Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

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Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby sociotard » Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:38 pm UTC

Said individual raised lots of money for the President's campaign, and was rewarded with an ambassadorship.

http://news.yahoo.com/senate-democrats-muscle-big-obama-donors-into-ambassadorships-175252008.html

The article points out that while presidents often reward their supporters thusly (and sometimes those appointees even do well), Obama has done it far more often than his predecessors.

I wish that the Senate had kept the Fillibuster and used it appropriately. It should be possible to Fillibuster the appointment of a bad candidate! It seems like Ambassadors should have actual diplomatic and cultural skills.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Vahir » Thu Dec 04, 2014 2:31 am UTC

I'm getting mighty tired of reading threads titled "Obama does X". You'd think he's trying to fit his eight years of presidency into his last two years.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Zcorp » Thu Dec 04, 2014 2:53 am UTC

That he did so little before is something to be tired of. Doing things is great, its just unfortunate of his recent surge he seems to only be bating 500 on doing good things.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Zamfir » Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:23 am UTC

Can someone explain this tradition to me? It amazes me every time. There are rich people willing to pay to be ambassador somewhere for a few years? Why? It can't be an obscure wish, given the numbers involved.

And how does it work? They appoint a shadow ambassador to do the boring jobs? Or the political appointees are actually competent enough? Or ambassadors don't do much anyway? A few years ago the Dutch government had been naughty, so the US didn't sent an ambassador for a few years. It didn't seem to have any non-symbolic consequences.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Mambrino » Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:49 am UTC

As prominent Obama campaign donators-as-ambassadors go, we got an athletic body builder guy for our US ambassador, who has entertained quite positive public imago here for the ~5 (?) years he's been here. Apparently he also has a law degree in taxation and made career in that field, but as far as I can remember his media presence here has consisted of "look US ambassador here is cool guy, check out pics of his muscular body".

Don't know about traditional diplomacy, but PR wise I'd say he's been net benefit for US.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby speising » Thu Dec 04, 2014 10:18 am UTC

Mambrino wrote:As prominent Obama campaign donators-as-ambassadors go, we got an athletic body builder guy for our US ambassador, who has entertained quite positive public imago here for the ~5 (?) years he's been here. Apparently he also has a law degree in taxation and made career in that field, but as far as I can remember his media presence here has consisted of "look US ambassador here is cool guy, check out pics of his muscular body".

Don't know about traditional diplomacy, but PR wise I'd say he's been net benefit for US.


The US also had a body builder guy as governor of California...

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Beltayn » Thu Dec 04, 2014 11:57 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:Can someone explain this tradition to me? It amazes me every time. There are rich people willing to pay to be ambassador somewhere for a few years? Why? It can't be an obscure wish, given the numbers involved.

And how does it work? They appoint a shadow ambassador to do the boring jobs? Or the political appointees are actually competent enough? Or ambassadors don't do much anyway? A few years ago the Dutch government had been naughty, so the US didn't sent an ambassador for a few years. It didn't seem to have any non-symbolic consequences.


It is popular for rich people to buy Ambassadorships in this way because:
-it is the most prestigious and high-ranking government appointment you can get without having to actually have any real skills or make any real decisions.
-it gives you an excuse to spend a few years living in an foreign country having lots of fancy dinners with important and famous people.
-you get to be called Mr./Mrs. Ambassador for the rest of your life whenever you are introduced at events.

It's pretty empty. The best thing to compare it to would be a Knighthood or some other feudal title. Prestige for the sake of prestige.

Also, it's important to keep in mind that not all political appointees are as silly as the three mentioned in the article.

I worked for the U.S. Department of State for three years, in embassies to Saudi Arabia, Honduras, and Germany, and met and worked with 3 political appointee Ambassadors and 1 career diplomat Ambassador. In Saudi Arabia, the Ambassador was a political appointee, but he was also a retired Air Force Brigadier General, and former CEO of a major defense technology company. Since Saudi Arabia's significance to the US has much to do with defense issues, his background was relevant, or even an advantage over a career diplomat's.

On the other hand, my first Ambassador in Germany was just some rich guy from New Jersey who had been a chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He didn't really have any relevant background to speak of, and his interest in Germany was primarily due to the prestige. He enjoyed throwing big expensive parties with all his money. For his going-away party he rented the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, invited the entire Budestag, had all the jumbotrons displaying slideshows of photos of himself, and had some famous rock star there for the entertainment. On the bright side, he was friends with Jon Bon Jovi, whose mansion is next to his in New Jersey, so I got to meet and get a photo with Jon Bon Jovi when he came to visit once.

No matter who the Ambassador is, the real work is done by their huge staff of professional diplomats. If the Ambassador is a buffoon, the Deputy Chief of Mission does anything important.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Djehutynakht » Thu Dec 04, 2014 1:20 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Can someone explain this tradition to me? It amazes me every time. There are rich people willing to pay to be ambassador somewhere for a few years? Why? It can't be an obscure wish, given the numbers involved.

And how does it work? They appoint a shadow ambassador to do the boring jobs? Or the political appointees are actually competent enough? Or ambassadors don't do much anyway? A few years ago the Dutch government had been naughty, so the US didn't sent an ambassador for a few years. It didn't seem to have any non-symbolic consequences.



Basically what the post above said.

If there is no Ambassador (which happens as people resign or are fired and new appointees aren't processed quickly), the top spot devolves to a "Charge d'Affaires", a top professional diplomat who basically handles things without the ceremonial title of Ambassador.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30318898

For instance, in the confirmation hearings on Hungary's new Ambassador, John McCain was wary of sending a political appointee considering Hungary was "on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dictator" (it's PM).

Naturally, the Hungarian government wasn't too keen on having their Prime Minister called a neo-fascist dictator. In these cases, the offended country usually summons the Ambassador for a very stern talking-to. But since there is no current Ambassador sitting in Hungary, the matter is passed off to the poor man who is the Embassy's current Charge D'Affaires.


Having no Ambassador is different from having no Embassy at all, in which case we have basically no formal diplomatic relations and usually ask another country to represent us (for instance, in North Korea the country that looks out for us is Sweden).


EDIT: So, apparently, from my research (read: Procrastination) it turns out that we share no formal diplomatic relations with Bhutan, and I couldn't seem to find a good reason as to why.

As it turns out, Bhutan isn't all that big on formal diplomatic relations, and actually only two countries are allowed embassies there.

Odd.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Beltayn » Thu Dec 04, 2014 2:44 pm UTC

It's also worth noting that political appointee Ambassadors are only sent to "easy" countries; i.e. nice friendly European and Oceanic allies, or tourist destinations like Caribbean island nations. You won't see a soap-opera director Ambassador to somewhere tricky like China, say, or Egypt.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Djehutynakht » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:24 pm UTC

Which is partly why the Soap-Opera producer's nomination was especially contentious.

For instance, referencing this story, McCain acknowledged that it's a reality that people are appointed to Ambassadorships as a result of politics. Both sides do it (although recently groups of diplomats have been protesting that the number of inexperienced political appointees are getting too high and inhibiting good international relations work).

But it was McCain's opinion that with the current state of Hungarian Politics, both internally and externally (their potential warming of ties to Russia), someone qualified would be especially important for Hungary and that a political appointee was unacceptable.

He might have a point there. Then again, there's always the head diplomat.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby cphite » Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:10 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Can someone explain this tradition to me? It amazes me every time. There are rich people willing to pay to be ambassador somewhere for a few years? Why? It can't be an obscure wish, given the numbers involved.


Because the job essentially amounts to a paid luxury vacation in a foreign land. All of the real work is done by underlings; your only real responsibilities are to attend dinners and fancy parties, and not make too much of an ass of yourself.

So it's basically this highly prestigious (seeming) role that is sure to impress the other ridiculously wealthy people you hang out with.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Zcorp » Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:27 pm UTC

Beltayn wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Can someone explain this tradition to me? It amazes me every time. There are rich people willing to pay to be ambassador somewhere for a few years? Why? It can't be an obscure wish, given the numbers involved.

And how does it work? They appoint a shadow ambassador to do the boring jobs? Or the political appointees are actually competent enough? Or ambassadors don't do much anyway? A few years ago the Dutch government had been naughty, so the US didn't sent an ambassador for a few years. It didn't seem to have any non-symbolic consequences.


It is popular for rich people to buy Ambassadorships in this way because:
-it is the most prestigious and high-ranking government appointment you can get without having to actually have any real skills or make any real decisions.
-it gives you an excuse to spend a few years living in an foreign country having lots of fancy dinners with important and famous people.
-you get to be called Mr./Mrs. Ambassador for the rest of your life whenever you are introduced at events.

It's pretty empty. The best thing to compare it to would be a Knighthood or some other feudal title. Prestige for the sake of prestige.

Also, it's important to keep in mind that not all political appointees are as silly as the three mentioned in the article.

That we do this at all is just another example of how our terrible our foreign policy is.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:46 pm UTC

It says quite a lot about how we prioritize diplomacy. Kind of a messed up situation in general, yeah.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Zamfir » Thu Dec 04, 2014 8:01 pm UTC

Is there much evidence that this hurts US foreign policy?

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby sardia » Thu Dec 04, 2014 8:05 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Is there much evidence that this hurts US foreign policy?

I think our drones and support of authoritarian countries matters more. Or the abysmal lack of sacrifice on the whole of the country.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Dec 04, 2014 8:19 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Is there much evidence that this hurts US foreign policy?


At an absolutely minimum, it seems fairly certain that money could be better spent than on supplying paid vacations to untrained folk.

Worse, however, is that untrained people sometimes manage to make embarassments of themselves, which is not particularly helpful to diplomacy. Googling "us diplomat gaffe" will be sure to bring up a list of errors. Sure, that's exceptional, and in the "easy" countries, a certain degree of tolerance is built in, and underlings handle most of the actual work...but in pretty much any field of life, adding incompetent people to the team makes the team less effective.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby mathmannix » Thu Dec 04, 2014 8:26 pm UTC

Beltayn wrote:No matter who the Ambassador is, the real work is done by their huge staff of professional diplomats. If the Ambassador is a buffoon, the Deputy Chief of Mission does anything important.

Is that the one that's actually the CIA spook?
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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby sardia » Thu Dec 04, 2014 8:56 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Is there much evidence that this hurts US foreign policy?


At an absolutely minimum, it seems fairly certain that money could be better spent than on supplying paid vacations to untrained folk.

Worse, however, is that untrained people sometimes manage to make embarassments of themselves, which is not particularly helpful to diplomacy. Googling "us diplomat gaffe" will be sure to bring up a list of errors. Sure, that's exceptional, and in the "easy" countries, a certain degree of tolerance is built in, and underlings handle most of the actual work...but in pretty much any field of life, adding incompetent people to the team makes the team less effective.

Can you cite me examples? I looked at the gaffes but I only found India, Germany and Saudi Arabia gaffes. I don't think those are pleasure postings.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby mathmannix » Thu Dec 04, 2014 10:17 pm UTC

Isn't there a requirement that the U.S. ambassador to a country speak, at minimum, somewhat coherently the an official language of said country? * I mean, I guess half (am I close?) of the countries in the world have either English or some flavor of French or Spanish as an official language, so it shouldn't be too hard to find people that speak those languages, but really if I were appointing ambassadors, even to English-speaking countries, I would want to appoint first- or second-generation immigrants who are not only fluent with the language, but familiar with the culture at least as well!

* - OK, I doubt there really is a requirement, but it should be common sense, right?
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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Dec 05, 2014 5:51 pm UTC

sardia wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Is there much evidence that this hurts US foreign policy?


At an absolutely minimum, it seems fairly certain that money could be better spent than on supplying paid vacations to untrained folk.

Worse, however, is that untrained people sometimes manage to make embarassments of themselves, which is not particularly helpful to diplomacy. Googling "us diplomat gaffe" will be sure to bring up a list of errors. Sure, that's exceptional, and in the "easy" countries, a certain degree of tolerance is built in, and underlings handle most of the actual work...but in pretty much any field of life, adding incompetent people to the team makes the team less effective.

Can you cite me examples? I looked at the gaffes but I only found India, Germany and Saudi Arabia gaffes. I don't think those are pleasure postings.


"The troubles began last month, when million-dollar bundler and Chartwell Hotels chief executive George Tsunis testified at his confirmation hearing to be ambassador to Norway. Tsunis admitted he had never been to the Scandinavian country and suggested, among other things, that the nation’s Progress Party was part of a discounted "fringe." It is actually part of Norway’s center-right ruling coalition." -Washington Post, back in Feb.

There are others, but this one is particularly important to this instance, as it's a significant cause of the current controversy.

I do not believe there is any requirement to know the official language. Certainly, there is no requirement to have ever visited the country, and some of current appointees have not done so prior to being put up for confirmation. Thus, a familiarity with the culture is...questionable, at best in some cases.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Djehutynakht » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:08 pm UTC

It's fairly common for an Ambassador to have never visited the country they're being appointed to, even with professional diplomats.

Knowing the language is not a requirement--especially with the widespread nature of English, nor is knowing the culture. Although an Ambassador may start to study up on both once being appointed.

Technically there are no requirements to be an ambassador. Just that the President nominate you and the Senate confirm you. That's it. The Administration may place more stringent criteria when selecting an appointee (especially with more important/sensitive countries) but there aren't any formally.

But, obviously, as mentioned, what the Ambassador lacks, embassy staff usually make up for.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Beltayn » Sat Dec 06, 2014 9:35 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:It says quite a lot about how we prioritize diplomacy. Kind of a messed up situation in general, yeah.


There is a good argument to be made that most of the real diplomacy is conducted by Combatant Commanders (military Generals responsible for the stability of a region, i.e. CENTCOM, which is "Central Command", consisting of the Middle East). Diplomacy both in the traditional sense of the word, and in the "lol American diplomacy consists of dropping bombs" sense.

Tyndmyr wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Is there much evidence that this hurts US foreign policy?


At an absolutely minimum, it seems fairly certain that money could be better spent than on supplying paid vacations to untrained folk.

Worse, however, is that untrained people sometimes manage to make embarassments of themselves, which is not particularly helpful to diplomacy. Googling "us diplomat gaffe" will be sure to bring up a list of errors. Sure, that's exceptional, and in the "easy" countries, a certain degree of tolerance is built in, and underlings handle most of the actual work...but in pretty much any field of life, adding incompetent people to the team makes the team less effective.


Here's one potential counter-argument: in some ways, Ambassadors exist as symbolic sacrificial lambs. If a country gets mad at the United States, they can yell at or even kick out the US Ambassador, which is a powerful statement without actually going so far as actually breaking diplomatic ties.
Having the real work be conducted by a career-diplomat second in command means that if/when the Ambassador is kicked out, operations aren't really negatively impacted and there is no loss of continuity.

Also, if your political appointee is a buffoon and gets himself kicked out, you get to appoint another political appointee! Hurray additional rewards for cronies!

mathmannix wrote:
Beltayn wrote:No matter who the Ambassador is, the real work is done by their huge staff of professional diplomats. If the Ambassador is a buffoon, the Deputy Chief of Mission does anything important.

Is that the one that's actually the CIA spook?


No, that would be the "Station Chief". The Deputy Chief of Mission is always a career diplomat who grew up in the State Department, and who outranks the leaders of tenant agencies in the embassy. The heads of all the different agencies and sections composing the embassy team form a sort of cabinet, presided over by the DCM and Ambassador. That would include the CIA, if present.

mathmannix wrote:Isn't there a requirement that the U.S. ambassador to a country speak, at minimum, somewhat coherently the an official language of said country? * I mean, I guess half (am I close?) of the countries in the world have either English or some flavor of French or Spanish as an official language, so it shouldn't be too hard to find people that speak those languages, but really if I were appointing ambassadors, even to English-speaking countries, I would want to appoint first- or second-generation immigrants who are not only fluent with the language, but familiar with the culture at least as well!

* - OK, I doubt there really is a requirement, but it should be common sense, right?


-Everybody important mostly speaks English anyway
-If they don't, all the people actually interacting with the locals are trained linguists.
-The Ambassador doesn't really do anything improvised. They relay messages from Washington D.C., so knowing the culture isn't particularly necessary.
-How many rich wealthy people do you think speak Uzbek? Or Urdu? Or Mongolian? Or, hell, Dutch or Swedish?

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Zamfir » Sat Dec 06, 2014 4:32 pm UTC


"The troubles began last month, when million-dollar bundler and Chartwell Hotels chief executive George Tsunis testified at his confirmation hearing to be ambassador to Norway. Tsunis admitted he had never been to the Scandinavian country and suggested, among other things, that the nation’s Progress Party was part of a discounted "fringe." It is actually part of Norway’s center-right ruling coalition." -Washington Post, back in Feb.

Such events make me wonder: how much of an accident is this really? Not the guy's blunders themselves, but choosing this guy to be sent to Norway. After all, people back in Washington are aware that they are sending an uninterested amateur. And the people in Norway know they are getting one, especially the ones who matter from a diplomatic POV.

I can well imagine that the professional diplomats consider this as a mild favour from Norway to the US (or at least to the US diplomatic service). The US needs to put these donors somewhere, Norway takes one on and gains some esoteric diplomatic kudos from Big Brother. Such mutual back scratching might well help to strengthen the more serious long term relations.

Or conversely, the Norwegians are not happy with the buffoon and got one anyway. As a signal that they are dropping in the US's favour and have to up their game.

Or some other variation on such games. I get the impression that a lot of high diplomacy works through such channels. Continuous game-playing over more or less symbolic matters, as a way to test the current state of the relationship. So when there is an issue of real substance, people will have an inkling how the reaction on the other side might be.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby sardia » Sat Dec 06, 2014 5:18 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:

"The troubles began last month, when million-dollar bundler and Chartwell Hotels chief executive George Tsunis testified at his confirmation hearing to be ambassador to Norway. Tsunis admitted he had never been to the Scandinavian country and suggested, among other things, that the nation’s Progress Party was part of a discounted "fringe." It is actually part of Norway’s center-right ruling coalition." -Washington Post, back in Feb.

Such events make me wonder: how much of an accident is this really? Not the guy's blunders themselves, but choosing this guy to be sent to Norway. After all, people back in Washington are aware that they are sending an uninterested amateur. And the people in Norway know they are getting one, especially the ones who matter from a diplomatic POV.

I can well imagine that the professional diplomats consider this as a mild favour from Norway to the US (or at least to the US diplomatic service). The US needs to put these donors somewhere, Norway takes one on and gains some esoteric diplomatic kudos from Big Brother. Such mutual back scratching might well help to strengthen the more serious long term relations.

Or conversely, the Norwegians are not happy with the buffoon and got one anyway. As a signal that they are dropping in the US's favour and have to up their game.

Or some other variation on such games. I get the impression that a lot of high diplomacy works through such channels. Continuous game-playing over more or less symbolic matters, as a way to test the current state of the relationship. So when there is an issue of real substance, people will have an inkling how the reaction on the other side might be.

How much is intentional and how much really is that idiot of an ambassador? I mean an unplanned idiot making a gaffe provides a similar test of relationships as an planned one.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Zcorp » Sat Dec 06, 2014 7:21 pm UTC

It isn't just the likeliness of doing something stupid, it is also the lack of potential of doing something decent, good or great.

While that potential is limited by the goals and priorities of the state department and president (which for the US express little care about the well-being of most other countries) there is still opportunity to do good work.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Dec 08, 2014 4:42 pm UTC

Beltayn wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:It says quite a lot about how we prioritize diplomacy. Kind of a messed up situation in general, yeah.


There is a good argument to be made that most of the real diplomacy is conducted by Combatant Commanders (military Generals responsible for the stability of a region, i.e. CENTCOM, which is "Central Command", consisting of the Middle East). Diplomacy both in the traditional sense of the word, and in the "lol American diplomacy consists of dropping bombs" sense.


They certainly hold a great deal of real power, so yeah...that's a major element. Certainly they tend to be involved in the truly high-stakes stuff.

Here's one potential counter-argument: in some ways, Ambassadors exist as symbolic sacrificial lambs. If a country gets mad at the United States, they can yell at or even kick out the US Ambassador, which is a powerful statement without actually going so far as actually breaking diplomatic ties.
Having the real work be conducted by a career-diplomat second in command means that if/when the Ambassador is kicked out, operations aren't really negatively impacted and there is no loss of continuity.

Also, if your political appointee is a buffoon and gets himself kicked out, you get to appoint another political appointee! Hurray additional rewards for cronies!


Granted. Ideally, both would be competent, but I suppose that's a lot to ask.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Djehutynakht » Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:10 pm UTC

Oh, as a bit of a tie in to all of this:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-30408079

The new US Ambassador to India was just confirmed unanimously.

Unlike with Hungary, Ambassador Verma does in fact seem to have significant experience under his belt to qualify him.

And, related to a point touched upon earlier, he is himself of Indian descent.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby iChef » Sun Dec 28, 2014 12:30 am UTC

If this is the situation wouldn't it be much more fun to just hold a lottery. Everyone in the US (say over 35) is out into a drawing when a new Ambassador is needed. If your name is drawn and you want the job, it's yours! You get a 2 month crash course on the country your visiting and which one is the fish fork, then off you go. I think Ambassador Billy Joe Bob from rural South Carolina would probably do as well as anyone else we send.
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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby elasto » Sun Dec 28, 2014 5:02 am UTC

iChef wrote:If this is the situation wouldn't it be much more fun to just hold a lottery. Everyone in the US (say over 35) is out into a drawing when a new Ambassador is needed. If your name is drawn and you want the job, it's yours! You get a 2 month crash course on the country your visiting and which one is the fish fork, then off you go. I think Ambassador Billy Joe Bob from rural South Carolina would probably do as well as anyone else we send.

The same argument could be made for our legislatures.

Arguably the last people you want to have power are the ones who most desire it...

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby johnny_7713 » Sun Dec 28, 2014 1:22 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
iChef wrote:If this is the situation wouldn't it be much more fun to just hold a lottery. Everyone in the US (say over 35) is out into a drawing when a new Ambassador is needed. If your name is drawn and you want the job, it's yours! You get a 2 month crash course on the country your visiting and which one is the fish fork, then off you go. I think Ambassador Billy Joe Bob from rural South Carolina would probably do as well as anyone else we send.

The same argument could be made for our legislatures.

Arguably the last people you want to have power are the ones who most desire it...


The Athenian executive council was selected by lottery from the general assembly (i.e. all citizens eligible to vote).

There's also a number of people that have proposed various lottery schemes instead of elections to select a legislature. The claim is it could prevent a variety of problems with current election-based systems (e.g. chasing votes).

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby elasto » Sun Dec 28, 2014 5:12 pm UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:The Athenian executive council was selected by lottery from the general assembly (i.e. all citizens eligible to vote).

There's also a number of people that have proposed various lottery schemes instead of elections to select a legislature. The claim is it could prevent a variety of problems with current election-based systems (e.g. chasing votes).


There's really no reason for the US to have 3 separate bodies all voted for basically on party-political lines (The House, Senate & Presidency).

One of those (The House maybe) could instead be drawn partly from ordinary members of the public chosen at random just like with jury service and partly from trade-body nominations - eg. a top teacher, doctor, nurse, engineer etc.: All experts in their respective fields and capable of casting a discerning eye over legislation.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby sardia » Sun Dec 28, 2014 5:15 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
johnny_7713 wrote:The Athenian executive council was selected by lottery from the general assembly (i.e. all citizens eligible to vote).

There's also a number of people that have proposed various lottery schemes instead of elections to select a legislature. The claim is it could prevent a variety of problems with current election-based systems (e.g. chasing votes).


There's really no reason for the US to have 3 separate bodies all voted for basically on party-political lines (The House, Senate & Presidency).

One of those (The House maybe) could instead be drawn partly from ordinary members of the public chosen at random just like with jury service and partly from trade-body nominations - eg. a top teacher, doctor, nurse, engineer etc.: All experts in their respective fields and capable of casting a discerning eye over legislation.

We did get random nobodys to run for office, and they even won. They called themselves the Tea Party. No thanks, I don't want more.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby elasto » Sun Dec 28, 2014 5:24 pm UTC

sardia wrote:We did get random nobodys to run for office, and they even won. They called themselves the Tea Party. No thanks, I don't want more.

But they were voted on by the public - on party political lines. The candidates were also hand-picked by the 1%. That's the polar opposite of having a jury + expert system which would be moderate, cross-party, consensus-building, of-the-people and independently-minded by design.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby morriswalters » Sun Dec 28, 2014 8:55 pm UTC

elasto wrote:That's the polar opposite of having a jury + expert system which would be moderate, cross-party, consensus-building, of-the-people and independently-minded by design.
Any particular reason why you think this would be true? Experts are experts in their fields, not experts in governing. And random picks from the general population would pick up all the random chaff that exists in society, need I explain what that might mean? Even with the spotlight that shines on the average candidate for national office some real winners still get through. Imagines making the process random?

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby sardia » Sun Dec 28, 2014 10:04 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
elasto wrote:That's the polar opposite of having a jury + expert system which would be moderate, cross-party, consensus-building, of-the-people and independently-minded by design.
Any particular reason why you think this would be true? Experts are experts in their fields, not experts in governing. And random picks from the general population would pick up all the random chaff that exists in society, need I explain what that might mean? Even with the spotlight that shines on the average candidate for national office some real winners still get through. Imagines making the process random?

To be fair, once you avoid giving people too large a chunk of power, jury+ expert governance isn't that bad. For example, it's very similar to citizen's ballet initiatives. I'm gonna google up a town that earmarked $100,000 over to the public at large, to be decided on by the public, by whoever shows up at the meeting. It was ridiculous, but it had some good benefits. People who never would have shown up got involved, and it was a great learning experience for everyone. Of course, it also showed that you can't expand it to a larger system since it was time consuming, and not very efficient. I'll try to dig up the article.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby morriswalters » Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:27 pm UTC

I believe you. A lot of things work on a small scale. But when you are writing a trillion dollar budget(or whatever obscene number the US budget is) and the part of Government that you propose for this for writes the budget, I see mayhem. But then again I am a pessimist by nature.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby elasto » Mon Dec 29, 2014 1:51 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:Any particular reason why you think this would be true? Experts are experts in their fields, not experts in governing. And random picks from the general population would pick up all the random chaff that exists in society, need I explain what that might mean?


Couldn't you make the same argument against juries? They aren't experts in the law after all...

The point is that, like with the court system, yes, if the whole caboodle were appointed at random (judge and lawyers as well as the jury) then some real oddball verdicts could end up getting made, but my proposal would only have jury+experts be one-third of government - not all of it. You'd still have the Senate made up of professional politicians and the President capable of wielding his veto pen.

The idea is that each of these bodies bring different strengths to the legislative process: If the professional politicians get too blatantly self-serving hopefully the cross-party, moderate jury will speak for the 99% - and the experts will weigh in on their areas of expertise via channeling consensus-based, peer-reviewed evidence.

No it wouldn't be perfect; Corruption and incompetence would still abound. But it might work better than now is all.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby addams » Mon Dec 29, 2014 2:06 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
elasto wrote:That's the polar opposite of having a jury + expert system which would be moderate, cross-party, consensus-building, of-the-people and independently-minded by design.
Any particular reason why you think this would be true? Experts are experts in their fields, not experts in governing. And random picks from the general population would pick up all the random chaff that exists in society, need I explain what that might mean? Even with the spotlight that shines on the average candidate for national office some real winners still get through. Imagines making the process random?

ok.
It might be a bit of a mess.

On the Up Side;
The average Joe might start paying attention.
It could be His Turn, next.

If we played Musical Chairs the way we do, now;
What is that?
2 years for Congress.
4 years for Executive.
6 years for Senate.


But; We used Random Citizens.
Not, just, any Random Citizens.
Random Citizens that had passes some kind of standardized test.

Everyone should have to take The Test.
Only the Top 2.5 million qualify.
Spoiler:
I know.
We are closer to 1 million qualified and many of those individuals
are essential personal in their own fields.

They can not serve, because they are already serving.
Nurses, doctors, surgeons...people.


Out with the partisanship!
In with Citizenship!

Their Orders:
Make this Nation a better Nation.
Leave it Better than you found it.


People that have passed a standardized test Even Random People would be better than the well sponsored .....
(English fails me)...That the US has, Now!
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby Mambrino » Mon Dec 29, 2014 3:29 am UTC

elasto wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Any particular reason why you think this would be true? Experts are experts in their fields, not experts in governing. And random picks from the general population would pick up all the random chaff that exists in society, need I explain what that might mean?


Couldn't you make the same argument against juries? They aren't experts in the law after all...

The point is that, like with the court system, yes, if the whole caboodle were appointed at random (judge and lawyers as well as the jury) then some real oddball verdicts could end up getting made, but my proposal would only have jury+experts be one-third of government - not all of it. You'd still have the Senate made up of professional politicians and the President capable of wielding his veto pen.

The idea is that each of these bodies bring different strengths to the legislative process: If the professional politicians get too blatantly self-serving hopefully the cross-party, moderate jury will speak for the 99% - and the experts will weigh in on their areas of expertise via channeling consensus-based, peer-reviewed evidence.

No it wouldn't be perfect; Corruption and incompetence would still abound. But it might work better than now is all.


I'd like to like this idea, but then again, reading this forum I've got an impression the US court system does not work very well. But on the other hand, legislative process is a different thing than a court of law, and the important thing anyway would be what kind of role these juries would have (the final accept / decline vote? proposing legislature for discussion? the process of drafting their contents? what kind of role in the said process...?). It certainly could remove the campaign financing part of possible sources of political corruption, but it could introduce others.

EDIT. This seems only tangentially related to the actual piece of news at hand. Should we have a Serious Business thread about this?

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Re: Obama appoints Soap-Opera producer as Ambassador

Postby addams » Mon Dec 29, 2014 3:56 am UTC

No.
It's not serious business.
None of it is serious business.

Shirley Temple was Ambassador.
At least twice.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Temple

That was not brought forward as a National Shame.
She was not a National Shame.

Some Poster on this Thread noticed how much More Power the elected officials in the US have than ambassadors have.
This Thread is not the only place in the US where people notice, "Joe the Plumber could do a better job than the Congress and Senate do."

Joe the Plumber would Not be a good choice.
He would be no worse than what we have.

No one in the US would dare change things.
There is too much money at risk.

Over 100 Trillion Dollars are played with by the US Congress.
They spent That in One Year! This year.

Those people have No Idea what they are doing.
They do it for TV and their sponsors.

For us to Beat that Dead Horse in Serious Business would be almost as boring and fruitless as watching Congress.

This is a Thread for whining and complaining about a lack of dignified, knowledgeable people to represent us in The World.
It is only natural that we notice, "We don't have dignified, knowledgeable people to represent us At Home."
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.


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