Officially In: David Huebner to Wellington

Photo taken from Wellington Botanic Garden loo...Image via Wikipedia

On October 7 President Obama announced his intent to nominate David Huebner to be his Ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa. The official bio released by the WH is below:

David Huebner is the head of the China Practice and the International Disputes Practice at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, where he specializes in international arbitration and mediation. Currently based in Shanghai, he has significant experience handling disputes in the Pacific Rim region. Previously, he was a long-time partner and served as chairman at Coudert Brothers. While a resident in California, Mr. Huebner chaired the California Law Revision Commission, served as president of the Los Angeles Quality & Productivity Commission, and taught courses in international business and intellectual property at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. He has also guest lectured on international topics at several schools in the United States and abroad, and is licensed both as a solicitor in England & Wales and as an attorney in three U.S. jurisdictions.

He has been active in non-profits, community organizations, and professional associations such as the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, International Chamber of Commerce Commission on Arbitration, Los Angeles Committee on Foreign Relations, and Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

A native of Pennsylvania, Mr. Huebner is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, where he majored at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is also a graduate of Yale Law School.

* * *

If confirmed, Mr. Huebner would replace William McCormick of Oregon who was appointed US Ambassador to New Zealand in 2005-2008. He would also be the 7th appointee in a succession of non-career ambassadors assigned to Wellington in the last two decades.

If you’ve been reading the news, you probably already know that Mr. Huebner has also been widely reported to become the third openly gay ambassador in U.S. history and the first pick by the Obama administration. Only two openly gay men have served previously as a U.S. ambassador: James Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist and Democratic Party activist who was appointed by President Clinton as ambassador to Luxemburg and Michael Guest, a career Foreign Service Officer who was appointed by President George W. Bush as ambassador to Romania.

Over four decades ago, President Johnson actively pushed for more African-American and women in top positions at State and ambassadorships saying, “I want to move them up.” This FRUS series is worth a read, by the way, not just because of this but for a historical perspective of foreign affairs management during the Johnson years. I supposed that thirty years from now, we’ll get a chance to see the deliberation on this appointment inside the Obama Administration.

The fact that Mr. Huebner’s sexual orientation is mentioned in all the news is indicative of how far we, as a country, still have to go in this journey to equality. The appointments of African-Americans and women in US ambassadorships do not make much waves anymore these days. I look forward to the day when the appointment of an ambassador would still be newsworthy but the appointment of an openly gay ambassador would no longer make news.

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Quickie: The Bronze Star, not an ‘atta boy’ medal

Bronze Star Medal; Decoration of the U.S.Image via Wikipedia

David Tate of The Battlefield Tourist had trouble with how the Bronze Star is handed out these days. He writes:

“Four guys see combat and 21 get the Bronze Star? The problem is the “V” device. Get rid of it. The Bronze Star is a hero’s medal; not an ‘atta boy’ medal. Stop giving it for meritorious purposes. Redefine it I say! It just sucks that there’s this whole slew of Bronze Star license plates out there that have the same meaning to the general public. It’s almost a disservice considering the average person can’t distinguish between a man who single-handedly knocked out two machine gun nests on Tarawa versus an admin clerk who served the general a great cup of joe.”

Insider Quote: All FSOs in the world …

Aircraft CarrierImage by Tolka Rover via Flickr

would barely crew one aircraft carrier

“The reality is the Department of State and the Agency for International Development were starved for resources for decades. Now, just let me give you an example. Working for me are 2 million men and women in uniform. Secretary Clinton has, I think, somewhere south of 7,000 Foreign Service officers. If you took all the Foreign Service officers in the world, they would barely crew one aircraft carrier.”

Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
Remarks at George Washington University Washington, DC | October 5, 2009

The UN’s Best and Worst Places to Live

UNDP has just released the 2009 Human Development Report. It says that “Human Development is a development paradigm that is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests. People are the real wealth of nations. Development is thus about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value. And it is thus about much more than economic growth, which is only a means —if a very important one —of enlarging people’s choices.

Fundamental to enlarging these choices is building human capabilities —the range of things that people can do or be in life. The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community. Without these, many choices are simply not available, and many opportunities in life remain inaccessible.”

Below are the top 10 places with the best standard of living or countries with very high human development according to the UN report. Norway with a life expectancy at 80.5 and enrollment ratio at 98.6 dislodges Iceland from the #1 spot in the 2007/2008 HDI rankings. Click here for immigration information to Norway. The United States is #13 after Luxembourg and Finland. You want to redo your bidlist?

#1. Norway

#2. Australia

#3. Iceland

#4. Canada

#5. Ireland

#6. Netherlands

#7. Sweden

#8. France

#9. Switzerland

#10. Japan

Below are the bottom 10 places with the lowest human development according to the UN report. Afghanistan with a life expectancy at 43.6 and an adult literacy rate of 28% occupies the second to the last slot at #181 just above Niger. Would you be surprised if all the countries below (except one) and each one of the 24 countries in the low human development countries will have career diplomats as US ambassador representing the United States? All the countries listed below (except countries with annotatations) also have US missions staffed by FS personnel with family members .

#173. Guinea-Bissau (under US Embassy Senegal)

#174. Burundi

#175. Chad (Adult family members only)

#176. Congo (Democratic Republic of the) (Adult family members only)

#177. Burkina Faso

#178. Mali

#179. Central African Republic (Adult family members only)

#180. Sierra Leone

#181. Afghanistan (Unaccompanied assignment except Adult family members with authorization from “M”)

#182. Niger

SFRC Hearings: Nominees for European Posts

Kennard, Legarde, Stroum, Tefft, Polt


Date: Thursday, October 8, 2009
Time: 2:30 P.M.
Place: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Presiding: Senator Shaheen

William E. Kennard,
of the District of Columbia
to be Representative of the United States
to the European Union,
with the rank and status of Ambassador

James Legarde Hudson
, of the District of Columbia
to be United States Director for the European Bank
for Reconstruction and Development

Cynthia Stroum
, of Washington
to be Ambassador to Luxembourg

The Honorable John F. Tefft
, of Virginia
to be Ambassador to Ukraine

The Honorable Michael C. Polt
, of Tennessee
to be Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia

Video of hearings and testimonies are posted here.