Blog Notes: On The Road Again, Just For a Bit

I’ll be on the road for the next few weeks so I plan on updating the blog about three times a week for the time being.  I expect to be connected online while on travel. I will continue to be reachable via this blog and via email and will respond to tips and emails as soon as I’m able.

Be well, besties. I’m still only a mouse click away  — D

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Former State Department (CA/CST) Official Greg Ambrose Dies

Posted: 3:32 pm PT
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Via FCW:

Greg Ambrose, who served as a senior IT official at the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State and Veterans Affairs, has died, FCW confirmed.

“It is with great sadness that we learned this morning of the passing of Greg Ambrose,” read an email message distributed to staff by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, Ambrose’s former employer.

The cause of death could not be definitively confirmed, but in the early hours of May 3, Ambrose posted an apparent farewell message on Facebook. Shortly thereafter, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Police Department confirmed, a suicide occurred in the immediate vicinity of the Arlington, Va., address from which Ambrose had posted.

VA officials did not return requests for comment, and a State Department official said that, “out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Ambrose’s family, we have no information to share.”

Read in full here.

Ambrose left his CST job in June 2015 and when we asked him about his successor and ConsularOne, he told us that his then deputy Ken Reynolds would lead the charge maintaining continuity enabling the ConsularOne team to continue on the current path.  He moved to VA where he was deputy CIO for product development but left after five months. He told FCW in October 2015 that he was stepping down from that job to work in the private sector.

Before he came to the State Department, he was the Department of Homeland Security’s CIO for the US-VISIT program. Ambrose earned a 2013 Federal 100 award for his work at DHS: “In his first year on the job, Ambrose revamped the way IT and biometric services are planned, developed and delivered to stakeholders of DHS’ U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, one of the largest biometric databases in the world.”

Rest in peace, Greg.

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PSA: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called the Lifeline for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.  When you dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255), you are calling the crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. After you call, you will hear a message saying you have reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You will hear hold music while your call is being routed. You will be helped by a skilled, trained crisis worker who will listen to your problems and will tell you about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.

Rhodes. Ben Rhodes, the Morons Up the Street, the Blob and the White House’s Media Compadres

Posted: 12:26 am PT
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David Samuels has a must read profile of Ben Rhodes over in the New York Times. Rhodes is the deputy national security adviser for strategic communication for President Obama. His official title is “Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.” According to his WH bio, he is tasks with overseeing President Obama’s national security communications, speechwriting, and global engagement. Below are some striking nuggets from that NYT profile of the master of spin.  Please read and weep.

#1. “On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.” And here we thought the voice is that of John Kirby, the official spokesperson of the State Department.

#2. “He is, according to the consensus of the two dozen current and former White House insiders I talked to, the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself.” Wait, not Clinton, or Kerry? Is that why Secretary Kerry can’t get a new plane?

#3. “One day, when Rhodes and I were sitting in his boiler-room office, he confessed, with a touch of bafflement, “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”  Whoopsie! Did you fell off your chair, too?

#4. “I watch the message bounce from Rhodes’s brain to Price’s keyboard to the three big briefing podiums — the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon — and across the Twitterverse, where it springs to life in dozens of insta-stories, which over the next five hours don formal dress for mainstream outlets.  This would make a nice infographic.

#5. “It has been rare to find Ben Rhodes’s name in news stories about the large events of the past seven years, unless you are looking for the quotation from an unnamed senior official in Paragraph 9. He is invisible because he is not an egotist, and because he is devoted to the president.” No doubt he is devoted to the president, but when the unnamed senior official in para 9 is also the spin doctor that invisibility is more about media strategery than about ego.

#6. “For Rhodes, who wrote much of the I.S.G. report, the Iraq war was proof, in black and white, not of the complexity of international affairs or the many perils attendant on political decision-making but of the fact that the decision-makers were morons.” Which ones?  All of them?

#7. “He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East. This summer’s expected blockbuster — The Blob (a Foreign Affairs Thriller).

#8. “Now the most effectively weaponized 140-character idea or quote will almost always carry the day, and it is very difficult for even good reporters to necessarily know where the spin is coming from or why.”  Difficult but not impossible?

#9. “The easiest way for the White House to shape the news, he explained, is from the briefing podiums, each of which has its own dedicated press corps. “But then there are sort of these force multipliers,” he said, adding, “We have our compadres …” Oh, golly!

#10.  “In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”  That feeling you get when you’re about to throw up?

Ladies and gentlemen, the vomitorium is the second pristine white door to the right. Proceed with caution; it’s crazy bad in there.

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