Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Monday, March 2, 2015

Aim For The Crash

Watching NASCAR races on TV puts Madam in mind of an instructor at the Crash and Bang Course (which was sometimes more sternly called the DSAC and which she strongly recommends that consular officers take as often as possible). The man said, "In auto racing we learn that, if there's a crash on the road ahead, don't try to stop because you'll get rear-ended and don't try to dodge around it because it's still moving. Instead, aim directly for it; by the time you get there, it will be somewhere else."
(Everybody survived)

And yes, Madam mostly watches the races for the crashes. Make something of it. She dares you.

She also reads inspection reports for the crashes. And has been known, when asked, to recommend troubled posts for ongoing assignments for the many consular officers who want something gristly to chew into submission; a Gordion knot to untangle; a wild horse to bend to the bit. Not to mention work worth doing, a great EER, a good reputation, and a promotion.

If the NASCAR model works, though, shouldn't it be true that by the time an officer gets to a badly-reviewed post it will be all better and there will no longer be anything to gnaw/untangle/bridle? No, because it seems to take much, much, much longer for bad posts to clear up than for cars to slide into the infield. She remembers the years - year after year after year - that a certain North African post carried a terrible reputation through inspection after inspection, change after change of officers, for decades.

So the same problems will be there? Some of them. And maybe some new ones. But, like so many NASCAR crashes (and most magic), such crashing and burning always/always looks, sounds and smells a lot more terrifying and complicated than it actually is.

Here is a great example. Keep in mind as you read the consular portion of this report that  inspectors are masters of understatement.

The head of this consular section didn't suffer for his genuinely awful management, since he was strolling into retirement anyway.* And careful reading reveals a large section populated with  smart, honest, competent employees - both FS and local - eager to do a better job than they were allowed to do. Once you've read that report, read a few others and you'll see the same pattern: worker already in place, most of whom are desperate to do a good job and all they need is a sane, serious, fearless, trusting and trustworthy hand to help them. Let such a hand it be yours. And, of course, give all the credit to them, which will reflect onto you and everybody wins. Without the noise and flying auto parts.

So, thinking about job hunting? Read inspection reports. Unlike NASCAR crashes, those targets move very, very slowly. Choose the one you find most enticing (smelly, tangled, inexplicably awful), would love to tackle, and go for it. With cleverness, imagination, application of laws and regs, cheering from CA, and confidence, you can fix it. Then, unlike #21 and #33 above, everybody will win.

And if you ever hear that that Crash and Bang Course is on, beg, borrow, steal, horsetrade or fib your way into it. It is extremely valuable: Madam credits what she learned there with three misses of what could have been very close calls. And it's terrific fun.

*This phenomenon, in which what used to be a highly-regarded, highly competent officer simply quits working, is referred to as RIP - Retired In Place.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Child is This? Ours!

One of the many great things about the foreign service is that, at every post, there will be a whole stack of issues that incoming officers, however experienced, have not seen elsewhere. It's always a learning game.

Some of the best fun that Madam ever had the pleasure to watch was indulged in by a group of first-tour consular officers at a certain post as they thrashed the stuffing out of INA section 101(c)(1) with the combined weapons of limited legal knowledge, logic, common sense, and good humor. It resembled, one of them laughingly observed, a game of Twister* with the addition of one or two small children and far higher stakes than simple humiliation for the adult players.

Even now, in the happy age of DNA, some immigration and citizenship cases still hang out on the line, undecided for years for reasons that range from ignorance to recalcitrance to death. Finally, though, Madam is delighted to report that the Board of Immigration Appeals has spoken, and the babies win.

'We now hold,' the BIA declared, 'that a person born abroad to unmarried parents can qualify as a legitimated “child”...if he or she was born in a country or State that has eliminated all legal distinctions between children based on the marital status of their parents or has a residence or domicile in such a country or State... irrespective of whether the country or State has prescribed other legal means of legitimation.'

So, under some previously knotty circumstances, such as US naturalization, a parent now might not have to - or does not have to be able to - formally legitimate a child in order for that child to benefit from that parent's status or actions, exactly as a child born in tiresome wedlock might.


 Hats off to Crescenzo DeLuca and the nation of Jamaica!

* "1966 Twister Cover" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1966_Twister_Cover.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1966_Twister_Cover.jpg