Wednesday, January 13, 2021

80s song



For me, Corey Hart's "Sunglasses At Night" was always a cool song and a fun song.

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

 Tuesday, January 12, 2020.   Pope Francis' trip to Iraq may be postponed or called off, James Zogby uses THE NATION website to deny self-determination for countries that are not the United States, and the issue of impeachment continues to be floated despite no sound argument having been made all these days later.

REUTERS reports, "Pope Francis said he is not sure if his trip to Iraq in March can take place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  He cast doubt on the trip, which would be the first by a pope to the country, in an interview with Italy's Canale 5 broadcast on Sunday night."  This follows news of the Pope's doctor passing.  UK EXPRESS notes,  "Fabrizio Soccorsi had served as the personal doctor to the Pope since 2015, according to local news outlet L'Osservatore Romano, which announced the news. Mr Soccorsi, who died aged 78, is said to have been hospitalised in Rome on December 26 for other reasons." Yasmine Mosimann (RUDAW) adds, "Iraq, a land revered by Christians for its featuring in the Bible, has only a few hundred thousand of those in the faith left in the country.  According to William Warda, co-founder of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organisation, Christians left in Iraq number up to 400,000, down from 1.5 million in 2003, reports AFP."  The CDC advises against travel to Iraq:

Key Information for Travelers to Iraq

  • Travelers should avoid all travel to Iraq.
  • Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.
  • If you must travel:
    • Before you travelget tested with a viral test 1–3 days before your trip. Do not travel if you are waiting for test results, test positive, or are sick. Follow all entry requirements for your destination and provide any required or requested health information. 
    • During travelwear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from people who are not traveling with you, wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer, and watch your health for signs of illness.
    • Before traveling back to the United States, get tested with a viral test 1–3 days before travel. Follow all destination and airline recommendations or requirements.
    • After you travelget tested 3–5 days after travel AND stay home for 7 days after travel.
      • If you don't get tested, it's safest to stay home for 10 days.
      • If you had a known exposure to COVID-19 while traveling, delay travel, quarantine from other people, get tested, and monitor your health.


Staying on the topic of COVID, Hiwa Shilani (KURDISTAN 24) reports, "The Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment issued a statement late on Monday, denying that there were any cases of the new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus in the country, such as have been found in Britain and South Africa.  Earlier on Monday, the political analyst, Ibrahim Al-Sumaidaie, had announced on his Twitter account that he had been infected with the mutated coronavirus -- which, if so, would mark the first such case of the coronavirus infection to be recorded in Iraq."  Regardless of whether the new strain -- or a new variant -- has emerged in Iraq, the country has been hit heavily with COVID.  Through yesterday, there are 604,549 cases.  [The World Health Organization states it's 603,739 as of yesterday.] Back in September, the figure was approximately 320,000.

Last week, OCHC published the following findings after surveying COVID's impact in Iraq from March through October:


  • COVID-19 impacts have disrupted both consumers and retailers in Iraq.

  • The price increases across a variety of essential items suggest that households experienced reduced purchasing power with the resources they did have and, while also occasionally facing shortages of key commodities.

  • On average, prices of common basket goods have increased 13% as compared with pre-COVID baseline prices in January 2020; the greatest price spikes were recorded between March and May.

  • There is variation in impacts across governorates; Kirkuk and Salah al Din experienced the largest increases in price of the common basket of goods and increased prices persist today.

  • The two data collection initiatives monitoring price and market changes over the past seven months has demonstrated the severe impact the crisis has had for socio-economically vulnerable households, with over 50% consistently reporting inability to meet basic needs.

  • While the proportion of households reporting that they were unable to work due to COVID-19 had consistently been over 80%, this seems to have experienced a large drop in September - a forthcoming Labor Market Assessment conducted by the CCI in partnership with the ILO and Fafo should shed further light on this shift.

One tiny bright spot?  AP notes, "A growing number of Iraqi women are using pandemic restrictions to establish home-based businesses. It's a way to bypass discrimination and harassment that often come with working in Iraq's male-dominated, conservative society -- and bring in extra income as the economy worsens. "

New topic.  File it under "Look How They F**k With It."  In November 2008, Barack Obama was elected president -- and he was elected on the promise of ending the Iraq War.  When meeting with his advisors and incoming team, Ava and I repeatedly advocated for two things.  First, a woman to be made Ambassador to Iraq.  There are many qualified women who could have held the job and, equally true, the US government needed to put a woman in that position having destroyed the rights of women in Iraq under Bully Boy Bush.  Barack would serve two terms as president.  Over eight years, he would nominate six people -- all would be men.  (Along with the five confirmed, he also nominated Brett McGurk who withdrew his nomination when Senate Democrats made it clear that there was not support for him in that role.)  The second thing we asked for was that the promise on Iraq be kept: Withdraw US troops.  We noted the temptation would be to play with it, to pull at the strings, to think "Well we're smarter than the Bush people" and think this could be 'fixed' or 'smoothed over.'  It couldn't be.  Keep the promise, get them all out quickly and state that the decision for this was made by the American people in the 2008 election.

They didn't do that either.  They f**ked with it.  They blew off the deadlines Barack had campaigned on and just knew that they were smart enough to make things better.  They f**ked with and they ended up owning it.  Withdrawing most US troops after three years in office was not the promise Barack campaigned on.  What he shouted at rally after rally in early 2008, in fact, was "We want to end the Iraq War and we want to end it now!"

It was still going on when he left, US troops were still on the ground.  They're still there today.

And enter James Zogby with what passes for a think-piece at THE NATION.  Who in their right mind okayed this and really shouldn't James either stay out of politics or stop being over Zogby Research Services?  It's not as though he even pretends to be impartial.  It's one thing to put your trust in, for example, PEW's polling, quite another to put your trust in the results from activist James Zogby's company.

This morning, THE NATION published James' nonsense entitled "Biden Should Think Big in the Middle East: We must address the interconnected conflicts there as the equivalent of a regional/world war. That requires an international conference under UN auspices" which is 1038 words of . . . something.  With all those words -- or despite them -- Zogby never calls for US troops to leave Iraq.

The reason?  He wants more foreign troops in the region, "something akin to a Middle East version of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe"

Iraq?  It's not even an "actor" in the region per James.  He lists "actors" ("Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt") and he lists "hot spots" ("Libya, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, the resource race in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the flow of goods through the Persian Gulf and Red Sea").

Iraq's not even an actor in its own region?  How dismissive of Zogby, how patronizing of him.  Did you notice, also, that the US, despite having troops on the ground in Iraq, does not rate as an "actor"?  Apparently, it's a benevolent organization?  

Iraq is not even allowed to be an actor in its own actions.  He robs them of agency, he robs them of independence.  His patronizing and, yes, xenophobic attitude is both crass and insulting and let's stop pretending he believes in peace.  He's not a peace activist and -- unless a Republican is in the White House -- he's not concerned when US troops occupy other countries.  

James Zogby is a joke and a huge disappointment -- as is THE NATION which elected to post this garbage this morning.  ''Joe's about to be sworn in! Let's give marching orders!''  They're such pretend players, aren't they?  If only this was a fantasy basketball team and not the real world, James Zoby's insulting views could be overlooked.  Instead, he's using THE NATION magazine to argue that self-determination is not allowed and that instead so-called First World Nations should impose their beliefs and goals on the Middle East.  It's insulting and it's outrageous.  And, yes, I know American James Zogby is an Arab -- an Americanized Arab -- that doesn't make it any less insulting or any less xenophobic.  He's adopted the goals of empire.

He's going to fix Iraq and the Middle East because, goodness knows, his home country has done such a great job in recent weeks/years, right?  Oh, wait, it hasn't.

We are eight days away from Joe Biden being inaugurated as the next President of the United States.  Eight days.  Yet Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, is still pushing for the impeachment of Donald Trump.  She still hasn't found an argument that makes that case.  Friday's "Iraq snapshot" contains a section entitled "Impeachment?"  I stated then that there was no argument being made that justified impeachment.  I'm still waiting for that argument.  I don't doubt, as I said on Friday, that the House can vote to impeach.  I'm sure it will go through the House.  I do doubt what follows.  The articles of impeachment then go to the Senate -- unless Nancy tries to sit on them again.  Then there's a trial.  Why put the country through a trial, pulling focus from the incoming administration, without solid charges?  They still don't have any.  Nancy's got nothing.  Four days later and she's still lacking a coherent argument that justifies an impeachment trial.  

She's wasted four days.  Now she's indicating that should a House vote take place, she might not turn the articles over immediately.  What's the point then?

This is beyond nonsense.  Donald Trump's words did not incite a mob.  You have to do a selective reading of his words to make that case.  This is beyond nonsense.  It's an attack on free speech and it's an attack on the office of the president.  Donald Trump will be gone in eight days.  The damage Nancy is prepared to do will outlive us all.  It's not worth it.  

I was willing to be open to an argument -- read what I wrote Friday -- that made the case for impeachment.  They still haven't put forward an argument.  They haven't even expanded on their initial, thin justification.  

Constitutional expert Jonathan Turley notes:

There was no call for lawless action by Trump. Instead, there was a call for a protest at the Capitol. Moreover, violence was not imminent; the vast majority of the tens of thousands of protesters present were not violent before the march, and most did not riot inside the Capitol. Like many violent protests we have witnessed over the last four years, including Trump’s 2017 inauguration, the criminal conduct was carried out by a smaller group of instigators. Capitol police knew of the planned march but declined an offer of National Guard personnel because they did not view violence as likely.

Thus, Congress is about to seek the impeachment of a president for a speech that is protected under the First Amendment. It would create precedent for the impeachment of any president who can be blamed for the violent acts of others after the use of reckless or inflammatory language.

What is even more unnerving are the few cases that would support this type of action. The most obvious is the 1918 prosecution of socialist Eugene Debs, who spoke passionately against the draft in World War I and led figures like President Wilson to declare him a “traitor to his country.” Debs was arrested and charged with sedition, the new favorite term of today’s Democratic leaders to denounce Trump and Republican members who challenged the Biden victory.

In 1919, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for a unanimous bench in one of the most infamous decisions to issue from the Supreme Court. The court dismissed Debs’ free speech rights and held that it was sufficient that his words had the “natural tendency and reasonably probable effect” of deterring people from supporting the war.

That decision was a disgrace — but Democrats are now arguing something even more extreme as the basis for impeachment. Under their theory, any president could be removed for rhetoric deemed to have the “natural tendency” to encourage others to act in a riotous fashion. Even a call for supporters to protest peacefully would not be a defense. It would be as if Debs first denounced the war but also encouraged people to enlist. This standard would allow for a type of vicarious impeachment — attributing conduct of third parties to a president for the purposes of removal.

Caitlin Johnstone observes:

“Our democracy has been attacked!” screamed the political establishment that just forced you to choose between Donald Trump and Democrat Donald Trump for president.

Saying there’s been an attack on American democracy is like saying there’s been an attack on Kazakhstan’s fjords.

Liberals learned the words “coup” and “insurrection” like five seconds ago and now they are academic experts on both of these things.

The narrative managers’ ability to move liberals and progressives from “Defund the police” to “MOAR POLICING” in just a few months was even more impressive than their ability to move them from “Believe Women” and #MeToo to “Tara Reade is a lying grifter”.

Here’s how politicians, media and government could eliminate conspiracy theories if they really want to:

  • Stop lying all the time
  • Stop killing people
  • Stop promoting conspiracy theories (eg Russiagate)
  • Stop doing evil things in secret
  • End government opacity
  • Stop conspiring

To support the censorship of online speech is to support the authority of monopolistic tech oligarchs to exert more and more global control over human communication. Regardless of your attitude toward whoever happens to be getting deplatformed today, supporting this is self-destructive.

Glenn Greenwald points out:

There are other, more important historical lessons to draw not only from the 9/11 attack but subsequent terrorism on U.S. soil. One is the importance of resisting the coercive framework that demands everyone choose one of two extremes: that the incident is either (a) insignificant or even justifiable, or (b) is an earth-shattering, radically transformative event that demands radical, transformative state responses. 

This reductive, binary framework is anti-intellectual and dangerous. One can condemn a particular act while resisting the attempt to inflate the dangers it poses. One can acknowledge the very real existence of a threat while also warning of the harms, often far greater, from proposed solutions. One can reject maximalist, inflammatory rhetoric about an attack (a War of Civilizations, an attempted coup, an insurrection, sedition) without being fairly accused of indifference toward or sympathy for the attackers.

Indeed, the primary focus of the first decade of my journalism was the U.S. War on Terror — in particular, the relentless erosions of civil liberties and the endless militarization of American society in the name of waging it. To make the case that those trends should be opposed, I frequently argued that the threat posed by Islamic radicalism to U.S. citizens was being deliberately exaggerated, inflated and melodramatized. 

I argued that not because I believed the threat was nonexistent or trivial: I lived in New York City on 9/11 and remember to this day the excruciating horror from the smell and smoke emanating throughout Lower Manhattan and the haunting “missing” posters appended by desperate families, unwilling to accept the obvious reality of their loved ones’ deaths, to every lamp post on every street corner. I shared the same disgust and sadness as most other Americans from the Pulse massacre, the subway bombings in London and Madrid, the workplace mass shooting in San Bernardino.

My insistence that we look at the other side of the ledger — the costs and dangers not only from such attacks but also the “solutions” implemented in the name of stopping them — did not come from indifference towards those deaths or a naive views of those responsible for them. It was instead driven by my simultaneous recognition of the dangers from rights-eroding, authoritarian reactions imposed by the state, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event. One need not engage in denialism or minimization of a threat to rationally resist fear-driven fanaticism — as Barbara Lee so eloquently insisted on September 14, 2001. 

Human memories are usually short and the dominance of social media has abridged them even further. Many have forgotten that the Clinton administration seized on the 1995 courthouse bombing in Oklahoma City to radically expand law enforcement powers and escalate its demands for full-scale backdoor access to all encrypted internet communications. The fear necessary to justify such draconian measures was fueled by incessant media hyping of weekend citizen militias in places like Idaho and Montana said to be plotting armed insurrection against the federal government. 

One of the first major War on Terror attacks on core Constitutional rights which I wrote about was Newt Gingrich’s 2006 speech suggesting that the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee to fight terrorism should be “modified”. 

As Jonathan Turley notes, the tech giants are now attempting to censor former US House Rep Ron Paul.  This is from Paul's latest via ANTIWAR.COM:

Many Americans viewed this assault on social media accounts as a liberal or Democrat attack on conservatives and Republicans, but they are missing the point. The narrowing of allowable opinion in the virtual public square is no conspiracy against conservatives. As progressives like Glenn Greenwald have pointed out, this is a wider assault on any opinion that veers from the acceptable parameters of the mainstream elite, which is made up of both Democrats and Republicans.

Yes, this is partly an attempt to erase the Trump movement from the pages of history, but it is also an attempt to silence any criticism of the emerging political consensus in the coming Biden era that may come from progressive or antiwar circles.

After all, a look at Biden’s incoming “experts” shows that they will be the same failed neoconservative interventionists who gave us weekly kill lists, endless drone attacks and coups overseas, and even US government killing of American citizens abroad. Progressives who complain about this “back to the future” foreign policy are also sure to find their voices silenced.

Those who continue to argue that the social media companies are purely private ventures acting independent of US government interests are ignoring reality. The corporatist merger of “private” US social media companies with US government foreign policy goals has a long history and is deeply steeped in the hyper-interventionism of the Obama/Biden era.

“Big Tech” long ago partnered with the Obama/Biden/Clinton State Department to lend their tools to US “soft power” goals overseas. Whether it was ongoing regime change attempts against Iran, the 2009 coup in Honduras, the disastrous US-led coup in Ukraine, “Arab Spring,” the destruction of Syria and Libya, and so many more, the big US tech firms were happy to partner up with the State Department and US intelligence to provide the tools to empower those the US wanted to seize power and to silence those out of favor.

In short, US government elites have been partnering with “Big Tech” overseas for years to decide who has the right to speak and who must be silenced. What has changed now is that this deployment of “soft power” in the service of Washington’s hard power has come home to roost.

Catherine Shakdam (INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE) writes:

I will quote here another US President, President Harry S. Truman, who, in a speech before Congress, warned:

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

He was of course referring to calls by state agencies to ‘monitor’ and ‘contain’ certain dissident voices to preserve the integrity of the State, but the essence of his speech applies here perfectly still – only now it seems the power to silence, monitor, and repress lies now in the hands of corporations as opposed to state agencies. I find the idea slightly more unnerving …

Whatever anyone may think of Trump: hate him, loathe him, mock him, adore him, support him, idolise him, he ought not to be shut out so that others’ voices could rise above to better dominate the landscape. This is not how healthy democracies function, this is now how you defend a nation’s democratic future, and it is certainly not an example you want to set out to the world and still argue that America is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

Back in 2018, University of Detroit Mercy law professor Kyle Langvardt wrote a pertinent commentary in the Georgetown Law Journal on the matter. She said, “It seems obvious to me that this is an unacceptable way for a liberal society to do business … What concerns me is that we entrust a few unaccountable and self-interested tech companies to govern online discourse.”

Twitter most definitely overstepped its bounds, thus setting a precedent few have even bothered to challenge for they are only too glad the target was Trump. I often marvel at people’s ability to rationalise their lack of intellectual consistency … call it cognitive dissonance if you will. To hold to the principles of free speech is to agree to bear the poison of opposite views and opinions.

For many days now, THE CONVO COUCH has attempted to grapple and discuss the issues at play.  Here's their most recent video.

Here's Jackson Hinkle.

Here's Jimmy Dore. 

The following sites updated: