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President Obama has been taking flak of late for giving fat-cat donors cushy ambassadorial posts. Despite some early signals that merit — knowledge of the local language, culture or region, or perhaps foreign policy experience — might play a role in determining who gets those jobs, big donors and bundlers seem to have grabbed the lion’s share of the most coveted spots.
Obama had specifically said he would continue the tradition of sending political picks overseas. Historically, around 30 percent of envoy positions are filled by politicals, the rest go to career Foreign Service folks, and Obama, when the dust settles, is likely to be in that range. In addition, many countries prefer non-career people who are said to be able to pick up the phone and speak directly to the U.S. president.
But a comparison of Obama’s early picks with President Clinton’s, for example, indicates substantial differences between the two Democrats. Clinton tended to pick people with experience in public policy — if not international policy — for the important embassies. His big donors were generally given jobs in smaller countries in eastern or northern Europe where they could do little lasting harm.
There is a nice chart that accompanies the story in the print edition of the Post. Support your daily newspaper and check it out.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.
Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith