One for the Huh? News: Clinton’s "Power Grab"

Media Matters has a lot to say on CNN’s Situation Room reporting on the purported Clinton “power grab” at the State Department:

Summary: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer teased a segment by saying, “Hillary Clinton’s power grab — at least some are calling it that. The secretary of state wants to take back resources that she feels rightfully belong to her department.” During the report, Jill Dougherty stated: “Hillary Clinton is back on the campaign trail, this time to take back power and resources for the State Department.” However, neither noted that President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have both supported expanding the role of the State Department.

Oh, my, my! Who are calling it that besides Wolf? and Jill? Read the whole thing here.

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Video of the Week: Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce

Malcolm Gladwell searches for the counterintuitive in what we all take to be the mundane: cookies, sneakers, pasta sauce. A New Yorker staff writer since 1996, he visits obscure laboratories and infomercial set kitchens as often as the hangouts of freelance cool-hunters — a sort of pop-R&D gumshoe — and for that has become a star lecturer and bestselling author.

Sparkling with curiosity, undaunted by difficult research (yet an eloquent, accessible writer), his work uncovers truths hidden in strange data. His always-delightful blog tackles topics from serial killers to steroids in sports, while provocative recent work in the New Yorker sheds new light on the Flynn effect — the decades-spanning rise in I.Q. scores.

Gladwell has written two books. The Tipping Point, which began as a New Yorker piece, applies the principles of epidemiology to crime (and sneaker sales), while Blink examines the unconscious processes that allow the mind to “thin slice” reality — and make decisions in the blink of an eye. A third book is forthcoming.

Video from ted.com

Video of the Week: Dan Gilbert on Happiness

Dan Gilbert believes that, in our ardent, lifelong pursuit of happiness, most of us have the wrong map. In the same way that optical illusions fool our eyes — and fool everyone’s eyes in the same way — Gilbert argues that our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy. And these quirks in our cognition make humans very poor predictors of our own bliss.

The premise of his current research — that our assumptions about what will make us happy are often wrong — is supported with clinical research drawn from psychology and neuroscience. But his delivery is what sets him apart. His engaging — and often hilarious — style pokes fun at typical human behavior and invokes pop-culture references everyone can relate to. This winning style translates also to Gilbert’s writing, which is lucid, approachable and laugh-out-loud funny. The immensely readable Stumbling on Happiness, published in 2006, became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages.

In fact, the title of his book could be drawn from his own life. At 19, he was a high school dropout with dreams of writing science fiction. When a creative writing class at his community college was full, he enrolled in the only available course: psychology. He found his passion there, earned a doctorate in social psychology in 1985 at Princeton, and has since won a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Phi Beta Kappa teaching prize for his work at Harvard. He has written essays and articles for The New York Times, Time and even Starbucks, while continuing his research into happiness at his Hedonic Psychology Laboratory.

Video from ted.com

The Bush Ambassadors: An Epilogue

Ambassador and Mrs. Cain with his Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog
Photo from American Embassy Copenhagen

It’s hit and miss right now when you look up the various websites of our embassies and consulates online. Some have completely turned a page, posting a photo and bio of the Charge d’Affaires (who will take care of the U.S mission pending the appointment/arrival of the incoming ambassador) like this one. Others still have the reminders of the Bush Administration like this one in Barbados where Mary Ourisman is still posted online as our ambassador there. I wonder if she’ll go back to her old gigs as member of the Board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center, or member of the Board of Directors of the Blair House or Emeritus Trustee of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. after this ambassadorial stint in the islands.

Some ambassadors went out quietly with very little newsy stuff about their departures. Others not so quietly like our ex-ambassador to London, Robert Tuttle, who delivered his remarks at Chatham House on 15 January, starting with “It’s morning again in America.” Then says, “The question we can ask now is: If this is morning again – what happened yesterday? In other words – what is the Bush legacy from the international perspective?” He then proceeded to illustrate his patron’s legacy. He was Bush’s guy to the end, but can you blame him?


“Canada loses a friend,
” screams The Sudbury Star in Canada on U. S. Ambassador David Wilkins stepping down as President Obama takes office. Here’s part of the interview:

“Canadians sometimes think they know everything about the United States and they don’t. And sometimes Americans think they know enough about Canada and they don’t. So we can both benefit from continuing dialogue and education.”

Most of all, Wilkins says, “you cannot underestimate the value of personal relationships.

“It is extremely important that the new president and the prime minister have a respectful, positive working relationship, so you want to focus on that immediately.”

Stephen Harper meet Barack Obama. This should be fun.

One Winnipeg Sun columnist has already moved on, dreaming of Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as the next U.S. Ambassador to Canada as she “already represents a state at the epicentre of Canada-U.S. relations, and was born in B.C.”

In Pretoria, Ambassador Eric Bost’s departure also made the news: In his farewell to embassy staff in Pretoria, he reportedly said: “I have greatly enjoyed my time here in South Africa and will miss it and the US Mission deeply. “We have accomplished so much, and I am truly proud of each and every one of my staff.” Bost said the country had been his home for over two years and he had “loved every minute of it”. “From Cape Town, to Durban, to Johannesburg, to Pretoria, I have seen the immense beauty and vast promise of this nation. It is something I will not forget.” He said that as an American he was proud of his contribution to expanding the rich and vibrant US-South African relationship and building a better future for the two nations.

In Slovakia, President Ivan Gasparovic met with outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Vincent Obsitnik for a farewell audience at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava. Gasparovic thanked the ambassador for the efforts and the work he has carried out in Slovakia’s interests. In his opinion, Obsitnik during his short but successful tenure made a positive impact not only in the diplomatic field but also in co-operation between Slovak and U.S. businessmen.

At the Czech Republic, Ambassador Richard Graber paid a farewell visit to Czech president and with their wives had lunch in the Czech presidential seat Lany chateau. Graber who has been ambassador to the Czech Republic since October 2006 says he considers the lifting of U.S. visa requirements for Czechs as his biggest achievement on the post of the ambassador. Graber also said that he was an optimist and believed that the construction of a U.S. missile defense radar base on Czech soil would be implemented.

In Beijing, Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. says bilateral ties ‘in good shape’: “I am pleased to be leaving with the U.S.-China relationship in good shape. People tell me it’s as good as it’s ever been and I’m proud of that fact,” said Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. during a farewell address to the American Chamber of Commerce. Ambassador Randt, appointed by President George W. Bush, is ending his eight-year tenure as the longest serving U.S. ambassador to China.

In Malta, upon news of Ambassador Molly Bordonaro’s departure for February 6, the Maltese came out with thanks and good wishes online for the outgoing ambassador. Mr. Spitero writes: “The only one who really helped us in a practical way regarding illegal immigration. Much more then the EU we voted for. Thank you very much Ms. Bordonaro and good luck in your new assignments. You were the best US ambassador I ever remember.” She’s also been called “good-hearted,” “wonderful,” “hardworking,” by regular folks it seems. Which all goes to prove that not all political appointees are created equal. Some are great, some are good and some are not so. But such is life.

Some ambassadors went home with more than speeches or lunches as send aways.

On January 16, in Denmark, Ambassador Cain and Mrs. Cain visited HM Queen Margrethe II at Amalienborg for a farewell audience. At the event, Ambassador Cain was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog.

Three days later, the Papal Nuncio in Madrid conferred on Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre the Grand Cross of the First Class of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great, a decoration for extraordinary behaviors and civil service. “The basis for the conferral of this award were Ambassador Aguirre’s outstanding contribution to the diplomatic community and in fostering the excellent relationship between The Holy See and the United States of America.”

In El Salvador, Ambassador Charles L. Glazer was awarded the Orden Nacional Jose Matias Delgado en el Grado de Gran Cruz de Plata. The Orden Nacional Jose Matias Delgado is the highest decoration bested upon a diplomat by the Salvadoran Government. In her remarks, the Foreign Affairs Minister acknowledged that “his engagement with El Salvador led to important achievements and has brought prosperity to Salvadoran citizens, in both countries”. In a separate ceremony, Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca also publicly thanked Ambassador Glazer for his work on behalf of Salvadorans during his two-year tenure as head of the American Embassy in El Salvador.

One ambassador’s trip home might be the shortest ever. Ambassador Tony Garza departed as official US representative and moved across town to his wife’s digs in Mexico City:

After six years managing one of Washington’s more important relationships as its ambassador to Mexico, Texas lawyer and politician Tony Garza is heading home. But for Garza, a native of Brownsville and a once-rising star in the Texas Republican Party, the journey will entail a short drive across Mexico’s sprawling capital — from the ambassador’s residence to his wife’s. Married four years ago to Mexican beer heiress and business titan Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala, Garza, 49, says he plans to spend much of his time with her in Mexico City, where she maintains a palatial home.

Okay, I know these folks are all out of jobs now but I assure you, none of them will be heading to the poor house. And although they can no longer travel on diplomatic passports (yeah, I know — that’s a bummer!), they get to keep their titles for life and spend more time with their families. Back home, not in some foreign country with non-English speakers.

One other good thing – Bush appointees can now sign up as a Bush-Cheney Alumni Association member. All employees, appointees, and interns of President George W. Bush as well as campaign donors and volunteers are eligible to join. Members will receive valuable benefits, including access to an online community, alumni updates, opportunities to be involved with the Association, and invitations to events and activities sponsored by the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Click here to sign up now. The new website also has a section for “Setting the Records Straight. The page says:

“We were there. And as members of the team, we know the difference between rumor, reality, fact, and fiction. This is our chance to stand up, speak up, and set the record straight.”

So far, that page is empty, so there’s a job cut out for a whole lot of somebodies.