Thursday, March 23, 2023

A Familiar Three-Act Dramatic Structure is Playing Out In Manhattan

Manhattan DA Bragg is playing his part to perfection:
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) for the first time on Thursday addressed a claim by former President Trump that he would be arrested in connection to an investigation into a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, calling it the creation of a “false expectation” (here).
You've probably seen it before.

Act 1: "We've got Trump at last! He'll never wiggle his way out of this one!" 

Act 2: Trump effortlessly wiggles his way out of this one. 

Act 3:


 This is even better than the old Roadrunner vs Wily E. Coyote cartoons. 

Hungarian Foreign Minister Has Some Advice For Us

The U.S. Congress directs that State create those human rights reports which so annoy the sensitive and high-strung foreigner. 

That's why they are done. But doesn't anyone in charge think about how incredibly insulting it is when we interfere with the internal affairs of sovereign nations? Counterproductive, even. 

Isn't there a Prime Directive about not interfering with other cultures and civilizations? There should be.

The State of American Diplomacy in 2023, House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing Today


You can read The Hon. Antony Blinken's opening statement here, in which we learn we are at yet another "inflection point," if you will pardon the umpteenth time that strange phrase has been rolled out.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Who Said It? Marianne Williamson or The Sphinx?


Which of these pearls of wisdom were cast by the loquacious spiritual guru and sometimes presidential candidate Marianne Williamson (here), and which by The Sphinx? Frankly, they both get pretty formulaic.

Answers will be posted Friday.  

1. "We are number one. All others are number two, or lower."
2. “If a train doesn't stop at your station, then it's not your train.” 

3. "He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions."

4. “You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.” 

5. "You must lash out with every limb, like the octopus who plays the drums. "

6. “Always seek less turbulent skies … You are the one who is flying the plane.” 

7. "When you care for what is outside, what is inside cares for you."

8. “A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggle to be different than a rose."

9. "You must be like the wolf pack, not the six-pack."

10. “And no one will listen to us until we listen to ourselves.” 

11. "To learn my teachings, I must first teach you how to learn."

12. “Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we keep trying to slay them in the outer world. "

13. “Please enter where You already abide."


Friday answers:

1. - The Sphinx
2. - Marianne
3. - The Sphinx
4. - Marianne
5. - The Sphinx
6. - Marianne
7. - The Sphinx (although it sure sounds like Marianne)
8. - Marianne
9. - The Sphinx
10. - Marianne 
11. - The Sphinx (again, it sounds so much like Marianne)
12. - Marianne
13. - Marianne

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Official USG Overseas Travel Is Its Own Reward, But Sometimes There Are Also Gifts

Say, what time have you got? I could just check the ridiculously expensive wristwatch that I was given by some foreign government I visited on official travel, but unfortunately I had to turn that over to the National Archives.

Yes, it's the time of year that we see NARA's report of foreign gifts to traveling USG officials, and how they were 'disposed of.'   

Read the report here

Joe Biden got some nice swag, as you might expert. Among the many items he had to accept because "Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government" were Australian leather boots and French fountain pens, a "Hardcover Book: The Bidens of India" (?), and for 'Doctor' Jill Biden, a sweet Salvatore Ferragamo Black Leather Purse and Clutch (estimated value $2,410.00). There were also perishable items, such as a bottle of sparkling sake that was "handled pursuant to United States Secret Service policy" chug-chug

SecState A. Blinken and his traveling parties also got some expensive fountain pens as well as several hyper-expensive watches valued up to $10,000 (each). A poor DS agent got a lousy ballpoint pen from the protocol chief of Qatar. A much luckier female traveler got a Francesco Smalto fur coat, estimated value $950.00, from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Well, it gets cold in the desert at night, you know. Like everything else in the report, it got turned over to NARA. 

The CIA section of the report had some good mysteries. First, the expensive watches. They got them, of course, like everyone else, but the CIA often disposed of them by destroying them instead of turning them in to NARA. I suppose that's disposal with extreme prejudice. And then there's the "box of eight high-end Davidoff Royal Release Cigars" estimated at $800.00, which was disposed of via "official use." Official hundred-dollar cigars? Some cognac and wine was also disposed of "officially", as was a custom bike with travel case and GPS, estimated value $11,594. Does the CIA use bikes for business transportation?

DoD got some good booty as well, like the "sabre with curved steel blade" from Saudi Arabia, estimated value $8,100, and suitable for beheadings.  Of course, there were guns. "Two RPKs, one machine gun, two Lee-Enfields, one Springfield, and four AK-47 rifles." disposed of by means of official display. That was my favorite, at least the Lee-Enfields and the (presumably Model 1903) Springfield rifles. 

Traveling Congressmen accepted gifts of travel and meals from foreign governments, just as they do from contributors here at home. What was the disposition of those gifts, you may wonder? Well, maybe they said thank you. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

China's Balloons Explained (by People's Liberation Army Report of 2018)

Thursday, February 16, 2023

FBI = Federal Boondoggle at Impasse

The Hoover Building in Legos (better built than the real thing)

Bottom Line Up Front, as we say on official memos now. The best solution to GSA's search for a replacement FBI Headquarters is to simply build a new building on the site of the current one

The self-promotions of Maryland and Virginia in their competition to be the site for the GSA's big FBI HQ construction project has gotten even more unseemly and descended into trash-talking. See: Heated exchange over FBI HQ sparked by Virginia leaders' comments.
State lawmakers resorted to name-calling Wednesday in an ongoing fight over the relocation of a federal building. Virginia leaders struck a nerve with their competitors in Maryland when they pitched themselves as the best location of the new Federal Bureau of Investigation's headquarters. 
At a press conference Wednesday morning, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) said Maryland authorities had not been truthful, in their attempt to persuade federal officials to choose one of the two Prince George's County sites competing for the proposed 2.1-million-square-foot headquarters. He advocated instead for choosing the Virginia location in Springfield. 
"Our friends across the river have done everything they can to try to cook the books to get FBI to locate in Maryland," Connolly said. 
The comments drew a sharp rebuke from Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who claimed the criteria for siting the new FBI headquarters had been suddenly "manipulated" to favor Virginia's bid after a 10-year process. 
"It is so intellectually dishonest of Virginia and really, to be honest, quite laughable," Alsobrooks said. “The whole thing stinks to high heaven, and anyone who can't smell that, something's wrong with their smeller.”
There are pros and cons to each state's pitch, but let me to cut to the chase. To repeat, the best solution is to simply build a new FBI HQ on the site of the current one. The city of DC is sitting on the option that would best satisfy all of GSA’s site selection criteria, not to mention that the Fed already owns it. That's a win for the taxpayers, I say, even after factoring in the need for swing space. 

The DC Mayor and city council ought to like that option enough to fight for it, but they have so far been absent from this squabble, and I don’t think that’s because they are above grubbing for government bucks. Possibly they’ve been bought off by an insinuation that the Fed will give them the current FBI property for commercial redevelopment. [Insert derisive laughter here.]

I've commented on the FBI's horrendous headquarters building a number of times before; click on the FBI label below to see. The Hoover Building is a spectacular failure in every way, despite being the most expensive federal office building ever at the time it was built. It is long past time to put that wretch of a building out of its misery. 

The rational thinker in me figures GSA will award the project to the Virginia site, which objectively and empirically meets the site selection criteria much better than the Maryland sites. 

But the dreamer in me wishes GSA would come to its senses and surprise DC with the project it hasn't competed for. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Congratulations Wordsmiths, State Gets an A+ For Plain Writing

Sadly, compliance with that Act has not been uniformly great. For 2022 the average federal agency scored a mere C, which may not come as a surprise to you if you are familiar with any federal agencies. But I am pleased to report the State Department got an A+. See the Federal Report Card for 2022 here

So, what accounts for this competent drafting? Did State start passing out the Elements of Style, which once upon a time was a routine handout for new college students? That would be good. 

Better yet, it could stock all offices and annexes with collections of Hemingway novels! Now there was some good plain writing. 

"You must face the white bull that is a screen with no text on it" were his exact words of advice to writers, I think I recall from one or another of his stories. 
All you have to do is write one real bullet point. Make your action memo a clean, well-lighted place. Write the truest Ambassador Briefing Checklist you know. 

That's some good stuff, even if we no longer drink grappa all day long and write with pencils in little French notebooks. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

German Military Music: I Like the Tune, But Can They Dance To It?


Will Germany send in the Leopards to Ukraine? Im Sturmwind dahin

I have no idea, but the Panzerlied is a kick-ass tune, and I am happy to see it is used once again by the Bundeswehr. It shouldn't have been banished due to its origins in the WWII Wehrmacht armored troops. 

It's hard to remember, now that Germany has the smallest army in NATO, but at the height of the Cold War it had about 4,000 Leopard 2s. Today it has about 350.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

RT Hon Cleverly Answers Your Questions

I have to hand it to the Rt Hon, this kind of thing makes a lot more sense as light public outreach than do Anthony Blinken's annoying Spotify playlists.

Plus, he only took up six and a half minutes of your time to deliver those Qs and As. He got in and then he got out. Very good.