frankly, incompetent at what they were elected to do but most competent at looking after their own self interest.   


In any functioning democracies, elected representatives have to learn to compromise. Only dictators get 101% of what they want. Haven’t they learned that in their basic civics class?

And here’s the other thing that is just supremely poor taste –not only are members of Congress exempted from the furloughs and continue to earn their paychecks during a shutdown, they also get to designate their staffers as essential employees.

Politico reported that about 800,000 federal employees will have to stay home if the government shuts down, but Rep. Darrell Issa’s staff won’t be among them.

The California Republican said he’ll use his congressional prerogative to keep his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staff at work. Congressional offices can declare that their employees are necessary to fulfill constitutional responsibilities — which can cover pretty much anything under the sun — and that’s what Issa (@DarrellIssa) tweeted that he’ll do.

“If gov’t shuts down, we won’t. I believe those who choose to come into work fall under my Constitutional arm. Accountability must continue.”

Okay so — they’ll be holding hearings while their witnesses are in furloughs? Just swell!


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Filed under Budget, Bugs, Congress, Politics, Rants

Glenn Beck considers cost of building U.S. embassy in Iraq "foreign aid"

Yep, Glenn Beck is tired of foreign aid. And he wants you to know about it, too, especially that US Embassy in Iraq. Imagine the foreign aid we poured into building that one.  Har-har-har! Sorry if you’re not laughing, but its imperative that you understand — apparently US “foreign aid” went to building that American Embassy in Baghdad? Really? I wonder who thought of building that embassy?

Via Media Matters

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Filed under Foreign Assistance, Funnies, Politics, Rants, US Embassy Baghdad

eServices: The Best Invention since Sliced Bread!

We get all sorts of emails from folks, sometimes just saying hello, sometimes saying thank you, sometimes a rant here or there, and sometimes just frustrations brewing over that no HR can help with. Not that we can help either. But we try to listen kindly without interruption. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed. We don’t give out names and we don’t give out email addresses either.
Some folks understandably do not want anything posted in public, for fear of being traced to their undisclosed locations. We understand that and we try our best not to leave some bread crumbs on the street. 
Other times, folks just really want to scream quietly – like the most recent one we got on the State Department’s eServices, apparently the best invention since sliced bread. We’ll keep this rant short, but not too short.  If you have a serious aversion to rants, please skip this and move on. We don’t want to ruin your day.
Anyway, it used to be that the spouses can do requests for house repairs, electrical work and things that break down in US owned or rented properties. We don’t know when this actually happened (I’m sure somebody will enlighten me) but somebody at the State Department had this great bright idea that such services should be automated through eServices. Here is what the Department says about eServices touted in its 100-Day Report:
Developed Collaborative Management Initiative (CMI): A quality management system enables overseas posts to deliver high-quality, customer-focused services that are consistent, cost-effective, and measurable. The Department is currently rolling out an enhanced web-based ordering system, eServices, providing USG customers across the globe with standardized access to programs. Analysis of performance metrics collected by eServices will significantly enhance the State Department’s ability to direct resources where and when they are needed most.
Excuse me — unless you’ve been under a rock the last several years, you know that State Department resources have been directed to Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.  After the last election, we thought maybe the imbalance would start to right itself.  Instead, resources are now suck not just by one post but by the Big3 also known as I’AfPak — Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Really. We could have done those metrics for free, save the government money so it can significantly enhance its ability to direct more money to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.      
The problem – of course, there  is a problem or nobody would come ranting about this here.  The spouses and partners (who are at home because they could not find work) have no access to it. The employee has to make those requests through eServices via the intranet. Apparently, no email or paper requests will be entertained. Toilet overflowed? Go to eServices! Basement flooded with knee-high sludgy, yucky water? No problem, go to eServices! No running water? Go to eServices, dammit! Employee traveling? Too bad. DIY at your own peril!
Folks with active gray cells between the ears can sympathize.  Family members  (a large number college educated and they read English) could no longer do even the simplest thing for their occupied houses/apartments because they are not real people with logons. The next thing you know, you need somebody to hold your hand when you cross the street in Burkina Faso. 
Let me illustrate — if your spouse is a Consular Officer who conducts interviews starting at 8:15 am – he/she must attend to repair requests before the interviews. If he/she doesn’t at the start of the day, he/she should do this during his spare time. Of course, we all know that consular officers have tons of free time after interviewing 200 applicants. If you are the employee and happened to be high enough in the pyramid to merit an office assistant, I supposed – your spouse can tell you what needs repair, you can tell your office assistant what needs repair, and he/she can request the needed repairs through eServices. Sounds like a wonderful and delightful office relay! 
Whose idea of ENHANCED “service” is this?  Um, that’s me in my upper case voice.

But really, you guys are lucky; let’s be reasonable here.  Imagine if they went for EXCELLENT instead of just ENHANCED.  Just think where would you all be now? So stop the whine and bring out the wine, pronto!

What? You now have to use eServices to open your own winebox? Why did you not read the memo?

 

 


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Filed under Foreign Service, FSOs, Rants, Realities of the FS, Spouses/Partners

If You Can’t Walk Your Own Dog …Get a Fish

Αlpha rants –

@ secretary is routinely tasked with walking the Ambassador’s dog after office hours; feel sorry for the individual; no one speaks up; what kind of leadership does this sends to lower-rank employees?

I got this a while back and my first thoughts — since it is beyond official hours, Uncle Sam probably would not complain. But — just because you can ask, does that mean you should?

From the perspective of a busy ambassador or a senior official pressed for time — perhaps you’d think “what’s the problem with asking?” Your secretary is free to say “yes or no,” and that would be all right, too. If he/she were to say “no,” you’d just find someone else to walk the dog, or pick up a gift for the spouse, etc., etc. No big deal, right?

But from the perspective of the secretary, a subordinate who reports to the senior official–he/she might be unable to say “no” out of fear of getting on the boss’ bad side or of getting a poor performance review. When a subordinate says “yes” in a working relationship where there is unequal power — that is a big deal. How can one be sure that the “yes” is really offered freely on cases like this, even when the request is put oh, ever so nicely?

The other thing I find troubling about this is the presumption on the part of the senior officer that the lower rank secretary has no life after work or that he/she would be willing to do the chore for nothing (out of the goodness of his/her heart perhaps?). And even if he/she is absolutely willing to walk the dog, for nothing or for a minimal token, wouldn’t this be considered gifting in kind to a superior officer, and would still be improper?


In any case, I finally got around to digging the
relevant sections on the use of public office for private gain, the use of official time and use of subordinate’s time from 5 C.F.R. PART 2635 (Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch):

§ 2635.702 : Use of public office for private gain.

An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations. The specific prohibitions set forth in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section apply this general standard, but are not intended to be exclusive or to limit the application of this section.

(a) Inducement or coercion of benefits. An employee shall not use or permit the use of his Government position or title or any authority associated with his public office in a manner that is intended to coerce or induce another person, including a subordinate, to provide any benefit, financial or otherwise, to himself or to friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.

§ 2635.705 : Use of official time. (a) Use of an employee’s own time.

Unless authorized in accordance with law or regulations to use such time for other purposes, an employee shall use official time in an honest effort to perform official duties. An employee not under a leave system, including a Presidential appointee exempted under 5 U.S.C. 6301(2), has an obligation to expend an honest effort and a reasonable proportion of his time in the performance of official duties.

(b) Use of a subordinate’s time. An employee shall not encourage, direct, coerce, or request a subordinate to use official time to perform activities other than those required in the performance of official duties or authorized in accordance with law or regulation.

Here is a comparative example provided:

Example 1: An employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development may not ask his secretary to type his personal correspondence during duty hours. Further, directing or coercing a subordinate to perform such activities during nonduty hours constitutes an improper use of public office for private gain in violation of § 2635.702(a). Where the arrangement is entirely voluntary and appropriate compensation is paid, the secretary may type the correspondence at home on her own time. Where the compensation is not adequate, however, the arrangement would involve a gift to the superior in violation of the standards in subpart C of this part (Subpart C – Gifts Between Employees).


It turns out I was wrong on my initial thoughts on this. Uncle Sam would not like it either if the secretary is walking the dog after duty-hours, if he/she is doing so without “adequate” compensation. I am presuming that “adequate” here means the normal wage rate that the individual concerned earns during office hours (approximately $15-$23/hour).

Besides the ethical issues here, things like these have unavoidable impact on morale and life within the organization. Folks won’t complain not just out of fear of retaliation, but also because in a small world like this – their next dream assignment could hinge on the same person they may not want to be around with again. The impacted individual could simply sucked it up, waiting for his/her normal reassignment to another part of the world, hoping all the while that the next boss has a low maintenance turtle and no kangaroos in his/her backyard. The truth of the matter is — when asking a subordinate to walk the dog after duty hours – the “no big deal” is really a big deal.

It seems to me that there is an easy solution to this — if you can’t walk your own dog, get a fish.


Related Item:

5 C.F.R. PART 2635
Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch

DOS – Office of the Inspector General – Hotline
(email and phone info)

Office of Government Ethics
(email and phone info)


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Filed under Ambassadors, Foreign Service, Leadership and Management, Org Culture, Org Life, Rants, Regulations