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Rolling Out The Wicked Wasabi — Perhaps a Good Laugh on Wednesdays?

 

The news can be overwhelming these days. We know some friends who are struggling with life, work and the daily nutty stuff. We share the same struggle, and while some days are more difficult than others, just the constant beat with no let up can be draining and seriously depressing. Not a whine, just a statement of the abnormal times we’re living in. If folks need help, please don’t self-medicate. See somebody and get help. Even your blogger may need to occasionally see a therapist. By the way, screaming at the teevee is only helpful for no more than 20 minutes. Tried and tested, trust us on that one.

We’ve also spent many nights with 3-hour sleep (if we’re lucky). Not just because there are too many things going on at the same time, but also because we have been unable to switched off at times. We had to take a short break earlier this year not only because we were feeling the blues but we also gained those infamous “T10” pounds!  We’re not proud of those pounds gained, but who is?

Okay, so that’s a roundabout way of explaining why we’ve been thinking about how to keep blogging without losing our wits or getting burned out.

The blog will continue to have regular updates four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday), and occasionally on weekends, when needed. We will set aside Wednesdays for some levity. Folks, we’re rolling out … tadaaaa ….

TWW aims to be a satirical Foreign Service weekly. So, once a week, we’ll all get to laugh at ourselves and, well, at stuff that needs laughing at. Because — hey, we only live once, and darn it, we’re not going to let the nuttynutnutworld makes us crazy. The Wicked Wasabi will be clearly identified as a satirical component of the blog, of course.

Folks with no sense of humor (yup, looking at some pals at the State Department), are welcome to look away. If folks can’t look away, or can’t keep their eye rolls in their sockets or their laughters in a single file — well, some WD-40 and duct tape might help. That is, like the Internet folks say, if it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn’t, use the tape.

A quick update on the fundraising — we’re doing a regular fundraising and not an “all or nothing” campaign as we did in the past. The campaign will stay on for as long as we leave it on, though we’ve made a self-imposed 2-month duration so we don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the year. We are at the half-way mark, and it appears that the campaign has quietly stalled. If we can get to our funding goal in July, that would be awesome. If not, arghh … we’ll have the rest of the year to try and get there. To those who already pitched in to keep us going for another year, thank you. We are grateful for your steadfast support!

Most of you know that we are not on Facebook, so to blog pals, and readers who patronize the blog, we ‘d appreciate your help in spreading our campaign through your networks. Gracias!

We’ve cross-posted this on the GFM site:  Help Diplopundit Get to Year #10.

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Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10 — For News, Opinion, and Some Wicked Wasabi!

 

As many of you know, Diplopundit’s funding ended in March. Today, we’re rolling out our Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10 campaign. It will run for the next eight weeks. If successful, the fundraising will help keep the blog funded until May 2018.

I’ve made an attempt to find funding for the blog from private sources.  Diplopundit could get a $15K grant from a generous family foundation supporting the Foreign Service, and there is a potential for another grant from a separate entity; however, the grants would be available only if the blog has 501(c)(3) charitable status under the Internal Revenue Service. I’ve determined, with help from my legal pal, that the charitable status would not be compatible with the pseudonymous persona of this blog.  Maybe at some point I will hand this blog over to a foundation to run, but I’m not there yet.

Another option, of course, is to go subscription only or have a blended open/subscription model via Patreon , but I’ve been hesitant to do that for two reasons. One, the niche audience for the things this blog covers is exceptionally small.  We want to expand that audience to include readers with no connection to the State Department or the Foreign Service, and especially those who flip through the international affairs news.  Two, for a more personal reason, I do not want to break up the blog’s archive. I’m a tad attached to it.

But Some Good News

In the first four months of 2017, the blog already reached three fourths of its total 2016 visits, and our visitors are already at par with last year’s number. We did get a one time spike in visitors in February when Ricky Martin tweeted a link to our 2010 post about a Puerto Rican detained by DHS (see US Citizen born in Puerto Rico detained as illegal immigrant, what was DHS/ICE thinking? ).  We’re not going to have a celebrity tweet one of our posts every month, but traffic still appears to be up in the last couple of months. It remains to be seen if this trend holds for the rest of the year.

Funding the Blog Via Ads

One reader asked “Don’t the ads on the page pay for the blog?”  For those curious, we generate a small revenue from WordPress’ WordAds and the Amazon Affiliate program.  We have a few readers who shop at Amazon using our affiliate shop , and we appreciate their support. In 2016, we made $132.27 in affiliate fees for the year. Based on our traffic, the WordAds payment range from $35.64 to $119.82 per month.  In 2016, we earned an average of $74.60 per month from the ads you see in the blog. So, the ads help, but they are extremely limited revenue sources.

Funding the Blog Through Fundraising

We first attempted to raise funds for the blog in 2014. In 2015, “OneFSO” and “S” successfully raised funds for us from 368 donors.  Last year, with “S” and company’s help, we were able to raised $35K from 444 donations.  After we deducted GFM fees and blog expenses in 2016, the blog’s net income last year (including ads) was $26K or about $500/week. Fortunately, your blogger has her/his own bed, but if she/he were required to rent a place to live, she/he might be able to afford a room, but not much of anything else.

This year we are going to attempt to raise $38,240 from May 10 to July 10, 2017 to fund us until May 2018.  (A few readers already donated a total of $1,760 via PayPal in April. Thank you!)

NOTE:  The campaign page is here: ‘Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10
For first time donors, check out the FAQ: https://www.gofundme.com/questions.  

For donors who do not want to display their names on the campaign page, check out how to make your donations anonymous.

We’ve dived into the weeds of the blog’s financial situation to explain our persistent dilemma of trying to balance work that we enjoy doing (writing this blog) with our need to earn a livable income . Can we afford to keep the blog running this year? How about next year? When will necessity force us to … well, jump?  Those questions generates anxiety for your blogger for weeks at a time every year.  We sincerely thank you for your patience and understanding.

But … Hang On

We don’t know what the future holds for this blog.  We do recognize that we live in unprecedented times. Maybe it’s time to just embrace our uncertainties in our small corner of the sky.  Knowing what happens next would simply be boring.  So, we will continue to monitor the goings on in Foggy Bottom and in the “worldwide available” universe as we have always done in the last nine years. For now, this is where we need to be, and as David Allen Coe sings it …

So I’ll hang around as long as you will let me 
And I never minded standing’ in the rain … 

 

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Related items:

We’re officially nine going on ten, but who drank all the wine?
Aww, @StateDept Sends Official Take Down Request For April Fools’ Day Cable
Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives

 

Related funnies:
Diplo-Denizen: Are You Kidding Me?
Well That Was Different: The One Thing You Absolutely, Positively Must Have in the Foreign Service
WaPo: A fake diplomatic cable has the State Department fuming
Mashable: When pranked, the State Department proves it’s as humorless as Rex Tillerson’s face
ICTWorks: Breaking News: Apple Buys USAID and US State Department

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We’re officially nine going on ten, but who drank all the wine?

Posted: 4:36 am ET
Updated: 4:57 pm ET:  Thanks everyone for the notes and the help. ❤️  ❤️  ❤️  For those asking, I don’t want to deal with a fundraising right now but I hope to have an update down the road for funding the blog.  DS

 

This blog marked its 9th anniversary last month but we could not celebrate it so we’ll officially mark it today. Now we are nine, but who drank all the wine?

via stuckinaloop

 

Some  of you are aware that I was wrestling whether to shut down this blog, or go on a hiatus while I attend to some personal matters — I may need to sell the old house, go back to school — yada, yada, yada real life happening yada.  I confess I also need a mental health break. I’m not eating right, I’m not sleeping right, I have a recurring nightmare that I’m living inside a reality show and most distressing of all, my bathroom weighing scale is screaming, “Help me!”

 

Continue reading

Goodbye 2016: Our Most-Read Blog Posts of the Year #YearInReview

Posted: 10:24 pm PT

 

2016

via GIPHY

 

H.R. 6271: New Bill Lengthens Diplomatic Assignments From 2-3 Years to 4-6 Years | Oct 1, 2016

Trump Transition Help Wanted: 4,000 Presidential Appointees (Updated) | Nov 9. 2016

Photo of the Day: The Room Numbers on His Arm | July 29. 2016

Why Are DS Agents Fleeing Diplomatic Security In Droves For the U.S. Marshals Service? | Oct 4. 2016

@StateDept Awards Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) 2 Contracts | Feb 29. 2016

Trump Transition: Agency Landing Team For @StateDept Includes Old Familiar Names | Nov 20.2016

Next Generation U.S. Passport To Roll Out in 2016, No More Additional Page Insert Starting Jan 1, 2016  Apr 28.2015

A Joke That Wasn’t, and a State Department Dialogue That Is Long Overdue | Aug 15, 2016

Is Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s Law Enforcement Arm Trying to Break the Law? | Oct 14.2016

New @StateDept Authorization Bill Includes 3-Year Pilot Program For Lateral Entry Into the Foreign Service | Apr 29.2016

New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status | Sep 14.2015

Why Did Diplomatic Security Compile a Short-List of DS Agents Leaving For the U.S. Marshals Service? | Oct 17.2016

Top Hardship Assignments in the Foreign Service | July 14.2009

First Person: I did everything right. I filed a report the next business day … #FSassault | Nov 22.2016

First Person: I am a ✂️ FSO who was ✂️ raped in ✂️… Continuing on has been ✂️ incredibly difficult… | Nov 21.2016

Chien v. Kerry: DS Agent Files Suit For Race/Sex Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment, and Retaliation | Sep 12.2016

Benghazi: Where the hell were the Marines? Yo! Half our embassies have no Marines | Oct 26.2012

AmConGen Dhahran’s 7 Second-Video Freaks Out Folks Who Do Not Get the Foreign in the Foreign Service | Jun 20.2016

Foreign Service Members Offer Candid Views of @StateDept Mental Health Services (via FSJ) | Jan 7.2016

USAID: That time when an employee wrote to Rajiv Shah and said, “Do us a favor and quit…” #ClintonEmails | Jan 29.2016

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Another Note About the Burn Bag–There’s No Easy Way of Doing This, Is There?

Posted: 4:13 pm PT
Updated: 10:50 am PT
Updated 11/15, 12:36 am PT
Updated: 11/16 4:51 am ET

In August 2014, we updated our Burn Bag guidance:

Just a quick note on the Burn Bag — we’re not always able to publish the entries you send us, or as quickly as you may want.  The intent remains the same, it’s cheaper than therapy.  We’re still talking about the “I’m feeling blue, I want to scream” things that you can’t put on your blog, things that’s making you tear out your hair or stuff you can’t tell your friends here or at post because — admit it, you live in a very large fishbowl.  As a reminder, kindly check the guidelines for sending your Burn Bag entries here.

One of our regular readers, a former ambassador suggested that some of these Burn Bag entries ought to be submitted not to this blog but to the OIG Hotline. That, of course, is not/not up for us to decide but for the writers/senders of these Burn Bag entries.

In any case, we promised to remind you about the Hotline.

If you need to report waste, fraud or mismanagement, please contact the State Department Office of Inspector General Hotline.   If you need to, you may contact the Hotline via email: oighotline@state.gov or by calling 202-647-3320 or 800-409-9926 or using its online form. Note that it is no longer possible to submit a report using the hotline email. We were told that  the current system of reporting information to the Hotline via the OIG’s online submission form “actually provides more anonymity.” Note that if you are using OIG’s online form, the USG system will probably capture/log your IP address. If you want to preserve your anonymity, you need to use a VPN service or an IP anonymizer.

According to the State/OIG website, examples of allegations that should be reported to the OIG Hotline include misuse, embezzlement or theft of government property or funds; contract or procurement fraud; contractor misconduct; passport and visa malfeasance; fraud, waste and mismanagement of Department and BBG operations; employee misconduct, such as misuse of official position; bribes or unauthorized acceptance of gifts; conflicts of interest and other ethical violations; and defense trade control violations.  Please check out the rest on the OIG Hotline page here.

Today, we are adding an importation notation that folks who submit Burn Bag entries should be aware of.  If you are submitting an entry reporting malfeasance and criminal wrong doing, we strongly urge you to report to a law enforcement office or use the OIG Hotline here. This is not because we are unsympathetic, but because we want you to get the right help. Your blogger is not a lawyer nor a member of law enforcement, and feels inadequate to offer appropriate assistance.

If you are submitting an entry that report or alleged criminal wrong doing that we determine can have repercussions to the safety and well being of other individuals in the community — for example, a report of a sexual predator at post, bureau, or school — we reserve the right to provide that information to State/OIG. That office can then make a decision whether to pursue any investigation.

So never mind — we were told by State/OIG that its “Hotline is not the proper venue to report a rape.” And that the reporting “should be done immediately to the RSO at post or the local law enforcement authority. They are in the best position to offer help with such a crime.” 

What happens if the accused is an RSO?! As we’ve previously blogged here, there is no official guidance in the FAM on reporting sexual assault in the Foreign Service (see The State Dept’s Sexual Assault Reporting Procedure Appears to Be a Black Hole of Grief). We’ve been trying to locate the unclassified cables that were released by DS/OSI in 2015 and earlier this year on sexual assault reporting. We will have a separate post if we’re successful. 

I guess, we will not be forwarding Burn Bag entries to OIG even if the alleged conduct has potential repercussions for other people in the community, we will just publish them in this blog. 

For congressional assistance, California Representative Jackie Spieir has an anonymous hotline and has worked on military rape and sexual assault. Her office can be reached at 202-226-5294  or through https://speier.house.gov/contact/website-problem.

As always, comments are welcome here.

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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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Wow! Thank you for making this the blog’s best birthday week!

Posted: 11:12 pm EDT

I went away for a bit and when I came back, the Go Diplopundit 2016 campaign was fully funded the morning of March 8.  I did not think it was going to happen today or if it was going to happen at all. But it did.  You folks are amazing closers!  You saved me from having to do my adult coloring books for the next 24 hours while the campaign is winding down!  Instead, I’m like the Bee Gees singing ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive … Hey, that’s only from 1977, okay?

Diplopundit’s first blogpost went up on March 11, 2008 in good, old Blogger. It was about a health care proposal that would have extended health coverage for the children of federal employees. That seems so long ago, doesn’t it?  4,809 blogposts later and 2,932,705 hits from the WordPress’ tally, the blog gets to live another day. This is the blog’s birthday week, so best birthday ever it turns out!

I wrote that perhaps something marvelous will happen. And something marvelous did happen today. My thanks go to over 450 readers who made this possible. The blog is still here because you’re here.  Thank you for making Diplopundit a part of your day and for making sure that we can go on for another year. My thanks also go to the friends of the blog who spent time and energy rallying, both in public and in private, the various parts of the community to come out and support our efforts.  Without all of you, this would have been an impossible task.

I hope to finish writing the thank you notes to everyone in the next couple of days.  For now, sharing below one of the most beautiful Beatles songs. This one is from 1965 and was called “a little piece of art work” by John Lennon. If you want to listen to the superb version from our favorite ginger, click here for Ed Sheeran’s.

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Whoa! Amazing Day, Now the Hardest Part – The Last 48 Hours

Posted: 2:23 am EDT

What an awesome surprise to have folks turn up and rally to get us to the finish line!  The Go Diplopundit campaign went from 76% to 92% practically overnight! Somebody just wrote “almost there, you can’t quit now!”  Thanks for the encouragement and we’re not quitting yet.  The campaign is about $31K from 387 pledges as of this writing. Are we going to make it? That’s up to you.

GFM told us that the time that the campaign will end is not necessarily exactly on the hour, as it is based off the time the campaign was originally launched. To play it safe, we were advised to plan on the campaign ending at 12:00 AM on March 10th. So the next 48 hours will probably be the hardest part.  But perhaps something marvelous will happen, hey?

Fundraising Update: Not Looking Great With 4 Days to Go — Sorry, There’s No Plan B 😢  14 Days to Go or Go Bust 😣 We could use your help to carry on for another year  😌  Real Life, the Way It Is – No Goggles and Plenty of Loose Ends  😉  Podium Cat Rolls Out Diplopundit’s GoFundMe 2016 Campaign

Commencing countdown, engines on.  Here’s David Bowie’s Space Oddity from 1969 via Whirled Peace with vintage anti-special effects Enjoy! For Commander Chris Hadfield’s fantastic version on board the International Space Station, click here.

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Fundraising Update: Not Looking Great With 4 Days to Go — Sorry, There’s No Plan B

Posted: 2:09 pm EDT


Our Go Diplopundit 2016 fundraising effort to keep the blog running for another 12 months is entering its last days. Our most dedicated readers have pushed the campaign to the 76% mark! You’re all awesome! We are, however, with five days to go, still facing a gap of about $8K or as they say in some quarters, about two Manolo Blahnik shoes! 😄 Despite the generous contributions of over 300 readers and the tireless efforts of some of the blog’s friends, the likelihood that we will not make it this year is upon us. We’re not going to give you false hope, because frankly, we’re not sure we’ll be able to bridge this gap in the next few days.  

Some of you have written asking about a Plan B. I’m sorry to say that there is no Plan B. If the GFM goal is not met by March 10, 2016, all pledges will be cancelled and no account will be charged.  Donations sent through PayPal will not be accepted and no charges will be made to the senders’ accounts on PayPal. The few who sent recurring monthly donations will also be advised to cancel their PayPal contributions.  We will continue blogging until March 31, after which the blog will no longer be updated. We will also start terminating the blog’s ancillary services after March 10. The blog will stay up for the rest of 2016 while arrangements will be made to conserve its archive.

14 Days to Go or Go Bust 😣 We could use your help to carry on for another year  😌  Real Life, the Way It Is – No Goggles and Plenty of Loose Ends  😉  Podium Cat Rolls Out Diplopundit’s GoFundMe 2016 Campaign

Thanks Jim!  Thanks @FSProblems! This, too! Thanks Sadie Abroad!

Here’s the CCR singing it’ll rain a sunny day when it’s over … which could happen next week, hey? — D

 

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