Saturday, August 04, 2018

Feinstein and Trump

Was it a senior moment?  A really long senior moment? 

Senator Dianne Feinstein's been spied on by the Chinese (specifically her driver was a spy of the Chinese government) and she never noticed.

"No media outlet will publish this Chinese spy’s name or his current employment or location, which is most curious."

Dianne Feinstein is an embarrassment.  At her age, it's time to go.  Hopefully, California will get behind Kevin de Leon and, in November, he will become California's new US senator.

Note, I'm not calling for her impeachment.  I'm not calling for MSNBC to spend every hour telling us how evil Dianne is.  I'm just saying I hope the voters vote her out of office.

Is that somehow confusing?

The most important domestic issue is this: do you support the "intelligence community" campaign to oust a democratically-elected President and establish their veto over the voters? is against it. Big difference: is for it:

Donald Trump was elected.

He is the president.

You may not like it.  You may like it.

Either way, he won and he won in the system that elected every other president before him.

You don't want him to be president again?  Stop garbage about Russia and start speaking to citizens' needs. 

We need better jobs and we need better paying jobs.

We need universal healthcare.

We need to end wars and bring the troops home.

We have a lot of needs.  Hysteria over Russia isn't addressing any of them.

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

Friday, August 3, 2018.  Still no government formed in (occupied) Iraq.

This morning, Kevin Watkins (GUARDIAN) reports:

Rahaf, aged 10, from west Mosul in Iraq, can’t tell you what caused the war that left her an orphan, killed her friends and robbed her of her childhood. But she can give you a child’s-eye view of the collective trauma, grief and loss that weigh on children across her devastated city. “I wake up and I witness war every day. I don’t want to go through another war,” she says.
[. . .]
While aid agencies and the Iraqi government focus on rebuilding cities flattened by war, the psycho-social needs of thousands of children who suffered traumatic experiences are being sidelined.
[. . .]
Looking at the piles of stone and twisted girders that were once homes provides a glimpse of the terror experienced by civilians trapped by urban warfare. It is impossible to know how many were killed or wounded by snipers and car bombs. What is clear is that many children emerged from the military devastation, and the three years of Isis rule that preceded it, carrying deep psychological scars.

The scars won't be going away anytime soon.  Nor has the war ended.  The 'success' of Mosul and its 'liberation' is a joke.

This is life a year after the battle for Mosul, .


Five harsh realities about life in Mosul today 

1) 300,000 people still live in displacement camps

2) Mines and unexploded devices are a constant threat

3) The number of bodies buried under rubble are still unknown.

4) Tens of thousands of people depend on aid for survival.

5) Volunteers do their best to save their cultural heritage.

That's Mosul.  What about Anbar Province?  Arwa Ibrahim (ALJAZEERA) reports:

The about 100 residents of al-Khadra camp are among the 2.14 million Iraqis who have been displaced since January 2014, according to the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR.
Inside the camp, which offers residents little more than shelter from the scorching summer heat, children run up and down its arid walkways and play in the sand between rows of neatly set tents.

As women hang their children's washed clothes to dry in the sun, while others cook meals on bunsen burners inside the tents that have housed them for years, there is no sign of this camp closing down any time soon.

As it gets close to 4 o'clock in the afternoon in Basra, right now the temperature is 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Protests continue in Iraq.  Zaid M. Belbagi (ARAB NEWS) observes:

With no improvement in sight, whilst Iraqi politicians haggle over ministerial positions in Baghdad’s air-conditioned Green Zone, the south of the country is up in flames. What differentiates these protests from others in Iraq’s recent past is that the country’s Shia community, the biggest supporters of the fall of the Baath regime, are those now demanding a change in the status quo. As the lack of electricity has intensified the effects of a brutal heatwave, protests have spread to the Shia heartlands of Najaf and Karbala. The demands of those on the streets have grown to now focus on other issues that also undermine quality of life, such as growing poverty, water shortages, unemployment, rampant corruption and of course, Iran’s ever-present hidden hand.


Link to headline article

No, the trick did not work.  Adnan Hussein (AL-ARABYIA) notes:

The motives and aims of suspending Iraq’s electricity minister, cannot deceive anyone, even the credulous. It is a ‘trick’ that has often been used in Iraq in particular as well as in the Middle East and in other countries.
Those who resort to this trick the most are the most pious rulers and who actually only appear pious, like our current rulers. The prime minister should have “played” a game other than this scapegoat goat.
The current electricity minister whom Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has suspended, is not the only person responsible for the ongoing electricity crisis facing the country.
The electricity ministry is not the only ministry that should bear responsibility for this crisis, which has been ongoing for 15 years now.
In fact, Abadi and his government are responsible for this problem, along with previous governments and their premiers, especially Nuri al-Maliki whose term covered over half of the 15-year period since the fall of Saddam.

The firing was a stunt, just as his firing of five election officials last Saturday was a stunt -- and an unsuccessful one at that.  Much to Hayder al-Abadi's regret, the stunts are being seen through.  In response to the suspension of the Minister of Electricity, the protesters said they'd wait to see some actual action.


Demonstrations in Iraq’s southern province of Basra are continuing a month after they started, protesters are demanding access to jobs and basic services.
According to local sources, hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets at the entrance of the Bargesia oilfield in Basra’s western village of Zubair yesterday.
The sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the protesters called on the local authorities and the Iraqi government in Baghdad to “immediate action towards employing the city locals instead of the foreign workers who earn good salaries.”

On Tuesday, Iraqi troops forcibly dispersed a days-long sit-in that was being held outside the same oilfield.

Suppression efforts may include spying on the protesters and the government compiling a list of them:

Iraq’s Ministry of Interior has spoken out against the claims by activists that the government has cataloged protesters involved in the nationwide protests over poor infrastructure services. A statement released by the ministry read that, “The Ministry of Interior, at a time when it denies such allegations flatly and totally, and it and the just Iraqi court elevates itself above these lies, would like to reiterate that security forces will keep protecting every peaceful protest expressive of rights and is far from vandalism and abuse of public and private interests.” The ministry believes that the rumors are being spread in an attempt to create public distrust in the Iraqi security forces. The right to assemble and conduct peaceful protests by Iraqi citizens is protected by the nations constitution.

Despite the denial, it is known that Nouri al-Maliki had protesters spied upon beginning in 2012 and a list was compiled during his terms as prime minister.

It would not be that surprising for Hayder -- a member of Nouri's political party Dawa and a member of Nouri's political slate State of Law -- to be doing the same.

Famous Iraqi singer shares protesters’ demands on stage in Lebanon

Iraq still has no government, despite holding elections May 12th.  A fear for some?

If the current protest in continue to escalate, they can only lead to: 1) end corruption, or 2) topple the regime. Iraqis may consider both scenarios better than the status qou, but we hope for the first.

On that topic, Basra appears to prefer independence.  Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) reports:

As protests spread in southern Iraq, particularly in Basra, there have been renewed demands for autonomy in the oil-rich governorate. Walid al-Kitan, head of the Basra Provincial Council, announced July 24 that 15 out of 25 members of the local government had signed a petition to establish an independent region of Basra.
However, Tariq Harb, a former adviser of the prime minister, believes that the petition isn't likely to succeed because the council's work ended in in June 2017. New provincial elections have been delayed until December 2018, with Sunni leaders arguing that elections cannot be held until those displaced by conflict have returned to their regions.
The concept of autonomous regions, which have been heavily promoted and politically exploited since 2013, is a thorny issue among Iraqis, many of whom resist the idea of the division of Iraq. However, it may be argued that calls for an autonomous Basra governorate are merely an attempt to pressure the central government to disburse the governorate's budget allocation and provide better services.

Iraq is not free.  It is not independent.  For example, then-President Barack Obama overturned the Iraqi people's vote in 2010 and, in 2014, he again imposed a prime minister upon them.  They are occupied by international forces.  They are represented by puppets who take the role gladly to indulge in corruption and rob the people of their collective wealth.
This goes back to the start of the Iraq War because the war in Iraq has never ended.

The Iraq War has cost us a staggering $2 trillion. 4,424 Americans were killed. Over 30,000 wounded. Over 280,000 Iraqis dead. Think of what could have been different if Democrats had stood up, instead of giving President Bush a blank check for war.

The following community sites updated:

  • Fakery
    10 hours ago 

  • Thursday, August 02, 2018

    Tulsi Gabbard, Andrea Mitchell, Sarah Abdallah, Samantha Power, THE ORIGINALS

    I cover TV here.  And I want to note Marcia’s “If this is to be my funeral then, let's get on with it (The Originals) ” on THE ORIGINALS because it is awful when a show ends in a sucky way.  She loved that show.  I don’t blame her for being upset.  To bring on a new performer in the final season and make every damn episode about the new performer?  How stupid.  THE ORIGINALS should go down not just as a show with a bad last episode but as a show with a bad last season.

    Speaking of bad, Samantha Power . . .

    If only you adopted such antiwar fervor and denounced Saudi Arabia’s crimes in Yemen when you were Obama’s UN Ambassador. After all, he’s the one who approved the war on Yemen 3 years ago in the first place.

    She really is ridiculous.  "Andrea Mitchell's pretty disgusting" detailed how disgusting Mitchell was.  She was acting as if the returns of the fallen was no big deal.  Idiot.

    Here's US House Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on a ceremony she attended for the fallen.

    1. Yesterday was moving, with mixed emotions. As we welcomed back the remains of service members who were killed in the Korean War, the feeling was solemn, but also hopeful: their families may finally find closure.
    2. So moving hearing the stories of the families who are here today, whose loved ones are still MIA, and how much hope this day gives them. We don’t know whose remains are coming home today, but we all stand in solidarity with one another - we will never leave a fallen comrade.
    3. Even as we honor those whose lives were lost in the Korean War here today, we are reminded that that war never ended. We must put politics aside and unite in support of diplomacy and peace, to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and finally end the Korean War.
    4. Historic day here in Hawaii, where we are gathered with fellow veterans across generations, and family members of POW/MIA. We honor those who were killed in the , and their families, whose remains are finally coming home.

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

    Thursday, August 2, 2018. Corruption continues in Iraq, still no new government formed and, believe it or not, they're still working on the recount.  Still.

    Alice Su (THE ATLANTIC) offers:

    Iraq has no effective policy or institutional frameworks for minority rights, the UN special rapporteur on minority issues has pointed out. Vulnerable minority groups were already suffering discrimination, persecution and displacement in the chaos of pre-ISIS Iraq: the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration estimated that between 2003 and 2008, nearly half of Iraq’s minority communities had already left the country because of targeted violence including murder, abduction, torture, rape, and intimidation, along with destruction of their religious buildings and homes. While the 2005 constitution includes some clauses guaranteeing religious freedom and political representation for minorities, none of that helped when ISIS began abducting and massacring Turkmen, Christians, Yazidis, Shabaks and others. With the Iraqi government, Kurdish authorities, and international community still unable to ensure protection in post-ISIS Iraq, the chances of their return remain low.
    As for transitional justice: Iraq has detained more than 19,000 people on terrorism-related charges, mostly related to ISIS, and convicted at least 8,861 since 2013, according to a recent study from the United Nations University. At least 3,130 of those convicted have been sentenced to death on terrorism-related charges. The study also found that the justice system fails to distinguish between different levels of ISIS involvement—an ISIS fighter is often treated the same way as the wife of an ISIS fighter. The government has also often relied heavily on anonymous informants, and convicted suspects on thin evidence. The danger is that this sort of overly punitive system could backfire and create new grievances that will fuel more extremism and violence, the study said.

    is like Abadis pants, once the belt is broken there is no chance of holding it together.

    Su's article is entitled "After ISIS, Iraq is still broken."  And it was broken before the rise of ISIS.  It is a failed state.  ISIS was very good for the Iraqi government, it distracted from all the government's failures and, of course, Hayder al-Abadi used it to silence critics -- we must focus on ISIS!  You may remember that Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters were protesting (what? corruption, of course) and Moqtada was urged to call them off so the focus could be ISIS.

    Last December, in an effort to make himself appear successful, prime minister Hayder al-Abadi announced the defeat of ISIS.  This despite the fact that (a) holding territory is not a traditional terrorist aim and (b) though Mosul was 'liberated' or liberated, places in Anbar Province remained under the control of ISIS.  Last week in a Pentagon press conference in Baghdad, Brig Gen Frederic Parisot declared that ISIS still controls 30 kilometers in Iraq.  That's close to 19 miles.

    Speaking of press conferences, let's note this:

    So, as I've said, Iraqi Security Force Operations are becoming increasingly independent and they are demonstrating the capabilities and professionalism that they exhibited through the liberation campaign.

    As a coalition, we've continued to provide them with air support as you've already said, and advise, we provide them intelligence, but -- but most of all, we're helping mentor them though the planning and conduct of their operations and also building their -- their capabilities through our training efforts amongst their building partner capacity sites.

    What year were those remarks delivered?  2005?  2008?  2010?

    They were delivered in those years and many more -- these claims that now the Iraqi military is trained and doing things themselves.

    But the exact words above are from Army Maj Gen Felix Gedney, speaking Tuesday at the Pentagon's press conference from Baghdad.

    If all the 'turned corners' said to have been reached in Iraq really existed, Iraq would be nothing but sharp edges.

    Hayder bragged he'd defeated ISIS back in December.  He didn't.

    And he accomplished nothing else in four years as prime minister.

    Corruption was never addressed.

    This is especially appalling because then-US President Barack Obama installed him (August 2014) to replace Nouri al-Maliki whose reign as chief thug and prime minister had been one corruption scandal after another (most infamously with the Russian deal which also implicated Nouri's own son). As 2010 was ending, Iraqis were already on the street protesting corruption.  Their numbers and their determination led Nouri to insist (February 2011) that, if the protesters would go home and give him 100 days, he would take care of the corruption.  They went home.  He never took care of it, he didn't even address it.

    Anger over corruption in Iraq only continued.  And, please note, the western media rarely covers the corruption.  You have to go the Arab media, for example, to read that so many pounds of food delivered to a city or province had to be immediately disposed of because it was spoiled before shipping.  Corruption is rampant in Iraq. It's why Iraq was ranked 169th least transparent nation on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index (2017).

    Hayder came into office knowing the perceptions and the outrage and he promised he'd address corruption but he never did.

    May 12th, Iraq held national elections.  Ahead of the elections, there had been big hopes -- these hopes included a large turnout.   Ali Jawad (ANADOLU AGENCY) noted, "A total of 24 million Iraqis are eligible to cast their ballots to elect members of parliament, who will in turn elect the Iraqi president and prime minister."  RUDAW added, "Around 7,000 candidates have registered to stand in the May 12 poll, with 329 parliamentary seats up for grabs."  AFP explained that the nearly 7,000 candidates includes 2014 women.  THE SIASAT DAILY added, of the nearly 7,000 candidates, "According to the electoral commission, only 20 percent of the candidates are newcomers." Ali Abdul-Hassan and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reported, "Iraqi women account for 57 percent of Iraq’s population of over 37 million, according to the U.N. Development Program, and despite government efforts to address gender inequality, the situation for Iraqi women has declined steadily since 2003.  According to the UNDP, one in every 10 Iraqi households is headed by a widow. In recent years, Iraqi women suffered further economic, social and political marginalization due to decades of wars, conflict, violence and sanctions." 

    The other big hope?  For the US government, the biggest hope was that Hayder al-Abadi's bloc would come in first so that he would have a second term as prime minister.  It was not to be.  Mustapha Karkouti (GULF NEWS) identifies the key issues as follows, "Like in previous elections, the main concerns of ordinary Iraqis continue to be the lack of security and the rampant corruption."

    As we noted the day of the election:

    Corruption is a key issue and it was not a topic explored by candidates outside of Moqtada al-Sadr's coalition.  Empty lip service was offered.  Hayder al-Abadi, current prime minister, had been offering empty lip service for four years.  He did nothing.  Iraqis were supposed to think that, for example, Hayder's focus on ISIS in Mosul mattered.  All life was supposed to stop because of Mosul?  All expectations were to be ignored because of Mosul?

    Arabic social media today and yesterday was full of comments about the lack of improvement in services.  It noted how the elections had not mattered before and, yes, how in 2010 the US government overturned the elections because they didn't like the outcome. 

    So it was probably only surprising to the US government and their press hacks that Hayder wouldn't come in first.  But that was after the votes were counted.  On the day of the election, the big news was how so few were turning out to vote.  NPR reported, "With more than 90 percent of the votes in, Iraq's election commission announced voter turnout of 44.5 percent. The figure is down sharply from 60 percent of eligible voters who cast their ballots in the last elections in 2014." AP pointed out the obvious, "No election since 2003 saw turnout below 60 percent."  AFP broke it down even more clearly "More than half of the nearly 24.5 million voters did not show up at the ballot box in the parliamentary election, the highest abstention rate since the first multiparty elections in 2005 [. . .]."

    Why should they vote?  The US government had repeatedly selected the prime minister -- 2006, 2010 and 2014.  Why should they vote?  The government was corrupt.  Why should they vote?  Safety?  Lip service was given to the claim that ISIS had been defeated but it hadn't.  In fact, Margaret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) reported that 16 people were killed and nineteen wounded the day of the election.

    Martin Chulov (GUARDIAN) captured the mood,  "But as voters trudged towards polling stations, there was none of the euphoria of previous polls – where purple ink-dipped fingers were happily displayed – and almost no energy surrounding the process. Iraqis had done it all before, and elections had delivered little."

    Sunday the 13th, votes were counted and the first place winner?  Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

    With over half the votes counted, powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the leading contender in the Iraq elections

    By Monday the 14th, Ayad Allawi was calling for a full recount.  While the US government was working behind the scenes to oveturn the results.  Simon Tisdall (GUARDIAN) explained, "The unexpectedly poor showing of Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, in parliamentary elections has dealt a blow to US influence in the country. [. . .] Put simply, Sadr believes Iraqis should run Iraqi affairs – not Washington, not Tehran and not their proxies."

    The US State Dept was still reeling from the results:

    QUESTION: I have two more on this, Heather. Do you have any comment on Moqtada al-Sadr, who emerged as the big winner in these elections?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. Let me just remind folks that he wasn’t an actual candidate on any of the ballots, but yet his slate of people were candidates. Iraq is still finalizing its election results right now. They’re likely to have to form some sort of coalition government, so I don’t want to get ahead of the process and presume how things are going to look in the end. But I think the overarching theme right now is congratulations to Iraq for holding democratic and free elections.

    QUESTION: And on the formation of the new government, Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s commander Qasem Soleimani is in Baghdad to discuss the formation of the new government. How do you view this Iranian role in the formation of the government?

    MS NAUERT: We have a good relationship – bless you – with the Government of Iraq, and we believe that we will continue to do that. There have been many – in Iraq and in other countries as well – that have been concerned about Iran’s reach into many other countries. That is certainly always a concern of ours, but we have a great deal of trust and faith in the Iraqi people and whoever ends up governing, whatever the structure is, the governing of that country going forward. 

    Iraq still has no government.  May 12th elections were held.  July 3rd, manual recounts began.  It's August 2nd.  Where's the government?

    01/08/18 – DSRSG revisited the Baghdad electoral recount centre to assess progress on the manual recount of votes from the 12 May national ; met with Judge Jassim, Head of the Board of Judges overseeing the recount, recount staff and reps of political parties.

    It takes a whole month (and counting) to do the recounts?  And this was supposed to be a partial recount.  What's the hold up?

    Protests are ongoing in Iraq -- over corruption, lack of basic services, lack of jobs, lack of security.

    On corruption and protests, let's drop back to Monday's snapshot:

    On Saturday, Hayder al-Abadi attempted a cosmetic change by firing five election officials.  It was not addressing corruption.  So Sunday he made the following announcement:

    PM orders the suspension of the Minister of Electricity due to poor performance of the sector. The is taking action to immediately improve the supply of electricity across Iraq

    Suspended is not fired.  More to the point, the Cabinet is for the previous government.  There's no new Cabinet yet (still?).

    Hundreds of protesters have been arrested, hundreds have been injured, at least 14 have been killed and at least one has been fired.

    Ali Mamouri (AL-MONITOR) reports:

    However, the decision to dismiss the electricity minister did not help calm the protests, as Iraqi demonstrators in Basra province erected tents in front of the provincial council on July 31 to start a sit-in against electricity cuts and the lack of services and job opportunities amid intensive security measures. And other southern cities are still witnessing continued protests against power cuts and the lack of services and jobs.
    Since 2003, there hasn’t been a minister of electricity that completed his term without resignation or dismissal, and none have met promises or solved the electricity problem.

    These minor moves by Hayder really are too little and too damn late.
    The following community sites -- plus PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated: