Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Dumb Ass Sandy Shanks

Sandy Shanks is a Dumb Ass.  Some might see her as a liar but I prefer to see her as just ignorant and not intentionally lying.  Dumb Ass Shanks is a bad writer who just gets worse.  But even I was surprised by the crap she squeezed out for OpEd News.

Here's Shank Dumb Ass' second paragraph and she's pretending to write about the Bengahzi attack last September 11th:

A brief and sterile review of events is probably in order to put things into perspective. On Sept 11, a sophomoric and ludicrous video insulting Islam was released on the internet; Muslims from Egypt to Pakistan to Indonesia went ballistic, and some of the protests grew quite violent. In Benghazi the American consulate and CIA annex a mile away came under attack and four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, was killed. On Sept. 16 our ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows attempting to explain to Americans what happened with unclassified material provided her from U.S. intelligence agencies with the supervision of the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) headed by Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper. On Sept. 21, pro-government demonstrators riled by the killing of the popular Stevens stormed the headquarters of the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia militia in Benghazi and destroyed their base. Americans learned of this that very same day. The perpetrators of Stevens' murder and three other Americans became known to the American public. In late September, after FBI and CIA investigators sent by Obama revealed their preliminary results, the American public pretty much knew what had happened. On Nov. 9, David Petraeus, CIA director, resigned due to a self-admitted tryst with his mistress, Paula Broadwell. No one had revealed Petraeus' indiscretions, not the FBI, not anyone, only Petraeus himself.

Sweet baby James! Has one person ever offered so much crap in one paragraph?  Maybe a flat earther or a rabid anti-choicer.  But on my side (the left), I think Sandy Dumb Ass Shanks has to hold some sort of a record for that paragraph.  Let's go through bit by bit.

A brief and sterile review of events is probably in order to put things into perspective.

Shanks is not brief.  While her writing is sterile (and never blooms), she's not really factual.

 On Sept 11, a sophomoric and ludicrous video insulting Islam was released on the internet; Muslims from Egypt to Pakistan to Indonesia went ballistic, and some of the protests grew quite violent. 

First off, why is she connecting that video?  It has no connection.  That is the CIA finding.  It's been reported as such.  Second "Muslims from Egyp to Pakistant to Indonesia went ballastic" -- what the f**k?

Somebody tell that xenophobe that she can shove her hatred of Islam up her ass.

Some Muslims.  Not all.  Not even a majority in any city -- let alone in any country.  How dare she try to make it appear that all Muslims "went ballastic."  "Went ballastic"?  What a charged phrase to begin with.  Someone needs to explain to her that Muslims are not "the other" and that her Dumb Ass-ness is offensive.

In Benghazi the American consulate and CIA annex a mile away came under attack and four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, was killed.

Shall we start with extreme stupidity or just poor manners?  Let's note the extreme stupidity: ". . . four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, was killed."

Four Americans was killed?

Four was killed?

Who the hell mis-taught you subject and verb agreement?

If I had seen that at a blog, I'd say nothing.  I'd assume the person was writing and thinking and exploring and that's fine.  But this is a column that a professional writer (or what passes for one) chose to publish at OpEd News.  "Four was killed"?

Idiot, the verb is "were."

In Benghazi the American consulate and CIA annex a mile away came under attack and four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, was killed.

This is where we call a bitch a "bitch."

Glen Doherty.  Sean Smith.  Tyrone Woods.

Who are they?

The three names the bitch can't write.  She's so very busy, understand, that three Americans who died don't even get their names mentioned.  Doherty and Smith are Iraq War veterans.  But The Shanky Bitch, who wants you to believe she knows what she's writing about, can't even tell you their names?

"Bitch" is actually too kind of a word for the likes of Sandy Shanks.

What an elitist.  She reduces everyone but the Ambassador to the unnamed.  That tells you everything you need to know about where her priorities are.

On Sept. 16 our ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows attempting to explain to Americans what happened with unclassified material provided her from U.S. intelligence agencies with the supervision of the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) headed by Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper.

"Our Ambassador"?

What the f**k?

I don't write "our" anything here and this is just a journal.  But I do try to provide the detachment to avoid selling wars.  That's how you sell wars, that's how you whore.  We saw with the roll out for Iraq as Dan Rather and others began prattling on about "our president" and "my president" and blah blah blah.  "Our Ambassador"?  No.  There is no distance or detachment there, just whoring.

So Sandy Shanks is a Dumb Ass, a bitch and a whore.

Now is anyone else troubled that Shanks skips from September 11th to September 16th?

She needs to because if she doesn't her defense of Susie Rice collapses.

Susan Rice, we should remember, in her current position is most infamous for opposing a moratorium on the death penalty and for helping to conceal the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community this year.

What happened on September 12th?

Patrick Kennedy (State Dept.) went to Congress and briefed Congress members and their staff on the attack the day before.  What did he tell them?  It was a terrorist attack.  He didn't bring up the video -- which is unrelated to the attack -- the CIA said there was no protest.

Poor Dumb Ass Shanky.  That hearing was reported on at length by C.I. Shanky's not even aware it took place.  She does note a second hearing which she probably thinks is the first on Benghazi.  Poor dumb whore.

On Sept. 21, pro-government demonstrators riled by the killing of the popular Stevens stormed the headquarters of the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia militia in Benghazi and destroyed their base. Americans learned of this that very same day. The perpetrators of Stevens' murder and three other Americans became known to the American public. 

Again, she refuses to name Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.  What a bitch.  How insulting she is to their memories and to their family.  She uses them as props.  What a bitch.

I'm not able to follow all her stupid "The perpetrators of Stevens' murder and three other Americans became known to the American public"?  Is she that dumb?  Is she really saying that?  It was already reported, days after the attack, before a week had passed, by the New York Times that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed credit.  They did so online.  Is she so stupid she doesn't even know that?

In late September, after FBI and CIA investigators sent by Obama revealed their preliminary results, the American public pretty much knew what had happened. On Nov. 9, David Petraeus, CIA director, resigned due to a self-admitted tryst with his mistress, Paula Broadwell. No one had revealed Petraeus' indiscretions, not the FBI, not anyone, only Petraeus himself.

What a stupid idiot.  I can't even deal with all the errors in that one.  But I will note that her spin appears to be that Petraeus was honest and he came forward and blah blah blah.

Suck him off, Sandy, suck him off.

Geez, Louise.  Reality, he was investigated by the FBI.  Had he lied to the FBI about the affair, he could be put in prison.  It is a crime to lie to a federal agent during questioning.  Granted, Sandy's not smart so she probably didn't know that either.  But MAKE SURE YOU KNOW IT.  If you're ever questioned by the FBI, you say nothing except you would like to speak with an attorney.  If you don't have one, call the ACLU and they will match you with someone.  Never, ever speak to the FBI on your own.  If you lie, even by accident, it will be held over your head and used to leverage your testimony on something else.

Hold on.

This is from C.I.'s October 23, 2010 "Iraq snapshot:"

[. . .] the latest Law and Disorder Radio began airing this week (on WBAI Monday morning and around the country throughout the week).  Hosts Heidi Boghosian, Michael Ratner (click here for an ISR interview with Michael) and Michael S. Smith noted what to do when questioned by government agents.
Michael S. Smith: Heidi, congratulations, I'm holding in my hand this beautiful red and white and yellow pamphlet "You Have The Right To Remain Silent." Congratulations on getting this out.  This National Lawyers Guild pamphlet is going to come in very handy.
Heidi Boghosian: Thanks, Michael, it's actually a Know Your Rights guide for law enforcement encounters and we designed it specifically so that it could fit in the rear pocket of someone's jeans or pants. It has basic know-your-rights information: what to do if the FBI comes to your door, what if you're not a citizen, I think there's something about rights at airports, if you're under 18.  It's free of charge [to download] at and if you want to get bulk amounts we will send you fifty free of charge and then we just ask for shipping & handling for orders above that. 
Michael Ratner: It's interesting that it fits into your pocket because you know, Michael and I  and you -- well you're not as old as us -- but when we used to give advice to people at demonstrations, we used to tell them to sew their pockets up so you couldn't plant -- the cops couldn't plant -- marijuana in their pockets.  So you'd go to demonstrations with all your pockets sewn up.  But at least -- Maybe they don't do that as much.  You can carry this little book with you instead of writing the whole thing on your arm.
Heidi Boghosian: I'm speechless.
Michael S. Smith: She's speechless.
Heidi Boghosian: That's fascinating.
Michael Ratner: And about pockets, that's also interesting, my daughter once had to an assignment about clothes for boys or girls when she was a little girl.  And, of course, what you notice is that girl's clothes have no pockets.
Heidi Boghosian: I know. I hate that.
Michael Ratner: It's terrible.
Heidi Boghosian:  I only buy things with pockets.
Michael Ratner:  And it's a weird sexual discrimination.  Boys are supposed to carry all these things but girls --
Heidi Boghosian:  I know they have to have a pocket book.
Michael Ratner: But back to the pocketing Guild pamphlet called?
Michael Ratner: Now Michael's going to say something about the substance of it.
Michael S. Smith: If you receive a subpeona call the NLG national office hotline at 888-NLG-ECOL I'll repeat 888-654-3265.
Michael Ratner: Or if the FBI starts to question you, don't answer even the first question. Just say "I don't want to speak to the FBI" or refer them to your lawyer. [laughing] And that's H-e-i-d -- No, no.  But in any case, you should refer them to your lawyer or just say you're not talking to the FBI.  And it's such a short little pamphlet, it's perfect for taking to demos, it doesn't have our basic position about the FBI which is: Once you start talking to the FBI or Homeland Security or any of these so-called law enforcement or police intelligence there's the potato chip example.  Once you start eating potato chips, you can't stop.  It's the same for talking.  Heidi's waiving her arms.
Heidi Boghosian: Michael, that's a great point. And, in fact, we do have a section called "Standing Up For Free Speech."  I just want to quote one sentence or two. "Informed resistance to these tactics and steadfast defense of your and others' rights can bring positive results. Each person who takes a courageous stand makes future resistance to government oppression easier for all."  So just to remind listeners, if you'd like a copy or multiple copies, it's called "You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide For Law Enforcement Encounters" and it's available through the National Lawyers Guild,

I stopped ("Hold on") because I remembered there was a pamphlet on this topic.  So I asked C.I. (we're all at Trina's) what the name of it was so I could look it up online.  She said, "Hand me the laptop and I'll pull up the October snapshot from two years ago and you'll have a discussion on the topic you can include."

That's her amazing memory.  She can always do that.  Two years ago and she knows that not only mentions the pamphlet but also includes a discussion of it.

So there you go.

So under questioning by the feds, Petraeus copped to having had an affair that compromised his position as head of the CIA.  That didn't force Petraeus to leave nor did he volunteer to.  As the Washington Post reported, he only announced he was leaving when the Justice Dept. told him that they were going public with the affair.  If no one in the public knew about the affair, Petraeus was happy with staying on as CIA Director.  As C.I. has pointed out, there's your reason for concern.  He resigns over the public shame of the affair.

Since he will resign over that going public -- but happy to stay if it's private -- that indicates that there is a chance, had he stayed on as CIA Director and had a foreign government confronted with the affair, he might have 'assisted' them to keep it quiet.  Clearly, the affair was less troublesome to him than the exposure of it.

Poor Dumb Ass Sandy Shanks.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 7, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, a day after bad reporting finds AP looking even more foolish with their false 'report' as tensions continue between Baghdad and Erbil, a Shi'ite leader explains how Shi'ites end up siding with the Kurds over Nouri's current attack, we look at Syrian refugees in Iraq, and more.
The month isn't even ten days old yet, through Thursday, Iraq Body Count counts 39 people killed from violence in Iraq so far this month (13 alone yesterday).   Violence continues today.  Alsumaria notes a Diwainya armed dispute lead to 2 people dead and a third injured, and a Baghdad home invasion killed 1 SahwaAll Iraq News adds a Mosul attack left 1 police officer dead and two more injured, a Musayyib mortar attack left six people injured, a Mosul internet cafe owner was shot dead and 1 person was shot dead outside their Mosul home. and a Babylon roadside bombing left one person injured.
Yesterday, Al-Shorfa reports, Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad government announced that 7 previously armed groups were joining the political process and they "include the 20th Revolution Brigades, Malek al-Ashtar Brigade, Khalid Bin al-Walid Brigade, Arab Tribes Sons Brigade, Omar Bin al-Khattab Brigade, Children of Iraq Brigade and Saqr Quraish Brigade." This as Al-Bayyna reports a member of the Parliament's National Reconciliation Committee issued a statement declaring that reconciliation does not mean bringing in former Ba'athists. He asserts that de-Ba'athifcation is the law of the land. De-Ba'athification is the policy Paul Bremer oversaw in Iraq that forced Iraqis out of jobs. That was the military, that was the government. The reason? Belonging to the Ba'ath political party. That's a part that Saddam Hussein would eventually head in Iraq. It's also a player throughout the Middle East and part of a pan-Arab movement. De-Ba'athifcation is seen as a huge mistake. And Nouri agreed to what we call de-de-Ba'athifcation. He agreed to that in 2007. But he never implemented it and, judging by the remarks today, there is no governmental interest in healing that division.

Alsumaria reports that Minister of Transportation Hadi al-Amiri declared today that 15,000 families have suffered as a result of the refusal to implement Article 140.  al-Amiri states that this has led some families to be denied Iraqi nationalities. As the leader of the Badr Organization, al-Amiri is part of the National Alliance (also known as the Ntional Iraqi Alliance which is led by Ibrahim al-Jaafari).   What is going on?  Why are so many Shi'ite politicians turning on Nouri publicly as he goes after the Kurds and the threat of a war with the Kurds looms?   Qassim Khidhir Hamad (Niqash) spoke with the Islamic Supreme Council's Bashir Adel Gli this week.  The Islamic Supreme Council is another Shi'ite political party which belongs to the National Alliance.
NIQASH: How do you feel about the current relationship between the Shiite Muslims of Iraq and Iraq's Kurdistan people?
Bashir Adel Gli: The relationship between Iraq's Shiite Muslims and the Kurdish people is a historic one. It goes back to the time that [religious leader] Grand Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim [the grandfather of Ammar al-Hakim, current leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council] issued a fatwa [religious edict] in 1965 that forbade Shiite Muslims to fight with the Kurdish.  
This decree was copied and distributed all over Iraq and it had a big impact on Shiite Muslim soldiers.
He issued that decree after some Sunni Muslim clerics issued a totally different fatwa saying that their followers were allowed to kill the Kurdish. The [Sunni Muslim-dominated] authorities were trying to find some way of justifying their ethnic cleansing and killing of the Kurdish people. And what al-Hakim said at the time made them very angry.
As a result, 70 members of al-Hakim's family were arrested and later killed.
Basically Shiite Muslim ideology says that Shiites must support the oppressed at all times; and that they must not support the dictator, no matter who that dictator is.
NIQASH: So how do you see the current problem between Erbil and Baghdad: is it a Shiite Muslim-Kurdish problem?
Bashir Adel Gli: No, it is the problem between the Dawa Party [headed by Nouri al-Maliki] and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is not a problem between Shiites and Kurds in general.
And that is part of the how and why Nouri is losing ground at present on this issue.  Turning to a Twitter conversation.  Derek Brower is the editor-at-large of Petroleum Economist and he just left the KRG.
If Maliki still pushing idea of Peshmerga replaced in territories by local force, don't see KRG accepting that since implies Pesh withdrawal
@IraqiPolitics I agree. Just returned from Kirkuk, where the two sides are v close to
a scrap. Either serious brinkmanship or impending war.
@derek_brower hi, thanks for your coverage, AP now reporting initial agreement between both sides, any signs from the ground.
@jamesbr01 I'd be sceptical, unless things changed in the few hours since I've returned from Kirkuk. But always possible.
"I'd be skeptical" of the AP report "unless things changed in the few hours since I've returned from Kirkuk" Twetted Derek Brower yesterday afternoon.  Apparently we're all going to have to learn to be skeptical of AP because their report was wrong.
There has been no agreement.  Tonight, Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani issued a statement stating that the only way to end the current crisis is to implement Article 140.  The main part of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution reads:
The responsibility placed upon the executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Aerticle 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census
and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.
That's from Iraq's 2005 Constitution.  In the spring of 2006, after the Iraqi Parliament wanted Ibrahim al-Jafaari as prime minister (it would have been his second term) and the White House nixed the choice and insisted that Nouri al-Maliki be made prime minister, Nouri took an oath to uphold the Constitution.  Article 140 is a part of the Constitution and it is very clear in its wording that it must be implemented by December 2007.  Yet for Nouri's entire first term he refused to honor the Constitution.  Kirkuk is oil-rich and it is claimed by Nouri's central government out of Baghdad and by the Kurdistan Regional Government with both set of players making historical arguments on why they should be the one to lay claim to Kirkuk.  The way to settle it, as the Constitution made clear, was a census and a referendum.  But Nouri refused to implement Article 140.  His term came to an end in early 2010.  Iraq held parliamentary elections in March 2010.  Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya.  2010 saw the continuation of a trend that emerged in the 2009 provincial elections.  Iraqis were not interested in sects.  They were interested in a national identity. 
Having come in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, Nouri quickely stepped down -- and, no, he didn't.  He refused to.  He refused to let Iraqi move forward.  From the November 1, 2010  snapshot:
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and twenty-five days and still counting.
The stalemate would continue for over a week more.  Nouri was able to stamp his feet and stop the political process because the US government refused to side with the Iraqi voters.  Instead of calling for the will of the people to be honored, the Barack Obama White House demanded that Nouri get a second term.  From  John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast) last September:

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
When your preferred candidate loses the vote, how do you install him to a second term?  You ignore the Constitution and create a new 'understanding.'  So in November 2010, the White House brokered a new contract known as the Erbil Agreement.  The contract was signed by the leaders of Iraq's various political blocs.  In the contract, Nouri agrees to give political party A various concessions if political party A will allow him a second term as prime minister.  So Nouri promises various things to the various parties.  To the Kurds, he promises, among other things, that he will finally implement Article 140.
The US government vouches for the contract with the White House pledging they will uphold it.  But Nouri pretty much breaks it immediately.  Iraqiya calls him out and the US press treats it as a misunderstanding and swears Nouri's going to honor the contract. But he doesn't.  And months turn into a year and he still hasn't and his State of Law is insisting the contract is illegal (if Nouri was installed prime minister by an illegal contract, grasp this, then Nouri is not prime minister).  By the summer of 2011, those calling for Nouri to honor the contract include Iraqiya, the Kurds and cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.   That's when the second political stalemate is evident.  This is kicked up to a crisis in December when, following the departure of most US troops, Nouri decides to go after Iraqiya.  For weeks, he'd been targeting Sunnis and Iraqiya members (sometimes they are the same thing) in various provinces, having them rounded up as terrorists.  But now he was demanding that Iraqiya's Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested and that Iraqiya's Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post.  Tareq al-Hashemi is Iraq's Vice President.  Saleh al-Mutlaq is Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister.  To remove either from their post requires the consent of Parliament.
Nouri couldn't get the votes.  But he does control the Baghdad judiciary.  Which is how Iraq ended up the only country in the world with a sitting Vice President convicted of terrorism.  Tareq remains the Vice President -- despite being found guilty of 'terrorism' and despite being sentenced to death multiple times.  That crisis sent off alarms in Iraq and out of Iraq as a Sunni dominant region looked askance at Nouri and his puppet court in Baghdad. 
It created a major crisis and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi (a member of Iraqiya) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (a Kurd) both started calling for a National Conference on December 21, 2011.  But Nouri refused it.  Iraq was still dealing with that unresolved crisis -- which the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler called a political stalemate when reporting to the United Nations Security Council back in his July 19th presentation to the UN Security Council (see the July 19th snapshot and the speech is also covered in the July 20th snapshot).  But Iraq is the land where Nouri piles crazy on top of crazy so with an ongoing stalemate already taking place as a result of a crisis Nouri caused, he set out to create another.  After refusing for years to implement Article 140 to resolve the dispute of Kirkuk and other disputed lands, Nouri, a few months ago, sent a new group of forces under his command (Tigris Operation Command) into the disputed areas.  The Kurds saw this as an attempt by Nouri to 'settle' the dispute in Baghdad's favor by having Nouri's forces occupy and control the areas.
The tensions increased and increased until last month the Kurds sent the Peshmerga into the same areas.  The military standoff continues.  Al Mada reports Islamic Superme Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim is calling for calm.   As the report continues, you'll note something in all the Iraq reporting today on this topic, consider it the Iraqi press saying "Suck it, AP," that Nouri al-Maliki has spoken with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi about what al-Nujaifi spoke to KRG President Massoud Barzani on Tuesday about; however, Nouri's not spoken to Barzani.  Translation, there is no deal.  We noted it yesterday, the AP got it wrong when they 'reported' that Nouri said a deal had been reached.  That is not what he said.  Sadly, some US outlets have picked up on AP's garbage and have presented as fact. 
Rudaw reports:

As many Iraqis worry about a possible war between Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the disputed northern territories, the country's senior Shia clerics have issued religious prohibitions against such a conflict. 
The latest reaction came on Wednesday from the Najaf Hawza, the prominent Shia religious institution, which issued a fatwa saying that, "Fighting the Kurds is haram (religiously prohibited)."
"Those Iraqi soldiers who die in battle against the Kurds are not considered martyrs," the Hawza said in a statement. Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ignited tensions by sending in his controversial Dijla forces into the northern disputed territories that are also claimed by the Kurds. 
The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government dispatched thousands of its own Peshmerga forces into the territories, setting off a tense stand-off that has endured for weeks.

All Iraq News reports that this morning Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, in a prayer sermon, declared that the conflict should be resolved by the Constitution.  Juma Abdulla (Al-Bayyna) adds that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has warned that Nouri al-Maliki is playing with fire by his actions.  Last night, Al Mada filed a lengthy report on the press conference that AP distorted.  Al Mada notes -- as other Iraqi outlets did yesterday -- that Nouri's remarks were that there were two proposals currently -- not that the situation had been resolved (as AP falsely reported) and that he declared this at the joint-conference he held with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (AP also 'forgot' that fact). (For Ban Ki-moon's remarks at the news conference see yesterday's snapshot.)  All Iraq News adds that the Secretary-General spoke with KRG President Massoud Barazni over the phone yesterday.  Al Mada reports that Ban Ki-moon also met with Osama al-Nujaif and Parliament.  UNAMI provides the remarks he made to Parliament:
Your Excellency, Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of the Council of Representatives,
Distinguished Heads of Political Blocs,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for your warm reception. I am honoured to be here. 
The democratic transition over the past decade has advanced thanks to the leaders and people of this great country. Iraq has re-emerged as a leader on the regional and global stage. And as current Chair of the Arab League, you are steering the region at a critical time in its history.
Iraq is making important progress in strengthening its state institutions. I welcome the establishment of the independent Human Rights Commission and the Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission. Your task now is to guarantee the independence of these bodies.
You face many challenges. I am especially concerned about strained relations among Iraq's main political leaders. This problem hampers the adoption of necessary reforms and constitutionally mandated legislation. It impedes effective governance, the delivery of services and the fair distribution of resources.
Above all, I worry that increased political polarization could stoke sectarian violence and reverse the precious security gains against terrorism in recent years.
 To guard against this, I urge all political leaders to engage in an inclusive dialogue to resolve their differences in the spirit of the Constitution.
 Your role is critical. As elected representatives of the people, you have immense responsibility to promote democracy, safeguard political freedoms and advance social progress and well-being.
There is no alternative to national reconciliation and peaceful co-existence for all communities in a united, federal Iraq. There is no alternative to reaching a mutually agreeable understanding over the issues of wealth-sharing and disputed internal boundaries.
The Iraqi people will have another important chance to choose their representatives during the Governorate Council elections.
Credible elections will be crucial to consolidating the democratic transition.
This is particularly important for the overdue elections in Kirkuk. I urge the communities there to forge consensus on a way forward.
The United Nations remains steadfast in supporting the Government and the new Board of the Independent High Electoral Commission to ensure fair and credible elections across Iraq.
Excellencies, This is a time of tremendous challenge across the region. There is a real threat of a destabilizing spill-over of the violence in Syria. This crisis is at the forefront of international concern -- and it is a legitimate source of worry for Iraq.
I thank Iraq for its constructive engagement in the search for a solution, and for its generosity in hosting numerous Syrian refugees. The United Nations will continue working to provide humanitarian assistance.
On the important goal of normalizing relations between Iraq and Kuwait, I was encouraged earlier this year by steps taken under the leadership of Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Emir of Kuwait. But I am concerned that progress could be threatened by the lack of confidence between the two countries and lack of progress on outstanding issues.
It will take courage and statesmanship to move beyond a difficult past and embark on a new era of cooperation. I have made this clear in my meetings with leaders from both countries. Today, I again call on you to unite behind this goal so that Iraq – a founding member of the United Nations – can regain its rightful place in the community of nations.
I am confident that decisive steps to fulfil this country's outstanding international obligations on boundary maintenance, compensation for farmers and missing persons and property will enable the Security Council to positively consider restoring Iraq's international standing. I – along with my Special Representative – will spare no effort to help achieve this goal.
Excellencies, Iraq has vast human resources, especially the country's youth. Half of all Iraqis are under the age of 18. I hope you will nurture these future leaders.
Women are another powerful force -- but they are still marginalized. Quotas have made it possible for women to make up one quarter of the Council's representatives, but there is only one female electoral Commissioner and one female State Minister. Iraqi women are bright and talented. They should be empowered to engage in building the future of this great country.
The United Nations is also working with Iraq to protect the environment,  preserve natural resources and fight the menace of dust storms.
I have just come from the Doha Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
I am committed to advancing progress on climate change and to addressing the challenges it poses for Iraq. Dust storms have doubled over the past two years and they are expected to double again in the next two. This is a serious regional issue which demands a regional response.
In all these areas, the United Nations will continue to be your partner.
As always, we will listen to your concerns and your ideas. We are here to support you as the Iraqi people forge a shared future of lasting stability and peace.
Thank you very much.
Shukran Jazeelan.

All Iraq News reports al-Nujaafi and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani discussed ways to resolve the crisis late yesterday evening.  Osama al-Nujaifi issued a statement afterwards thanking Talabani for his continued efforts at resolving the crisis.   And the outlet notes that MP Susan Saad (with the al-Fadhila Party) issued a call today for direct dialogue to end the crisis, noting that it does not serve Iraqi interests for the crisis to continue.  In her statement, she uses "we" and makes clear she is speaking on behalf of the al-Fahila Party. None of the above is needed if, as AP wrongly 'reported' yesterday, an agreement between Baghdad and Erbil had been reached.

November 29th (see that day's "Iraq snapshot"  and the November 30th "Iraq snapshot"), the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, addressed the UN Security Council on the state of Iraq.  We'll wrap up his presentation today.
Martin Kobler:  The exploitation of the environment and natural resources has far-reaching implications for the future of Iraq, encompassing political, security and developmental priorities.  In particular, the generation of harmful dust storms in the region continues to increase, bringing with them associated health hazards and hampering economic activities.   UNAMI and the UNCT continue to work closely together on this important issue.  I have attended several meetings to promote regional approaches to such transboundary issues and I am actively working with the governmnt of Iraq and UNEP to hold a symposium on dust storms in southern Iraq in early 2013.  Complimentary efforts by UNAMI and the Humanitarian Country Team have ensured a timely and effective response to the humanitarian dimension in Iraq of the ongoing conflict in Syria, including a range of protection and relief activities.  The flow of refugees has already exceeded projected numbers.  As of 18 November, there were more than 50,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq.  In addition, almost 55,000 Irais have returned from Syria since 18 July 2012.  We anticipate that the influx will continue thus swelling the numbers of those displaced. The UN is working closely with the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration to respond to the situation.  The Humanitarian Country Team continues to monitor the situation, and coordinates regularly with partners and government authorities to ensure preparedness and an efficient and timely response.  It has developed contingency plans in-line with the UN's Syria Regional Refugee Response Plan, which are continuously updated in response to emerging developments.  Efforts are also taking place to ensure that camps are fully equipped and prepared for the coming winter and necessary equipment distributed to refugees and returnees (like distribution of blankets and kerosene, prefabricated structures instead of tents).  I also call on the government of Iraq to reopen al-Qaim crossing point so that vulnerable persons in need of protection are able to leave Syria.  Only 30 percent of the third Refugee Response Plan is covered and many refugees continue to pour into Iraq on a daily basis and I, therefore, appeal to all member states to step up and cover the remaining 70 percent of the plan. 
In the middle of the week, Refugees International released a field report on Syrian Refugees which noted that there are 400,000 know Syrian refugees in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.  Known?  Many refugees will never attempt to register with the United Nations.  Registering with the UN provides a document, a paper trail, and refugees often fear such a trail -- they fled due to fear and may fear being found by those in Syria that they fled, they fled for safety and may fear that a host country will force them to leave.  There are many reasons why you will never have 100% registration among refugees of any crisis.   On Iraq, the report notes:
Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has declared Syrian Kurds to be their brethren and has welcomed them into northern Iraq with a tremendous amount of goodwill. The KRG has done a laudable job of integrating urban refugees fleeing Syria into the national systems, and offers them the same benefits as their own nationals. However, the KRG's social services structure is feeling the strain of serving this extra population and needs outside support. To ensure that assistance is available to both camp and urban Syrian refugees in northern Iraq, the international community must support the KRG's generosity by designating funding for humanitarian assistance in northern Iraq.
When significant numbers of Syrian refugees began arriving in Iraqi Kurdistan early in 2012, they were generally well-received by their host communities. About eight months ago, the KRG opened Domiz camp in Dohuk Governorate, hoping it would help it provide for everyone more efficiently and make the best use of limited resources. Unfortunately, some of the camp's structures and programs have been slow to develop and many residents lack the assistance they need. Similarly, in the urban areas, Syrian refugees' needs have outstripped the KRG's ability to address them. While refugees have access to the KRG's own social services, those services themselves are underdeveloped in some cases and unable to serve additional clients.
[. . .]
As in other countries hosting Syrian refugees, the three governorates of Iraqi Kurdistan -- Dohuk, Erbil, and Suleimaniyah -- are feeling the strain of hosting their guests. The Domiz camp in Dohuk alone has 15,000 refugees in residence, and tens of thousands more are living in the nearby cities. The KRG has been struggling for the past year to provide for everyone. In keeping with the best practices recommended by the UNHCR, Syrian refugees outside of the camp have access to the national services of the KRG. However, the reality is that once people run out of financial means to rent a residence, they are very likely to have to move to Domiz in order to have a place to live. Getting services in the camp is a challenge in itself, as the space is overcrowded and service provision is still developing. In order to promote self-sufficiency, and to avoid creating tensions in either an overcrowded camp or an overburdened community, services in both settings must be made adequate and sustainable. 
Refugees International's report on Iraq only notes what the Kurdistan Regional Government is doing.  Kobler is calling for the al-Qaim crossing point to be re-opened.  That's not a KRG issue.  Most refugees coming into the KRG from Syria are doing so through the Rabi'aa crossing.  al-Qaim is in Anbar Province (which is not in the KRG).    October 21st, Nouri closed the al-Qaim crossing point.  In one weekly report after another, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has repeatedly noted that al-Qaim refugees do not have freedom of movement. 
"Winter is already here and UNHCR and its partners still lack 50 percent of the funds needed to get everyone through the next few difficult months," declared Angelina Jolie who, with Brad Pitt, made a $50,000 donation to UNHCR Thursday.  "Despite all the good work being done so far, it's clear here on the ground that all resources are now stretched to the limit.  This is going to be a very tough few months.  Winter can be harsh here, even dangerous for refugees who may already be weakened by their ordeal.  Many have been brutalized in unimaginable ways.  They deserve all the support we can give them."  Anyone who would like to dnate -- at any level -- can visit this UNHCR page.  It's a bad economy, no one has to feel guilty or justify how they're spending their money.  I won't know if you donated or not and it's your business not mine.  But at this time of they year, many people look for places to donate and the UNHCR helps refugees around the world. 
September 28th, the US State Dept, under court order to reconsider their opinion that Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) were terrorists, announced that they had reviewed the classification and "decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation."  This decision is important with regards to Iraq because approximately 3,400 MEKs were in Iraq, invited in by Saddam Hussein.  When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, these people were disarmed by the US military and were told this would be in exchange for US protection.  As  CNN noted after the State Dept took the MEK off the terrorist list, "since 2004 the United States has considered the group, which has lived for more than 25 years at a refugee camp in Iraq, 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions." Despite being re-classified, however, the MEKs in Iraq remain, at present, unable to find asylum in other countries.  Kobler ended his presentation to the Security Council last week by noting this group of people.
Martin Kobler:  Finally, Mr. President, I wish to emphasize that Camp Liberty, also called Camp Hurriayah, was only meant to be an interim facility to facilitate the Refugee Status.  Determination and subsequent resettlement in third countries.  As this process is now well in progress, I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate the Secretary-General's appeal to Member States to offer resettlement opportunities to former residents of Camp Ashraf.  Without such an undertaking, there can be no sustainable solution for the residents.  Currently, only 100 residents remain in Camp Ashraf, while over 3,100 residents have been peacefully transferred to Camp Hurriyah near Baghdad.  The government of Iraq insists to close Camp Ashraf in the next days.  It requested the last 100 residents be relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  For obvious reasons, UNAMI cannot be directly involved in negotiations on the property of Camp Ashraf residents.  My colleagues and I, however, have spared no efforts over the last weeks to facilitate meetings between various merchants and the government of Iraq.  These various merchants and the government of Iraq.  These efforts, regretfully, were unsuccessful, leading to a stalemate over the last weeks.  The government of Iraq considers this stalemate as an attempt by the residents to delay the relocation of the remaining 100 persons.  The government of Iraq's patience is, therefore, wearing thin.  I call on the residents of Camp Ashraf to cooperate with the government of Iraq to solve all outstanding questions related to property.  We have come a long way. I also call upon the government of Iraq to maintain the peaceful relocation of the residents as stipulated in the Memorandum of Understanding, to demonstrate restraint, and be as flexible as possible when it comes to resolving property related issues.  UN monitors in Camp Hurriyah monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation of the residents on a daily basis.  They are, however, often denied access to certain areas of the camp by the residents.  This hinders the performance of their duties.  They are working hard in an impartial manner under very difficult circumstances.  They have my full confidence.  I urge the residents to engage constructively with the government of Iraq and the United Nations so that Camp Ashraf can be closed peacefully and efforts can focus on the residents' resettlement to third countries.  Mr. President, coming to the end, on the face of the many challenges ahead I outlined earlier in my briefing, it is imperative that Iraq stays the course to complete its transition to an inclusive democracy, provides stability and prosperity for its people and exercises a positive influence throughout the region.  With Member States' support, UNAMI will continue to assist the people and the government of Iraq in these truly worthy endeavours.  The substantial cut of USD 30 million, I regret to say, to UNAMI's budget next year will require that we do more with less.  I know I can count on UNAMI's dedicated staff to work on behalf of you towards these goals and I would in particular thank the government of Iraq for its coooperation during this year 2012 and I am looking forward to another year of good cooperation in 2013.  Last but not least, I do thank the Security Council for its continued support throughout the year.  Thank you very much.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The November 29th walkout

Starting with a repost from Workers World:

Fast food workers fight back: We can’t survive on $7.25

By on December 5, 2012 » Add the first comment.
Wendy’s strike in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 29.
Photo: Instagram/andalalucha
Revolutionary thinkers wrote centuries ago that sometimes decades can go by and nothing of note happens in the class struggle. Then, they observed, a decade of developments can occur in just a blink of an eye.
That is exactly what happened in the U.S. as over 200 fast food workers went out on strike in New York City on Nov. 29. What made it even more significant is that these walkouts followed hundreds of “Black Friday” Walmart actions nationwide, along with major work stoppages at Los Angeles Airport and California ports.
It was, indeed, an extraordinary week of class struggle in the U.S.
The Nov. 29 walkout and union drive in NYC took place in industries that were considered next to impossible to organize. But megacorporation McDonald’s, as well as Taco Bell and Wendy’s, were some of the fast food chains that experienced walkouts, which can only be described as unprecedented and historic.
In fact the New York Times wrote that it was the “biggest effort to unionize fast-food workers ever undertaken in the United States.” (Nov. 29)
The effort was organized by a coalition of community organizations with union support, including NY Communities for Change, Service Employees UNITE NY as well as The Black Institute.
Hundreds of workers and their supporters gathered at Times Square at 6 a.m. Nov. 29 to demand better wages and conditions. The Fast Food Forward website, one of the coalition members, posted the main chant of the workers: “We can’t survive on $7.25!”
The website describes conditions behind the campaign: “… people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation. While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by — many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job.”
Low wages, coupled with irregularly assigned hours, keep working conditions miserable. Fast food workers are justifiably fighting to get wages up to $15 an hour.
Community support by labor, Occupy Wall Street and progressive activists played a key role in the campaign. In fact, when Wendy’s tried to fire one of the strikers in a Brooklyn restaurant, a community delegation showed up right away. Supporters included New York Councilmember Jumaane Williams, who urged customers to either leave the restaurant or not come in at all in support of the striker. The tactic worked; the worker was rehired on the spot as some of the customers left the restaurant in solidarity.
This shows the strength of people power.
The New York Times, in a Nov. 20 article titled “Skills don’t pay the bills,” published an illuminating graphic with a picture of two employers, one represented by a manufacturing building and the other a McDonalds.
Lines went around the corner of workers applying for jobs, not at the manufacturing factory but at the food factory. The article stated, “Nearly six million factory jobs … have disappeared since 2000. And while many of these jobs were lost to competition with low-wage countries, even more vanished because of computer-driven machinery that can do the work of 10 or, in some cases, 100 workers.”
The article went on to say, “Hundreds of thousands of U.S. factories are starving for skilled workers.” It referred to a study claiming that nearly 80 percent of manufacturers have jobs they can’t fill. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates there are “roughly 600,000 jobs available for whoever has the right set of advanced skills.”
Why are these jobs hard to fill? The CEO of GenMet, a Milwaukee metal-fabricating manufacturer, explained it best. He said he would hire as many skilled workers as showed up at his door. Last year, he received 1,051 applications and found only 25 people who were qualified. He hired all of them, but supposedly soon had to fire 15. Part of his “pickiness,” he says, comes from avoiding workers with experience in a “union-type job.”
Indeed the starting pay is only $10 an hour. Those with an associate degree can make $15, which can rise to $18 after several years of good performance. Yet, the Times writes, a new shift manager at a McDonald’s can earn around $14 an hour.
It must be pointed out that while they “can” earn $14 an hour, the workers who walked out on Nov. 29 show that most don’t.
The National Employment Law Project reports that nearly 60 percent of the jobs added since the recession have been these types of low-wage jobs, particularly in retail sales and food preparation. Conditions at these corporations are shameless, especially when you consider their profits.
McDonald’s net income in the third quarter was a whopping $1.46 billion! Total sales at McDonald’s were a staggering $7.15 billion in one year. (NY Times, Oct. 19)
Walmart slipped to number two in this year’s Fortune 500 after holding on to number one for two years in a row. Their profits declined to an astounding $15.7 billion!
No wonder Walmart and McDonald’s workers are walking out. The profits the workers have made for these corporations is astounding, yet the workers still have to apply for food stamps. If ever there was a case to expose the contradictions of capitalism, this is THE one.
Tipping point or temporary upsurge?
This upsurge in the class struggle is taking few by surprise.
That the specter of union organizing is haunting megaconglomerates like McDonald’s and Walmart was inevitable. The capitalist system’s drive to move industry toward more high technology with miserable low pay for the workers; its voracious drive for ever more profits; the fact that war no longer provides the economic panacea it used to; technology and automation are creating downward pressure on wages; and an expanding worldwide work force far outnumbers the shrinking pool of jobs — all these factors have created the conditions that led to these walkouts.
Capitalism, at a dead end, with fewer and fewer world markets in which to sell commodities, is providing no way out for the working class.
In fact, this dying animal is increasing its attacks tenfold.
It was inevitable that the work force that created the wealth for the capitalist 1% would sooner or later rise up against these conditions. The specter of organizing, of fighting back against the megacorporations that compose the capitalist system is in its infancy, but it is getting brighter. It remains to be seen where this will go.
This specter also brilliantly illuminates that the conditions of exploitation between the bosses and the workers are irreconcilable. Sooner or later, somewhere the class struggle will burst asunder.
This is a time to seize the moment. Class-conscious fighters and progressives of all types should be on the front lines to express their unconditional solidarity with low-wage workers and help them win. A union victory at Walmart or McDonald’s would be a huge tipping point for the class struggle.
Then the next step would be to abolish the capitalist system altogether. Only that will assure a real victory for the workers and the oppressed here and around the world.

Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

That's the best article I've read on the strikes.  I've been very disappointed with the coverage of the strikers from our so-called 'independent' media.  This is the only coverage I've seen that offers what took place, ties it into the historical struggle and also provides strikers who look like people you know as opposed to cartoons (some of which might scare you).  When I see that kind of bad coverage in corporate media, I'm not surprised.  But when it makes it into 'independent' media as well?

That's frightening.  So I hope you enjoy the Workers World report as much as I did.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, December 5, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  the standoff between Baghdad and Erbil continues, Nouri wants his face adorning checkpoints,  news emerges of a lawsuit Nouri filed to slap down the Iraqi people, Iraq's First Lady calls for honoring diversity, the US Congress discusses Iraqi refugees, and more.
Chair Patrick Meehan:  From 2004 - 2007, the insurgency in Iraq produced substantial civilian displacement and emigration from the country.  In response to the growing humanitarian crisis, Congress passed legislation which gave Iraqis who helped the US government or military the opportunity to receive special refugee status and resettlement in the United States.  While the motivation behind creating these special immigrant categories were well intentioned, the fact remains that in May 2011, two Iraqi nationals who were given refugee status and resettled in the US were arrested and accused by the FBI of plotting to send weapons and money to al Qaeda in Iraq.  One of the men arrested had openly discussed his prior experience as an insurgent in Iraq and the IED attacks he participated against US troops.  The fingerprints of the other Iraqi refugee who was charged were traced by the FBI to a component of an unexploded IED that was recovered by US forces in northern Iraq.  In the wake of these arrests, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and others have publicly acknowledged that security screenings have been expanded to the more than 58,000 Iraqi refugees who had already been settled in the United States.
US House Rep Patrick Meehan was speaking at the House Homeland Security Subccomittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence yesterday as they explored the topic of refugees.
The Iraq War created the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1949.  Millions were displaced within Iraq (internal refugees) and millions were forced to leave the country (external refugee).  There's a mistaken impression that the United States government did something wonderful.  They didn't.  The high water mark for Iraqi refugees being admitted into the US was in the year Bully Boy Bush and Barack share.  Under President Barack Obama, the number has gone down each year.  Fiscal Year 2009 (October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009) saw 18,838 Iraqis admitted to the US.  That number dropped to 9,388 in FY2011.  The 2012 Fiscal Year ended two months ago but the government has yet to release figures for the full year.  Through the end of March 2012, the number of Iraqis admitted to the US stood at 2,501. And the number 12,000 was used by Homeland Security officials for FY2012 during yesterday's hearing.   In the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama won a lot of support for promises on Iraqi refugees -- promises that were not kept.
Some may look at the case of the two Iraqis Chair Meehan was referring to -- Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanand Shareef Hammadi -- and think the low numbers count as good news.  That's a judgment call.  If that's what you feel, you're entitled to feel that way.  I don't feel that way.  
As for the two men making it through the system with one being an obvious mistake -- security concerns should have resulted in his being kicked out of the program.   The fact that he wasn't goes to information sharing and not to the program itself.   As Ranking Member Janice Han pointed out, "In 2005, Alwan's finger print was found on a roadside bomb in Iraq.  This information was in a Department of Defense data base that was not checked during his background investigation when he applied to the refugees admissions program.  This illustrates that  we still have failed to close the remaining information sharing gaps that continue to persist since the September 11th terrorist attacks." So the issue in one of the cases was a failure to utilize information the government already had access to. 
Two people isn't enough to alarm me.  That's me.  For others, that number may be way too high.  Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it is a serious issue and we'll go into what was said about it during the hearing. 
Appearing before the Subcommittee were the State Dept's Director of the Refugee Admissions Office Lawrence Bartlett, Homeland Security's Chief in the Refugee Affairs Division Barbara Strack and Homeland Security's Deputy Undersecretary for Analysis Dawn Scalici.   The hearing covered many aspects.  I sat through it for the issue of Iraqi refugees and that's what we'll focus on.
From Barbara Strack and Dawn Scalici's prepared (written) statement:
USCIS officers conduct refugee status interviews for applicants from more than 60 countries each year, though the vast majority of these applicants are currently Iraqi, Bhutanese and Burmese nationals.  Refugee processing operations in the Middle East are primarily focused on Iraqi nationals with interviews taking place in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt as well as in-country processing of Iraqi nationals in Baghdad.  Operations in Damascus, Syria, previously a large refugee processing site, have been suspended since March 2011.  In FY2012, over 12,000 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the United States, and since 2007, over 71,000 Iraqi nationals have been resettled, many of whom have ties to the United States through work or family.
Strack testified that the Iraqi program was modified as it went along, fine-tuned, and that it is now the standard for all refugees (age 14 to 65, Scalici explained) attempting to enter the US regardless of their nationality -- this is the standard across the board whether you're attempting to become a refugee from Eastern Europe or from Iraq. And prior to that?
Dawn Scalici:  [. . .] what we have done as an interagency process is to go back and do retroactive checks on those individuals that were earlier admitted to the United States and any relevant information that comes to light is then shared with releveant intelligence community or law enforcement agencies as appropriate.  One other thing I think I would mention as well, not only do we have analysts who are looking at all the relevant intelligence and data at the time that an applicant originally puts forward their application, we review it again before that applicant actually enters the United States in case any derogatory information has arisen in the intervening time. So we do believe, again, this interagency process drawing on more intelligence and data than we ever did before as well as the recurring and retroactive checks has greatly enhanced our ability to identify individuals of concern.
Now we're going to an exchange on the same topic.
Ranking Member Janice Hahn: How did we miss that initial information? And could you speak to what are we doing? I hear vague comments about information sharing but we know that is key as we move forward that was one of the one lessons we learned from 9-11. So what, without divulging any classified information, how did we miss that information the first time around and what can you tell us that will give us some confidence that we really are able to look at all the data available out there to make responsible decisions as we move forward in this refugee program?
Dawn Scalici: Well for those two individuals of concern that we've been talking about, at the time that they made their original application to enter the refugee program in the United States both their biographic and biometric information that we had available on them at the time and that were used in the screening processes came in clean. So we did not have any derogatory information on those two individuals that we used as part of the screening effort when they entered the United States. And the finger print clearance came through as well from DoD, FBI as well as DHS --
Ranking Member Janice Hahn:  Even though their finger prints were found to have been on a roadside bomb?
Dawn Scalici:  That's what we have learned in the aftermath. I would have to refer to DoD and FBI for any specific information on that but again all the biographic and biometric information as well as the biometric checks that were performed at the time did come back clean. But since that time, as I think we've noted, we've actually enhanced the program and the security checks. We now draw upon a greater wealth of intelligence and data holdings on individuals seeking application to the refugee program which greatly enhances our ability to identify derogatory compared to earlier.
Janice Hahn: Anyone else want to comment on that? [The other two witnesses didn't.] So other than the recent Iraqi refugee case, have there been --
We're cutting Hahn there because our focus is Iraq and she goes on to expand.  We're not including the witness responses because they had no other cases.
But before someone e-mails to tell me there may be another terrorist case . . .  Yes, there was a bombing of a Social Securtiy building last Friday in Casa Grande, Arizona.  The suspect is a man the media has identified as Iraqi-American (Abdullatif Aldosary).  When did he come to the US?  Reports differ with some saying before 2008 and some saying 1998.  If he were found guilty -- and currently he has the presumption of innocence -- and he entered the US before Fiscal Year 2007 (so before September 30, 2006), he predates the screening system that was being discussed.  If he were found guilty and he was admitted to the US after October 1, 2006, he would have been admitted under the system that was being discussed. That doesn't mean that, if guilty, he necessarily had any indicators that should have been caught in the screening. 
Though lumped together, there are actually two groups of Iraqis who can work through the current system. There are the refugees who are threatened and there are also the Iraqis who worked with US forces or US-approved missions. 
Chair Chair Patrick Meehan:  Ms. Strack, Ms. Scalici,  could you, identify if you will -- we're talking about those who are eligible for consideration.  There has been the identification of an emphasis on those who have participated in assisting United States efforts -- either in the military, intelligence, otherwise non-governmental organizations -- who then put themselves into some peril.  What is the distinction between those who are humanitarain versus those who have performed to the benefit of our interests and are therefore being given some consideration because of the exposure that may result from that service?
Barbara Strack: It's a -- The programs work in several ways to address both humanitarian concerns and those who worked side-by-side, employed directly by the US or with US affiliated organizations, NGOs or media organizations.  The SIV program that we've talked about is often conflated with the refugee program but it's actually distinct so --
Chair Patrick Meehan: Could you explain that for me please?  What an SIV stands for --
Barbara Strack:  I'm sorry --
Chair Patrick Meehan: -- because we've seen this before and I want to see how that's different from the other program?
Barbara Strack:  Yes, sir.  It stands for Special Immigrant Visa program.   And so unlike the refugee program, the fundamental focus of the refugee program is on whether someone has been persecuted, have they been persecuted in the past or do they have a well founded fear of persecution in the future based on a protected category: Race, religion, nationality,  political opinion or membership in a particular social group.  The SIV program traditionally is -- Special Immigrant Visa -- is really based on service with the United States.  And this is something Mr. Bartlett is a little bit more of an expert on.  But Congress legislated familiar a program -- Special Immigrant Visas -- to say that those who've worked for the United States government in -- there are actually three sub-categories within the Special Immigrant Visa program.  Initially, it was small: If you were a translator with the military.  But it expanded beyond that to include embassy employees.   And really, for them, it's the fact that their service with the United States that makes them eligible.  And when they come to the United States, its' -- both our agencies -- it is handled through a different bueractric stream,  They don't come as a refugee.  They come as a lawful, permanent resident.  So when they arrive, they get a green card based on their service.  Now there are some individuals who may be eligble to apply for both programs, they may have worked with the US embassy or the US military so they're eligible to apply for an SIV but they may very well be able to articulate a refugee claim because -- because of that service -- they have also faced persecution.  So we work -- we work on the refugee side of the program.  But individuals may choose which of those two avenues is better for them, which they think operates more quickly depending on whether they're in Iraq or somewhere else --
Chair Patrick Meehan: Well that's an interesting question.  Do they operate on a parallel track or is there some preference given to somebody who has served as an interpreter for our troops that are, you know, out in the midst of the mountains in Afghanistan?  Do they get a preference or is there not any difference?
Barbara Strack:  I can tell you that they do operate on a parallel track so an individual -- an individual who is eligible -- has the opportunity to file for an SIV and, again, that would be filed with the State Department.  And, in the refugee program, having worked with the United States or a US affiliated organization is one of the criteria that can help you get access to the program but it is not the sole criteria.
It was an informative hearing.  And while the State Dept has yet to release a complete figure for FY2012, again, the number used in the hearing was 12,000 and "over 12,000."
That is not in keeping with the promises made in the 2008 campaign.  The International Rescue Committee notes on their Iraq page, "A small number of vulnerable Iraqi refugees are being granted refuge in the United States."  And, as Refugees International observes, "the country continues to face large scale displacement and pressing humanitarian needs.  Millions of Iraqis have fled their homes -- either for safer locations within Iraq or to other countreis in the region -- and are living in increasingly desperate circumstances."  The Iraqi Refugee Assistand Program highlights the Ibrahims with a video of the mother and two of her sons and one of her daughters. 
Ekhlas Zaky:  My name is Ekhlas Zaky.  I'm from Mosul. I was born in '72. Married with five kids.
Mustafa:  Mustafa.  I'm from Mosul.
Ekhlas Zaky:  You're in second year.
Mustafa:  I'm in second year.
Tuhama:  My name is Tuhama.  From Mosul.  Second year.
Ekhlas Zaky: Ibrahim doesn't speak.  Our main reason for leaving Iraq was the children.  I'm sure the war is to blame for my children's illness. The doctors talked about the chemicals that had been dropped on Iraq. They said that they affect the kidneys and the heart. So the chemicals affected Tuhama's kidneys.  It's a rare disease. Provision of medical treatment was unreliable.   Most often Tuhama's fits would happen at night.  Getting her to hospital was very difficult. The closest hospital was surrounded by military forces.  So my husband and I had to risk our lives to get her there. Otherwise she would have died in front of our eyes.  Ibrahim is unable to speak.  And he can't see out of one eye.  One day he was with me at the market.  A truck drove in, loaded with melons.  It drove past and then exploded.  Of course Ibrahim is just a child.  The explosion terrified him. He kept screaming and crying. Afterwards, he wouldn't talk so I took him to see the sheiks. They said that the shock had caused him not to speak. Many doctors advised us to seek medical treatment abroad.  There, medicine is more advanced and equipment is more modern.  The doctors said the children would benefit.  Even if they found good reason to deny me and my husband resettlement what about the fate of the children? 
Refugees are people in need.  As Barbara Strack pointed out in yesterday's hearing, "Bad actors will try to take advantage of any admission program to the United States -- whether its visa programs or refugee programs."  Part of the job Strack and others do is determining who meets the criteria and who doesn't.  In many ways, the criteria is a failure.  One example: Iraq's LGBT community is at risk because they have been repeatedly targeted throughout the war.  The Ministry of the Interior targeted them this year alone with 'teach-ins' at schools where they demonized and, yes, justified killing LGBTs.  But Iraq's LGBT community does readily make one of the five categories for refugee status.  They are a targeted group.  Another example of the criteria?  In Iraq, "nationality" -- one of the five at risk categories the US government recognizes -- really isn't an issue.  Religious sect? Yeah.  Nationality, not really.  (Palestinian Iraqis would be one notable exception but the international community has been more than happy to leave them in refugee camps on the outskirts of Iraq for years now.)  At Iraqi Refugee Stories, you can learn about the many reasons Iraqis seek asylum.  And, as Catholic Relief Services notes, making it out of Iraq doesn't mean problems all vanish since "a majority of Iraqi refugees cannot legally work and lack access to basic health, social services and education.  As a result many Iraqi refugees are destitute.  They have depleted all of their savings after several years in exile.  Many suffer from debilitating illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney problems and cancer with limited or not access to health care."
Approximately 3.3 million Iraqis, including 750,000 children, were "exterminated" by economic sanctions and/or illegal wars conducted by the U.S. and Great Britain between 1990 and 2012, an eminent international legal authority says.
The slaughter fits the classic definition of Genocide Convention Article II of, "Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part," says Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign, and who in 1991 filed a class-action complaint with the UN against President George H.W. Bush.
Boyle explained the basics at The International Conference on War-affected Children at Kuala Lampur in Malaysia last month (click here for the speech in full),  "The United States and the United Kingdom obstinately insisted that the genocidal economic sanctions imposed against Iraq remain in place until after the conclusion of the internationally illegal Gulf War II of aggression perpetrated by the Bush Junior administration and the Tony Blair government against Iraq in March of 2003. Then, on 22 May 2003 the United States and the United Kingdom procured U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483 lifting these genocidal economic sanctions; yet not with a view to easing the over decade-long suffering of the Iraqi people and children. But rather so as to better facilitate the U.S./U.K. unsupervised looting and plundering of the Iraqi economy and oil fields in violation of the international laws of war as well as to the grave detriment of the Iraqi people and their children."
In Iraq, it's difficult to keep track of the many crises plaguing the country.  The latest one revolves around the disputed areas.  Having refused to obey the Constitution he took an oath to uphold, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki  has refused to implement Article 140 which addresses how to resolve the disputes (census and referendum).  Having refused to follow the Constitution for six years, Nouri decided this was the year to send his forces (Tigris Operation Command) into the disputed areas.  The Kurds sees this as Nouri's attempt to take over the regions.  The Peshmerga (elite Kurdish forces) and Nouri's forces are now in a standoff.  Observers and Iraqi politicians fear the outbreak of war if tensions are not eased quickly.  By the way, the Tigris forces?  The unit heads were not approved by Parliament in violation of the Constitution. 
Critics say Maliki is concentrating power in his office (the office of the prime minister) and his advisers are running "a government inside a government", bypassing ministers and parliament. In his role as commander in chief, he appoints generals as heads of military units without the approval of parliament. The officers, critics say, are all loyal to him. He has created at least one intelligence service, dominated by his clan and party members, and taken two military units - the anti-terrorism unit and the Baghdad brigade - under his direct command. At the same time he has inflated the size of the ministry of national security that is run by one of his allies.

Does that not describe everything?
Thing is though, the Guardian ran Ghait Abdul-Ahad's article April 29, 2009.
Yeah, Nouri's completely predictable and completely out of control.  And this has been obvious for years now to anyone paying attention.

Last week, the Baghdad generals and the Peshmerga leaders met and came up with a 14-point agreement that would ease the situation but Nouri rejected the agreement and tensions have only increased.  The Kurdish Globe today carries an Al-Monitor article on the crisis:

The president of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, has said that the formation of the Tigris Operations Command (TOC) is illegal, unconstitutional and provocative. In an interview with Azzaman to be published in the paper?s Iraqi, Arab and international editions, Barzani said that the policy of gradual takeover and establishing facts on the ground in disputed areas is rejected. He said that the best options for the Kurds and for all Iraqis is to reach an agreement, to return to the constitution and to solve the differences through dialogue.
Barzani stressed that Baghdad does not belong to one person, one party or one group. He said that the Kurds are willing to assume all results and consequences, but that they cannot accept a new dictatorship. 

Alsumaria reports that a delegation from the Kurdish Regional Government, headed by former Preisdent Barham Salih, has arrived in Baghdad and been met with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  al-Nujaifi has just returned from the KRG.  Alsumaria notes that he met with KRG Presidnet Massoud Barzani yesterday to discuss the continued tensions and what has become an armed standoff between Nouri's forces and the Peshmerga.  All Iraq News notes that al-Nuajifi is hoping to meet with Nouri.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani arrived in Baghdad yesterday.  Al Mada notes that he held meetings to address the crisis including one with Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim.  On the topic of Talabani, a news flash scrawling across the screen of Alsumaria's live feed this morning notes that Nouri's office is denying rumors that Nouri is cutting the salaries for the guards protecting Talabani.

New Europe reports that the European Union's Foreign Affairs Committee is calling for a stronger European Union presence in Iraq.  The Iraq Times adds that British and US officials are working to de-escalate the situation.  Others calling for calm?  Al-Monitor provides a translation of an Al-Hayat article which includes:
The supreme authority Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on the central government to "be patient and stay away from bloody conflicts." For his part, Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr mentioned previous fatwas issued by senior authorities that prohibited fighting the Kurds.
[. . .]
In a statement yesterday [Dec. 4], Sistani called on Maliki to "be patient and refrain from pushing Iraqis into any bloody conflict, which would only harm the people."
Furthermore, Ayatollah Hussein Ismail al-Sadr said in a statement yesterday that the authorities are "committed to the fatwa of Ayatollah Mohsen al-Hakim and his uncle the martyr Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr prohibiting fighting the Kurds. The fatwa was issued during the 1960s." He emphasized his commitment to "put in place efforts to bridge the gap between the two parties and adopt dialogue under the governorship of the constitution, the principles of brotherhood and the long record of struggle that weighed down the oppressed.

All Iraq News notes that Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani declared today his thanks to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the other religious clerics for the supervision they have provided throughout the current crisis.

 The concerns come as a new wrinkle emerges.  Nouri is a paranoid tyrant and that was known well before the end of his first term in 2010.  But some 'reporters' have repeatedly felt the need to say that Nouri's not that bad because, goodness, Saddam Hussein has statues and pictures of himself posted throughout Iraq and Nouri's done nothing like that.  Take a loook at the photo to this Iraq Times report -- see the standing photo of Nouri?  The article explains that Nouri issued orders Sunday that his image must be displayed at all checkpoints.

Meanwhile Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud is considered a Ba'athist by many Iraqis.  It's not even 'whispered' anymore.  And possibly he's in the bag for Nouri for that reason?  Regardless, Nouri does control the Baghdad judiciary and the Iraq Times reports that al-Mahmoud has issued an order to all the judges under him that they will not execute an arrest warrant for Nouri.  Strange isn't it, Nouri claims that arrest warrants have to be executed.  Remember his claim publicly that he didn't want to execute the one on Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, that he was forced to do so?  But when its an arrest warrant for Nouri, it gets buried.  The judiciary jumps for Nouri.  A few weeks ago, Nouri attempted to end the food-rations card system and his spokesperson announced, November 6th, that it was over.  It wasn't over because it's too popular.  The Iraqi people wouldn't stand for it nor would the politicians (except for those in Nouri's State of Law).  So Nouri had to back down.  Moqtada al-Sadr was one of the leaders on that issue.  
But he and Moqtada tangled weeks before that as well.  It happened when Nouri said there was no oil surplus money that could become dividends for the Iraqi people and Moqtada al-Sadr expressed doubt and disapproval.  All Iraq News explained in October that Moqtada and his poltical bloc have not let the matter die or just resorted to words, they're actively working with the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and the Minister of Planning Ali Shukri to find oil money that can go to the Iraqi people with plans to set aside 25% of future revenues for that.  Moqtada and his bloc continued working on the issue and had the people's support.  In November,  All Iraq News reported that a delegation from the Sadr bloc met  with Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi to discuss this issue and find out what the progess was on it and to announce that  they will continue to stay focused on this and ensure that the country and its children benefit from the oil.
While Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc was fighting for the people and doing so in the open, Nouri was doing something else.  Alsumaria reports that MP Bahaa al-Araji of the Sadr bloc held a press conference today outside Parliament to reveal that Nouri al-Maliki filed a lawsuit to dismiss the budget item on sharing the oil suprlus with the citizens from the year's budget.   The court -- no surprise, it's not a real court -- ruled in Nouri's favor.  Only now, after the ruling, do they find out what Nouri was doing behind everyone's back.
Violence never gets buried, it's always right there on the surface with Iraqis unable to escape it and Nouri unable/unwilling to provide security.   Alsumaria reports 1 soldier was shot dead in Kirkuk today by unknown assailants in a passing car.  All Iraq News notes a Baquba car bomb and a second bomb went off together claiming 2 lives and leaving ten people injured. In addition, All Iraq News reports that Zia Ahmed Shehab, the brother of the Governor of Salahuddin Province, was kidnapped today in Tikrit.
In other news,  Hero Ibrahim Ahmed has grabbed some headlines.  Among other things, she is over the charity Kurdistan Save the Children.  Like many notable Iraqis, her family has a long history of involvement in Iraqi politics and in being persecuted.  Novelist Ibrahim Ahmad was her father.  He was also a judge and one of the first chairs of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (the first after it changed its name).  Moving up the political chain in Iraq has always meant creating enemies.  He would end up in Abu Ghraib prison for two years.  He would go on to become an editor of a newspaper and, more importantly to the political situation, the voice of the KDP following it's split into two parties -- the other, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, would be headed by Mustafa Barzani.    Today the PUK is headed by Massoud Barzani who is also the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  He is the son of the late Mustafa Barzani.  Mustafa's grandson is KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. 

And if those links and connections alone make Hero Ibrahim Ahmed's story one of the basic histories of Iraq, let's note that she's also the First Lady of Iraq, she's married to President Jalal Talabani.  She's also begun a new project aimed at celebrating the rich diversity in Iraq.   Al Mada reports that she initated yesterday Kirkuk for Social Awareness, a program to ensure that diversity and nationality is protected in Kirkuk.  One aspect of the program, she explained to government officials in Kirkuk yesterday, is the creation of a song that will bring in all the languages spoken by the people of Iraq and recognize the diversity.  She stressed that this would include the Mandaeans whose language, UNESCO has warned, is in danger of vanishing.   The Mandaeans numbered a little over 50,000 in Iraq prior to the start of the war in 2003.  Some estimates now put their number as low as 5,000.   Many fled to Jordan and Syria during the ethnic cleansing years of roughly 2006 through 2008.  They have a special issue regarding immigration in that it is a water-based religion (for baptisms) and they prefer natural bodies of water for their ceremonies.   In 2009, David Grant (AP) reported on a community in Detroit.
In the US,  the House Veterans Affairs Committee which released the following:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, issued the following statement on the appointment of Rep. Michael Michaud as the Ranking Member of the Committee:
"I heartily congratulate Mike on becoming the Ranking Member of the Committee.  Mike has been an invaluable member and colleague, serving in a variety of positions over the past 10 years, including most recently as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health. 
"Mike has been a vocal advocate for America's veterans and their families, and has been instrumental in the passage of several pieces of major legislation to uphold benefits earned through service to our nation.  Mike has also been a leader, ensuring the Department of Veterans Affairs provides the best healthcare available.  I look forward to working with Mike to address the major issues facing our veterans today, and ensuring the bipartisanship of the Committee continues in the 113th Congress."
The 113th Full Committee is expected to be announced in the next two weeks.
Last week, the  ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of four service members in an attempt to remedy the inequality in the current military system:
The Defense Department's longstanding policy barring women from thousands of ground combat positions was challenged today in a federal lawsuit by four servicewomen and the Service Women's Action Network.
The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Northern California and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.
The four servicemembers have all done tours in Iraq or Afghanistan -- some deploying multiple times --where they served in combat or led female troops who went on missions with combat infantrymen. Their careers and opportunities have been limited by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts. The combat exclusion policy also makes it harder for them to do their jobs.
Women have been killed on the battlefield, and many more have been wounded in the course of their service. Take plaintiff Army Staff Sergeant Jennifer Hunt, who was awarded the Purple Heart, was wounded after serving in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. While women have an equal opportunity of being hurt or killed, the policy limits their ability to receive equal, integrated training and to advance in the ranks. Because their combat experience often is unofficial or outside of their official career field, it doesn't count in the same way for promotions resulting in a "brass ceiling" that keeps our military leadership overwhelmingly male.
The Constitution forbids the government from imposing a blanket ban on women's participation, especially where the rule is outdated and doesn't accurately capture how war is being waged today. Now, after a decade of armed service abroad, our servicewomen are demanding the opportunity to compete for official assignment to the combat jobs they've been doing for years.
On women, Sunday "How NPR Silences Women (Ann, Ava and C.I.)" went up at Third.  As we observed:
We documented how only 18% of Terry Gross' 2010 guests on Fresh Air were women. Next,  we documented how over 66% of Diane Rehm's guests in were men.  We then went on to document that only 30% of Talk of the Nation's guests were women.
People are always 'puzzled' how this happens.  NPR friends insist it's an accident.
An accident can have a multitude of outcomes.
If these are accidents how come the outcomes is always the same: Men booked more often than women on NPR?
That's not accidental, that sound likes engineering.
Ann tracks this gender imbalance at her site all the time and, Sunday, we explained how it happens -- it happens when Tell Me More airs a segment entitled "Women Fire Back At Working Dads" where there are two male guests and only one woman (and the woman's actually a listener comment left on the NPR answering line).  It happens when Don Gonyea decides he's going to 'explore' a female US Senator and decides that it's perfectly natural to go to 3 men and no women, and to pretend like it's perfectly natural to air two of those men insulting her but not backing up the insults.  That's the mind-set that repeatedly allows NPR programming to feature more female guests than male guests over and over every day of the year.
And the reason I'm working that in is because Women's Media Center has an article we need to note, Rachel Larris' "A Closer Look: Who's Writing Nine Newspapers' Presidential Election Coverage."  That went up in August.  I only learned of it Monday night when I was speaking with a WMC friend who mentioned the Third piece and said that they were doing stuff like that at WMC and I said, "Let me know when it goes up and I'll link to it."  It went up at the end of August.  As I explained, I avoid WMC for about six months every four years and there's fault because -- my opinion -- they fall to their knees swooning over the Democratic Party.  (If you're late to the party, I am a Democrat.  I don't tell anyone else how to vote.  If you're voting you're an adult and you should be able to figure it out yourself.  I did not vote in the presidential race this year -- no candidate running earned my vote.)   Life is too short, I don't need to be upset by that so I completely avoid the website during that time period.  It's happened two presidential election cycles so when 2012 rolled around -- and when 2016 rolls around -- I won't be visiting that site.  Now maybe that will change and I hope it does.  Women are a varied group, even women on the left.  And we've been told what to do for so long that telling us who to vote for these days is not 'sweetened' by the fact that the attempted marching order is coming from a woman.  We'll note the WMC article at Third on Sunday.  It's an important article and it's the kind we need.  NPR wouldn't be able to get away with bringing so few women on were it not for the fact that they know feminists will see them as a 'friend' and refuse to call them out.  Equality isn't something that we should wait on.  Women have been told to wait for centuries.  Good for WMC for tracking the gender imbalance.  Good for Rachel Larris for writing such a strong article.  Hopefully, you caught it in real time.  If you missed it, please make a point to check it out.