Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer continue to disappoint

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are Democratic Party leaders and they are big disappointments.  New leadership is sorely needed.  If you doubt it, Sarah Lazare and Adam Johnson (IN THESE TIMES) report:

At a June 1 press conference, President Trump declared war against the Black-led uprisings taking place across the country by calling on the deployment of U.S. troops to American cities. “War”—a term typically reserved as metaphor or figure of speech—in this context increasingly appears to be a literal act taken by the President of the United States.
Trump said he would deploy the U.S. military to any city or state that “refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents,” and he declared that he was dispatching “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers” to Washington, DC. The remarks, delivered in front of a church where, moments ago, the streets had been violently cleared by the National Guard, sent a clear message to Trump’s white supremacist base that he plans to respond with brute—and potentially lethal—force to nationwide rebellions that were touched off by the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by Minneaolis police. His remarks followed Trump's May 28 tweet, in which he declared, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which the ACLU said amounts to “directing the National Guard to murder protesters.”
This is a moment that calls for clear opposition and moral outrage. But instead, hours after this shocking speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the most powerful Democrats in the country, issued a mealy-mouthed, platitude-heavy statement that is worth reading in its entirety:
Across our country, Americans are protesting for an end to the pattern of racial injustice and brutality we saw most recently in the murder of George Floyd.
Yet, at a time when our country cries out for unification, this President is ripping it apart.  Tear-gassing peaceful protestors without provocation just so that the President could pose for photos outside a church dishonors every value that faith teaches us.
We call upon the President, law enforcement and all entrusted with responsibility to respect the dignity and rights of all Americans. Together, we must insist on the truth that America must do much more to live up to its promise: the promise of liberty and justice for all, which so many have sacrificed for – from Dr. King to John Lewis to peaceful protestors on the streets today.
At this challenging time, our nation needs real leadership. The President’s continued fanning of the flames of discord, bigotry and violence is cowardly, weak and dangerous.
Nowhere in this statement do Pelosi or Schumer say unequivocally that they oppose Trump’s threat to deploy the U.S. military against Black people in the United States. They give a name check to “racial injustice and brutality,” but they do not even name the police as the purveyors of this brutality. They say our country “cries out for unification,” but demonstrators aren’t calling for “unification”, whatever that means: They are angry and are forcefully demanding a change to a status quo that is killing Black people. By praising the “peaceful protesters on the streets today,” Pelosi and Schumer are implicitly creating a dichotomy between good and bad protesters for the purpose of criticizing the latter—a dichotomy that Trump himself has embraced and one central to the logic behind his military escalation.

But it’s what they didn’t mention that is most alarming. Nowhere do Pelosi and Schumer pledge that they will stop the military from enacting Trump’s apparent fever dream of a race war.

Again, we need new leadership.  We badly need new leadership.  I'm also sick of Nancy Posing Pelosi -- I'm referring to her Bible stunt.  And on that, f**k THE NEW YORKER.  They're trashing Donald Trump for 'sacred' blah blah blah.  This is the same NEW YORKER that declared war on Christians in the idiotic reporting of Jane Mayer.  As a Catholic, I'm not in the mood for the posings of THE NEW YORKER.  Their faux outrage is nothing but hypocrisy.

New topic, Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

After years of warnings from scientists that the world is witnessing Earth's sixth mass extinction, a new study concludes that the current crisis is not only "human caused and accelerating" but also "may be the most serious environmental threat to the persistence of civilization, because it is irreversible."
The study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that at least 543 land vertebrate species have disappeared since 1900 and around the same number could be lost within just the next few decades due to destructive human pressures such as climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, population growth, and wildlife trade, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions.
Lead author Gerardo Ceballos González, a professor of ecology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told CNN that approximately 173 species went extinct between 2001 and 2014, which "is 25 times more extinct species than you would expect under the normal, background, extinction rate."
Compared with previous mass extinctions the Earth has experienced due to catastrophic events including volcanic eruptions or collision with an asteroid, the one that is happening now "is entirely our fault," Ceballos González added.
Extinction has dire consequences not only for the species that are wiped out but also for humanity, including an increased risk of health threats like Covid-19, which has killed over 376,000 people worldwide and infected more than 6.3 million, coauthor and Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich explained in a statement Monday.

"When humanity exterminates populations and species of other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system," said Ehrlich. "The conservation of endangered species should be elevated to a national and global emergency for governments and institutions, equal to climate disruption to which it is linked."

If we had real leadership in the Democratic Party, we'd be addressing climate change seriously.  Instead, they do nothing as the earth suffers.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, June 2, 2020.  Covid and ISIS continue in Iraq.

Sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder at the stupidity.  For example, Rafael Noboa Y Rivera shows up at THE DAILY BEAST to tell you "I'm an Iraq Veteran.  The Cops Are Treating Citizens Like They're Under Occupation."  I'm not questioning the police violence.  It's taking place.  It's documented in video after video of the protests.  I am asking what the hell Rafael is thinking?  This is how you acted in your tour in Iraq?  Or this is what you saw?  You already sold out everyone in 2008, veterans, remember?  You sold out your fellow veterans who, sadly, were willing to be sold out.  Barack Obama didn't want the big protest that veterans were threatening.  He was going to meet with veterans.  Rivera was part of that 'deal' that wasn't.  Barack never met with them, he just strung them along to avoid the headlines of ''Veterans Protest Barack."

Now Rafael shows up, as Americans are disgusted to see the way protesters are being attacked by the police, to tell us this is what he, the Iraq Veteran, saw under occupation?

If so, you really need to apologize to the Iraqi people.  And you need to stop acting like what took place there was in any way okay because it wasn't.  Your use of it to make an analogy demonstrates that it was not okay.

On the protests, here's Margaret Kimberley (BLACK AGENDA REPORT) speaking to Australia's SKY NEWS.

Violence continues in Iraq.  MENAFM notes, "According to the Iraqi military, two soldiers and two Islamic State (IS) militants were murdered on Monday, June 1st in an airstrike and a bomb attack in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh and Diyala."  And, KURDISTAN 24 notes, "on Sunday, terrorists killed two members of the Iraqi federal police and the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and wounded six others, according to local media reports and a PMF statement."

You may remember that it was just last week when we were laughing at the Iraqi military spokesperson who was insisting ISIS had been "vanquished" and was no longer a problem in Iraq.

There are many problems in Iraq.  That includes the coronavirus.

Iraq reimposed total lockdowns over the weekend following a surge in COVID-19 cases.
After meeting with his COVID-19 task force on Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government decided to institute a nationwide curfew until June 6, 2020.
“The joint meeting underscored the importance of all citizens continuing to follow official health advice and physical distancing guidelines, and to comply with the curfew to keep themselves, their families and communities safe,” the government said in a press release announcing the restrictions.
Under the latest guidelines, only supermarkets, bakeries and pharmacies are allowed to remain open. These businesses cannot have more than five people in them at a time, and both employees and customers must wear masks. Some ministries will be closed, people must wear masks when outside and the closure of Iraq’s airports to commercial flights will continue until June 6. Restaurants will be allowed to deliver, according to the release.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraqi-Kurdistan also began a full lockdown today with similar restrictions until June 6, according to a KRG Department of Foreign Relations tweet.

MEED notes Iraq has 6,868 confirmed cases of Covid-19, there have been 215 deaths and there have been 3,275 who have recovered.  On the recovered, we'll note this report.

One way Americans can inhabit this crossroads in the weeks and months to come is by reading Iraqi occupation literature — that is, literature by Iraqis about life between 2003 to 2011, when the U.S.-led Coalition Forces occupied the country. Over the last decade, a number of brilliant fiction and nonfiction books about the occupation have become available in English. Two that stand out among this emerging subgenre are “The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq” by the award-winning Arabic writer and filmmaker Hassan Blasim and “Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq” by the anonymous Iraqi software engineer-turned-blogger Riverbend. Others include “The Corpse Washer” by Sinan Antoon, “Frankenstein in Baghdad” by Ahmed Saadaw, “The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq” by Dunya Mikhail, and “Baghdad Noir” edited by Samuel Shimon.
These works challenge readers to share in the experience of being occupied. Just three months ago, this experience might have been considered a subject for only niche academic audiences or, worse, written off as the plight of an unlucky pocket of the globe. But the demanding isolation of social distancing, deepening precarity caused by the shutdown of all “nonessential” sectors, and seemingly imminent threat of infection and illness have made these narratives relatable to a wider American public. The idea of being confined, indefinitely, to one shelter was inconceivable for many of us prior to the coronavirus. During the first two weeks of the shutdown, my students, who were forcibly dispersed across four continents in a matter of days, began each virtual meeting by noting how surreal and dystopian it all felt. As one New Jersey-native put it, “It’s like we’re in a ‘Black Mirror’ episode, right?”
It’s also the first time since the Vietnam War that the U.S. public has been confronted with so many dead bodies, and so many lives that cannot be fully grieved. The drone footage from New York’s Hart Island, where hundreds of unclaimed corpses are being buried in mass graves, crystallizes this phenomenon. It’s also a dilemma shaping our daily lives in less spectacular ways: health care workers broadcasting a patient’s final moments via FaceTime, essential employees beginning their shift after a brief announcement about a coworker passing, reporters updating listeners and viewers with the latest death toll.
While this is new ground for many Americans, it’s old ground for many Iraqis. The mortality rate in Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion was about 5.5 people per 1,000 per year and rose to 19.8 deaths per 1,000 in the year 2006. That same year, the rate of violence rose by 51 percent in just three months, with an estimated 5,000 deaths per month. The country’s medical facilities struggled to cope with the influx of bodies and the lack of capacity in their morgues, and families hired civilians to search dumps, river banks and morgues for the bodies of missing relatives.

[. . .]

One of those features is the trope of Iraq’s occupied civilians as ghosts, jinnis (supernatural spirits in Arabic mythology), or divided subjects — liminal figures existing at the threshold between life and death, waking and dreaming, human and non-human, here and there. “Baghdad Burning” opens about five months after the American invasion with the pseudonymous author resolving to blog about daily life under the occupation because, as she writes, “I guess I’ve got nothing to lose.” She quickly distinguishes herself from the “third world” Muslim women of the Western imagination. A university-educated engineer with a music collection ranging from Britney Spears to Nirvana, the 24-year-old had a budding career and busy social life prior to May 2003. She was free to move — solo and hijabless — around the city as she pleased. All that changed with the occupation.
Riverbend chronicles the shift from her pre- to post-invasion life in details that are equal parts humorous and harrowing, raw and cerebral. She notes how the American troops carry out conventional forms of combat: killing, wounding and torturing Iraqi people. (Abu Ghraib, she affirms, was a watershed moment). But more often, she attends to the military’s more abstract and indirect engagement with those living in Baghdad. The occupying troops ravage the country’s infrastructure — electricity, water, gas and other basic services are constant problems — and they spread themselves everywhere in order to control and reconstruct the city. They also conduct patrols and raids that operate along the same logic as terrorism: surprise, chaos, asymmetry and mistrust. These strategies seem to facilitate the Islamic State’s domination and violence, a phenomenon that Riverbend highlights in her interrogative about the sounds that wake her at night: “What can it be? A burglar? A gang of looters? An attack? A bomb? Or maybe just an American midnight raid.”
“Baghdad Burning” also gives readers a window into the psychological and social effects of the occupation. This form of militarism makes Riverbend and other Iraqis feel like they exist in an alternate reality, outside recognizable social and structural forms, like politics and time. When Donald Rumsfeld visits the country in September 2003, Riverbend observes how he moves through Baghdad “safe in the middle of all his bodyguards.” Rumsfeld’s movement is a particularly cruel and distressing element of the occupation for Riverbend, whose own mobility had become radically restricted (by that point, she couldn’t leave home without a head covering and male relative). “It’s awful to see him strutting all over the place … like he’s here to add insult to injury … you know, just in case anyone forgets we’re in an occupied country.” The young Baghdadi woman’s experience of the perverse and unassailable distance between herself and the U.S. Secretary of Defense typifies the occupier-occupied relationship in “Baghdad Burning,” a dynamic that leads Riverbend to the hopeless feeling that “everything now belongs to someone else … I can’t see the future at this point.”

Last month, UNAMI noted a survey:

This month the Government of Iraq with the support of UNFPA and UNICEF, unveiled the results of its National Adolescent and Youth Survey.
The survey was the first of its kind in over a decade, with the last survey taking place in 2009. Its aim is to enable the Iraq Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to develop adolescent and youth-centered policies based on what adolescents and youth see as priorities. The launch took place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the participation of the Minister of Planning, Dr Nouri Al-Dulaimi, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Ahmed Taleb, the Deputy UN Special Representative for Iraq and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ms Marta Ruedas, along with UNFPA Representative, Dr Oluremi Sogunro and UNICEF Representative, Ms Hamida Lasseko.
“Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But they can only live out their full potential if they have skills, health and choices in life and most importantly, an adequate system that meets their inspirations,” explained Ms Marta Ruedas.
Iraqis between the ages of 10 and 30 were asked about a range of key thematic issues affecting their lives, including health, education and civic engagement. According to the survey, 39% expressed worry about their future financial security and employment prospects. With over a quarter of Iraqis between the ages of 15 and 30 jobless, Iraq is one of the countries with the highest youth unemployment rates in the region.
“The results show that young people have a clear understanding of citizenship, political and social life and livelihoods as well as their rights and obligations. The survey will be the basis for a clear and transparent process to put together youth-based policies,” said the Minister Taleb.

Iraq is a country with a young population.  The median age is 20.  By contrast, in the United States it's 38 years-old.  The youth have taken to the streets because of the corruption, because of the lack of jobs, because of issues with diplomas (including hiring issue), because of a government that does not serve the people.

Mustafa al-Kadhim only became the prime minister on May 7th.  But this is not supposed to be a four year term.  That's the point Ayad Allawi was making when he Tweeted the following on May 26th:

No public tribunal has yet been formed to try protestors’ killers; and neither have martyrs’ families, those wounded and made handicapped been compensated. In addition, there must be a fixed date for fair and early elections; a new electoral law; and an independent commission.

The following sites updated: