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Heard Around the Hillary-Sphere: the going cold turkey edition *updated*

August 27, 2009

42-22039596Hey, no worries, it’s already Thursday and I’ve managed to scrounge up some Hillary news every day and everybody who likes to keep up with what the Secretary of State is doing on a daily basis (or sometimes multiple times a day basis) has made it through this far with only some slight fine motor tremors and perhaps a bit of a cold, empty feeling inside. Heh.

And with that…

The recent Afghan election is a double-edged sword- democracy is good (so long as everyone can vote, of course), but this story below is giving the White House and State Department heart-burn:

It was a heated debate during the Bush administration: What to do about evidence that Afghanistan’s powerful defense minister was involved in drug trafficking? Officials from the time say they needed him to help run the troubled country. So the answer, in the end: look the other way.

Today that debate will be even more fraught for a new administration, for the former defense minister, Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, stands a strong chance of becoming the next vice president of Afghanistan.

In his bid for re-election, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has surrounded himself with checkered figures who could bring him votes: warlords suspected of war crimes, corruption and trafficking in the country’s lucrative poppy crop. But none is as influential as Marshal Fahim, his running mate, whose trajectory in and out of power, and American favor, says much about the struggle the United States has had in dealing with corruption in Afghanistan.

As evidence of the tensions, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton bluntly told Mr. Karzai that running with Marshal Fahim would damage his standing with the United States and other countries, according to one senior administration official.

Now, the problem of how to grapple with Marshal Fahim adds to the complexity of managing an uneasy relationship with Mr. Karzai. Partial election results show Mr. Karzai leading other contenders, but allegations of fraud threaten to add to the credibility problems facing a second Karzai-led government.

If Marshal Fahim did take office, the administration official said, the United States would probably consider imposing sanctions like refusing to issue him a travel visa — something it does with other foreign officials suspected of corruption — though the official cautioned that the subject had not come up in internal deliberations…

I’m continuing to see great commentary about the Secretary’s trip to Africa. This article is from Eve Ensler of VDay, which does unbelievable work on behalf of women and children who are survivors of sexual violence and Ensler has done a tremendous amount of front-line work in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

..While all this was happening Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Eastern Congo, propelled there by our campaign and the many groups and individuals joined in this effort. She met with our activists: Christine Schuler-Deschryver, Director of V-Day Congo, Esther Noto, V-Day Activist from Goma, Dr. Mukwege, Founder of Panzi Hospital and Godfather of the V-Men’s movement and Chou Chou Namegabe Nabintu, President of the South Kivu’s Association of Women Journalists (AFEM), her radio media group that V-Day is funding, who brilliantly and passionately put forward strategies and plans of actions that we have worked on for years. For maybe the first time in history a U.S. Secretary of State made the systematic raping of women the reason to visit a country. Clinton’s trip to Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signaled to the world that what happens to women actually matters. She listened to rape survivors, on the ground activists, and will hopefully be moved to action.

For many years activists inside and outside of the Congo have worked tirelessly and invisibly to end the war and stop the insane violence being perpetrated against women and girls. They have built local organizations on shoe string budgets, given shelter and food and counseling to the violated, provided medical treatment for raped women in the middle of war zones, done everything in their power to wake up the world to the war in the Congo, talking, writing, blogging about the facts – the over 5 million dead; the hundreds and thousands of raped and tortured women and girls; the exploitation of minerals which fuels the war; the role of Rwanda and Uganda in fighting their lethal wars inside the Congo; the legacy of colonialism and murder that laid the path to all that is happening now. The visit of Secretary Clinton is a marker of this struggle. And, much work needs to be done. Pressure needs to be sustained.

We need to insist on diplomatic solutions to the war and say no to military solutions. We must make sure that the training of a Congolese women’s police force actually happens, hold U.S. corporations accountable for their dealings in the DRC, end impunity by arresting and charging sexual terrorists and making them accountable for their acts, find support for a new Congolese Army, and support local women’s groups on the ground.

On that same topic, I came across this commentary over at HuffPo:

This is going out to the end of a very long limb, but contrary to the rumblings in progressive think tanks, let’s suggest that AFRICOM must be given a chance in eastern Congo. I fear I hear the chainsaws firing up as I write this. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a $17 million aid package aimed at assisting victims of sexual violence and preventing further atrocities during her visit to eastern Congo this month. Much of the aid program will be managed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and military advisors for the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM).

10,000 women are expected to receive assistance in the form of medical care, counseling, economic assistance and legal support. Clinton’s uncompromising condemnation of perpetrators of sexual violence has not been thoroughly emphasized or analyzed, but sniping has already begun about AFRICOM’s involvement in her initiative…

[snip]

This initiative has already begun and not a moment too soon for the innocents in Congo. Clinton should be given kudos for the speed at which she is fulfilling her promise to the women and children she met at the Mugunga I IDP camp. Clinton took a bold step by saying out loud what everyone has known for months–that the Congolese army is responsible for much of the sexual violence and displacement. She said this on Congolese turf.

Atrocities have been well documented by Human Rights Watch and United Nations Special Investigations, even though the facts have not been embraced by the UN Security Council. The United States is one of five permanent members of the Security Council and it seems Clinton may have executed an end-run around multi-national interests by this effort to use AFRICOM instead of relying on the UN to get the job done.

[snip]

Clinton seems to understand that there is no real motivation for Security Council members to end the violence and instability. But critics are already attacking Clinton’s AFRICOM initiative as a stealth move by the United States to establish a military base in Congo. This is unfortunate when the suffering has been escalating exponentially since January of this year, and the UN has done little to stop it. AFRICOM is the next best chance…

When Secretary Clinton returned from the Congo, I wrote about the importance of keeping this issue on the media radar in order to help the Secretary promote meaningful change in the region. As is often said, the plight of women in the eastern Congo is one of the most under-reported humanitarian failures of our time.

On a total different note, Media Matters takes aim at Rush Limbaugh for spreading lies about Secretary Clinton’s response to Senator Kennedy’s death. You can check it out here (it includes a video of Limbaugh, if you can stomach it).

Here was an interesting and kinda funny article about Secretary Clinton having been asked [during a Town Hall a while back] about why State Dept. employees can’t use Firefox at work (and the author has very strong opinions about Firefox!):

During a town hall meeting for State Department workers last month, an employee named Jim Finkle asked Hillary Clinton a very important question: “Can you please let the staff use an alternative Web browser called Firefox?” The room erupted in cheers. Finkle explained that he’d previously worked at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, where everyone enjoyed Firefox. “So I don’t understand why State can’t use it,” he said. “It’s a much safer program.”

You don’t have to know Jim Finkle or anyone else at the State Department to recognize their pain. Millions of workers around the world are in the same straits: They’ve heard about the joys of Firefox, the wonders of Google Docs, or any number of other great programs or Web sites that might improve how they work. Indeed, they use these apps at home all the time, and they love them. But at work they’re stymied by the IT department, that class of interoffice Brahmins that decides, ridiculously and capriciously, how people should work.

The secretary of state didn’t know why Firefox was blocked; an aide stepped in to explain that the free program was too expensive—”it has to be administered, the patches have to be loaded.” Isn’t that how it always is? You ask your IT manager to let you use something that seems pretty safe and run-of-the-mill, and you’re given an outlandish stock answer about administrative costs and unseen dangers lurking on the Web. Like TSA guards at the airport, workplace IT wardens are rarely amenable to rational argument. That’s because, in theory, their mission seems reasonable. Computers, like airplanes, can be dangerous things—they can breed viruses and other malware, they can consume enormous resources meant for other tasks, and they’re portals to great expanses of procrastination. So why not lock down workplace computers?

Here’s why: The restrictions infantilize workers—they foster resentment, reduce morale, lock people into inefficient routines, and, worst of all, they kill our incentives to work productively. In the information age, most companies’ success depends entirely on the creativity and drive of their workers. IT restrictions are corrosive to that creativity—they keep everyone under the thumb of people who have no idea which tools we need to do our jobs but who are charged with deciding anyway…


Yesterday I posted Laura Rozen’s update on what was going on in the Mid-East peace talks with George Mitchell and his Israeli counterparts and she provides another update today:

A day after Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks in London, a State Department official has provided guidance on the current status of the talks:

We are still engaged in the current round of conversations with Israel, the Palestinians, and Arab states.

As you know, there have been several inaccurate reports throughout this period about the status and nature of our discussions with Israel and other parties, and any reports that we have come to an agreement are premature. We hope to conclude this phase of discussions soon, but we have not concluded it yet. Senator Mitchell just met with Prime Minister Netanyahu in London to continue these discussions.

We are asking all parties to take serious, historic steps that will help lay the foundation for the resumption of meaningful negotiations that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel and comprehensive regional peace.

For the Israelis, this means stopping settlement activity and taking other steps to improve the daily life of Palestinians and live up to Roadmap obligations. For the Palestinians, this means taking measures to prevent terror and incitement and redouble efforts to reform Palestinian institutions.

We are also asking Arab states to take steps towards normalization with Israel, in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative…

Over at the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), Liz Cox Barrett points out Maureen Dowd’s total hypocrisy when it comes to quoting anonymous sources or commentary, given she did this all the time in her very slanted “reporting” on the Hillary Clinton campaign during the primaries. Good for Barrett.

With respect to the ongoing situation in Honduras:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is considering action against Honduras in the wake of its military takeover, a move that could lead to suspension of millions in U.S. development aid, a senior State Department official said Thursday.

Her staff has recommended that she sign a determination that the ouster and forced exile of President Manuel Zelaya on June 28 meets the legal definition of a coup d’etat, the official said.

That would trigger suspension of $215 million in U.S. aid under an anti-poverty program run by the Millennium Challenge Corp.

The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because a decision on the recommended action is still pending.

The presidential crisis in Honduras has put the Obama administration in a tricky position as it works with regional leaders to reinstate Zelaya, who is opposed by all branches of the Honduran government as well as the military, which removed him and flew him out of the country.

The Organization of American States sent a high-level delegation to Honduras this week to try to arrange the reinstatement of Zelaya but failed. U.S. officials have grown frustrated with the de facto Honduran government’s refusal thus far to accept a compromise solution proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who has acted as a mediator in the dispute…

Somebody (well, not just anybody, RodM!) just tweeted this to me on Twitter!:


The State Department will no longer automatically bar HIV-positive people from working with department contractors. The change in its policy is a result of a lawsuit in which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represented an anonymous U.S. Army veteran who was denied a security job with U.S. State Department contractor Triple Canopy Inc. because he is HIV positive.

According to the ACLU, which filed the lawsuit against Triple Canopy and the State Department in September 2008, the veteran’s dismissal was a violation of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In November 2005, a Triple Canopy director told the veteran he couldn’t be employed because the State Department wouldn’t allow workers living with HIV to be deployed overseas. The agreement between Triple Canopy and the State Department required the contractor to provide tests results proving that employees are HIV negative, according to legal documents.

“Although we have laws barring HIV discrimination in both the public and private sectors, the government’s contracts here seemed to require discrimination,” said Rose Saxe, a staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project.

This case is one of many recent challenges against the U.S. government regarding discrimination against people living with HIV in the workplace. It’s a subject that the Obama administration is taking very seriously, according to the ACLU.

This final bit of information is not directly related to Secretary Clinton, although down the road, it could be- it involves China trying to bully any nation who extends a formal invite to the Dalai Lama and props to Taiwan for doing so just recently and refusing to buckle under the pressure of China’s wrath.

The reason it may affect Secretary Clinton (and President Obama) down the road is because if I remember correctly, he is due to visit the US in October and the question that has been floating around some human rights/pro-Tibet websites, is whether or not the Obama administration will extend His Holiness a formal invitation to the White House and/or which top officials would meet with him given we seem to be, ummm, very, very deferential [to put it mildly] to the Chinese government recently. As I’ve said before on this blog, I am a BIG fan of the Dalai Lama and his work on behalf of human rights and peace and I will be very, very, very, very disappointed if President Obama does not extend an official invitation- I would also love to see Hillary Clinton meet with the Dalai Lama when he comes to this country in the fall.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. SteveR permalink
    August 28, 2009 7:01 am

    That is quite a round-up, all things considered so thanks for this!

    When are we going to see your Honduras post? I’m looking forward to that!

  2. August 28, 2009 8:50 am

    Steve- well even though Secy Clinton isn’t in the office, doesn’t mean she’s not working, so there will always be some news. As for Honduras I really need to put that post up later today when I get home b/c things are heating up again-the State Dept *seems* to be getting some pressure to stop dragging it’s feet and come out and annonce whether or not they are willing to declare it a military coup because legally that matters. A lot. I tend to think the de facto govt is using all it’s high-priced “consultants”, it’s control of the Honduran media and it’s high level political and business contacts here in the US to lobby against it being declared a military coup. Make no mistake, this is about money and well-connected business interests taking over the country to ensure their elite status wouldn’t be jeapordized by Zelaya and his proletariat, largely poor supporters wouldn’t have a leg-up politically.

    Can you tell I have strong feelings about this 😉

  3. August 28, 2009 12:26 pm

    I, too am a HUGE fan of the Dalai Lama and I am sure Hillary will meet with him in some capacity and venue (but I hope at the State Dept.).

    I am going to have to save the Firefox article (which IS funny: “The secretary of state didn’t know why Firefox was blocked; an aide stepped in to explain that the free program was too expensive….” – also sad).

    The techno-nazis inside institutions and corporations cannot stand the fact that they are losing control. They always seem to want to keep everything in the 1990s. They are so DOS and meanwhile, at least at home, many of us are living in then Clouds.

    I use a version of Firefox and I love it. People should be allowed to use multiple browsers. Especially the folks responsible for the social networking sites and websites need to be able to see how things look and work on DIFFERENT browsers. I don’t know how Hillary has patience with all this. She really is something more than human. I think of her as a goddess.

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