Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The mail

Marketplace (PRI) has a story about the cuts to the postal office:

John Dimsdale: This year's closings mean about 20 percent of first-class mail that now gets delivered to regional destinations overnight will take two days.
Sally Davidow: It's going to slow down the mail.
Sally Davidow is a spokeswoman for the American Postal Workers Union. Once all the targeted mail facilities are closed, the union will lose 28,000 members through attrition and buyouts. And Davidow says customers can expect delays in deliveries of medicine, newspapers and magazines.
Davidow: And then there's the regular correspondence that people get. You know the bills, the statements, the checks they want to send in. All that's going to be slowed down.
But few people depend on the post office for overnight mail, says Sue Brennan of the Postal Service.

They had a segment on the Fed yesterday or Monday that I wanted to highlight but now I can't find it.  In it, they quoted the film This Is Spinal Tap. 

It was actually a funny and informative segment and I wanted to give them some praise for that but I cannot find it for the life of me.

Hopefully, I'll find it by tomorrow night.  If I don't, it was a great segment, well done.

In the meantime, All Things Considered had this very sad report:about the Fed: "they said unemployment is likely to remain just above 8%."

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Wednesday:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants Barack to kill an ExxonMobil deal, Nouri wants TOTAL to stay away from the KRG, Moqtada al-Sadr states the US is still controlling Iraq, US House Rep Bob Filner calls out the VA on its lack of progress, an American family tries to get the body of their loved one back from Iraq, and more.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Bob Filner: Now, by the way, Mr. [US House Rep Timothy] Walz -- now, Mr. Walz, she [VA Under Secretary Allison Hickey] doesn't need your defense here for her past accomplishments. And I don't need a lecture from you of her past.  We're talking about what she's going to do for the VA now. I'll stipulate any accomplishments that she's had. I respect her service.  But if she can't do this job, I don't care what she has done in the past.  Okay? So don't lecture me about how I don't have respect for someone's past.  She's talking about the future -- the present and the future.  And she didn't give one answer or one recognition that there was any problem -- in all her testimony, in every answer.  This Chairman [Marlin Stutzman] asked her a number of things. She talked for three-and-a-half minutes and didn't give the answer and still doesn't know the answer.  So let's talk about what she's doing right here and right now.  And I said if one of your veterans -- And she didn't answer your question, your very good questions, Mr. Walz, about the time period of what's going on in Minneapolis?  She just said, 'Oh, from time to time we have surges.'  You asked are we heading toward a lowest common denominator and she never answered that.  So don't -- I mean be a little more critical of the kind of answers we're getting.  We don't have a plan. This whole hearing was about a plan.  If I were her, I would have given out the plan.  But we still don't have one.  Again, Ms. Hickey, if I were you, leadership comes from the top. The top is saying, "There is no problem."  You ask any veteran in my district, in Mr. Walz' district, in Mr. [Mike] Michaud's district, in Mr. Stutzman's district: Is there a problem?  Every one will say, "Yes."  Now you can say, 'They don't understand fully.  Their perception is wrong, we've had a surge of this.  We did this.  We had the Vietnam era.'  I don't care what -- you have not either acknowledged the problem or say how we're going to get out of it.  You gave us an assurance of a date.  And Mr. Walz asked --  I know it's not a very bright question -- 'Are you committed? Is it going to happen?'  What is she going to say?  "No"?  We've had these questions, we've had these committments for years and years and years and years.  And Mr. Walz asked you another softball question: 'Has anything been tried as this big before?  We have tried every single thing that you have as your initiatives -- has been tried.   Every one of them at some point.  In fact, we've had far more comprehensive plans than your forty initiatives lumped together.  Nothing has worked.  It's gotten worse.  And you refuse to admit it.  You refuse to acknowledge it.  And you don't give us a plan to fix it.  What am I to think? 'Well, she was an Air Force General that did great things.'  If it doesn't happen by 2015, are you going to say I resign or what's going to happen if you're at the top?  And it's always two or three years out.  It's never, "I'm going to do this tomorrow."  You've been working on this.  Your predecessor's been working on this.  I don't have any assurance.  You can't even correct a date on the computer for a year-and-a-half and you call it a "glitch."  What confidence do I have that you can do anything if it took a year-and-a-half to fix a "glitch?"  The simplest thing.  Put a date in.  You could have done it by hand in a few months.  It took you a year-and-a-half.  You still haven't done it.  I'm sure we'll get a memo from you -- I just bet, you want to make a bet right now -- that you'll ask for another extension.  I just bet.  When's that going to be done?  Why should we have any confidence in 2015 that a system of a million backlog is going to be fixed when we can't even get a "glitch" fixed in a year-and-a-half?  What gives me the confidence?  That you were an Air Force General?  Sorry, it doesn't work. Give me some confidence.  What has worked so far?  Everything has been a problem.
Yesterday US House Rep Gus Bilirakis and other Republicans chaired a VBA hearing.  Chair Jeff Miller wasn't present for the hearing.  "Well here we are again," observed Ranking Member Bob Filner, "I think one of the first meetings I went to twenty years ago as a member of the Veterans Committee was on the backlog. We've hired what?  In the last few years, maybe 10,000, 15,000 employees."
 I spent last night on the phone to friends in federal, state and municipal government because Bilirakis brought up an issue that I didn't feel comfortable speaking to without some research.  Bilirakis noted the claims progress, or rather the lack of progess.
Acting Chair Gus Bilirakis: VBMS I know that I and my fellow Committee members and our Ranking Member have many questions to ask as to when this system will be ready for national roll out rolled out and how issues relating to the scanning of paper documents will be handled in the future.  As a matter of fact, VA's contract with the US National Archives and Records Administration, the agency currently handling VA's scanning needs, expires on June 26th, just one week from today.   I'll ask what goes after, what's going to happen on June 27th?
Backlog needs to be farmed out.  I'm not surprised or troubled by that.  I'm bothered by backlog being created as I type this sentence.  Paper taken in today should not become part of a backlog.  The first person touching that paper in the VA should be immediately scanning it into the system.  (Then it would be put in a box for archiving, as was explained last night, according to whatever retention program they're operating under.)  The paper needs to be addressed immediately.  And how do you address it?
You don't hire one or two people in the office to scan documents and carry the documents to them.  That's how you begin creating the backlog.  The first person to handle the paper, is the one who scans it.  Every one that comes after is referring to the digital copy in the system after that.  And everyone responsible for accepting paperwork or opening mail has a light scanner (inexpensive) attached to their computer and they immediately scan what they receive.
That's the only way you're going to end the paper backlog. There is no excuse for creating new backlog.   Again, I'm not disputing the farming out of the existing backlog.  There's no way VA employees can catch up with that and also do their current job tasks.  But new backlog should not be created.  You touch a claims application, you scan it in and then it goes to a pile to be boxed up for archives.  The original is not sent somewhere else in the office to be scanned or placed with stacks of others to be farmed out for scanning.
How much of a problem is the claims request?  Do they get lost?  I was told by three people with the VA that "missing" happens more than "lost" with "lost" meaning -- in their usuage -- it's not showing back up and "missing" meaning a week or two of fumbling around for the paper.  (How often are original paper documents "missing?"  "From time to time" and "it happens" were the responses, no one with the VA wanted to give a percentage or an estimate.) 
Many governments are already moving towards that.  In your local areas, getting an application to put up a fence means turning it and paying for the permit and more and more local governments are scanning that document in right there when payment is being taken.  They're doing that to prevent the loss that can take place when the original document is routed to one or more different people before it's entered into the system.  This is not a "C.I. brainstorm."  This is what is happening in government offices around the country and what the VA should immediately begin doing.  There is no need to create new backlog and even without a numbered estimate of how many claims application are lost each year, one is too many.    The longterm goal is for VA to move away from paper altogether.  They're not their yet and they're really not prepared for that at present which is the point US House Rep Phil Roe made -- he is also medical Dr. Phil Roe -- when he discusses his own practice's transition to paperless.  Disabled American Veterans Jeffrey Hall also raised the issue of the paper backlog, the future paperless goal and more.  Hall, VFW's Gerald Manar, The American Legion's Richard Dumancas and Paralyzed Veterans of America's Sherman Gillums made up the first panel.  The National Archives Records Administration's William Bosanko was the second panel.  The third panel was the IG.  Fourth panel was the VA's Allison Hickey, Alan Bozeman and Roger Baker.
Jeffrey Hall: Mr. Chairman, even before VBMS was first conceived, it was clear that in order to have a paperless claims process there must be a comprehensive system in place to digitze paper documents.  Yet VBA has failed to finalize a long-term scanning solution, in part because it has not yet definitively answered fundamental questions about when and which legacy documents will be scanned into VBMS.  Although VBA has committed to moving forward with a paparelss system for new claims, it has dragged its feet for more than two years in determining under what conditions existing paper claims files would be converted to digital files.  Because a majority of claims processed each year are for reopened or appealed claims and because files can remain active for decades, until all legacy claims are converted to digital data files, VBA could be forced to continue paper processing for decades.  We have been told that VBA's current plans are to convert claims files that have new rating-related actions, but not those with minor actions such as dependency or address changes.  However, the uncertainty over the past couple of years about how much scanning would be required, and at what cost, is at least partly responsible for VBA's reliance on NARA and its current rush to find a new scanning vendor.  While there are very difficult technical questions to be answered, and significant financial considerations involved in transitioning to all-digital processing, particular involving legacy paper files, we believe VBA would be best served by taking the most aggressive approach feasible in order to shorten the length of time this transition takes.  While the conversion from paper processing to VBMS will require substanital upfront investment, it will pay dividends for VBA and veterans in the future.  We would urge VBA to provide -- and Congress to review -- a clear plan for eliminating legacy paper files, one that includes realistic timeliness and resource requirements.
As noted before, there were several acting chairs for the hearing.  It was a disturbing hearing as we heard the same things that we've heard over and over.  But there were some new revelations as well.  However, that might have been even more disturbing.  Excerpt.
Acting Chair Marlin Stutzman: I'd like to do a second round because I'd like to talk about the scanning issue.  Why did it take this Committee calling a hearing for the VA to meet with NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] to discuss next week's scanning contract expiration?  I mean this is, I think, the frustration that's felt around here.  It's these sorts of things that we find out about and why isn't there some sort of pro-active movement before this?  Can you -- can you give us an explanation of why the contract is set to expire next week?  There isn't a contract.  Is there some other plan that the VBA is planning on implementing? Is it going to be done in-house? I mean, I know for us, Congressional offices, we have folks that we could use to scan things in.  I'm sure that you're system is a little bit more complicated.  We're spending ten million dollars a year, if I remember the number correctly.  It seems like we could do it cheaper and it seems like we could get it done.  Is there a plan to address that?
Allison Hickey:  Congressman -- I mean Chairman Stutzman, yes, there is.  I will defer the first part of it to my Assistant Secretary for Information Technology, Roger Baker. 
Roger Baker:  Thank you. I just want to talk to the NARA piece.  NARA's been our partner on this for two years so let me start with will we have an agreement with them by the end of this week to continue them for the next year? I believe the answer to that is "yes."  I know that's in process.  I checked with my staff while we were listening to this going on.  Got absolute assurances that there is really nothing in the way of that completing by the end of this week.  So it's a little bit different than a normal government contractor relationship.  Because it's a government-to-government relationship, it's much easier to do.  We've used NARA primarily from a development standpoint. 
That's more than enough from him.  I'm really tired of witnesses who eat time to avoid answering questions.  Stutzman would go on to ask about the cost.  "I really don't know," Baker told him.  The cost is a per-page scanned fee.  Well then you should know it.  And it's probably not a good idea to tell Congress and taxpayers that the deal will be closed by the end of the week but you don't know how much the VA will be paying for the scanning.  See, most people would assume that you find out the cost before you start closing on a contract.  Rushing to complete a deal when you don't know the cost doesn't look like you're being scrupulous with the taxpayer money. 
And it's not good to call something a plan when, as Acting Chair Stutzman noted, it's a presentation (slide show) of variables, not a plan.  Excerpt.
Ranking Member Bob Filner:  When you were asked: "Do you have a plan?," you said, "Yes, we supplied it to the Committee."  This is not a plan.  This is not a strategic plan.  I will ask you again, do you have a strategic plan?  And why don't you just have it with you and give it to us?  That's the title of this hearing [Reclaiming the Process: Examing the VBA Claims Transformation Plan as a Means to Effectively Serve our Veterans].  Do you have a plan to give to us this minute?
Allison Hickey: I do have a plan, Congressman Filner.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: You what?
Allison Hickey: I do have a plan.  I do not have it in this book, in these materials.  I'm happy to provide it for the Committee.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Why are you providing it with us, a plan of execution?  You're going to provide it to us?  Why don't you have it here?  You have 18 people here working  for you.  Give us the plan.  That's all we're asking for.  You said you did it.  [Shaking head] We have some slides.  We don't have a strategic plan of how you're going to execute this so-called transformation which sounds more like a fossil-formation.  So where is the plan?
Allison Hickey:  Congressman Filner, I have the plan.  It's in Word document.
Ranking Member Bob Filner:  A secret one or what?
Allison Hickey: No, it is not a secret document.  In fact, I have shared it with Veterans Service Organizations, with our labor partners, with --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: I just said none of us have seen it.  Why don't you have it with you?
Allison Hickey: I will be happy to bring it to you, sir.
The paper backlog  and the some-day-transition-to-paperless are issues and are problems.  There are other problems. The worst backlog problems is veterans waiting and waiting for their claims to go through the process.  And, as Ranking Member Bob Filner noted, this isn't weeks or months, this is years.  He estimated that there were 100,000 Agent Orange claims -- from Vietnam era veterans -- waiting, over thirty years, he noted.
He noted that the IRS used to have a huge backlog and you waited and waited forever and ever for a refund check if you had one coming.  What changed that?  Why can you now file and get money within three weeks if you have a refund coming?  Because it's "subject to audit."
Ranking Memer Bob Filner argued that's what should be taking place with the VA today, "Grant the claim, subject to audit. Send out a check."
Ranking Member Bob Filner:  What have we done in the last few years? Doubled the backlogs. Raised the rate of inaccuracy, according to the recent report, up to 25%.  This is disgraceful.  This is an insult to our veterans. And you guys just recycle old programs, put new names on them, and here we are again.  Do you know what the definition -- one definition of insanity is?  Try the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  I mean somebody has to take responsibility for this.  We just keep announcing new names, new pilot programs, on and on.  We're up to 1.2 million by one count on backlog. If it wasn't tragic, it would be ridiculous.
Acting Chair Bilirakis raised another issue that needs further attention.  So we'll ignore it here.  Seriously, it'll be carried over to Third on Sunday because it's one of the issues -- the first one -- that we discussed with Dona in "Congress and Veterans."  It has to do with education and I see Bilirakis' concerns (which are solid concerns) as related to Senator Richard Burr's concerns that we discussed with Dona for the piece last Sunday so it makes more sense to pick it up this coming Sunday at Third.  There's something we're carrying over for tomorrow already as it is.  I'll be one day behind on hearings all week, I bet but I didn't know a damn thing about storage of records or moving towards digitized or anything and I needed all the wonderful people who walked me through the process last night (thank you to all) so I could understand the hearing I'd sat through.  There's a press release on the hearing that we'll include in a morning entry tomorrow there's not room for it today.
Violence continues in Iraq.  Alsumaria reports a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people -- including a 3-year-old child -- injured.  It's been a bad week for children with the bombing today and the targeting of children in kidnappings this week.   Al Rafidayn reports a Kirkuk car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left nine injured.  BBC News reports Judge Aziz Abdul Qadir was the target of the bombing and that he and two of his bodyguards are among the injured.  AFP counts 141 people killed in Iraq so far this month.  In addition, the Herald of Scotland notes that a clash yesterday between the PKK and Turkish military left sixteen soldiers injured.  The Oman Tribune reports that 20 PKK were killed in the altercation.  Jennifer Parker (Foreign Policy) notes, "Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul have both condemned the violence and denounced the PKK militants as terrorists. Selahattin Demirtas, the head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, has also criticized the hostilities, adding, 'The PKK should stop all kinds of armed activity. The government should also halt (military) operations. Let them give a political solution a chance'."   Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."  BBC reports the Turkish military has announced it struck PKK targets today.  AP notes KRG President Massoud Barzani called for peace today, stating, "The time for war and weapons has passed."  On the subject of violence, RBC Radio notes:
A UN investigator has called on the Obama administration to justify its policy of assassinating rather than capturing Al-Qaeda or Taleban suspects, increasingly with the use of unmanned drone aircraft that also take civilian lives. Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, urged Washington to clarify the basis under international law of the policy, in a report issued overnight to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The 47-member Geneva forum is to hold a debate later on Tuesday.
The US military has conducted drone attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, in addition to conventional raids and air strikes, according to Heyns, a South African jurist serving in the independent post. "Disclosure of these killings is critical to ensure accountability, justice and reparation for victims or their families," he said in a 28-page report. "The (US) government should clarify the procedures in place to ensure that any targeted killing complies with international humanitarian law and human rights and indicate the measures or strategies applied to prevent casualties, as well as the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations."
On today's bombings, Reuters notes that Diyala Province electrical towers and lines were bombed by unknown assailants. This comes a day after Nouri finally decided to spend a little of the billions Iraq brings in on oil each year to provide some electricity.  Nayla Razzouk and Khalid al-Ansary (Bloomberg News) report that Iraq has agreed to pay Weatherford International $843 million to put in six new power plants "at the Zubair oil fields in the south of the country."

Alsumaria reports on their exclusive interview with Moqtada al-Sadr.  Moqtada states the US still occupies Iraq and that the so-called withdrawal was purely symbolic.  He states that Iraqis seek an Iraq free of US interference and one free of the US Embassy.  He declares that the US Embassy is merely a cover to keep foreign foces (contractors, Marines and some soldiers) in Iraq under the guise of protecting the Embassy staff.
Along with those guarding the embassy, consulate and staff, there are all the US service members who were moved to Kuwait.
Maqsood Hussain (News Tribe) reports, "The United States has now nearly 15,000 troops in three bases across Kuwait -- triple the average number of American forces in the Middle Easter country before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 [. . .],"  Jennifer Rizzo (CNN) opens with, "The United States has approximately 15,000 troops in Kuwait, according to a Senate report released Tuesday,, the first time the number has been disclosed,"  RT goes with, "Despite the troop withdrawal from Iraq, the American military presence in the area is set to expand," Evann Gastaldo (Newswer) launches a Platonic dialogue, "The US has no combat force in Iraq and a wary eye on Iran: What's a nervous country to do? Maintain a force in neighboring Kuwait, apparently."  They're referring to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council" which you can find more on in yesterday's snapshot. 15,000.  And the report recommends that a little over 13,000 stay in Kuwait for several years to come.  Aren't you glad Barack brought ALL the troops home?  (No, he didn't.)
Iraq and Kuwait were in the news today for other reasons as well.  The UN News Centre reports:
The Security Council today urged the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait to step up their engagement with the United Nations envoy helping the two countries resolve issues pending from Iraq's 1990 invasion, including finding Kuwaiti or third-country nationals.
"The members of the Security Council welcomed the continued cooperation of the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait, and their high-level commitments to full implementation of all Iraqi obligations to Kuwait under the relevant resolutions," the Council said in a statement issued to the press following a closed-door meeting.
The Council was briefed by Ambassador Gennady Tarasov, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's High-Level Coordinator for the issue of missing Kuwait and third-country nationals and property, on Mr. Ban's latest report on the issue.
Wednesday, the big story in the Iraqi press was Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's letter to US President Barack Obama asking/requesting/demanding (depends upon the account) that Barack kill ExxonMobil's deal with the KRG.  Kitabat uses "warned" of the October 18th contracts between the parties and quotes a spokesperson for Nouri, Ali al-Moussawi, stating that these contracts could start wars and could rip the country apart.


If that's the case, maybe Nouri should show some leadership and back the hell off his non-stop complaining about the contract?  Don't hold your breath for that to happen.  Dar Addustour reports Nouri is prepared to go to the extreme -- they're citing al-Moussawi on that and what the "extreme scores" would be is not specified.

But what the statements make clear is that it's not the ExxonMobil contract that's causing problems.  It's Nouri's reactions to the contracts.

Al Rafidayn reports that, thus far, there's no response from Barack but National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor acknowledged that the letter from Nouri was received.  Reuters reports today, "Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan expects more oil majors to follow Exxon Mobil Corporation in the next few months in striking deals in the region, where oil shipments will resume, its natural resources minister said, despite a dispute with Baghdad." April Yee (The National) observes, "A hydrocarbon law remains a mirage in Baghdad and the reality is dawning that Iraq's plans to become one of the world's top-five oil producers are jeopardised by the legal deadlock."  Reuters also notes that Nouri's government had a message for France's TOTAL today, "Iraq gave a veiled warning to France's Total on Wednesday not to make deals with the autonomous Kurdish region without the approval of central government in Baghdad."  His tantrums come as oil has dropped over 20% per barrel in the last two months with the current pdb being $82.

 An Iraq War veteran returned to Iraq as a DynaCorp week and was dead a week later.  Now his family fights to have his body returned to the US.  Steve Shaw of Oklahoma's News 9 (link is text and video) reports:

Angela Copeland: They came in and they told me that they had found Michael deceased in his living quarters.

 Steve Shaw:  Michael Copeland's widow Angela is distraught -- not only because of Michael's sudden death but because our State Dept told Copeland's family Iraqi leaders say Copeland died of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome -- or SARS -- an extemely rare disease, and our State Dept bought it.  Iraq says it can't release the body.  Michael Copeland's fathe says he talked to his son by phone just 12 hours before his death,  nobody's died from SARS since 2003, and he says that his son showed no signs of the disease.

Mike Copeland:  Everyone that I've spoke with is always sorry for our loss but they say there's nothing they can do. I find that very difficult to believe.  That my government?  There's nothing they can do to bring my son home fom Iraq?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's SARS page notes:

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. The illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained. Since 2004, there have not been any known cases of SARS reported anywhere in the world. The content in this Web site was developed for the 2003 SARS epidemic. But, some guidelines are still being used. Any new SARS updates will be posted on this Web site.

No new updates have been posted to the CDC's page.

"Not only are we having to deal with the loss," Angela Copeland tells NewsOn6, "but we're having to deal with the battle to get him back home."  Michael Copeland died June 9th.  She tells Victoria Maranan (KXII -- link is video),  "There is absolutely no excuse in this world that you could give me that could convince me why he should not be home."  Jerry Wofford (Tulsa World) reports on the case and quotes Oklahoma State Rep. Dustin Roberts stating, "Michael David Copeland was a man who served our nation as a Marine and our state as a National Guardsman, and his family deserves better than this."  Zach Maxwell (Durant Democrat) reports this evening, "The family of Michael Copeland is still waiting for answers more than 10 days after the former Marine and National Guardsman passed away in Iraq."
In the US, Fred Kaplan of Slate magazine is an idiot.  (No link for obvious reasons and Rebecca's correct that I would love to use this as the excuse to end this site on the Fourth, next month).   We last dealt with Baby Dumb F**k when he attacked Brian De Palma.   He's so supremely stupid that people wonder about Brooke but I always say that like the fat-man-skinny-wife couples on TV in the late 90s and during the '00s, Fred and Brooke are the-stupid-fool-brilliant-wife combo.
Kappy writes a column about Brett McGurk's nomination while never once considering the Iraqi people.  Iraqiya is mentioned (in a bad paragraph).  Iraqiya is popular, they are not the Iraqi people.  The Iraqi people are approximately 30 million and Foolish Fred wants you to know how wonderful his man crush Brett would have been in the job.  No, he wouldn't have been good in the job.  The clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (al-Sistani is the only true calming influence in the country, if he requests that the temperature of rhetoric be lowered, it gets lowered), could not be comfortable with McGurk.  He came to Iraq a married man.  He had an affair in Iraq.  On top of that, he left his wife.  He divorced her.  Gina Chon would have been his "_____" if she'd accompanied him to Iraq.  What's the big debate in Iraq today?  Raheem Salman (Reuters) reports, "An Iraqi government decree banning soldiers and police from wearing beards on duty has revived a debate over religious practices in a country where sectarian divisions between Shi'ite and Sunni still fester close to the surface."  What McGurk and Chon did -- both married when they began their affair in Iraq -- goes against fundamentalist teachings and also insults the host country since he violated his vows while he was in Iraq.  Iraqi women would not have been able to access the Embassy because of fear of what would be said about them (and the fear that words could lead to 'honor' killings -- where women have supposedly disgraced and brought dishonor to their relatives so the women must be put to death by their relatives).  We've got over half the population right there.
And Idiot Fred doesn't stop to think about Iraqi women or even include in his bad article. 
Look, we get it.  Fred, you stood next to Brett at the stalls and you were impressed.  Fine.  Keep it to yourself, use it for your fantasies but the rest of us aren't interested.
Fred insists Brett McGurk was right for the job because he knows people.  The American face in Iraq does not need to be someone who is the object of ridicule.  I'm sorry that Fred's so unintelligent that he never learned Arabic.  It should be required for him when you think of how badly he wanted the Iraq War.  But if he could read Arabic and he wasn't so lazy, he would have seen what we noted many times here, this was a big story in the Iraqi press -- the affair.  They didn't care about the other stuff, they cared about the affair.  It was considered shocking -- even among Iraqi publications which regularly report on Madonna.  Because they did not consider that to be appropriate behavior for what would be the highest ranking US official who would be living in their country.  The host country should not be an after thought.
McGurk had no qualifications to speak of, was too young, without managerial experience and lied (or else is stupid) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  It's cute that Fred -- like so many of his lazy ass peers -- didn't show for that hearing, didn't report on it, but thinks he can now play 'expert' and insist McGurk was qualified.  Only an idiot claims that Nouri is providing Sahwa with jobs.  We covered it.  We were there.  Fred should have been on it but that would have been work and lazy asses don't do work even when they're paid for it.
Fred's 'knowledge' of Iraqiya is based upon what one person told him -- and they got it wrong.  But, hey, Fred's real point is to smear people.  If you support Allawi and you're American, you're doing that because you must be "still involved in political or business ventures that would be served by a degree of Kurdish autonomy that is favored more by Allawi than by Maliki."  Poor Fred, as stupid as he is ugly.    He goes on to declare that Nouri was "the country's elected prime minister."  Not in 2006, not in 2010.  In 2006, the US stopped Parliament's first choice.  And Parliament, not the country, elects the Prime Minister, Fred.  The Bush White House wanted him in that position.  That's why he got it.  In 2010, the Barack White House wanted him in the position.
As Fred goes on and on, you keep waiting for that moment where he notes the real reporting of Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) or the worker of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in exposing the hidden jails and ongoing torture Nouri's responsible for.  But Fred never does because liars can't tell the truth.  Fred's a nutty conspiracy theorist.  Probably the nuttiest one around as his latest column demonstrates.  Next time he writes a column like this, he might need to do some self-disclosures -- at least if he's still pretending to be a journalist.  Brett McGurk demonstrated over and over that he didn't know what he was talking about (most infamously when his testimony contradicted that of earlier testimony by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the public remarks of National Intelligence Director James Clapper). Brett McGurk was supremely uninformed which makes him the perfect match for Fred Kaplan.