Governor #HeBlowsALot Apologizes for Twitter Flap Over in Kansas, USA

Oh, Sam Brownback, one of the Senate’s old advocate for human rights in North Korea who decamped to Kansas, USA after the last election is back in the news, and not in a good way.

As the story goes — Shawnee Mission East senior Emma Sullivan, 18 and apparently newly registered voter went with a group of students to the statehouse for a Youth in Government program.

Must have been exciting, she tweeted:

Oops! Except that it’s not even true … she did not actually said that to the guv, but she did tweet it.

Normally, a tweet like that gets overtaken by well, a whole lot of noise in the twitterverse.

But not this time.  Apparently, Governor Brownback’s office monitor social media comments over there in Kansas and saw this tweet. And so the highschooler was reported by the governor’s office to Youth in Government officials. When this hit the news, Gov. Brownback’s spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag then said, “It was important for the organization to be aware of the comments their students were making. It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet.” She added of Sullivan’s tweet, “That wasn’t respectful. In order to really have a constructive dialogue, there has to be mutual respect.”

Holy molly guacamole …. where or where did this woman learn her public affairs skills, from Vladimir Putin’s Russia?

So then, the highschooler was called into the principal’s office where Mr. Krawitz, the principal asked her to write a letter of apology to Governor Brownback and his staff. Apparently, Monday was the due date for the letter.

In the meantime,  #heblowsalot started picking up on Twitter.

Somebody even bothered to make a poster here and here.

I imagined it was a rough weekend over there in Kansas.  As if the bad publicity was not enough, there is also a fake Sam Brownback Twitter account. And in the last 24 hours, a Govblowsalot account, specializing in twittermockery was born.

Then Monday came, and the school district, after a weekend of adverse publicity released the following statement:

“District officials have reviewed recent events surrounding the reported tweet by Shawnee Mission East High School student Emma Sullivan.  The district acknowledges a student’s right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected.

“The district has not censored Miss Sullivan nor infringed upon her freedom of speech.  She is not required to write a letter of apology to the Governor.  Whether and to whom any apologies are issued will be left to the individuals involved.

“The issue has resulted in many teachable moments concerning the use of social media.  The district does not intend to take any further action on this matter.”

Also on Monday, at 10:46am, Governor Brownback’s statement regarding Emma Sullivan’s tweet was posted on Facebook:

Topeka – Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued the following statement today regarding the tweet by Emma Sullivan:

“My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.

I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future.

I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum.

Again, I apologize for our over-reaction.”

Yep, Emma, you’re not in Kansas, Russia. 

As of this writing, Emma Sullivan!/emmakate988 has 11,264 followers, up from 60.

The official Gov. Brownback account!/govsambrownback is holding on to its 3,230 followers.

And the guv’s social media monitoring shop just got a heck lot more stuff to monitor.


The Peter Van Buren Chronicles — John Brown Interviews State’s FSO-Non Grata

John H. Brown, a Princeton PhD, joined the Foreign Service in 1981 and served in London, Prague, Krakow, Kiev, Belgrade and Moscow. He was a member of the Senior Foreign Service when he resigned from the FS in 2003 over Iraq. He blogs in John Brown’s Notes and Essays and John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, Version 2.0.  Excerpts below from his interview with FSO Peter Van Buren.

Would you advise young — and not so young — people to join the US Foreign Service?

Before getting dumped into admin leave limbo, my position was at the Board of Examiners, where for over a year since returning from Iraq I administered the Oral Exam and helped choose the next generation of Foreign Service officers. I was competent at the task, got a good performance review and, after a year on the job, it was only after my book came out that State decided I could not work there.

So, I spent a lot of time around people interested in a Foreign Service career. They did not ask for advice and at the Board we did not offer it. However, since my book came out and I have gotten some media attention, ironically more people now approach me with your same question about joining the Foreign Service. Too much irony these days.

What I tell them is this: think very, very carefully about a Foreign Service career. The State Department is looking for a very specific kind of person and if you are that person, you will enjoy your career and be successful. I have come to understand that the Department wants smart people who will do what they are told, believing that intelligence can be divorced from innovation and creativity. Happy, content compliance is a necessary trait. The Department will not give you any real opportunity for input for a very long time, years, if ever. Even Consular work, which used to offer some space, now has fallen victim to standardization as posts must conform web sites to a single model, for example. There is no agreed-upon definition of success or even progress at State, no profits, no battles won, no stock prices to measure. Success will be to simply continue to exist, or whatever your boss says it is, or both, or neither. You may never know what the point is other than a Congressional delegation go away “happy,” whatever that even is.

At the same time, State has created a personnel system that will require you to serve in more and more dangerous places, and more and more unaccompanied places, as a routine. That sounds cool and adventurous at age 25, but try and imagine if you’d still be happy with it at age 45 with a spouse and two kids. What are your core obligations with a child who needs some extreme parenting as you leave your wife at home alone with him for a year?

Understand that promotions and assignments are more and more opaque. Changes in Congress will further limit pay and benefits. Your spouse will be un/under employed most of his/her life. Your kids will change schools for better or worse every one, two or three years. Some schools will be good, some not so good, and you’ll have no choice unless you are willing to subvert your career choices to school choices, as in let’s go to Bogota because the schools are good even if the assignment otherwise stinks. You’ll serve more places where you won’t speak the language and get less training as requirements grow without personnel growth. As you get up there, remember your boss can arbitrarily be a used car salesman who donated big to the President’s campaign. Make sure all these conditions make sense to you now, and, if you can, as you imagine yourself 10, 15 and 20 years into the future. It is a very unique person who can say “Yes” truthfully and after real soul-searching.

The full interview with Mr. Van Buren is here.

John also reviewed Peter’s book for American Diplomacy here.  Plus here’s a couple of other book reviews from FS folks below.

from Well, That Was Different

“If you’re going to torpedo your career, you should have a good reason.  And this is a story that needed to be told. I wish Peter Van Buren all the best in what appears to be his second career as a writer. And I hope that some day, a person in a position to make a difference will have read and carefully considered his story before pulling the trigger on a similar crusade mission.”

from Dan Simpson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Dan Simpson, a retired U.S. ambassador, is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette associate editor.  He previously served as United States Ambassador to the Central African Republic (1990–92), Special Envoy to Somalia, and Ambassador to the Congo-Kinshasa (1995–98).

“Mr. Van Buren’s best question is, “So how did we end up accomplishing so little when we meant well?” He tries to answer it effectively from the corners of Iraq that he worked in, but I suspect that the real answer lies at a pay grade much higher than his in a maze of bad decisions, too-short tours of duty and massive American misunderstanding of Iraq and its people. The book is short, very readable and has humor as well as profound points in it. If the State Department is given the opportunity, Mr. Van Buren’s next assignment is likely to be Mogadishu or Garry Trudeau’s Berzerkistan.”

Photo of the Day: Clowning around for cross-border theatre ties

Via US ConGen Calgary/Flickr | 20 October 2011: Clowning around to promote cross-border theatre ties:

Photo from US CG Calgary/Flickr

“Red noses were the required dress code at a welcome reception hosted by Consul General Laura Lochman for members of Aga-Boom Theatre of Physical Comedy and Circus Arts. The Las Vegas-based clown troop created by veterans of Cirque du Soleil is in Calgary for three days of performances for Y Stage at Vertigo Theatre, an arts group specializing in theatre for young audiences. Staff of the Consulate clowned around with guests from Calgary’s cultural community to highlight the collaborations and partnerships Y Stage has been forging with American artists specializing in theatre for young people. “Usually when we talk about our bilateral relationship, the conversation revolves around trade or security. We don’t often get the opportunity to highlight the many links between our two countries in the arts, but they are extensive,” Consul General Lochman told guests, adding that this kind of collaboration supports the development and well-being of young people on both sides of the border. The event also provided an opportunity to plug Las Vegas as a destination for family fun with guests donning colorful “flash” pins provided by Las Vegas Tourism. The evening ended with an impromptu musical performance by Aga Boom.”

Laura Lochman arrived in Calgary June 22 to take up her post as Consul General for Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories for a three-year term. Her foreign languages include French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.  And don’t mess up with her, she also holds a black belt in karate!