Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Chinese Embassy: Fortress or Not?

I'm channeling my inner Dr. Jane Loeffler as I look at photos of the new Chinese embassy in Washington, and I'm getting a very Fortress-y vibe.

The front face of the embassy certainly doesn't seem to express openness. Not friendly or welcoming at all. I see a fence, gates, vehicle barriers (those low posts, or 'bollards,' that are placed in front of the gates), no windows, just a dark forbidding hole of an entrance and an oppressive stone wall. Heavens! Who would want to go to that place for a visa?

A long view of the exterior isn't any better. There's a perimeter fence and more barriers, and the facade looks more guarded than diplomatic. Are the Chinese expressing fear with that architecture, or just inscrutability?

New Chinese Embassy in Washington DC is Open

The new Chinese embassy in Washington DC has officially opened, something that I, as an amateur critic of embassy architecture, have been happily anticipating. Today's Washington Post story has the details.

In a symbol of its growing stature, China inaugurated its new Washington embassy this week, a fortress of glass and limestone that consumes almost the length of an entire block of the international enclave just off Connecticut Avenue.

The opening last night drew a large crowd of diplomats and politicians, many of them swooning over the vaulted ceilings, skylights and wood-paneled walls. The building [TSB note: actually five buildings over a ten-acre site], which is far larger than neighboring embassies, was designed by two sons of I.M. Pei, the renowned Chinese American architect who beamed from the stage.

China's decision to import its own workforce has prompted criticism from some U.S. labor leaders, who contend that the jobs should have gone to American workers, particularly at a time when an economic slowdown has rattled the construction industry.

"We're allowing them to import Chinese construction workers to do work that American construction workers should be doing," said Terry O'Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union of North America, a Washington-based group that represents 508,000 construction workers. "We play by their rules in their country. Why shouldn't they do so in our country, with all due respect?"

Evidently Mr. O'Sullivan doesn't quite grasp the purpose of that imported Chinese labor. But his AFL-CIO counterparts do.

Not all unions share that sentiment, however. Tom Owens, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO's building and construction trades department, which represents 2.5 million plumbers, iron fitters and electricians, said that the union understands that foreign countries feel compelled to use their own workers.

"We would love to have the jobs, but at the same time we understand diplomatic security," he said.

Wang Baodong, an embassy spokesman, said he is unaware of the reason that China brought in its own workforce [TSB note: I'm sure Wang Baodong appeared perfectly sincere when he said that], nor could he detail how many workers were brought in at any time, except to say "several hundred." He also could not say how much the project cost. Wang said, however, that a local construction company he identified as Cherry Hill was hired to work on the site before the building was constructed. In explaining why Chinese workers were imported, he said the custom "is not special to China. It's an international practice to have your own workers build embassies".

Bringing your own laborers is, in fact, not all that common in international construction, but it was the practice in this case.

Nicole Thompson, a State Department spokeswoman, said that it is unusual for foreign governments to use only workers from their countries. Thompson also said that a bilateral agreement between Chinese and U.S. officials, enacted for the construction of the two embassies, allowed the countries "to use their own workers to build their respective facilities."

Building an embassy on foreign soil has often been fraught with cloak-and-dagger complexity, especially between superpowers that do not trust each other. In 1985, the United States halted construction of an embassy in Moscow after U.S. officials found electronic surveillance devices in the walls.

The United States has shown that it, too, can dabble in embassy espionage. In 2001, federal investigators revealed that the United States built a secret tunnel beneath the Soviet Embassy in the District, with the hopes of checking up on Russian chatter.

In Beijing, as well as anywhere else that the United States builds embassies, American workers construct the areas in which intelligence or sensitive information is disseminated, said Joseph Toussaint, managing director of project execution for the State Department's Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. American-hired contractors are free to employ local workers for unclassified areas, such as a cafeteria, parking lot or auditorium.

In Beijing, where the United States' $464 million embassy is to open Aug. 8, contractors employed as many as 1,000 Chinese workers, Toussaint said. He said 300 to 400 Americans worked on the project.

Want to Buy a Blank Passport?

Are those UK passports that were stolen yesterday really so unusable as the UK Identity and Passport Services said they are?

As Janice Kephart of the Center for Immigration Studies points out, if the blank passports have a high monetary value on the black market, which the UK authorities themselves say is the case, then they must be usable for something.

The UK government is not being disingenuous; to a large degree they are right technically about the forensics of these documents. What this tells us is that we should appreciate the progress made so far in securing against terrorist travel, including the International Civil Aviation Organization's standards for secure chips in passports that hold a bearer's personal information. These chips do make it much harder for a terrorist or criminal to assume a lost or stolen passport identity of the original bearer. US policy insisting that visa-waiver countries have e-passports to stay in the program is right on. But the mere fact that these passports have a street value potential of near $5 million is enough to tip us off that there are still many ways to use a nice, new blank passport from a country of stature like the UK that have little or nothing to do with the chip it contains.

So what can they be used for?

Passports are not just for crossing borders, they are breeder documents themselves. Banks don't have e-passport readers. Nor do federal buildings. Nor motor vehicle agencies. We still take a passport at its face value. Identity thieves, those who assume identities, the black market of travel documents abused by alien smugglers, travel facilitators, organized crime syndicates and terrorists, are all potential bidders for this heist. In other words, this heist isn't just about border security, it is about all varieties of crimes that threaten nations and communities.

That makes sense to me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

3,000 Blank British Passports Go Missing

"This government is determined to make getting a British passport easier for any foreign national, but this takes it a bit too far" (a comment left on the Daily Mail's on-line story)

The British Foreign Office lost thousands of blank passports yesterday, when a van transporting them to a Royal Air Force base for onward shipment to British embassies abroad was hijacked. Read the Daily Mail's story here.

A few choice quotes from the story:

Thousands of blank passports worth £2.5million on the black market were stolen from a van after the driver stopped to buy a chocolate bar, it emerged last night ... Security experts warned the theft of the 3,000 passports and visas, which were destined for British embassies abroad, had handed a 'real coup' to terrorists, illegal immigrants and fraudsters.

The driver stopped for his chocolate just minutes into the trip to RAF Northolt on Monday morning.

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, who has advised Gordon Brown on national security, said the best case scenario was that the documents would be used for identity fraud. But he warned that if they fell into the hands of terrorists and other international criminals, they would yield a host of technological secrets and allow fraudsters to produce their own versions.

A spokesman for 3M Security Printing and Systems, the private firm contracted to transport the passports, said there were no personal details on the stolen documents. 'Both the passports and visa documents contain security features to prevent misuse and the Home Office has taken steps to stop use of the documents,' the spokesman added. The Identity and Passport Service said its hi-tech embedded chip security features made the passports 'unusable'.

I assume that last sentence means the passports are unusable for travel abroad. For identity theft and other domestic frauds, they're probably just fine.

Maybe 3M Security Printing and Systems should tighten up its delivery procedures. Or maybe they should just hire Mr. T to supervise their drivers. Something about the convergence of security, trucks, and chocolate bars makes me want to post this link to Mr. T's now-notorious British TV advert for Snickers.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Estonia's "Singing Revolution"

An independent film named "The Singing Revolution" (here's the website), which is about the survival and resurgence of national identity in Estonia during the Soviet occupation, is being shown around the U.S. Anyone interested in the Cold War, or the history of the Baltic states, or in the subject of revolutions and mass movements, would find the film rewarding.

The producers would like to bring it to a theatre near you, but this non-commercial endeavor is being marketed in an unusually way. Basically, they need 1,500 people in a city to express interest via the film's website - click here - in order to arrange a local showing.

Here's a brief description, from a review in Foreign Policy in Focus (Estonia's Singing Revolution):

In a remarkable new documentary, The Singing Revolution, filmmakers Maureen and Jim Tusty tell the little-known story of the Estonian people’s nonviolent struggle against decades of Soviet occupation, culminating in that country’s independence in 1991. The movement played an important role in the downfall of the entire Soviet Empire.

The title refers to the use of Estonian folk songs to assert a collective national identity that rejected Soviet Russian domination. Here's the film's trailer:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

French Troops in Afghanistan

If you haven't seen French television news, I highly recommend it. Their foreign news coverage is especially good. Most TV audiences in the U.S. can find France 2 on cable.

Here's a video from a France 2 nightly news report on French troops in Afghanistan. They're operating out of a "Fub" [English translation: FOB, or Forward Operating Base] and supporting U.S. troops who are ambushed while patrolling in their "um-vee."

The video has English sub-titles intended for a North American audience, and these are sometimes amusing, as when, near the end of the story, "d'accord" is translated "yep."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Reports From the Future of Iraq Project

I recently attended a class in U.S. diplomatic history where, not surprisingly, the subject of U.S. foreign policy towards Iraq was heatedly discussed. Most of my fellow students were aware that [REDACTED] [the foreign affairs department of the Washington DC area's largest employer] had conducted an extensive study of Iraq in preparation for a post-Saddam U.S. occupation, and they also knew that the results of that study were subsequently disregarded by the Coalition Provisional Authority. But only one of them knew that the reports generated by the study are publicly available.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request that was granted in 2006, you can find the twelve reports of the Future of Iraq Project online here, here, or here, eight of them in their entirety and the others redacted only slightly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

War Criminal or Stand-Up Comic?

I can't be the only one to have noticed the resemblance between Radovan Karadzic, the recently captured Serbian war criminal, and the late George Carlin. Was Karadzic hiding out by doing a one-man show tribute to Carlin in some Belgrade theatre?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ancient Elvis

It really is a remarkable likeness.

From today's UK Daily Mail: "Are you Roman tonight?".

Before The Sound of Music, there was Das Boot.

I have never been able to sit all the way through The Sound of Music, even though I've had plenty of opportunities since it's one of my wife's favorite movies. But I'm reading a book right now that's given me a new appreciation for the father of the singing Von Trapp family, Captain Georg Von Trapp. The movie makes it clear that he had been a sailor of some kind, incongruous as that seems in landlocked Austria, but it doesn't give his whole back-story. In fact, Von Trapp had been a submarine pioneer in the Imperial Austrian Navy before the First World War and a highly successful U-boat commander during the war, sinking British and French cargo and warships in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas.

One of his grand-daughters has now translated into English and published Von Trapp's memoir of his war experiences, To the Last Salute. I am fascinated by submarine narratives in general - maybe because I'm too claustrophobic to tolerate actually being in a sub myself - and this is the best one I've ever read. It's full of amazing details about the early days of undersea warfare, such as the "gasoline stupor" (unconsciousness brought on by breathing fumes) that would overtake the crewmen when a gas engine boat was forced to dive before it could be completely ventilated.

The narrative is also full of poignant political sentiments by Von Trapp, usually contrasting the impending fragmentation of his beloved monarchy with the harmonious working of his multi-national Imperial Navy crews:

"Our men are really good fellows ... everything runs so smoothly. It is really a beautiful life we have together on U-14!"

"Yes sir" [a fellow officer answers Von Trapp] "and at the same time you must consider that we have on board representatives from every nation that exists in the monarchy. This business with the nationality disputes - I don't believe it. It is only a rumor from a few instigators who want it to happen. Let the men live alongside one another as human beings under a fair command, and look how well it works."

And it is obvious: it is not only the duties and their responsibilities that force them to get along with one another; no, it is true friendship that binds them together. It is a matter of course for them to accept responsibility for one another.

Von Trapp wrote his memoir right after the war, while he was still stunned by the crushing loss of defeat. He lost not only the war, but the navy, the empire, and even the coastline. Eventually he lost Austria itself, when it was absorbed into the Third Reich.

An interesting tidbit from the book is that the first songs Von Trapp taught his children to sing were ditties the Imperial Navy used to teach German letters and numbers to new sailors who spoke Hungarian, Czech, Croatian, and all the many other languages of the monarchy. Now that I know the "Do-Re-Mi" song had its origins in Austrian Navy boot camp, it doesn't seem quite so treacly. I might even manage to watch the whole movie sometime.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Brazil to Gons Nachman: "There's Nothing Normal About It"

Here's an article from the Brazilian newspaper Correio Braziliense about the sentencing of Gons Nachman: former diplomat is sentenced. I've gotten a translation from Portuguese using Google language tools; it's a very poor translation, but you can get the gist.

The really interesting thing is that I found this article on the website of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. I assume they posted it to make clear that, contrary to Nachman's when-in-Rome defense, Brazilians do not consider sex with under-age girls to be the least bit acceptable. In fact, Nachman would have been punished just as severely under Brazilian law as he is under U.S. law.

Here's the translation, in which I've put the key points in bold:

American Gons Nachman, accused of maintaining relations with minors in Brazil and Africa, says it is "normal" in Brazilian culture. It can take 11 years of imprisonment in the U.S.

The Editorial

In May 2006, the American Gons Gutierrez Nachman, 42 years, was of samba lessons in Washington, capital of the United States. Alegre, they smile for the camera of the newspaper-TV NBC while ensaiava steps. "I'll work in Brazil later this month. Always loved the Brazilian music and culture. I think this is a great way for me to adapt to the country, "said the recording. Two years later, the former diplomat is behind bars. In the United States, he was found guilty in April for the crime of child pornography and sex with girls between 14 and 17 years in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in Brazil. Nachman argued that the suit was "normal" in the two countries.

"There's nothing normal about it," said the Mail Leila Paiva, coordinator of the Programme of coping of Sexual Violence in Children and Adolescents of the Special Secretariat for Human Rights. "There is this cultural difference alleged. It is a crime, and the law of Brazil that is very clear. "To defend itself, the American said at the trial that sex with minors is a cultural issue in the African country and Brazil.

Nachman sexual journey began in 2003 as a diplomat in the DRC. According to documents filed in court, he maintained sex with teenagers at home, paid with the money the U.S. government. It was found that, in Congo, a girl of 14 years and another of 17 came to live with it. In Brazil, he lived with one for 16 years. Nachman recorded all the adventures in a diary and sometimes filmava the girls. He came to launch the video on the Internet 2004 - sexual adventures in the Congo.

Child pornography delatou Nachman in the United States. But if he had continued in Brazil, would also be charged with corruption of minors and sexual exploitation by the Statute of the Child and Adolescent. "Even with the consent of the adolescent is a crime. If they pay a dinner in exchange for sex or had any relationship of market power with the smaller, is considered exploitation, "said Leila.


When the investigations began, the diplomat was expelled from the U.S. consulate in Rio de Janeiro in November 2007. In a letter written in prison, where he is since February, he tried to explain: "In the Congo, women are growing fast, physically and emotionally because of the substantial responsibility that society has about them since childhood." Nachman also is accused of having two molester who went to the Brazilian consulate in Rio in search of a visa. He would have demanded sex in exchange for the "favour". They testified in the U.S. and Justice said they were persecuted in an "aggressive" the former diplomat.

The story of Nachman also drew attention in the U.S. for another reason. In the midst of the trial, in April, he asked the judge to carry out his marriage with the Brazilian Ana Carolina Pereira Porcher, 21 years. The judge denied the request, said it would be absurd to divert attention from a serious case to perform a marriage. The couple also tries to marry the Justice and is having an ongoing process. As established by the story, the Brazilian is a family of upper middle class, student of law and lives in the state of Maryland.

The judgement of Nachman to be announced on August 22. The judge asked yesterday a psychological evaluation of ex-diplomat. The mail came in contact with the defence lawyer, Stephen Stine, but received no response. The U.S. can take up to 11 years in prison.

Ye Olde Patriot Coffeehouse

Colonial Williamsburg, which describes itself as "the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia—the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost of empire in the New World," is in the process of reconstructing Richard Charlton's coffeehouse, an establishment that once existed near the colonial Capitol building. According to this article:

[The coffeehouse] wasn't a big space: two rooms that total 35 square feet, with a fireplace in the middle. Once the place is rebuilt, the public room will hold 12 to 15 visitors who come in for tea, coffee or chocolate.

It was the location that helped Charlton to find his upscale market: His coffeehouse was just a few feet from the Capitol. Royal Governor Francis Fauquier wrote of taking his political advisers there — and of saving a royal tax collector from Charlton's front porch when an anti-Stamp Act mob cornered him there in 1765.

The coffeehouse served Williamsburg residents and visiting politicians from 1755 to 1769. Unlike a tavern, a coffeehouse usually catered only to men, served hot beverages more often than alcohol and was not required to rent rooms. [James] Horn [vice president of research for Colonial Williamsburg] said this reconstruction will be the only true Colonial coffeehouse in the United States.

Hmmm ... a true Colonial coffeehouse, sort of an 18th-century Starbucks. I see endless possibilities for the sort of Kolonial Kitsch that makes me so enjoy Williamsburg. It goes without saying that Charlton's coffeehouse will serve Americanos, but will it also have Liberty Lattes, Freedom Frappuccinos, and Shaken Limey Tea? Modern-day cup sizes of Tall/Grande/Vente might be translated into 18th-century vernacular as Wee/Middling/Buxom. And I can all too easily imagine a Patrick Henry 'living history' re-enactor declaiming: "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me a double espresso or give me death!"

When they get that place finished, I'll be the first customer in line.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nigerian Ministry Of Finance Offers Me $800,000 (and the FBI Approves!)

Imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail (below) and learned that Barrister Robert Scheels of the Federal Ministry Of Finance, Nigeria, is willing to send me $800,000 in payment for some sort of contract or inheritance transaction - I'm not exactly sure what transaction that is, and the e-mail isn't too clear about that part - and all I have to do is contact the ATM Card Centre and pay them a $550 fee to obtain the PIN number for my new ATM card.

Best of all, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has already checked this deal out and assures me it is "100% risk free." Frankly, if not for the vigilance of the FBI's Anti-Terrorist and Monitory Crimes Division, I might have hesitated to respond to an offer that arrived from Nigeria, what with all the advanced fee frauds that originate from there. I've been so critical of the FBI in the past, and now they go and do me this favor; it's enough to make me re-think my negative attitude toward the Bureau.


Anti-Terrorist and Monitory Crimes Division.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation.
J. Edgar. Hoover Building Washington D.C
Tel: 914 373 6388 Fax: 206 339 7032

Attn: Beneficiary,

This is to Officially Inform you that it has come to our notice and we have thoroughly Investigated by the help of our Intelligence Monitoring Network System that you are having a Legal Transaction with one Barrister Robert Scheels of the Federal Ministry Of Finance Nigeria. During our Investigation, it came to our notice that the reason why you have not received your payment is because you have not fulfill your Financial Obligation giving to you in respect of your Contract/Inheritance Payment.

So therefore, we have contacted the Federal Ministry Of Finance on your behalf and they have brought a solution to your problem by arranging your payment in total of US$800,000.00 in an ATM CARD which you will use to withdraw money in anywhere of the world. You now have the lawful right to claim your fund in the ATM CARD by contacting the ATM CARD CENTER.

Also, we have being informed by Mr. Robert Scheels that he gave you instructions on how to proceed and contact the ATM CARD CENTER for their requirements to procure your Approval Slip which contains details of your PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (PIN) which you would use in activating and operating your ATM CARD in any ATM Machine closer to you and note that to procure your Approval Slip it would cost you $550.00. Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation is involved in this transaction, all you did have to do is to be rest assured for this is 100% risk free so do contact the ATM CARD CENTRE so they could let you know on how to make payment for the procurement of your Approval Slip which is the only payment needed before the delivery of your ATM CARD is being effected.

Below are the contact details of the ATM CARD CENTRE which you are to proceed and contact them for their requirements to proceed and procure your Approval Slip after making payment of $550.00


Name: Mr. Paul Smith

We do await your response so we can move on with our Investigation and make sure your ATM SWIFT CARD gets to you.

Thanks and hope to read from you soon.

FBI Director

Robert S. Mueller

Note: Do disregard any email you get from any imposter or office claiming to be in possesion of your ATM CARD, you are adviced only to be in contact with Mr. Paul Smith of the ATM CARD CENTRE who is the rightful person you are suppose to deal with in regards your ATM CARD PAYMENT and forward any email you get from imposters to this office so we could act upon and commence investigation.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gons Nachman to the Judge: In My Mind, I'm Only a Little Bit Guilty

Damn! I was so looking forward to seeing Gons Nachman get sentenced tomorrow at the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria. But now he's gotten a last-minute postponement. According to today's AP story:

An ex-diplomat [Gons G. Nachman] convicted of having sex with teenage girls in the Congo and Brazil and taping the encounters is asking a judge for leniency, claiming that cultural differences in those countries make sex with girls more acceptable.

Gons is the former INS Asylum Officer and State Department Vice Consul whose legal troubles I've been following for months (see here, here, here, here, and finally, here).

The judge has agreed to postpone sentencing until August 22, so that a "noted forensic psychologist" can probe Nachman's psyche as part of a defense ploy to show that Nachman became so highly attuned to Congolese cultural norms while serving as a U.S. Embassy political officer in Kinshasa that he came to believe it was only slightly improper to have sex with 14 year-old girls. And, if you buy that premise, then he shouldn't be punished as harshly as if he'd had sex with 14 year-olds in more Puritanical countries. Seriously. That's his story, a cultural subjectivist interpretation of statutory rape laws: 'Your Honor, having adopted the values of my exotic surroundings, I did not regard those particular 14 year-old girls as deserving of the protection afforded them by U.S. law, and I ask that you respect my cultural beliefs.'

But Gons isn't betting everything on this novel legal theory. According to the AP story, he also wrote a jailhouse letter to the Director of the U.S. Foreign Service in an apparent attempt to lay the groundwork for an appeal of his conviction.

Another odd twist is Nachman's prominence in the nudist community: In the 1990s, when attending law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Nachman led several public demonstrations advocating nudity. Nachman now contends that he was targeted for investigation in part because of his well-known affinity for the nudist lifestyle.

In his letter to the Foreign Service director, Nachman says investigators knew of his interest in nudism and illegally searched his apartment with the notion of finding images that, taken out of context, could be used against him.

Nachman says in the letter that he disclosed his activism and lifestyle to the Foreign Service and had no problems receiving a security clearance. State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson declined to comment directly on whether an individual's advocacy for public nudity would be a factor in the State Department's hiring process.

Now I'll have to wait another five weeks for the next installment of the Gons Nachman saga.

The Bureaucrats Without Borders

Foreign Policy magazine has a good article about "the new colonists," that is, the large corps of internationalist do-gooders who staff the non-government organizations that have, one way or another, ended up running many failed states. The FP article is available to subscribers only, but it's discussed by Judith Apter Klinghofer at her blog (here), only she takes a decidedly jaded view of "the growing power and influence of unaccountable and self appointed NGOs".

I had a good look at some of these NGOers while working for the World Bank in the late 1990s, and I share Judith's reservations about them. I'm sure they all went into the NGO business for the most altruistic of motives, but I couldn't help but notice that many of them were doing well by doing good. As one of them told me on my very first day at the Bank, "there's a lot of money in poverty."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Keeping the Economy in Perspective

Chart provided by the International Monetary Fund, and run in The Economist today.

Post-Nationalist Politics: Change You Can Believe In?

Judith Apter Klinghofer's blog at History News Network had an insightful piece last week about the post-nationalist - or, better, the supra-nationalist - politics of European elites. Read it here: EU Has Post-Nationalist Leadership; US Next?

She speculates that post-nationalism is the reason for the wave of European support for Barack Obama's candidacy. That, I think, is a key point most people miss about Obama. While everybody, including Obama himself, fixates on his being half-Black, the really formative influence on him, politically speaking, is that he's half-American.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Back on the Net, Minus 'Matters of Official Concern'

I took a hiatus from blogging this past week after deciding that it is impractical to continue posting or commenting upon matters that are of official concern to my employer. The regulations that apply to private writings by employees state that we worker bees may comment freely about matters that are clearly not of official concern - such as, your plans for the 4th of July weekend - but must obtain several levels of review and clearance before writing about matters of official concern. 'Matters of official concern' evidently encompass something less than 100% of all official matters, but it is not clear to me where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible official matters. Since it would hardly be practical to ask for a review before posting anything that so much as mentions the [REDACTED] [the foreign affairs department of the Washington DC area's largest employer], I've decided to err on the side of caution and restrict myself to writing solely about matters that are clearly not of official concern.

That restriction will not be very limiting, since it still allows me to write about the other departments of the [REDACTED] [the Washington DC area's largest employer], as well as about everything else under the sun. But, by avoiding 'matters of official concern' I will also avoid causing trouble for my supervisors and co-workers, some of whom have been mistaken for me to their discomfort.

p.s. - This 4th of July weekend I plan to emulate George Washington, who kicked off the original Independence Day celebration by ordering that his Continental Army receive a double ration of rum, followed by an artillery salute. The rum part will be easy, but the artillery salute will be only a pale imitation of the original, thanks to the worrywarts who now run George Washington's old stomping grounds of Northern Virginia.