Elvis Has Left The Building

September 15, 2012 at 11:24 am | Posted in Foreign Affairs, Obama!, politics straight up, Reality Bites, State Department, terrorism | Leave a comment
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When I saw the story teaser — “Why Can’t Muslims Remain Calm?” — I was expecting more “they’re subhuman” bullshit that’s popular again after the killings of Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, and three members of his staff. The teaser misled me. This is the gist of the author’s argument:

Tombs of the Mamluk Sultanate (photo c1867-1899, courtesy of Library of Congress)

“This week’s events have certainly reminded us that there are Americans who hate Muslims, and there are Muslims who hate Americans. And if friendship between Egypt and the United States is contingent upon no American ever saying anything that will offend the religious sensibilities of Egyptians, then it is time to declare that friendship dead. President Obama can no more control anti-Muslim bigotry in America than President Mohammed Morsi can put a lid on anti-Americanism in his country. But the haters don’t have to win the day. In this, Egyptians (and, more importantly, their political leaders) could take a lesson from the United States.”

While I believe the author is correct that the American government led by President Obama has reacted in a measured way to recent events, he gives Americans too much credit. America only appears to be better behaved.

Just as politicians and political actors in Egypt and Libya are playing on emotions to control power, the Bush/Cheney administration used the emotions of the American people after the attacks of September 11, 2001 to justify what turned out to be an enormously expensive (both in money and lives) yet ultimately failed attempt to move Iraq’s assets into the hands of a small group of people. Americans aren’t marching in the streets, throwing rocks at foreign embassies, but we don’t have to. We outsource the violence. We can — and do — sit comfortably in our Barca loungers while drones drop bombs on the people we hate. Americans are, in the end, no more adult than Egyptians or Libyans. We are just as easily manipulated by those who foment hate as a means to their particular end.

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OMG!!1!

March 2, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Department of Commerce, politics straight up, State Department | Leave a comment
Everybodys doing it, Doing what? Paying taxes, of course  Large group of people filling out tax forms in Internal Revenue office. (c1920)

"Everybody's doing it, Doing what? Paying taxes, of course" Large group of people filling out tax forms in Internal Revenue office. (c1920)

Tales of woe and scandal with respect to Ron Kirk’s “tax problem” are highly overblown.

(National Journal) Finance staff briefed aides to committee members today on the revelations, which indicate the former Dallas mayor underpaid taxes to the tune of $9,975 during 2005-07, and that he has agreed to promptly file adjustments. The underpayments deal in part with speaking honoraria he received that he listed as charitable donations to his alma mater, Austin College.

Kirk instead should have reported the honoraria as taxable income and then deducted the donations. The panel also asked Kirk for substantiation of other charitable donations he has made, including a television set, and it has questioned Kirk’s write-offs of business expenses, including those for Dallas Mavericks season tickets.

Oh noes!!1!

State Department.

January 21, 2009 at 8:13 pm | Posted in State Department | Leave a comment
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Secretary of State-Designate Hillary Rodham Clinton being sworn in as the next Secretary of State.  State Department Photo by Michael Gross

Secretary of State-Designate Hillary Rodham Clinton being sworn in as the next Secretary of State. State Department Photo by Michael Gross

Hillary Clinton was confirmed today as Secretary of State.

According to the State Department website the duties of the Secretary of State are as follows:

Under the Constitution, the President of the United States determines U.S. foreign policy. The Secretary of State, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, is the President’s chief foreign affairs adviser. The Secretary carries out the President’s foreign policies through the State Department and the Foreign Service of the United States.

Created in 1789 by the Congress as the successor to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of State is the senior executive Department of the U.S. Government. The Secretary of State’s duties relating to foreign affairs have not changed significantly since then, but they have become far more complex as international commitments multiplied. These duties — the activities and responsibilities of the State Department — include the following:

  • Serves as the President’s principal adviser on U.S. foreign policy;
  • Conducts negotiations relating to U.S. foreign affairs;
  • Grants and issues passports to American citizens and exequaturs to foreign consuls in the United States;
  • Advises the President on the appointment of U.S. ambassadors, ministers, consuls, and other diplomatic representatives;
  • Advises the President regarding the acceptance, recall, and dismissal of the representatives of foreign governments;
  • Personally participates in or directs U.S. representatives to international conferences, organizations, and agencies;
  • Negotiates, interprets, and terminates treaties and agreements;
  • Ensures the protection of the U.S. Government to American citizens, property, and interests in foreign countries;
  • Supervises the administration of U.S. immigration laws abroad;
  • Provides information to American citizens regarding the political, economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian conditions in foreign countries;
  • Informs the Congress and American citizens on the conduct of U.S. foreign relations;
  • Promotes beneficial economic intercourse between the United States and other countries;
  • Administers the Department of State;
  • Supervises the Foreign Service of the United States.

In addition, the Secretary of State retains domestic responsibilities that Congress entrusted to the State Department in 1789. These include the custody of the Great Seal of the United States, the preparation of certain presidential proclamations, the publication of treaties and international acts as well as the official record of the foreign relations of the United States, and the custody of certain original treaties and international agreements. The Secretary also serves as the channel of communication between the Federal Government and the States on the extradition of fugitives to or from foreign countries.

Congratulations and good luck!

Secretary of State.

January 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Foreign Affairs, State Department | Leave a comment
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Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton waves during a luncheon for the political action committee Emilys List Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton waves during a luncheon for the political action committee Emily's List Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

I thought Andrew Sullivan‘s assessment was interesting:

My sense is that Clinton, the secretary of state, shares Obama’s views and that her reflexively neoconservative approach to Israel will moderate once she is no longer a senator from New York. My sense is also that Obama intends to use Clinton in ways not seen in a secretary of state for a very long time. And my guess is that she would not have taken the job if she were not convinced that she has a chance to go down in history as an architect of a breakthrough Middle East peace agreement.

State Department & Private Mercenaries

December 16, 2008 at 11:35 am | Posted in State Department | Leave a comment
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Justin Elliot over at TPM asks a good question:

“Will Hillary Follow Through On Campaign Pledge To Ban ‘Private Mercenaries’?”

Mr. Elliott is awaiting answer from the Obama transition office as to their plans. He provides this information:

Between 2003 and 2007, the State Department awarded contracts for security and non-security work in Iraq totaling a massive $4 billion, according to an August report (pdf) by the Congressional Budget Office. Six thousand seven hundred contractors are working in Iraq for the State Department – about 40 percent of whom work on security, and another 25 percent of whom are classified as “police and correction advisers,” the report found. Of the total 6,700 contractors, only a third are U.S. citizens, and nearly half are citizens of neither U.S. citizens nor “local nationals.”

A congressional investigation found that private State Department security contractors from Blackwater alone were involved in nearly 200 “escalation of force” incidents between 2005 and 2007, including multiple killings of Iraqi civilians.

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