Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Top Diplomatic Pooch of All?

Posted: 00:08 EST

 

Several years ago, two Alsatian guard dogs owned by the Russian Embassy in the UK, were reportedly accused of savaging sheep in rural Kent. The dogs claimed diplomatic immunity to stave off farmers who want them destroyed according to the Independent.  In 2013, Australian Bennett Miller used 36 wiener dogs and their volunteer owners to create a replica of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as a performance art installation. See more here. So we had dogs that invoked diplomatic immunity, and dogs that were art muses!

In 2012, the pooches and all U.S. diplomatic pets were at the center of a very public campaign against United Airlines for its pet travel policy. (See here, here and here). That’s probably when the pets moved over to YouTube, FB and the blogs (also see The Pets of the US Foreign Service). A related trend — these days, we’ve got diplomatic pooches with varying degrees of official presence, from an occasional snapshot or two to a more persistent online presence. Here are few high ranking pooches:

 

SkipJack Armbruster, U.S. Embassy Marshall Islands

dogs_armbruster

Ambassador Thomas Armbruster and SkipJack enjoying their new ride in Majuro (Photo from US Embassy Majuro/FB)

Bernie Mitchell, U.S. Embassy Burma

DOGS_Burma

A thank you note from Ambassador Mitchell, Min, and Bernie to the people of Myanmar for their warm hospitality in 2014.

Deckard Oreck, U.S. Embassy Finland

Ambassador Bruce Oreck’s dog, Deckard, is named after — you guess it — Rick Deckard, the protagonist of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner to Hollywood). Apologies, we don’t have the text for this interview.

DOGS_Finland_Deckard

Deckard Oreck (Photo from US Embassy Finland)

Hapa Berry, U.S. Embassy Australia

 

 Fenway Hackett, U.S. Embassy The Vatican

 

Not all diplomatic pooches are created equal when it comes to their online presence, of course.  We’ve searched for the top dogs on social media and came up with the following:

Colt Wilczynski aka @diplomat_dog

Ambodog of Artur Wilczynski @Arturmaks, Canada’s Ambassador to Norway

“A dog excited to be going on posting to Norway with his two daddies.” Although this labrador retriever has a small number of followers on Twitter as of this writing, he has lots of pics and is marvelously entertaining. How can you not love a pooch who writes, “As a Canadian diplomat, I don’t think I’m supposed to enjoy tonight’s episode of “? Or “I don’t want to get up. It’s too dark! And what does daddy mean- “Get used to it!”?

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Benjamin F. Kerry aka  @DiploMutt

(Secretary John F. Kerry’s best friend in WashDC)

In November 2013, Secretary Kerry flew to Maine to pick up his new yellow Labrador puppy, Ben from Frances Plessner of Puddleduck Boarding Kennel who spent two months training the dog. According to the Boston Globe, Ben is named in honor of Ben Franklin, also known as the “Father of the American Foreign Service.” (Also see Secretary Kerry Gets a New Dog, Now a State Dept. Dog is Tweeting, Who Needs the NSA?) Ben, whose Twitter handle says @Diplomutt has 1,943 followers but is not terribly social online. He has only tweeted four times, and followed only six people, all State Department folks.  He does not appear to entertain request for retweets even for a good cause.

 

 

If you’re looking at @Diplomutt to come to the rescue after a hashtag diplomacy debacle, you’re out of luck.  It looks like Ben F. Kerry is on a very, very short leash with no other larger purpose than being the Secretary of State’s most devoted friend and most reserved sidekick in Washington, D.C.

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Grigsby Lippert aka @GrigsbyBasset

(Ambodog of Mark Lippert @mwlippert, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea)

This Basset Hound is an upcoming star among diplomatic pooches. Although he only has over 500 followers, @GrigsbyBasset has tweeted over twenty times more than the more popular top dog from Foggy Bottom. He tweets lots of pictures and even made it to the pages of the Wall Street Journal:

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Scruffy Nellie aka @DiplomaticDog
(@GregQuinnFCO FCO High Commissioner designate to Guyana)

Our most favorite pooch among the lot is Scruffy Nellie, a feisty little terrier found on the street of Astana, Kazakhstan by a British diplomatic family. Her manservant is @GregQuinn, now the FCO High Commissioner designate to Guyana.  Nellie has her own blog at Diplomatic Dog, followed by over 4200 subscribers. You may subscribe to follow her blog here and get your “regular sniffs.”  She is on Facebook with regular updates on “hairy pudding adventures and occasional words of scruffy wisdom.” She’s also on Twitter (@DiplomaticDog) with 2,797 followers.

Here she is when she was newly found:

Here she is in February 2014:

 

Scruffy Nellie, herself, is available for interviews. See the one she did here with BlogExpat.com.  By the way, when her manservant gave an interview on behalf of the British Embassy in Astana (@UKinKZ with 2,196 followers),  @DiplomaticDog was there to retweet, and amplify.

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@GregQuinnFCO confirmed to us that Scruffy Nellie is moving with him to Guyana this month and her family have arrived safely in Guyana. We’re looking forward to her Caribbean adventure; maybe she’ll get to see Kaieteur Falls!

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USCG Hong Kong Celebrates the New Lunar Year of the Sheep

Posted: 17:55 PST

In celebration of this year’s Lunar New Year, the folks at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macau sent their Consul General Clifford A. Hart, Jr. to learn the traditional Chinese art of paper tearing with master artist Lee Sing-man. A sheep with sunglasses came along. For USCG HK’s lunar greeting videos from prior years, click here and here.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

 

US Embassy Hungary: DCM M. André Goodfriend to Depart Post After Only 18 Months

 Posted: 13:10 EST

 

M. André Goodfriend has served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest since August 2013 . Pending the confirmation of the new ambassador, he was Embassy Budapest’s chargé d’affaires. Last month, he tweeted this:

 

 

On February 13, less than a month after Ambassador Bell’s arrival in Budapest, Mr. Goodfriend tweeted this:

 

Politics.hu notes that  the embassy’s twitter feed had not acknowledged Goodfriend’s departure. Neither the embassy website nor its Facebook page carried any announcement about his departure prompting an FB user to write:

No post about Mr. Goodfriend leaving Budapest? Why not? He has become a sort of iconic figure representing the tolerant and smart politics, which has been missing in and around Hungarian leadership. I think that it is a mistake to let him go. His political wisdom, experience and insight will be missed, I am sure.

Mr. Goodfriend is a career diplomat, and the typical length of assignments, particularly in European posts like Budapest is three years.  Budapest is a 5% COLA post, with zero hardship and zero danger pay.   It appears that Mr. Goodfriend is leaving post 18 months short of a full tour. We’ve asked the U.S. Embassy Budapest via Twitter and email the reason for this early departure and we were told by Embassy Spokesperson Elizabeth Webster on February 14 that they normally do not issue press releases when personnel depart post; however, they made  the following statement available to the media upon request:

“DCM Andre Goodfriend is departing his posting in Hungary to return to the United States for family reasons.  Mr. Goodfriend served nearly 18 months as chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest during a time of significant developments in Hungary and in our bilateral relations.  Enjoying the full support of senior leadership in Washington, he did an excellent job of promoting and explaining U.S. policy in public and in private.  We ask for the media to respect the privacy of the Goodfriend family.” 

 

Continue reading

Peter Van Buren Writes An Embassy Evacuation Explainer For DipNote No, Reuters

Posted: 01:04 EST

 

On February 11, the State Department  suspended US Embassy operations in Yemen and relocated its remaining skeleton staff outside of the country until further notice.  News report says that more than 25 vehicles were taken by Houthi rebels after the American staff departed Sanaa’s airport.  According to WaPo, Abdulmalek al-Ajri, a member of the Houthis’ political bureau, said that the seized vehicles would be returned to local staff at the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday evening, with a U.N. official observing the handover.

Ajri said the U.S. Embassy was being guarded by Yemeni security forces, which have fallen under the Houthis’ control. The security forces have not entered the embassy compound, which is still being managed by the facility’s local Yemeni staff, he said.
[…]
Ajri said he did not know how many embassy vehicles the group had seized at the airport. He claimed that a fight broke out over the vehicles between local embassy staffers, forcing Houthi fighters to intervene and seize them.

We haven’t heard anything about the return of those vehicles to Embassy Sana’a. As to this purported fight between local embassy staffers over the embassy vehicles, that is simply ridiculous — what, like the local employees are fighting over who could take which armored vehicle home? That’s silly.

What is not silly is that we still have local employees at Embassy Sana’a. They, typically, are not evacuated when post suspends operations.  In 2003, Ghulam Sakhi Ahmadzai, the building maintenance supervisor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was  the Foreign Service National Employee of the Year. He was recognized for his exceptional efforts in Afghanistan during the 13-year absence of American employees and following the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in December 2001. His loyalty to the U.S. government and to maintaining the integrity of the embassy during that absence, despite personal risk, could not be repaid by that one award. No doubt there are other Ghulams in Tripoli and Sana’a and in other posts where we have suspended operations in the past. Please keep them in your thoughts.

Reading the newsclips and the tweets in the lead up to this latest evacuation, one cannot help but note that most folks do not really know what happens in an evacuation. Former FSO Peter Van Buren wrote a helpful explainer about embassy evacuations for Reuters.  This is an explainer that should have been on DipNote.  For folks who might be upset with this evac explainer, go find those anonymous officials who talked about this evacuation while we still had people on the ground.

The mechanics of closing an embassy follow an established process; the only variable is the speed of the evacuation. Sometimes it happens with weeks of preparation, sometimes with just hours.

Every American embassy has standing evacuation procedures, or an Emergency Action Plan. In each embassy’s emergency plan are built-in, highly classified “trip wires,” or specific thresholds that trigger scripted responses. For example, if the rebels advance past the river, take steps “A through C.” Or if the host government’s military is deserting, implement steps “D through E,” and so forth, until the evacuation is complete.

Early steps include moving embassy dependents, such as spouses and children, out of the country on commercial flights. Next is the evacuation of non-essential personnel, like the trade attaché, who won’t be doing much business if a coup is underway. While these departures are underway, the State Department issues a public advisory notifying private American citizens of the threat. The public alert is required by the U.S.’s “No Double Standard” rule, which grew out of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of a Pan Am flight. In that case, threat info was made available to embassy families, but kept from the general public.

These embassy drawdown steps are seen as low-cost moves, both because they use commercial transportation, and because they usually attract minimal public attention.

Continue reading, Who gets out when a U.S. embassy closes, and who gets left behind?

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State Dept Suspends US Embassy Yemen Operations, Relocates Staff Until Further Notice

Posted: 00:46 EST
Updated 2/14/15 11:47 PST

 

The State Department suspended embassy operations at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen and American staff were relocated out of the country according to the February 11, 2015  Travel Warning released late tonight. Embassy Sanaa had previously announced the suspension of all consular services until further notice on February 8.

On February 11, 2015, due to the deteriorating security situation in Sanaa, the Department of State suspended embassy operations and U.S. Embassy Sanaa American staff were relocated out of the country. All consular services, routine and/or emergency, have been suspended until further notice. The Department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on September 25, 2014.

The level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remain extremely concerning, and there are no plans for a U.S. government-sponsored evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. We encourage U.S. citizens wishing to depart to do so via commercial transportation options. If you wish to depart Yemen, you should make plans to depart as soon as possible. Airports may experience unexpected closures with little to no warning and access to the airport also may be cut off if the security situation deteriorates. All U.S. citizens in need of emergency assistance should contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in a neighboring country. For U.S. citizen inquiries, you may send an email to YEMENEMERGENCYUSC@state.gov.

The announcement followed a whirl of rumors surrounding the suspension of operations at Embassy Sana’a in less than 24 hours.

 

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Apparently, the Houthi leader was not happy about this possible closure (technically a suspension of operations since the US has not terminated diplomatic relations with Yemen):

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It’s just a slogan, really?

 

The British ambassador to Yemen:

 

Whoa, a practice siege?

 

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And just like the suspension of operations at US Embassy Tripoli, this, too, unfolded on social media:

 

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Around dinner time EST, the AP confirmed the suspension of operations in Sanaa and the evacuation of staff due to security concerns:

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Update:

Whoa! What happened to the Anonymous FSO on Reddit?

Posted: 11:50 EST

 

In February last year, we posted about an anonymous Foreign Service officer who got on Reddit, the “front page of the Internet” and did an AMAA  (Ask Me Almost Anything). (see IamA United States Diplomat: Anonymous FSO Gets on Reddit and He’s a Riot!). The photo of the dip passport is still up, the questions are still up but all the answers have been deleted.   And here I thought the State Department via careers.state.gov should have paid this guy’s overtime.

You know who else is back? Madam le Consul! Can you see me doing cartwheels?

 

Madam le Consul started blogging at The Consuls’ Files — ‘bringing humanity, common sense, realism and humor to the work of the US consul’ — in May 2009.  By October that year, she was gone, chewed to death by bureaucratic tigers. She later came back for sporadic posts.

Today, she told me she’s officially back. And she just revised her 1,000-word disclaimer to 15 words! Her first blog post: Yes, You’re King of the World. She writes:

Madam would like to think that US chiefs of mission will always set the best possible example for their underlings – an example for said underlings to aspire to, be proud of, and remember with fond admiration. Sadly, the newest crop of inspection reports confirms that far too many ambassadors are instead still playing the role of the biggest kid on the block – or the biggest frog in the puddle.
[…]
It appears that, still, a knuckle slap by inspectors may or may not lead to a leash-jerk by the appropriate bureau, which may or may not lead to improved behavior, which may or may not last longer than it takes to write a reassuring email and then forgetting about it. But at the same time, all ordinary, well-behaved, well-trained, doing-the-best-they-can FSOs know that they will be the ones who will suffer if they try to follow the rules when the boss’s boss doesn’t want them to. A single sentence in an EER review statement can doom a good officer to years of undeserved 03-dom.

Ah well, as Madam has often said, we don’t do our jobs for thanks. And yet, to all those good officers who do their best under pressure to not do their best from those who should be setting the highest-quality example but instead can’t be bothered, thank you.

Pardon me?  There are folks hyperventilating already in the next corridor? My web doctor says they need to go get a brown bag. Check out The Consuls’ Files and welcome Madam back to the blogosphere!

 

Related posts:

 

 

Holiday Greetings From American Embassies Around the World – 2014

– Domani Spero

 

Wishing all our readers a safe and wonderful Holiday Season with loved ones and friends and a new year of good health and happiness.  A special shoutout to our men and women in unaccompanied foreign service assignments who will not be spending the holidays with their loved ones.  Tennessee Williams writes  that “time is the longest distance between two places.” May you bridge that distance soon. A few holiday greetings from our diplomatic posts in Poland, Norway, Austria, Thailand, Croatia, and Indonesia.

 

U.S. Embassy Warsaw, Poland

Diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw and Consulate General in Krakow await the arrival of Santa Claus…but will they receive presents or rózga from Santa’s elves this year? According to Polish legend, naughty children receive rózga – twigs – from Santa. A note from the embassy says that no personnel were injured in the filming of this video, although they did help a colleague find a local tailor – watch the bloopers! Video is currently on FB and has not been posted on the embassy’s YouTube channel, but it’s online courtesy of YouTube user Interpol 1923.  Three years in a row for awesomeness! Click the links for the previous videos in 2013, and 2012.

 

U.S. Embassy Oslo, Norway

Vi mimer julen inn og ønsker hele Norge god jul og godt nytt år! Happy holidays from the U.S. Embassy in Oslo! Del gjerne videre!

 

U.S. Embassy Vienna, Austria

 

U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

The U.S. Embassy in Thailand counting down to the New Year with its own version of a popular holiday song. Happy New Year everyone and Sawadii Pii Mai!

 

US Embassy Zagreb, Croatia

Year in Review 2014! Želimo vam sretan Božić i sve najbolje u novoj godini….

 

U.S. Consulate General Surabaya, Indonesia

Konjen AS di Surabaya mengucapkan selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru 2015. Happy Holidays!

 

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

U.S. Consulate General Mumbai, India

U.S. Embassy Baku, Azerbaijan

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‘Foreign Service Problems’ Gets a Tumblr — 48 Pages of Hilariousness, Laugh or Else!

– Domani Spero


“The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better.” 

― Enid BlytonMr Galliano’s Circus

 

The Tumblr for Foreign Service Problems has been around for many months now. Sometime this past spring it also joined Twitter. Yes, it is hysterical and absolutely spot on. Below are some of our favorite entries to delight your day. Unless, the Foreign Service has also ruined your sense of humor, in which case, we pray you get it back — fast! or that could quickly be a future entry.  With permission from @FS_Problems:

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 3.41.44 PM

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When someone mistakes you for being the Ambassador’s personal household help rather than a Foreign Service Officer or Specialist

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) December 15, 2014

FSprob_butler

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When you’re finally somewhere where you don’t have to soak your vegetables in bleach before eating them.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) July 13, 2014

FSprob_veges

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When you hear someone complain that their free housing that has more bedrooms than they have family members and is in an expensive city, isn’t big enough.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) August 1, 2014

FSprobhousing

 

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When someone asks GSO, who has no control over the furniture contract, why the Drexel Heritage furniture is so ugly…AGAIN.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) May 22, 2014 (Note: GSO for General Services Office)

FSprob-furniture

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When someone is rude to an FS spouse at a reception because the spouse “isn’t important enough.”

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) May 18, 2014

FSprob_spouse

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What posts say about life at post and the job when they’re trying to lure bidders into accepting a handshake.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) October 27, 2014

FSprob_bidding

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When the ELO you’re supervising complains about having to do a visa tour in a visa waiver country when you served at a visa mill before applications were electronic.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) December 14, 2014 (Note: ELO for entry level officer)

FSprob_elos

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When you see incompetent people on the promotion list, while excellent people get passed over for promotion.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) October 2, 2014

FSprob_promotion

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What you do when your boss is looking for someone to work the Shopdel coming to post over Christmas.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) December 5, 2014 (Note: Shopdel, a variation of a CODEL, that is, a congressional delegation mainly for shopping).

FSprob_shopdel

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When someone at home assumes you can get away with anything since you have diplomatic immunity.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) November 8, 2014

FSprob_immunity

 _______________

When a family member back home insists that you must be a spy, because who ever heard of the Foreign Service anyway?

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) August 20, 2014

FSprob_spy

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When you watch Madam Secretary and can’t stand the inaccuracies.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) November 3, 2014

FSprob_madam

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When you think you might disagree with an official policy.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) September 22, 2014

FSprob_policy

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Foreign Service truth that they don’t tell you in orientation.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) June 13, 2014

FSprob_truth

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When things are going to hell in a handbasket at post but Washington refuses to acknowledge anything’s wrong.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) October 21, 2014

FSprob_nothingtosee

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What post management says when you’re put in charge of the 4th of July party and given a piddly budget.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) October 9, 2014

FSprob_4july

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When you know that you won’t be promoted before you TIS/TIC out and just don’t care any more.

— FS Problems (@FS_Problems) August 22, 2014 (Note: TIS for time-in- service, time in a combination of salary classes, computed from date of entry into the Foreign Service;  TIC for time-in-class, time in a single salary class).

FSprob_tis

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And oh, look, we made it there, too…

That’s really sweet.  Thanks @FS_Problems! Stay sharp.

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Video Round-Up: Do You Hear What I Hear? Introducing the New Ambassadors

– Domani Spero

 

These ambassador introduction videos are the product of State/IIP, under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. From best we could tell, these videos started slowly in 2010 but has now become standard fare for almost all chiefs of mission before the ambassadors get to post. They more or less come from one script — a thank you to President O, a greeting in the foreign language, include spouse, kids (or other relevant relatives) and/or pets, a mention of any prior visit to host country in college or any connection to the host country, a visit to some Washington,D.C. memorials, and say you look forward to meeting everyone in your host country.

If you feel bad about these videos, you’re not alone. One ambassador has choice words to say about these videos: “The Youtube videos newly minted ambassadors make are downright embarrassing.  They give an impression of proconsular self-regard which is in bad taste.  Diplomacy is premised on a world of sovereign states.  The State Department’s  fascination with social media suggests that it no longer thinks that is the world we live in, a strange notion for a foreign ministry.”

And the band marches on. These videos we must say are looking better than the previous ones but they still come across as somewhat artificial and forced at times. And that holding hands and picnic scene in the bottom clip below cracked us up. The best ones are those where the COM delivers the entire intro in the language of his/her host country, and appears naturally before the camera. Take a look and see!

 

Michael Hoza, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon.
In French.

 

Ted Osius III, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam.
In Vietnamese.

 

Kevin Whitaker, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia.
In Spanish.

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John Bass, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey

 

Scott Rauland, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to Belarus

 

Douglas Silliman, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait

 

Tom Kelly, U S Ambassador to Djibouti.
Subtitled in French.

 

Alice Wells, U.S. Ambassador to Jordan.
Subtitled in Arabic.

 

Joan Polaschik, U.S. Ambassador to Algeria.
Subtitled in Arabic and French.

 

Andrew Schapiro, U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic

 

Jane Hartley, U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco

 

Bruce Heyman, U.S. Ambassador to Canada

 

Kevin O’Malley, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland

 

Suzi Levine, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland & Liechtenstein

 

Robert Sherman, U.S. Ambassador to Portugal

 

One ambassador is not in this video series.  Ambassador John Tefft, our current ambassador to Moscow, who was previously ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania (was also chargé d’affaires in Moscow from 1996-1997) did not jump into the bandwagon. Newsweek notes that he has been “handed diplomacy’s version of “cleanup on aisle 6!” Ambassador Tefft’s operating style as a “traditional” diplomat with old-school, low-key professionalism,” is considered “a huge asset in Moscow, and perhaps the only style that can work” in the current situation, according to Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.  The embassy confirmed that Ambassador Tefft did not cut an intro video, but with four ambassadorships under his belt, he’s not a stranger.

 

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