By Al Kamen
Friday, May 22, 2009
Change has certainly come to Baghdad. And it appears that includes the U.S. Embassy, where they are holding what the invitation says is the first-ever U.S. Embassy Gay Pride Theme Party next Friday at Baghdaddy's, which is the embassy employee association's pub.
"Come celebrate the start of Summer with color . . . and in costume!" the May 10 invitation says. "Dress in drag or as a gay icon. All are welcome." The invitation was attached to what was called an "All Hands Alerts" e-mail.
An embassy spokesman said by way of explanation: "This is an event organized and sponsored by a group of employees. Given the lack of places to meet in Baghdad, the embassy allows groups to use its social facilities for events on a first-come, first-served basis."
The invitation says, "Prizes will be awarded for two contests: Best Dressed Gay Icon and Best Lip Synch Performance." Unclear what the prizes are, but don't forget to "order costume supplies now in time for May 29th," we're told. "For more info and costume ideas, check out the next edition of The Tigris Times."ROOS TO TOKYO?
With President Obama preparing to announce a string of ambassadorial appointments in the days to come, word is leaking out of Tokyo that he plans to tap a Silicon Valley lawyer as the top envoy to Japan.
John V. Roos, chief executive of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, a California-based corporate law firm, is close to Obama and was one of his presidential campaign's top fundraisers. Japanese media reported this week that Roos is Obama's choice for ambassador to Japan, an important ally in Asia, and that Obama will make the announcement soon.
Joseph Nye, a former assistant secretary of defense and Harvard University professor, was an early favorite for the post, but Roos has emerged as the leading contender. Roos, who received his undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford University, has represented many major Silicon Valley start-up companies in mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, and venture capital financing.A NEW JOB FOR CLELAND
The Obama appointments keep rolling out. Max Cleland, a decorated Vietnam veteran wounded in combat who went on to run the Veterans Administration under President Jimmy Carter and represent Georgia as a U.S. senator, was nominated yesterday to become secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission.WE CALLED IT
If you wait long enough, everything becomes true. Back on Jan. 25, 2001, we reported: "Across the Pacific, there are rumblings that Adm. Joseph W. Prueher would stay in China at least until President Bush arrives in October for the Asia Pacific economic summit.
"Probably not going to happen, we hear. A strong possibility for that job is Mandarin-speaking Jon M. Huntsman Jr., ambassador to Singapore in Bush I when he was 32 years old and now vice chairman of Huntsman Corp., the biggest family-owned chemical company in the United States. Huntsman's father, a mega-contributor worth billions, had the patent for Styrofoam."
But Huntsman ended up as deputy U.S. trade representative and then Utah governor. Now, however, he's the president's nominee to be ambassador to China. Well, better early than never.NO SECRETS
A bit of irony spotted by ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer, a member of the team that brought the suit trying to force the Obama administration to release photos of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. It turns out that former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who some say bears a large share of responsibility for the abuse depicted in the photos, was, back in 1966, one of the strongest backers of the Freedom of Information Act -- the law that may force the eventual release of the photos.
When he was Rep. Rumsfeld (R-Ill.), he issued a news release praising President Lyndon B. Johnson shortly after Johnson signed the bill into law on July 4, 1966. Rumsfeld, a member of the committee that helped draft the bill, said: "I commend . . . the president's farsightedness and demonstrated concern about the people's right to know." He added that the new law "puts the burden of proof" for showing that documents must be withheld "on the governmental agency concerned" and provides for appeals in federal court.
Rumsfeld said the law doesn't "solve all the problems of government secrecy, but is a welcome step toward the goal of a more informed citizenry, and President Johnson deserves the thanks of the American people for signing this important measure."A CORPS PIECE
A second thought on the Peace Corps lineup: While James Arena-DeRosa, formerly the agency's New England regional director, remains a leading contender for the directorship, there may be a new management configuration that would have a chairman atop the agency structure, someone who would be a more charismatic, inspirational type, maybe a former volunteer, to reinvigorate the place and travel about inspiring the troops, getting the administration's ear and congressional money.
With Philip Rucker