Quote of the day/week/however long

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

Monday, June 22, 2020

Closed But Not Forgotten/Forgetting

As brought to our attention by Madam's sister in arms, Domani Spero @ Diplopundit, and published in Stars and Stripes:

"KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. State Department says COVID-19 infections have been reported at its embassy in the Afghan capital and the staff who are affected include diplomats, contractors and locally employed staff.

"The State Department did not say how many were affected. An official at the embassy in Kabul, who could not be identified because of not being authorized to talk to the media, said as many as 20 people were infected, the majority of whom are Nepalese Gurkhas, who provide embassy security.

"'The embassy is implementing all appropriate measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,' the U.S. State department said.

"The infected staff are in isolation in the embassy while the remainder on the compound are being tested, said the embassy official, who also said the embassy staff have been told they can expect tighter isolation orders."

Even so, Embassy Kabul has kept a steady flow of public notices on its website, including updates on outgoing commercial flights. Its Covid-19 page is up to date, detailed, accurate and as calming as such information can be.

A short distance away, Kabul's alphabetical sister post in Ghana is also keeping the local population as informed as possible with near-daily notices, as is Cairo and too many others to name, although not naming them feels unfair.

And then, of course, there is this kind of 'help' ...

Especially in parts of the world where rumors and 'fake news' abound, the least we can do is keep our local friends, fans and who cares who else as accurately informed as humanly possible. Investigating and shining light on local phishing and other scams is not only fun, but is also helpful and kind, and will be remembered long after the current crises are over. And we know how to do this without appearing to give legal advice - that was A-100 stuff.
The visa line won't be closed forever, and in the meantime, let's be the best that we can be, and make the best impression of sincerity and help for those who we can't otherwise serve.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Beware The Pale Horse

US FSOs, especially consular officers, are very comfortable with traveling to and through - not to mention living and working in - places where most Americans would be afraid to change planes. They can move smoothly, courteously and unobtrusively through any sort of place or any gathering of people without causing distress or even much interest, only occasional amusement, and almost no danger.

At the same time, however, no one is more aware than a consular officer that when The Fourth Horseman comes, it chooses who and as it will. The person it chooses is always startled and woefully unprepared. S/he might protest that s/he was careful, is busy with urgent matters, and could it please call back at a more convenient time. Almost every death case that any conoff has handled has involved some sort of extremely unpleasant and inconvenient surprise for the Amcit whose mother now requires a gentle phone call.

Madam knows that conoffs, far more than any other officers, can find themselves - and might need to place themselves - in situations that the officers upstairs can avoid; in the kinds of situations that create the need for such phone calls, especially during these apocalyptic days.

So for all of her patience, impatience and scolding, Madam wants to take this unfortunate opportunity to remind all of her conoffs, wherever you are, to be tirelessly meticulous about guarding yourselves, from looking both ways when you cross the street to wearing that mask, keeping your distance, washing your hands, not touching your face, and on and on.

Don't think that The Horseman doesn't know you. It knows you. It doesn't mind waiting for you. It doesn't care that you are busy, that what you're doing is vital, that this is an inconvenient time, that you're doing that risky thing just this once for your customers. It doesn't even care that other officers, believing themselves safe upstairs, might tease you for your wariness. The teasing will fade. The Horseman will not.

Take no chances or risks, make no excuses. The Horseman doesn't care. 'Just this once' doesn't care. CV-19 doesn't care. But your mothers do.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Your Mother Taught You Better Than This

It figures, sadly but unfortunately also predictably, that when Madam steps out for a leisurely lunch and glass of wine, the mice come out to play.

Or rather, even more sadly, the larger variety of a different species.

Consider if you will, and if you can stomach it, this recent IG comment on certain conoffs' behavior:

"OIG found that Consular Section managers’ failure to address adequately improper conduct by two officers had a negative effect on LE staff morale. Several months before the inspection, LE staff complained to consular managers about the officers’ conduct, which involved use of abrasive language and tone with visa applicants and frequent pressure on LE staff to translate the rude comments.

"Although consular managers attempted to address the officers’ conduct and had kept the previous DCM fully informed, the officers’ conduct continued to be a problem even during the inspection. After OIG questioned their handling of the situation, consular managers worked with the Front Office and the Human Resources Officer to take further action. As a result, OIG did not make a recommendation to address this issue."

"You're not just 214(b), you are a f-ing stupid and ugly 214(b). And your mama was a Chiweenie."

Really? Or was someone - or were a pair of someones - tenured too early?

Madam hopes that the front office finally worked up the moxie to do the necessary:

Rolled Up Newspaper With Rubber Band Stock Photo, Picture And ...

Madam also hopes that, now that she is back, the ill-behaved will remember how their mothers raised them, or should have raised them: please, thank you, I'm very sorry, etc. And even if their mothers were mean, snarly crossbreeds who never spoke a civil word, they should still have learned better from their superiors if not from their peers.

It is perfectly acceptable to say, "I'm very sorry, but you don't qualify for the visa. I hope you aren't too disappointed," while handing the applicant the 214(b) boilerplate sheet.

It doesn't matter if you don't mean that. You say it anyway!


1. That is how civilized, well-educated, dignified people who represent a foreign government behave, and 

2. That serves as acknowledgment of the reality and dignity of the disappointed party, so they might leave disappointed, but at least not feeling personally wounded and insulted by your rude and superior attitude, and

3.You don't know the size of the motorbike that might accidentally run over your ankle in a very narrow Thamel alleyway, and every one of the hundreds of observers with either click their tongues in fake sympathy, or pretend the didn't notice.

4. You already have an unenviable reputation that is the shame of your employing agency. Don't make it even worse.

Behave yourself. Even if no one who, in your opinion, matters is watching. Everyone and everything matters. Even to you.