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News Section: Commentary

Letters From The Wasteland: Accidental Diplomats?

Published Tuesday, January 14, 2014 12:03 am

Is it just me, or has there been a recent wave of unauthorized American diplomacy, the sort so weird that you wonder if you're having one of those eerie, fever-induced dreams that are helped along by liberal doses of NyQuil? Unless I'm hallucinating, envoys of idiots are setting off from the land of the weird only to be taken seriously by foreign governments in real countries, raising the once ridiculous question of who's a worse diplomat: Steven Seagal or Dennis Rodman.

Rodman has become the unofficial ambassador to North Korea, a nonexistent post that nontheless might rest on shaky ground following his bizarre tirade regarding an American who has been a prisoner in the country since being arrested, ostensibly for some sort of religious activity, though North Korean officials have not released information regarding formal charges or specifics of his alleged “crime.”

Kenneth Bae had been legally working as a tour operator in the country when he was sentenced to 15 years in a work camp prison. He's since been moved to a hospital because of severe health problems. Appearing on CNN via satellite, Rodman was asked whether he'd help advocate for Bae and though he was being urged by his handlers to shut his pierced pie hole, the Worm slurred through some sort of inebriated rambling that seemed to suggest Bae was guilty and that only he, as unofficial ambassador to North Korea, knew why.


Rodman, a former NBA star who was more famous for his haircuts and risque photographs with his ex-girlfriend Madonna than his exploits on the court, is reportedly flat broke, despite earning about $30 million in NBA salary alone. Last year he was sued for owing over $800,000 in back child support and his lawyers explained that he'd in fact blown through his giant fortune and is near penniless.

Not to fear, while there might not be a huge domestic market for a 6'8 moron who looks like a circus freak, North Korea is apparently starved enough for something approaching a celebrity that Rodman is an A-lister in a country ruled by a third-generation dwarf king, where most of the citizens are starving and access to the outside world is almost completely unavailable.

Rodman first visited North Korea with the HBO show Vice and hit it off so well with dictator Kim Jong-un that he's since made several visits, including the most recent, in which he took an American basketball team over to put on an exhibition and do some sort of weird Marilyn Monroe-type Happy Birthday serenade for his buddy Kim, who he routinely describes as a "great leader" and "wonderful humanitarian," despite the fact that his country is one of the biggest human rights abusers in the world.


Rodman might very well have replaced '80s action star Steven Seagal as the most embarrassing American to represent us abroad. Seagal, the overweight pretend cop in the new “reality” show about real cops – Steven Seagal: Lawman – is also something of a quasi-official go between for Moscow and Washington. A Congressional delegation that went to Russia in May of 2013 on a so-called fact finding mission to learn more about the accused Boston Marathon bombers, actually used Seagal to open up doors in Mother Russia.

Seagal has on many occasions accompanied Vladimir Putin to sporting events and even state dinners. His good friend Putin outwardly admits to being a huge fan. In Russia, bloated, washed-up American action stars are apparently as popular as clown-clad washed-up basketball players are in North Korea. But like Rodman, Seagal is also one weird cat.

When he broke onto the scene in the '80s, Seagal made a habit of making up false biographies – everything from fabricated CIA and mafia ties, to lies about his nationality, his martial arts background and even where he learned to play blues guitar. Seagal's film career quickly faded into a series of low-budget straight to video releases, but the weirdness never relented. Aside from an odd series of sexual harassment suits – and allegations that he kept Russian sex slaves here in the U.S. – he also bought some sort of big-deal Buddhist recognition that's supposed to claim he's someone important reincarnated. 

The Buddhist not only makes his living in violent movies, but he also has become a big backer of notorious Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who's reportedly convinced the narcissistic Seagal that he could win the governor's mansion. I suppose stranger things have happened. Meanwhile, maybe I'll look for a country where a little-known indy-journalist can make a splash. Micronesia looks nice.

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