SFRC Approves Nominations

On March 31, the Committee on Foreign Relations held a business meeting to consider eight nominations and seven pieces of legislation. The Committee favorably reported, by voice vote, the following nominees and pieces of legislation:


Nominations

  • Esther Brimmer to be Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
  • Karl Eikenberry to be Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
  • Timothy Geithner to be U.S. Governor of the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Philip Gordon to be Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
  • Rose Gottemoeller to be Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance
  • Christopher Hill to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq
  • Richard Verma to be Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
  • Melanne Verveer to be Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues

Read the whole statement here.

The nominations will now go to the full Senate where all are expected to be confirmed. Ambassador Hill whose nomination was in the news a lot, is reportedly also expected to get the 60 votes in the 100-member.

Meanwhile, Fox News just reported on the reaction from the senator from Kansas “Brownback said he is not yet ready to place a hold on the nomination but he is “exploring other options just short of that.”

Update 4/1/09 10:30 AM: I should note that the Democrats only have 56 seats plus 2 Independents who caucus with them in the Senate. That’s still short of the 60 votes. As to the other options the senator is talking about, below is a memo from Harry Reid’s office reprinted by Ryan Grim back in February that is instructive:

How Cloture Rule Allows Minority To Block Legislation Without “Actual Filibustering”

Under the 1917 rules change the very nature of the filibuster changed. Whereas before any Senator could block any bill by simply talking, this was no longer true. A cloture motion could stop a Senator from talking. At the same time the addition of this procedure added the ability of the minority to block bills without filibustering merely by voting against cloture.

Since the 1950’s true filibusters (i.e. Standing on the floor and talking for ever), have been used, more often than not to delay the inevitable, or to block last minute action that the minority party does not like. For example the when Strom Thurmond filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours 18 minutes, the bill was eventually passed.

The last modern filibuster occurred in 2003 over some Judicial nominations. Harry Reid held the floor for nine hours where he read Searchlight (his first book) and I am not kidding, discussed the relative virtues of wooden matches.

Very technically if a single Senator wanted to employ every delay tactic possible, he could stall a single piece of legislation for a week and hold the Senate hostage, not allowing them to conduct any other business. This is basically the threat of the hold. Then the Senate needs to determine first will the Senator carry out the threat, can they be bought off, or is the bill worth a week of the Senates times. Hence a lot of important but minor bills get killed this way.

The byproduct of the cloture rule changes in 1917 and 1974 is you need to invoke cloture to proceed to a bill. Senators don’t have to speak to vote against cloture. If you can’t get 60, you can’t move it to the floor. On the motion to proceed, if a Republican chose to get up they can speak about any topic they want, or they can sit down and begin an endless series of quorum calls. Or they can begin motions to proceed on their own set of bills.

Basically there is no way to force a Senator to speak or vote on any particular bill and if you can’t get 60 you can’t proceed to final passage.

The “PR Value” Of Making The Minority “Filibuster” For An Indefinite Period Of Time

It’s true that if the Majority Leader doesn’t file a cloture motion to cut off debate on the floor, the opponents of the bill which the Senate is on can continue to debate on it indefinitely. However, as mentioned in my previous email it will still not force them to do any kind of actual filibustering by forcing them to talk for unlimited hours (like we have seen in the movies).

Again, if someone wants to obstruct a specific piece of legislation, he/she can be forced to sit on the floor to keep us from voting on that legislation for a finite period of time according to existing rules but he/she can’t be forced to keep talking for an indefinite period of time.

As explained above a Senator doesn’t need to talk for an indefinite period of time to sustain a “filibuster” under existing rules. All he or she has to do is suggest the absence of a quorum when no one has any more to say on the specific legislation he or she is trying to delay. If someone comes in and wants to speak to give that Senator a hand, he lets them call off the quorum and speak and then he puts another quorum call in. It only takes one member to keep that going, he/she can have colleagues spell them and work in shifts just making sure that if no one is speaking then the chair doesn’t put the question, i.e. begin the vote on the amendment, by putting in a quorum call.

So, if anyone was expecting a Republican Senator could have been forced to stay up and speak for hours if not days obstructing the auto legislations or any other bill would most likely have been disappointed since it was a good bet that the Republican conference would have coordinated and keep the quorum calls going. As a result, the public would not see the Republicans out there filibustering they’d see a quorum call or, since after the first three hours of each day debate no longer has to be germane to the pending business, they may see a Republican senator speaking about anything they want.

So not sure how much of a PR value is there not filing cloture to cut off debate. If anyone thinks there would be a show for the networks for hours/days they would have been disappointed because after couple of hours the only thing for network and news media for cover would be some quorum calls.

So if the majority party tried to move to a vote, a minority senator could simply say, “I suggest the absence of a quorum.” One option short of placing a hold?

Related Item:
CRS Report: Cloture Attempts on Nominations (December 2002) pdf

Advertisements

SFRC Approves Nominations

On March 31, the Committee on Foreign Relations held a business meeting to consider eight nominations and seven pieces of legislation. The Committee favorably reported, by voice vote, the following nominees and pieces of legislation:


Nominations

  • Esther Brimmer to be Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
  • Karl Eikenberry to be Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
  • Timothy Geithner to be U.S. Governor of the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Philip Gordon to be Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
  • Rose Gottemoeller to be Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance
  • Christopher Hill to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq
  • Richard Verma to be Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
  • Melanne Verveer to be Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues

Read the whole statement here.

The nominations will now go to the full Senate where all are expected to be confirmed. Ambassador Hill whose nomination was in the news a lot, is reportedly also expected to get the 60 votes in the 100-member.

Meanwhile, Fox News just reported on the reaction from the senator from Kansas “Brownback said he is not yet ready to place a hold on the nomination but he is “exploring other options just short of that.”

Update 4/1/09 10:30 AM: I should note that the Democrats only have 56 seats plus 2 Independents who caucus with them in the Senate. That’s still short of the 60 votes. As to the other options the senator is talking about, below is a memo from Harry Reid’s office reprinted by Ryan Grim back in February that is instructive:

How Cloture Rule Allows Minority To Block Legislation Without “Actual Filibustering”

Under the 1917 rules change the very nature of the filibuster changed. Whereas before any Senator could block any bill by simply talking, this was no longer true. A cloture motion could stop a Senator from talking. At the same time the addition of this procedure added the ability of the minority to block bills without filibustering merely by voting against cloture.

Since the 1950’s true filibusters (i.e. Standing on the floor and talking for ever), have been used, more often than not to delay the inevitable, or to block last minute action that the minority party does not like. For example the when Strom Thurmond filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours 18 minutes, the bill was eventually passed.

The last modern filibuster occurred in 2003 over some Judicial nominations. Harry Reid held the floor for nine hours where he read Searchlight (his first book) and I am not kidding, discussed the relative virtues of wooden matches.

Very technically if a single Senator wanted to employ every delay tactic possible, he could stall a single piece of legislation for a week and hold the Senate hostage, not allowing them to conduct any other business. This is basically the threat of the hold. Then the Senate needs to determine first will the Senator carry out the threat, can they be bought off, or is the bill worth a week of the Senates times. Hence a lot of important but minor bills get killed this way.

The byproduct of the cloture rule changes in 1917 and 1974 is you need to invoke cloture to proceed to a bill. Senators don’t have to speak to vote against cloture. If you can’t get 60, you can’t move it to the floor. On the motion to proceed, if a Republican chose to get up they can speak about any topic they want, or they can sit down and begin an endless series of quorum calls. Or they can begin motions to proceed on their own set of bills.

Basically there is no way to force a Senator to speak or vote on any particular bill and if you can’t get 60 you can’t proceed to final passage.

The “PR Value” Of Making The Minority “Filibuster” For An Indefinite Period Of Time

It’s true that if the Majority Leader doesn’t file a cloture motion to cut off debate on the floor, the opponents of the bill which the Senate is on can continue to debate on it indefinitely. However, as mentioned in my previous email it will still not force them to do any kind of actual filibustering by forcing them to talk for unlimited hours (like we have seen in the movies).

Again, if someone wants to obstruct a specific piece of legislation, he/she can be forced to sit on the floor to keep us from voting on that legislation for a finite period of time according to existing rules but he/she can’t be forced to keep talking for an indefinite period of time.

As explained above a Senator doesn’t need to talk for an indefinite period of time to sustain a “filibuster” under existing rules. All he or she has to do is suggest the absence of a quorum when no one has any more to say on the specific legislation he or she is trying to delay. If someone comes in and wants to speak to give that Senator a hand, he lets them call off the quorum and speak and then he puts another quorum call in. It only takes one member to keep that going, he/she can have colleagues spell them and work in shifts just making sure that if no one is speaking then the chair doesn’t put the question, i.e. begin the vote on the amendment, by putting in a quorum call.

So, if anyone was expecting a Republican Senator could have been forced to stay up and speak for hours if not days obstructing the auto legislations or any other bill would most likely have been disappointed since it was a good bet that the Republican conference would have coordinated and keep the quorum calls going. As a result, the public would not see the Republicans out there filibustering they’d see a quorum call or, since after the first three hours of each day debate no longer has to be germane to the pending business, they may see a Republican senator speaking about anything they want.

So not sure how much of a PR value is there not filing cloture to cut off debate. If anyone thinks there would be a show for the networks for hours/days they would have been disappointed because after couple of hours the only thing for network and news media for cover would be some quorum calls.

So if the majority party tried to move to a vote, a minority senator could simply say, “I suggest the absence of a quorum.” One option short of placing a hold?

Related Item:
CRS Report: Cloture Attempts on Nominations (December 2002) pdf

Diplopundit’s Blog Index for March 2009

If you can’t find the materials in the “tag cloud” in the right-most column here, you may want to scroll through my monthly post index. The February Index is here.

~ * ~

Farris v. Clinton: Race/Gender Discrimination Case…

Information Overload? Filter Failure? Here Comes Alltop …

Insider Quote: Past is Present Even in the FS

That Unprecedented Title of Deputy Ambassador

Video of the Week: Rives on Mixed Emoticons

Video: New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Expanded PRT Model for Afghanistan – 215 New Civilians…

Wanted: Expressions of Interest – Herat, MeS and ???…

SFRC Hearings: Nominations – Gottemoeller, Gordon…

Diplomatic Blogs: Truth, Power and Authenticity

DCMs in the News

SFRC Hearings: Nomination – Eikenberry

A War Fighter Pitches for State/USAID

A Confirmation Grilling – – But Was Not Hot

More State Department Nominations

SFRC Hearings: Nomination – Hill

An Idiot’s Guide on How to Put Your Mistress on the…

Quote: The Difficult Task of Fighting Terrorists

Credit for Military Service Under Civilian Federal…

SFRC Hearings: Nominations – March

Do You Like Senate Holds and Jams?

Officially In: Philip Gordon to the EUR Bureau

66+ Ambassadorships Still Up for Grabs

Officially In: Johnnie Carson to the AF Bureau

Senator Brownback: Baghdad is Waiting

Video of the Week: Goleman on Compassion

Ordered Departure On at US Embassy Antananarivo

Officially In: J. Scott Gration, U.S. Special Envoy…

A Future of Honest and Respectful Diplomacy

Quote: Diplomats and Their Dark Arts

Six Years Ago Today at 9:34 PM …

“No One Gets Killed on My Watch”

Diplomacy 2030: Leadership Challenges and Shortfalls…

Quickie: Beltway Views on Compromise and Negotiation…

Coming Soon – Civilian Surge for Afghanistan?

Tempest on the Hill Over Christopher Hill’s Nomination…

Huh? News: U.S.-born Children in State Foster Care…

Officially In: Daniel Rooney to US Embassy Dublin…

And These Are Genuine US Passports …

Quickie: A Severely Stretched Service

Olson v. Clinton: Court Grants Summary Judgment for…

Quickie: CSI – Foggy Bottom

Diplopundit Turned One This Week

Video of the Week: Spring Break ’09 Don’t Go Wild

New Bureau Needed at State?

It’s Official: Daniel Fried, Special Envoy for Gitmo…

Authorized Departure On for US Embassy Antananarivo…

Officially In: General Eikenberry to Kabul and Others…

Do Politicians Dream of Electric Sheep?

Insider Quote: Engagement in Many Flavors

Who’s Gonna be Kicked Around Next?

Authorized Departure On for US Embassy Khartoum

Arabic 3.5: Better Than Nothing Part II

Insider Quote: A Case of Better Than Nothing?

Hibiscus Named After US Ambassador

Quick, Get the Duct Tape!

Snapshot: Unaccompanied Posts

Brief as Photos – 19: Ambassador to the South

Brief as Photos – 18: New Hire

Video of the Week: Why people believe in strange things…

Quote: Thumb drives are baddies

Diplomatic Bloggers: The Absent is Always Wrong

Quickie: Terrorized by Colonels with PowerPoint Slides…

Diplomatic Bloggers: No Blanket Ban but Better …

FY10 Funding Highlights for State & USAID

Diplomatic Bloggers: To Blog or Not to Blog

What’s State Doing with Question 21?

Diplomatic Bloggers: That “Official Concern” Thingy…

Quickie: The Super Sub-Secretaries of State

~ * ~

Diplopundit’s Blog Index for March 2009

If you can’t find the materials in the “tag cloud” in the right-most column here, you may want to scroll through my monthly post index. The February Index is here.

~ * ~

Farris v. Clinton: Race/Gender Discrimination Case…

Information Overload? Filter Failure? Here Comes Alltop …

Insider Quote: Past is Present Even in the FS

That Unprecedented Title of Deputy Ambassador

Video of the Week: Rives on Mixed Emoticons

Video: New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Expanded PRT Model for Afghanistan – 215 New Civilians…

Wanted: Expressions of Interest – Herat, MeS and ???…

SFRC Hearings: Nominations – Gottemoeller, Gordon…

Diplomatic Blogs: Truth, Power and Authenticity

DCMs in the News

SFRC Hearings: Nomination – Eikenberry

A War Fighter Pitches for State/USAID

A Confirmation Grilling – – But Was Not Hot

More State Department Nominations

SFRC Hearings: Nomination – Hill

An Idiot’s Guide on How to Put Your Mistress on the…

Quote: The Difficult Task of Fighting Terrorists

Credit for Military Service Under Civilian Federal…

SFRC Hearings: Nominations – March

Do You Like Senate Holds and Jams?

Officially In: Philip Gordon to the EUR Bureau

66+ Ambassadorships Still Up for Grabs

Officially In: Johnnie Carson to the AF Bureau

Senator Brownback: Baghdad is Waiting

Video of the Week: Goleman on Compassion

Ordered Departure On at US Embassy Antananarivo

Officially In: J. Scott Gration, U.S. Special Envoy…

A Future of Honest and Respectful Diplomacy

Quote: Diplomats and Their Dark Arts

Six Years Ago Today at 9:34 PM …

“No One Gets Killed on My Watch”

Diplomacy 2030: Leadership Challenges and Shortfalls…

Quickie: Beltway Views on Compromise and Negotiation…

Coming Soon – Civilian Surge for Afghanistan?

Tempest on the Hill Over Christopher Hill’s Nomination…

Huh? News: U.S.-born Children in State Foster Care…

Officially In: Daniel Rooney to US Embassy Dublin…

And These Are Genuine US Passports …

Quickie: A Severely Stretched Service

Olson v. Clinton: Court Grants Summary Judgment for…

Quickie: CSI – Foggy Bottom

Diplopundit Turned One This Week

Video of the Week: Spring Break ’09 Don’t Go Wild

New Bureau Needed at State?

It’s Official: Daniel Fried, Special Envoy for Gitmo…

Authorized Departure On for US Embassy Antananarivo…

Officially In: General Eikenberry to Kabul and Others…

Do Politicians Dream of Electric Sheep?

Insider Quote: Engagement in Many Flavors

Who’s Gonna be Kicked Around Next?

Authorized Departure On for US Embassy Khartoum

Arabic 3.5: Better Than Nothing Part II

Insider Quote: A Case of Better Than Nothing?

Hibiscus Named After US Ambassador

Quick, Get the Duct Tape!

Snapshot: Unaccompanied Posts

Brief as Photos – 19: Ambassador to the South

Brief as Photos – 18: New Hire

Video of the Week: Why people believe in strange things…

Quote: Thumb drives are baddies

Diplomatic Bloggers: The Absent is Always Wrong

Quickie: Terrorized by Colonels with PowerPoint Slides…

Diplomatic Bloggers: No Blanket Ban but Better …

FY10 Funding Highlights for State & USAID

Diplomatic Bloggers: To Blog or Not to Blog

What’s State Doing with Question 21?

Diplomatic Bloggers: That “Official Concern” Thingy…

Quickie: The Super Sub-Secretaries of State

~ * ~

Farris v. Clinton: Race/Gender Discrimination Case Going to Trial

With “Stretch” and “Cede” Policies Up Front

On March 12, in a civil action lawsuit Farris v. Clinton, the United States District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina granted the defendant’s (Clinton/State Department) renewed motion for summary judgment with respect to Virginia Loo Farris’ retaliation claims but denies it with respect to the her discrimination claims. So there will be no trial for the retaliation claims but I understand that if no motion is filed, then it looks like this discrimination case proceeds to trial.

The original defendant to this action was Secretary Rice when this action was instituted. The court has substituted the current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton as the defendant in this action when she became SoS.

Virginia Loo Farris is an Asian-American woman formerly employed by the U.S. Foreign Service under the U.S. Department of State (“the Department”). She was a thirty-four year veteran of the Foreign Service. Ms. Farris alleges that the State Department unlawfully discriminated against her based on her race and gender and then retaliated against her for complaining about the discrimination. The Department previously filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied in June 2007 after determining that the plaintiff was entitled to discovery to develop the factual record. Following the close of discovery, the Department filed the instant motion for summary judgment. Because Ms. Farris has produced enough evidence to withstand summary judgment on her discrimination claims but not on her retaliation claims, the court grants in part and denies in part the Department’s renewed motion for summary judgment.

The plaintiff claims the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her race and gender by denying her bids for two positions: one as a USNATO Political Counselor, a principal adviser to Ambassador Vershbow, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.S. Mission toNATO (“the USNATO position”), and another as the Political Advisor to the NATO military commander in the Hague (“the Hague POLAD position”). Compl. ¶ 11; Def.’s Mot. at 5.


In denying the State Department’s renewed motion for summary judgment with respect to Ms. Farris’s race and gender discrimination claims, t
he Court states that its central task is to determine “whether the plaintiff has produced evidence from which a reasonable jury could determine that the defendant’s asserted non-discriminatory reason for not hiring her was pretextual and that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff based on her race and/or gender.”

Ms. Farris offers four rationales in support of her contention that the Department’s asserted nondiscriminatory reason was a pretext for unlawful discrimination: 1) statistical evidence (which did not fly), 2) the candidates’ respective qualifications for the USNATO position (here the court decides that no reasonable jury could determine that the plaintiff was significantly more qualified than the other candidate), 3) preselection and 4) failure to follow established procedures.

I am not surprised to hear that there is a dearth of Asian American women at the highest level of the State Department but it is still kind of shocking to see it in stark numbers:

“The statistics that the plaintiff offers, viewed in the light most favorable to her, show that as of 2000, while women were heavily represented among the civil service employee base of the Department, men comprised 72% of the senior ranks of the Foreign Service. The plaintiff also proffers statistics concerning the representation of Asian-American women in particular among the senior ranks of the Foreign Service: at the plaintiff’s seniority level, only 4 officers out of 390 were Asian-American women.”

The Court did note that what Ms. Farris’ statistics fail to address, is the only comparison relevant to this action, namely, the proportion of qualified Asian-American candidates to those chosen for senior-level Foreign Service positions.

Now, items #3 and #4 are where this gets rather interesting — but more so when this gets to trial. Why? These may cast some bright sunshine on a few things that are particularly vexing in the Foreign Service when folks are “bidding” for their forward assignment every 2-3 years – oh, just things like preselection, “fair share,” “stretch” and “cede” policies.

I should note here that according to AFSA some 12 percent of overseas Foreign Service positions (excluding Iraq and Afghanistan) are now vacant, as are 33 percent of domestic Foreign Service positions. Furthermore, 19 percent of the filled slots are held by employees “stretched” into a position designated for a more experienced person.

On preselection, this is what the court record says – “The plaintiff next claims that the defendant preselected Goodman for the USNATO position because he was a member of a “good old boy” network, and that consistent with Goodman’s preselection, Thomas Tiernan, a human resources representative, pressured the plaintiff to withdraw her bid for the position.”

The Court states that it is “undisputed that as early as April 2000, the Department’s EUR Bureau strongly endorsed Goodman for the USNATO position.[…] On May 12, 2000, Tiernan e-mailed the plaintiff urging her to reconsider her candidacy for the position, Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 9; when she declined his advice, the defendant selected Goodman for the post in June 2000, Tiernan Dep. at 105.”


On the charges of failure to follow established procedures
State maintains that “cedes are granted even when there are senior officers prepared to take the job. Simply put, plaintiff’s seniority does not trump the prerequisite experience for the position.” Apparently, it is the State Department’s view that “because the plaintiff was willing but not qualified to take the USNATO position, the defendant properly granted a cede to Goodman.”

Now, this is where I get confused. This seems to be saying that a “cede” occurs independent of any action from a specific candidate bidding on a specific position. But to cede means “to relinquish possession or control over something,” except in this case, the employer is the one granting the cede, not the impacted employee. But why was she asked to reconsider her candidacy if it were not up to her to cede?

On the fair share policy: Ms. Farris also claims the defendant violated the “fair share policy” as it is articulated in Department regulations. Pl.’s Opp’n at 28-30. “According to the plaintiff, the policy aims to prevent officers from “limit[ing] themselves to one geographic area and thus overly identify[ing] with such area; the rules also prevent an informal ‘revolving door’ that would deprive others of the opportunity to serve in more developed, favored posts.” Id. at 28.”

The Department’s response: “the policy is intended to ensure that it can staff its “hardship posts,” not to enable as many officers as possible to serve in favored posts, including those in Europe.”

The Court then says that to determine whether there is a genuine dispute as to whether the defendant violated the stretch policy by hiring Goodman, the court looks to the evidence proffered by both parties, viewing it in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.:

“Viewing the evidence in this light, the court concludes that there is a factual dispute with respect to whether the defendant’s decision to hire Goodman notwithstanding the plaintiff’s bid was consistent with standard practice within the Department. See Lathram, 336 F.3d at 1093-94. The court is in no position to resolve this dispute by crediting either party’s version of the facts, and contrary to the defendant’s assertions, it is far from clear from the evidence submitted that the decision to hire Goodman did not deviate from standard practice. Id. Thus, a reasonable jury could determine that the defendant failed to follow established procedures, which could in turn give rise to a determination that the defendant’s asserted nondiscriminatory justification for the hiring decision was pretextual. Brady, 520 F.3d at 495 n.3.


On The Hague POLAD position (see discussion starting on page 18).
The Department does not contest the plaintiff’s account of the factual circumstances surrounding her requests to be considered for The Hague POLAD position. Id. At 13-15. Instead the Department exlains:

“that although it had already submitted its short list in November 1999, the position still appeared by mistake on the “open assignments” list. Id. at 13-14. Because Whitlock “did not have any involvement with [the Hague POLAD] placement,” he was unaware that bidding was closed on the position when he mistakenly told the plaintiff that the position was still open. Id. at 14. In December 1999, the position again erroneously appeared as an open assignment – this time on the “hard to fill” list – because the individual responsible for posting the “hard to fill” list was misinformed. Id. Finally, the defendant notes that the plaintiff would not have been offered the position even if she had been allowed to bid on it because she was less qualified than the successful candidate. Def.’s Mot. at 10, 29-30.”

Read the whole thing here.

I supposed that a lot of mid-level and senior officers would like to see how this case turns out. As well as junior/mid-level officers who may be interested in “stretch” and “double stretch” assignments. The entire assignment process could be on trial with this case. Who knows what will happen next? I happen to think that transparency in the bidding and assignment process is swell — if that elephant actually walks as well as it talks.

Is it time for State to rethink this whole process? Patricia H. Kushlis of Whirled View recently penned a piece entitled Clean Up Time at Foggy Bottom? It is a good read but you won’t see it published in the in-house magazines.

I can’t help thinking that the courts do have a way of inflicting change on organizations whether they are ready for it or not. In 1968, Foreign Service Officer Allison Palmer filed a sex discrimination case that she won three years later. Her victory, according to U.S. Diplomacy resulted in an order from management barring all discrimination in assignments.

As an aside, I ‘d like to note that the State Department did not overturn its ban on the marriage of female diplomats until 1972. And until the early 70’s Foreign Service Officers were still evaluated partly on the performance and personal qualities of their wives. To think that this was considered normal in those days …

In 1977, another sex discrimination, this time a class action suit was filed by Carolee Brady Hartman against the U.S. Information Agency and the Voice of America. It was fought for 23 years and in 2000 finally resulted in a settlement that paid $532,000 to each of the nearly 1,100 women involved in the case.

I don’t know if this is the case that will break the transparent elephant’s back, let’s wait and see … shall we?

Related Items:

Farris v. Clinton: Race/Gender Discrimination Case Going to Trial

With “Stretch” and “Cede” Policies Up Front

On March 12, in a civil action lawsuit Farris v. Clinton, the United States District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina granted the defendant’s (Clinton/State Department) renewed motion for summary judgment with respect to Virginia Loo Farris’ retaliation claims but denies it with respect to the her discrimination claims. So there will be no trial for the retaliation claims but I understand that if no motion is filed, then it looks like this discrimination case proceeds to trial.

The original defendant to this action was Secretary Rice when this action was instituted. The court has substituted the current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton as the defendant in this action when she became SoS.

Virginia Loo Farris is an Asian-American woman formerly employed by the U.S. Foreign Service under the U.S. Department of State (“the Department”). She was a thirty-four year veteran of the Foreign Service.Ms. Farris alleges that the State Department unlawfully discriminated against her based on her race and gender and then retaliated against her for complaining about the discrimination. The Department previously filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied in June 2007 after determining that the plaintiff was entitled to discovery to develop the factual record. Following the close of discovery, the Department filed the instant motion for summary judgment. Because Ms. Farris has produced enough evidence to withstand summary judgment on her discrimination claims but not on her retaliation claims, the court grants in part and denies in part the Department’s renewed motion for summary judgment.

 

The plaintiff claims the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her race and gender by denying her bids for two positions: one as a USNATO Political Counselor, a principal adviser to Ambassador Vershbow, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.S. Mission toNATO (“the USNATO position”), and another as the Political Advisor to the NATO military commander in the Hague (“the Hague POLAD position”). Compl. ¶ 11; Def.’s Mot. at 5.

In denying the State Department’s renewed motion for summary judgment with respect to Ms. Farris’s race and gender discrimination claims, the Court states that its central task is to determine “whether the plaintiff has produced evidence from which a reasonable jury could determine that the defendant’s asserted non-discriminatory reason for not hiring her was pretextual and that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff based on her race and/or gender.”

Ms. Farris offers four rationales in support of her contention that the Department’s asserted nondiscriminatory reason was a pretext for unlawful discrimination: 1) statistical evidence (which did not fly), 2) the candidates’ respective qualifications for the USNATO position (here the court decides that no reasonable jury could determine that the plaintiff was significantly more qualified than the other candidate), 3) preselection and 4) failure to follow established procedures.

I am not surprised to hear that there is a dearth of Asian American women at the highest level of the State Department but it is still kind of shocking to see it in stark numbers:

 

 

“The statistics that the plaintiff offers, viewed in the light most favorable to her, show that as of 2000, while women were heavily represented among the civil service employee base of the Department, men comprised 72% of the senior ranks of the Foreign Service. The plaintiff also proffers statistics concerning the representation of Asian-American women in particular among the senior ranks of the Foreign Service: at the plaintiff’s seniority level, only 4 officers out of 390 were Asian-American women.”

The Court did note that what Ms. Farris’ statistics fail to address, is the only comparison relevant to this action, namely, the proportion of qualified Asian-American candidates to those chosen for senior-level Foreign Service positions.

Now, items #3 and #4 are where this gets rather interesting — but more so when this gets to trial. Why? These may cast some bright sunshine on a few things that are particularly vexing in the Foreign Service when folks are “bidding” for their forward assignment every 2-3 years – oh, just things like preselection, “fair share,” “stretch” and “cede” policies.

I should note here that according to AFSA some 12 percent of overseas Foreign Service positions (excluding Iraq and Afghanistan) are now vacant, as are 33 percent of domestic Foreign Service positions. Furthermore, 19 percent of the filled slots are held by employees “stretched” into a position designated for a more experienced person.

On preselection, this is what the court record says – “The plaintiff next claims that the defendant preselected Goodman for the USNATO position because he was a member of a “good old boy” network, and that consistent with Goodman’s preselection, Thomas Tiernan, a human resources representative, pressured the plaintiff to withdraw her bid for the position.”

The Court states that it is “undisputed that as early as April 2000, the Department’s EUR Bureau strongly endorsed Goodman for the USNATO position.[…] On May 12, 2000, Tiernan e-mailed the plaintiff urging her to reconsider her candidacy for the position, Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 9; when she declined his advice, the defendant selected Goodman for the post in June 2000, Tiernan Dep. at 105.”

On the charges of failure to follow established procedures– State maintains that “cedes are granted even when there are senior officers prepared to take the job. Simply put, plaintiff’s seniority does not trump the prerequisite experience for the position.”Apparently, it is the State Department’s view that “because the plaintiff was willing but not qualified to take the USNATO position, the defendant properly granted a cede to Goodman.”

Now, this is where I get confused. This seems to be saying that a “cede” occurs independent of any action from a specific candidate bidding on a specific position. But to cede means “to relinquish possession or control over something,” except in this case, the employer is the one granting the cede, not the impacted employee. But why was she asked to reconsider her candidacy if it were not up to her to cede?

On the fair share policy: Ms. Farris also claims the defendant violated the “fair share policy” as it is articulated in Department regulations. Pl.’s Opp’n at 28-30. “According to the plaintiff, the policy aims to prevent officers from “limit[ing] themselves to one geographic area and thus overly identify[ing] with such area; the rules also prevent an informal ‘revolving door’ that would deprive others of the opportunity to serve in more developed, favored posts.” Id. at 28.”

The Department’s response:“the policy is intended to ensure that it can staff its “hardship posts,” not to enable as many officers as possible to serve in favored posts, including those in Europe.”

The Court then says that to determine whether there is a genuine dispute as to whether the defendant violated the stretch policy by hiring Goodman, the court looks to the evidence proffered by both parties, viewing it in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.:

 

“Viewing the evidence in this light, the court concludes that there is a factual dispute with respect to whether the defendant’s decision to hire Goodman notwithstanding the plaintiff’s bid was consistent with standard practice within the Department. See Lathram, 336 F.3d at 1093-94. The court is in no position to resolve this dispute by crediting either party’s version of the facts, and contrary to the defendant’s assertions, it is far from clear from the evidence submitted that the decision to hire Goodman did not deviate from standard practice. Id. Thus, a reasonable jury could determine that the defendant failed to follow established procedures, which could in turn give rise to a determination that the defendant’s asserted nondiscriminatory justification for the hiring decision was pretextual. Brady, 520 F.3d at 495 n.3.

On The Hague POLAD position (see discussion starting on page 18). The Department does not contest the plaintiff’s account of the factual circumstances surrounding her requests to be considered for The Hague POLAD position. Id. At 13-15. Instead the Department exlains:

 

“that although it had already submitted its short list in November 1999, the position still appeared by mistake on the “open assignments” list. Id. at 13-14. Because Whitlock “did not have any involvement with [the Hague POLAD] placement,” he was unaware that bidding was closed on the position when he mistakenly told the plaintiff that the position was still open. Id. at 14. In December 1999, the position again erroneously appeared as an open assignment – this time on the “hard to fill” list – because the individual responsible for posting the “hard to fill” list was misinformed. Id. Finally, the defendant notes that the plaintiff would not have been offered the position even if she had been allowed to bid on it because she was less qualified than the successful candidate. Def.’s Mot. at 10, 29-30.”

Read the whole thing here.

I supposed that a lot of mid-level and senior officers would like to see how this case turns out. As well as junior/mid-level officers who may be interested in “stretch” and “double stretch” assignments. The entire assignment process could be on trial with this case. Who knows what will happen next? I happen to think that transparency in the bidding and assignment process is swell — if that elephant actually walks as well as it talks.

Is it time for State to rethink this whole process? Patricia H. Kushlis of Whirled View recently penned a piece entitled Clean Up Time at Foggy Bottom? It is a good read but you won’t see it published in the in-house magazines.

I can’t help thinking that the courts do have a way of inflicting change on organizations whether they are ready for it or not. In 1968, Foreign Service Officer Allison Palmer filed a sex discrimination case that she won three years later. Her victory, according to U.S. Diplomacy resulted in an order from management barring all discrimination in assignments.

As an aside, I ‘d like to note that the State Department did not overturn its ban on the marriage of female diplomats until 1972 1971. And until the early 70’s Foreign Service Officers were still evaluated partly on the performance and personal qualities of their wives. To think that this was considered normal in those days …

In 1977, another sex discrimination, this time a class action suit was filed by Carolee Brady Hartman against the U.S. Information Agency and the Voice of America. It was fought for 23 years and in 2000 finally resulted in a settlement that paid $532,000 to each of the nearly 1,100 women involved in the case.

I don’t know if this is the case that will break the transparent elephant’s back, let’s wait and see … shall we?

Related Items:

Information Overload? Filter Failure? Here Comes Alltop…

Aggregation Without the Aggravation


There are several places I visit at least once a day to keep up with what’s going on. I usually stop at the larger news aggregator because it saves time. But I’ve always wanted a personalized aggregator for the news outlet and blogs I’m most interested in. I haven’t found one that fits my idiosyncrasies like a glove, but I’ve found that Alltop is a good place to start.

Alltop says that its purpose is to help you and me answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest us. Whereas a search engine might be great in answering a query such as, “How many people live in China?” Alltop’s intent is to answer the question, “What’s happening in China?”

This grand aggregator, collects the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs on the web and then they group these collections — “aggregations” — into individual web pages. They display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. The feeds are refreshed approximately once every hour, so it should be as current as they come.

It says upfront that Alltop pages are starting points—they are not destinations per se. “Ultimately, our goal is to enhance your online reading by displaying stories from sources that you’re already visiting plus helping you discover sources that you didn’t know existed.”

It’s not there yet in my case, but it’s doing a fine start. And if you submit your feed, and other feeds you’re interested in, Alltop will build it into their system. The site must have RSS feeds however, or they cannot be imported into Alltop.

Imagine if you are a Political Officer in Latin America and have the option of being able to check with one click of a mouse “one online rack” that contains all the headlines of the newspapers and blogs in your region — wouldn’t that be super? Alltop is not quite at that level yet, and inclusion depends on availability of feeds but, if you want it done and you send in the feeds, they might just build you one.

Here are the things I like best about Alltop:

#1. I can go to one page and scroll through the headlines of the sites I’m interested in quickly. Saves time, mouse clicks and my eyesight. See Diplopundit’s Alltop page. And if you’re a speed reader and a news junkie rolled into one, you probably will find this really cool.

#2. Pointing the cursor over a headline prompts the display of date and first paragraph so I can decide quickly if I want to read more or skip the item.

#3. If I have already read a specific article without using Alltop, the headline of that article is grayed out in my Alltop page, which allows me to skip it quickly.

Here are the things that need some refinement:

#1. The topics are currently limited, but they welcome suggestions for additional topics and you can submit additional sites. Requests for inclusion can be submitted here: http://alltop.com/submission.

#2. I don’t know many feeds run through Alltop, but government agencies and think-tanks even those with multiple feeds are not really represented at this time. They did say if you submit the feeds, they will build the page.

#3. Some topics (see Politics) are so extensive that its Alltop page is quite long. The politics page is a mish-mash of feeds from online newspapers, individual blogs, organizations, global affairs, etc…. it’s almost as wild to navigate as the web. Well not nearly as wild but you get the drift. I would like the additional functionality of creating my own tabs or breaking down my page into several main topics (similar to Huffington Post) instead of lumping everything into one single page. This would allow me to create a tab for world affairs, politics, technology or whatever else interests me.

#4. I would like the added functionality of a site/blog look-up to help me build my My.Alltop page. Right now, I either have to scroll through the topics listed or browse the alphabetical listing. This takes way too much time. I already know which news outlets and blogs I want, I should be able to just look them up and add them to my page without having to dig them from the ever-expanding topics and ABC-listing

#5. I’d like to be able to pick the color displayed, but — I can live with orange.

Alltop is owned by Nononina, a “two guys and a gal” in a garage operation—according to its website one guy in a home office (Will Mayall), one gal on a kitchen table (Kathryn Henkens), and one Guy in United 2B (Guy Kawasaki). “They’ve been working together since the previous century and are still friends.”

This post is cataloged under “technology and work” where I occasionally write about online thingies that I find interesting or could be useful at work. I have no personal investment in Alltop or Nononina. Have fun building your own page!

Information Overload? Filter Failure? Here Comes Alltop…

Aggregation Without the Aggravation


There are several places I visit at least once a day to keep up with what’s going on. I usually stop at the larger news aggregator because it saves time. But I’ve always wanted a personalized aggregator for the news outlet and blogs I’m most interested in. I haven’t found one that fits my idiosyncrasies like a glove, but I’ve found that Alltop is a good place to start.

Alltop says that its purpose is to help you and me answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest us. Whereas a search engine might be great in answering a query such as, “How many people live in China?” Alltop’s intent is to answer the question, “What’s happening in China?”

This grand aggregator, collects the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs on the web and then they group these collections — “aggregations” — into individual web pages. They display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. The feeds are refreshed approximately once every hour, so it should be as current as they come.

It says upfront that Alltop pages are starting points—they are not destinations per se. “Ultimately, our goal is to enhance your online reading by displaying stories from sources that you’re already visiting plus helping you discover sources that you didn’t know existed.”

It’s not there yet in my case, but it’s doing a fine start. And if you submit your feed, and other feeds you’re interested in, Alltop will build it into their system. The site must have RSS feeds however, or they cannot be imported into Alltop.

Imagine if you are a Political Officer in Latin America and have the option of being able to check with one click of a mouse “one online rack” that contains all the headlines of the newspapers and blogs in your region — wouldn’t that be super? Alltop is not quite at that level yet, and inclusion depends on availability of feeds but, if you want it done and you send in the feeds, they might just build you one.

Here are the things I like best about Alltop:

#1. I can go to one page and scroll through the headlines of the sites I’m interested in quickly. Saves time, mouse clicks and my eyesight. See Diplopundit’s Alltop page. And if you’re a speed reader and a news junkie rolled into one, you probably will find this really cool.

#2. Pointing the cursor over a headline prompts the display of date and first paragraph so I can decide quickly if I want to read more or skip the item.

#3. If I have already read a specific article without using Alltop, the headline of that article is grayed out in my Alltop page, which allows me to skip it quickly.

Here are the things that need some refinement:

#1. The topics are currently limited, but they welcome suggestions for additional topics and you can submit additional sites. Requests for inclusion can be submitted here: http://alltop.com/submission.

#2. I don’t know many feeds run through Alltop, but government agencies and think-tanks even those with multiple feeds are not really represented at this time. They did say if you submit the feeds, they will build the page.

#3. Some topics (see Politics) are so extensive that its Alltop page is quite long. The politics page is a mish-mash of feeds from online newspapers, individual blogs, organizations, global affairs, etc…. it’s almost as wild to navigate as the web. Well not nearly as wild but you get the drift. I would like the additional functionality of creating my own tabs or breaking down my page into several main topics (similar to Huffington Post) instead of lumping everything into one single page. This would allow me to create a tab for world affairs, politics, technology or whatever else interests me.

#4. I would like the added functionality of a site/blog look-up to help me build my My.Alltop page. Right now, I either have to scroll through the topics listed or browse the alphabetical listing. This takes way too much time. I already know which news outlets and blogs I want, I should be able to just look them up and add them to my page without having to dig them from the ever-expanding topics and ABC-listing

#5. I’d like to be able to pick the color displayed, but — I can live with orange.

Alltop is owned by Nononina, a “two guys and a gal” in a garage operation—according to its website one guy in a home office (Will Mayall), one gal on a kitchen table (Kathryn Henkens), and one Guy in United 2B (Guy Kawasaki). “They’ve been working together since the previous century and are still friends.”

This post is cataloged under “technology and work” where I occasionally write about online thingies that I find interesting or could be useful at work. I have no personal investment in Alltop or Nononina. Have fun building your own page!

Insider Quote: Past is Present Even in the FS

“You see, you can change your life; you can move half way across the world, but you can never totally leave your past behind. In some unplanned way, when you least expect it, it will hit you like it happened yesterday. If your past contains some pain, and frankly whose doesn’t, thankfully these moments will diminish as you get further away from the events.”



Becky Boo
Travel Tales You can run but you can’t hide
(FS Specialist Blog)

Insider Quote: Past is Present Even in the FS

“You see, you can change your life; you can move half way across the world, but you can never totally leave your past behind. In some unplanned way, when you least expect it, it will hit you like it happened yesterday. If your past contains some pain, and frankly whose doesn’t, thankfully these moments will diminish as you get further away from the events.”



Becky Boo
Travel Tales You can run but you can’t hide
(FS Specialist Blog)