Quickie: Ambassador Hill Talks to the WSJ

Christopher R.Image via Wikipedia

Embassy website knows nothing about it

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill gave an interview to Gina Chon of The Wall Street Journal. He says:

“We try to be very active and engaged; we try to be out there. But we’re mindful that if it’s going to work, it’s going to work because it’s the Iraqis and not the Americans who are solving things. One has to keep that in mind. And what we’re seeing lately is an Iraqi process and that’s one to be encouraged and is encouraging. I want to be helpful in the process, not to be involved in the process, and make sure this seedling of democracy is really able to grow. I think this could be of truly historic proportions if Iraq can emerge from these years of transition as a democratic government. It’s very much in our interest to be engaged but not interfere.”

The article is here. The edited transcript of the interview is here. Don’t bother looking up the interview transcript in US Embassy Baghdad’s website; it’s not there. It might pleased you to know that Ambassador Hill did visit the Babylonian Ruins, although you won’t find that in the Embassy News either ‘cuz it’s in the ambo archives. The website was UPDATED: 05 Jun 2009 GMT and below is one of the non-update that still lives online:

2009 Press Release

Following are recent press releases from U.S. Embassy Baghdad, including speeches, remarks and statements by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and other U.S. Government officials.

Well obviously not recent enough. Would you please help me write a fan mail to the BaghdadPressOffice@state.gov asking them to get their act together and nudge them beyond the brick wall of the 20th century? This is ridigulous! (Caution: email address taken from embassy website, we make no promises that email address works).

AFSA Election Engagement Needs a Makeover

Completed AFSA ballots should already be received at the designated address COB June 11. According to the AFSA Elections Committee instructions, on June 12, 2009, the Elections Committee will count the ballots at AFSA Headquarters and declare elected the candidate receiving the greatest number of votes for each position. In case of a tie the election will be decided by a coin toss in the presence of the candidates concerned or their representatives. The committee will inform candidates individually of the election results by the swiftest possible means and will publish the names of all elected candidates in the next issue of the Foreign Service Journal and via the AFSA e-mail listserve. The elected candidates will take office on July 15, 2009, as provided in the bylaws.

I supposed this is a good time as any to propose areas for improvement for the next AFSA Election.

Online Videos

It’s about time for AFSA to create its own channel at YouTube. The channel could be used for normal AFSA business, such as appearances in Congress, but also during elections. Candidates who are overseas should be able to send their campaign video to AFSA or upload it directly to YouTube. With current technology, this should not be impossible. Having videos hosted by YouTube also help ensure that the media format is viewable just about anywhere with an Internet connection.

Town Hall Meeting

Election candidates must commit to attending the sole town hall meeting during the election. During this election, there were candidates who were unable to attend the meeting due to other concerns. The way I see it, if somebody is campaigning to represent your interest, he/she must at least show that he/she will be present. The town hall meeting should be announced three weeks ahead of time to give everyone a chance to put it in their schedules and make arrangements to attend.

Endorsements by Incumbent AFSA Governing Board Members and Staff

The AFSA election guidelines say that “AFSA staff has been directed to avoid any action that gives advantage to one candidate over another, and to deal with candidates as instructed by the Elections Committee. Also that “AFSA representatives at posts abroad, when acting in their capacity as AFSA representatives, must scrupulously avoid actions tending to favor one candidate over another.”

The AFSA Election Committee should probably clarify the endorsements by incumbent AFSA Governing Board Members of one slate over another. If an AFSA official endorses a candidate in his/her personal capacity, does it mean that the official cannot use his/her AFSA title? Does it mean that an AFSA official cannot send email with his/her title while campaigning for or endorsing a slate or group of candidates? This need to be clarified as using the AFSA title unavoidably lends the perception that it is an official and not a private endorsement.

AFSA Election page in Facebook or…

AFSA sends out one Special Election Edition of AFSANews. But it is printed material and not online. I understand the need for the printed edition, considering that in many places we still have dial-up connections, but AFSA can expand its member engagement by putting this out in Facebook or in a similar social media platform like Ning. Another option is to tie up with www.aafsw.org and use its Livelines forum for a limited discussion on AFSA issues. Although Livelines has a lot of family members, there are also active FS officers and specialists in the forum, and it is a large group. Another alternative is to run an election chat in http://webmessenger.yahoo.com/index.php for a limited time. These options should give AFSA members multiple options to stay engage on the issues.

AFSA Elections Forum

I have this for last because there are a few items on the Forum that are troublesome: 1) A lot of the campaigning and discussions do not seem to be happening in the forum but down the halls, and corridors, chanceries and via emails. Slates and independent candidates must commit to using the online forum. Due to the wide dispersion of AFSA voters, this is only one of the few options for discussion of relevant issues affecting the Foreign Service that is transparent and inclusive. I also hope that the forum can be updated so the messages appear in threaded format, making it easier to follow a conversation online.

2) Lack of participation. The Clean Slate forum did have some discussions about mandatory retirement age and WAE, while the Team AFSA forum seems to be overrun with discussion about campaign tactics. The other thing that is surely a turn off to voters is Team AFSA candidate for president telling forum participants asking about priorities “I invite you to visit our web site at http://www.E3TeamAFSA.org.” Why would AFSA members visit the forum if all they’d be told is to look it up in a website? Candidates must commit to responding to inquiries and campaign issues posted in the forum instead of sending them off elsewhere with a link. This is the only way AFSA can improve participation in this forum.

3) Shenanigans in the AFSA forum. Truth to tell I kept returning to it because it seems to have its own story to tell. I’m not sure what AFSA can do to clean this up for the next round. Perhaps an appeal from the candidates running at the top of the ticket to keep this forum real but dignified?

First there was “Joe Voter” who posted:

Subject: Who’s running?
From: “Joe Voter”
Date/Time: Thursday, 07 May 2009 – 11:25 PM

I believe as a State Dept person, a great
deal of issues needed to be addressed
during the election. I have received the
pamplets, I have received the SPAM and I
have heard from the candidates, It’s
imperative and obvious that some have some
(CLAEN SLATE) gone “overboard” with the
money, the time and the effort – Do they
work?. Does CLAEN SLATE work for the
Depertment of State or are they free lance?
They spend an increadible amount of time
and $$ wanting to win but do they deserve
it? Money isn’t enough. Go independents and
those running agiainst Mr. Hirsch and

A few days later when I came back there was a post from Mrs. Joe Voter!

Subject: Hey look – Joe the Plumber, oops Voter is here!
From: Mrs. Joe Voter
Date/Time: Tuesday, 12 May 2009 – 02:06 AM

I’ve been looking all over for you, Joe. So
this is where you’ve been lurking. Would you
come home already? The kids are hungry! What
— somebody “overboarded” you? Is that why
you can’t spell correctly anymore? Just quit
lurking there and come home already, ok pumpkin?

There were multiple posts from “Tim Johnson,” including the one below:

Subject: Who are you fooling?
From: Tim Johnson
Date/Time: Friday, 08 May 2009 – 03:35 PM

Who are you fooling? Kelly Brikhmonf, Shawn
Mangiacotti, Steve Pretzman, Janice Hopkins
and Alex Copher, whose anti-CLEAN Slate
hate mail was entered above, cannot be
found either in the GAL or in AFSA’s
membership roster. I invite anyone with
access to State’s E-mail system or AFSA’s
roster to look them up. They may or may not
be real people, but they don’t work for the
State Department and they are not AFSA
members. I would be willing to bet that
they don’t even exist.

My! My! Would these be called “ghost” voters? And just when you think, it could not get any hotter there’s this new post below. Apparently there is more than one Tim Johnson in the Department. Look it up in the GAL and let me know if this is not true. This tells you just how important reputation is in this universe.

Subject: A Message To The Forum
From: Timothy R. Johnson
E-mail: JohnsonTR@state.gov
Date/Time: Tuesday, 19 May 2009 – 04:31 PM

My name is Timothy R. Johnson. I am a
Foreign Service Officer currently studying at
FSI and on my way to Moscow this Fall. I was
recently made aware of this discussion forum
by a professional colleague. I am writing
now simply to say that I am not the same
individual who has posted here in the past as
“Tim Johnson”. Therefore, all views
expressed by that individual, both past and
future, are his own and should not be
attributed to me. Thank you.

Then somebody took “Tim Johnson” to task for being “rude and unfair.”

Subject: Thanks Susan
From: Jarrod Frahm
E-mail: frahmj@state.gov
Date/Time: Thursday, 07 May 2009 – 10:48 PM

AFSA Presidential Candidiate:

I see an awful lot of hate eminating from
the other folks (slates and independents).
You have truly managed a respectful
Regardless what what some have said, I
believe you are straightforward, honest and
have made a concerted effort to be fair and
helpful. I met you twice and you have been
fair and thanks. The CLEAN SLATE and Tim
Jonhnson seeems rude and unfair. Thanks
Johnson and I hope you win. I will vote due
to people like Mr. Johnson

But wait! Then the real Jarrod Frahm showed up in the forum:

Subject: Forum Games
From: The REAL Jarrod Frahm
Date/Time: Tuesday, 02 June 2009 – 11:29 AM

I have not endorsed either slate of
candidates nor have I previously addressed
any issue or experience in these forums.
Anyone who claims to be me is committing
identity fraud.


Ayayay! Then there’s this post from Bill Sutherland:

Subject: Tex – You ROCK
From: Bill Sutherland
Date/Time: Thursday, 07 May 2009 – 11:32 PM

Your are the cement that binds AFSA. You
have been attacked by some as old and
already have the “Tee shirt”. Poppy cock!
You keep fighting and thanks.


Oopsie! A Bill Sutherland showed up and renounced the prior post!

Subject: I did not write the above!
From: Bill Sutherland
Date/Time: Wednesday, 27 May 2009 – 05:56 PM

My name is Bill Sutherland. I just want to
state for the record that I did not write
the posting shown above. I know Tex Harris.
He has not stood for anything in many
years. I would not vote for him. I would
not endorse him. And I did not write the
posting shown above.

Bill Sutherland

You see how confusing this is? Remember what they say about a food fight? The AFSA election should not be a virtual food fight. Whoever wins in this election, I hope the new Board starts rethinking about the rules that govern the election and its engagement with the membership. There’s every reason to do so — diplomats do not look good in a food fight!

SFRC Hearings: Kurt M. Campbell

111th Congress
First Session

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Time: 9:30 A.M.
Place: 419 Dirksen Senate Building
Presiding: Senator Webb

Senator Lugar’s Opening Statement


Kurt M. Campbell
to be Assistant Secretary of State
for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

To view the video of the confirmation hearings, click on the heading “NOMINATIONS” on this page and the Committee Channel should pop up. Links to testimonies/opening statements will be added as soon as they are available online.

Updated 6/11 with links to testimonies.

Insider Quote: Embassy Wives & Tea Parties

Lipton Tea Tin - Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum ...Image by SAITOR via Flickr

“Arthur served under three ambassadors during our seven years in London. There were times when Embassy wives met regularly with the wife of the Ambassador at Wingfield House, the official residence. On one occasion, we were asked to assist in a tea party for lords and ladies, dowagers and what-not. We attended a sort of rehearsal before the tea so that we would know just what to do and how to act. On the assigned day, we arrived early, and when the guests arrived, we were all smiles and conviviality. I had no time to see how the others did, busy as I was in seeing that the ladies I happened to be with had their tea and cake and that the conversation flowed smoothly. The tea party didn’t last long, and I was glad when it was over. What was my surprise to be told by the Ambassador’s wife that we had been of little help and that she was very disappointed in us! She never asked us again to help her out with a tea party, for which we were duly thankful!”

Mildred Teusler Ringwalt

Memoirs of a Foreign Service Officer’s Wife (1938-1958)
The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training