Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Forget the Mañana and Come to Havana With Me

They called him Cuban Pete, and I predict there will be a small Desi Arnaz revival once we normalize relations with Cuba.

That normalization will start tomorrow, according to AP's Matt Lee:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will announce Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba have finalized an agreement to reopen embassies in each other's capitals, a major step in ending hostilities between the Cold War foes, a senior administration official said.

The U.S. and Cuba have been negotiating the reestablishment of embassies following the historic December announcement that they would move to restore ties after a half-century of animosity. The U.S. embassy in Havana is expected to open in July.

Havana is a place I have always wanted to visit but, somehow, in TDYs to 70+ posts, I've never gotten there. This might be my chance at last.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What Fresh Hell Can This Be?

No, this can't be real. Bud Light - bad enough by itself - with clam juice?  With clam juice! No amount of lime and salt could possibly make that tolerable.

And it has only 4.2 percent alcohol, so there is no way I could ever got drunk enough on that stuff to not care that I was drinking beer with clam juice.

Who thought that up? And who drinks it, except maybe on a bet?

Coming soon: beer with goat cheese!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

It'd be a dull Big Fat Greek Wedding if no one got arrested

"Seven arrested at wedding reception melee in Ontelaunee" - Reading Eagle

About a dozen police departments in Berks County responded to restore order in the melee Saturday at Blue Falls Grove.

The bride was on the ground, surrounded by several females, police said. Showalter asked if she was all right, and she said she was not but “was just very upset at what happened” … The bride was later treated by Muhlenberg ambulance for alcohol poisoning and dehydration.

As police tried to restore order, the groom, Nicholas Papoutsis, 31 … challenged the officers to fight … “I tried reasoning with him, telling him that he didn't really want to get arrested on his wedding night,” Showalter wrote in the affidavit.

U.S. Embassy Bujumbura Has Got What You'd Call "Vulnerability"

To all the critics who claim that Fortress Embassies appear intimidating and unwelcoming to our foreign visitors, I say, look at that picture from U.S. Embassy Bujumbura, a safe, secure, and functional new embassy compound that opened only two years ago.

According to the WaPo story about today's incident, that old man in a blue suit who replaced the adorable Marie Harf as State Department spokesperson - what's his name again? - said that "There was never any penetration of the actual embassy compound, and none of our State Department employees were under any physical threat whatsoever.”

Okay, that's all good. But just as importantly, our foreign visitors really look like they were not the least bit unwilling to drop by despite our security architecture, don't they?

My good friends in OBO must be doing something right.

Please understand that I'm not criticizing. After all, how much protection can we reasonably expect from a simple gate? Even the best of them have a soft spot, as you might remember from Pinky's vulnerability assessment of Checkpoint 19 in The Grand Budapest Hotel:

Checkpoint 19 ain't no two-bit hoosegow. You got broad-gauge iron bars on every door, vent and window. You got 72 guards on the floor and 16 more in the towers. You got a 325-foot drop into a moat full of crocodiles. But, like the best of them, it's got a soft spot, which in this case happens to take the form of a storm-drain sewer system dating from the time of the original rock fortification way back in the Middle Ages.

Now, nobody's saying it's a stroll down a tree-lined promenade with a fine lady and a white poodle, but it's got what you'd call "vulnerability."

I'm still not criticizing, but, you know, maybe we could do something about that soft spot. Pinky, any ideas?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why Our War on Terror Never Ends in Peace

Here's just one nugget of gold panned from the river of wisdom that is Ambassador Chas Freeman's article about America’s Diplomatic Crisis (The United States has forfeited its capacity to pursue American interests through negotiated solutions):

Our habit of failing to define specific political objectives for our military also means that, in our case, war is less “an extension of politics by other means” (as Clausewitz prescribed) than a brutally direct way of punishing our foes linked to no clear conception of how they might take aboard the lessons we imagine they should draw from the drubbing we give them. Our chronic inattention to the terms of war termination means that U.S. triumphs on the battlefield are seldom, if ever, translated into terms that reward military victory with a stable peace.

States normally wage war in order to achieve a superior political condition, as per Clausewitz. But undefined wars against concepts or tactics such as "terror," much less wars to rid the world of evil-doers, have no end, ever.

For more speeches and papers by Amb. Freeman, see this page at the Middle East Policy Council.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Has A Surprise Houseguest

According to Cambodian Expats Online, a local driver ran his car into the perimeter wall that surrounds the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William Todd on Tuesday night. CEO provided the photo of the accident scene, and there are more at the link below.

I'd say the vehicle is in better shape than the wall. Yea, Lexus!

Here's the news item, which is so far not confirmed by any official source that I've seen today, Lexus Crashes into US Ambassador William Todd's House in Phnom Penh:
A man driving a white Lexus RX300 has crashed into the residence of US Ambassador William E. Todd on Norodom Blvd Tuesday night, June 9, 2015.

It is not known what caused the accident.

William Todd has been the United States Ambassador to Cambodia since March 29, 2012.

If the driver was wearing his seat belt, he probably walked - or staggered - away from that one.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Complete Broadcast Day for D-Day

These radio broadcasts are totally fascinating, and not least for the sharp contrast they make between the dry professionalism of newsmen back in that day versus the shallow show-biz of today's news media.

The news started at midnight, when German radio first reported attacks in Normandy. At 3AM, Eisenhower's HQ released Communique #1 officially announcing the invasion. CBC updated the story throughout the day as Americans were waking up to the news. It ends with a re-broadcast of the 8AM news from London on June 7, by which time the BBC was reporting on the success of the invasion, and the advance of Allied troops several miles past the beaches.

Listen to it at the Internet Archive here: Complete Broadcast Day D-Day.

So far today, the State Department Twitter account has noticed the occasion of June 6. Neither the White House nor Obama's own account have, and I don't expect that they will.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Etait le Troisième de Juin (un Autre Jour Delta Poussiéreux Endormi)

I have no reason for posting this French cover of Ode to Billie Joe except that it is, after all, the third of June. I woke up this morning with that song - the English version - in my head, and haven't gotten it out yet.

Plus, I'm amused by the 1970s set design of this French version. The lyrics are about the same, except the narrator is male, the poor farm family grows grapes instead of cotton, and I guess they pass around croissants and snails at lunch instead of biscuits and black-eyed peas.