Saturday, May 20, 2023

Idiot of the week


Hopefully Graham Elwood will have some new stuff next week.  If not, I'm fine noting BLACK POWER MEDIA, they have a lot of good content.

It's Friday night, about to be Saturday morning.  The weekend.  I do love to note idiot of the week.  Kat had one earlier this week "."  I want to applaud someone this week. Naysa Woomer

GOP Rep. George Santos' communications director Naysa Woomer has resigned, writing in a resignation email obtained by Scripps News that she's "honored" to quit and that the congressman "never took one point of professional advice." 

Her resignation comes not long after Santos was arrested and charged with fraud, money laundering and other crimes. He survived an attempt from House Democrats to expel him from Congress

 this week. 

"With respect for my colleagues, the people of New York, and most importantly, myself, I am honored to tender my resignation," Woomer said in her resignation email, the content of which was confirmed by CBS News. 

"Unfortunately, you never took one point of professional advice given," Woomer continued.

Woomer has been with Santos' office since he joined the House in January. Other Santos staffers will now have to handle additional communications responsibilities for the congressman as reporters follow him nearly everywhere he goes. 

Good for her.  She can't change the election results.  She can, however, leave a disgrace that refuses to listen.  Good for her.

So now let's go with idiot of the week.  And it could easily be Marjorie Taylor Greene or Ron DeSantis or any number of people.  Let's go with Jim Jordan.  Igor Derysh (SALON) reports:

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan's, R-Ohio, Thursday hearing with purported FBI "whistleblowers" backfired before it even began, according to former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuizzi.

Jordan's subcommittee on the alleged "weaponization of the federal government" held a hearing with current and former FBI agents who accused the bureau of bias against conservatives. But shortly before the hearing, the FBI revealed that former FBI agent Stephen Friend and suspended agent Marcus Allen had their security clearances revoked over security concerns.

Friend's clearance was revoked after he refused to participate in an arrest of a Jan. 6 suspect and "espoused an alternative narrative about the events at the U.S. Capitol," according to the FBI's letter. Allen's clearance was stripped after he "expressed sympathy for persons or organizations that advocate, threaten or use force or violence."

Figliuzzi told MSNBC that the revelation shows "Jordan wasn't ready for this."

"The FBI has called his bluff with this letter," he said. "It means the FBI has about had it with the myth that they're retaliating against employees for merely expressing conservative opinions. I lost the date, but apparently, we're to believe the FBI is a left-wing liberal organization. That's absolutely nonsense."

Figliuzzi slammed Jordan and the purported whistleblowers.

"What Jim Jordan was going to do was put out a fictional account, right, [that] these poor, pathetic employees have lost their jobs because they merely expressed contrary opinions to the deep state FBI," he said. "In my 25 years at the bureau, including positions as chief inspector and a chief of an [Office of Professional Responsibility] internal affairs unit, I have never seen this much come out, and it shows the absolute disgrace that these employees have made of their roles and their missions."

What an idiot.  And, honestly, what a danger to the country Jim Jordan is -- pimping crackpot theories that could enrage the nation.  I get it, him being in Congress means he's less likely to be stalking some teenage boy, but come on, this man's an idiot and his stupidity could get someone killed.

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

Friday, May 19, 2023.  Water, the budget, women's rights and war-war-war -- the UN hears about Iraq.

Starting with this from MENAFM:

 Iraq registered up to 119 cases of viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF), including 18 deaths, since the beginning of this year, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said on Thursday, trend reports citing xinhua .

The ministry's spokesman Sayf al-Badr told the official Iraqi News Agency that 35 of the detected VHF cases were registered in the southern Dhi Qar province, followed by Basra with 18 cases, and the rest are spread across the other provinces.

Al-Badr added that six of the 18 deaths by the infectious disease were registered in Dhi Qar, followed by the southern province of al-Muthanna with three deaths.

From the Center for Disease Control:

Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) are a group of diseases that are caused by several distinct families of viruses. The term “viral hemorrhagic fever” refers to a condition that affects many organ systems of the body, damages the overall cardiovascular system, and reduces the body’s ability to function on its own. Symptoms of this type of condition can vary but often include bleeding, or hemorrhaging. Some VHFs cause relatively mild illness, while others can cause severe, life threatening disease. Most VHFs have no known cure or vaccine.

Although VHFs are caused by several families of viruses, these viruses share some common characteristics:

  • They are RNA viruses, meaning viruses that have ribonucleic acid (RNA) as their genetic material. These viruses are the most common cause of emerging disease in people because RNA viruses change over time at a high rate.
  • They are covered, or enveloped, in a lipoprotein outer layer, making it easier to destroy these viruses with physical (heat, sunlight, gamma rays) and chemical (bleach, detergents, solvents) methods.
  • They naturally exist in animal or insect populations, referred to as host populations, and are generally restricted to the geographical areas where the host species live.
  • They spread to people when a person encounters an infected animal or insect host. After the initial spread into the human population, some VHF viruses can continue to spread from person-to-person.
  • Outbreaks of VHFs in people can be difficult to prevent since they can occur sporadically and cannot be easily predicted.

The United Nations Security Council got a briefing on Iraq yesterday.  As usually happens, the United Nations Special Representative for Iraq briefed the Committee.  Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert holds that position currently.  We're going to note some of the testimony.  

UN Special Representative for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert: With UNAMI’s next mandate renewal around the corner, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect, just a bit, and more importantly: to look ahead.  In the past months, numerous people and entities have analysed the events that shook Iraq 20 years ago, as well as the developments since.  Few would deny that it has been a very rough road. A road that has seen not only the compounding of existing fragilities, inherited from the previous decades, but also the exposure of new weaknesses. And while many acknowledged that Iraq, throughout its history, has overcome some very dark times - they also argued that the drivers of instability in the country’s more recent past remained, for the most part, the same. Drivers such as corruption, weak governance, the presence of armed non-state actors, impunity, factional politics, poor service delivery, inequality, unemployment, and an overreliance on oil.
[. . .]

Madam President, the resources needed to turn certain Government goals into realities, such as adequate public service delivery, should be unlocked with the passage of a federal budget. This is yet to happen and, these days, all eyes are on Iraq’s Council of Representatives. Needless to say: agreement on a functioning budget, sooner rather than later, is critical. Including for the timely organization of the long-awaited Provincial Council Elections, now announced for no later than 20 December this year.  Meanwhile, Iraq continues to rely on oil. And the public sector remains the biggest employer. Now, these phenomena are, of course, nothing new. But, as I have said so many times, neither can last indefinitely. Economic diversification and major structural reforms remain urgent.

Representing the US to the Security Council  Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis:  

The United States will stand side-by-side with all Iraqis as they continue their effort, which has come at great sacrifice, to ensuring an enduring defeat of ISIS. The United States and the Defeat-ISIS Coalition will continue to provide support for this critical effort, at the invitation of the Iraqi government.  An essential element of ISIS’s defeat is the dismantling of their networks for recruitment and radicalization to violence, particularly those that prey on children in displacement camps in Syria. We commend Iraq for its efforts to bring home Iraqis, overwhelmingly women and children, from al-Hol camp, and we call on all UN Member States to repatriate, rehabilitate, reintegrate, and where appropriate, prosecute their nationals in Iraq and Syria.

So the US military is never leaving.  

We used to cover this briefing in detail.  It really has little importance.  They want the UNAMI mandate renewed that's probably the big thing out of this one.  Here's the United Kingdom's  Political Coordinator Fergus Eckersley:

 Over the past twenty years the Mission has played a vital role in supporting Iraq and the Iraqi people. We strongly support the renewal of the mandate of the Mission and welcome the opportunity for an independent strategic review to ensure the Mission is aligned to the current peace and security threats facing Iraq.

He also stressed the importance of the budget for the year being passed.

We're going to note Khanim Latif's remarks in full (the main reason we're noting the briefing, in fact):

President, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to brief you on the situation of women and civil society in Iraq this morning.

I am Khanim Latif, founder and director of Asuda for Combating Violence against Women, an Iraqi non-profit organization that strives to achieve gender equality, eliminate gender-based discrimination, and end all forms of violence against women. My organization established the first independent shelter for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in Iraq in 2002.

The current situation in Iraq is characterized by widespread violence against women in all fields, including the targeting of women human rights defenders.[1] In recent months, we have witnessed campaigns against women human rights defenders in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq simply for using the term “gender.”[2] The precarious situation of Iraqi women, coupled with social and economic inequality and the unacceptably low numbers of women in decision-making, means that the space for women to fully and freely exercise their rights is highly restricted.

The current situation of women and girls in Iraq should deeply concern us all. My statement today will focus on how the international community can effectively address four key issues:

  • Legal protection from violence against women;
  • Women’s political participation;
  • The gendered impact of climate change; and
  • Renewal of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) mandate.

With regard to legal protection from violence against women:

Discrimination and violence against women in Iraq are now widespread. Hardly a day goes by without reports of women being killed, maimed, and targeted by their own family members, simply because of their gender.[3] Besides the alarming levels of violence against women across the country — GBV increased by 125 percent to over 22,000 cases between 2020 and 2021, and over 75 percent of those at risk of GBV are women — the brutal nature of these crimes is also of grave concern.[4] So-called ”honor killings” of women for transgressing social norms, early and forced marriage and incest are also widespread across the country.[5] This sharp increase in GBV is occurring against a backdrop of impunity for perpetrators, and lack of access to services, legal protection, and justice for survivors of GBV.[6]

Excellencies, without protection from violence and freedom from discrimination, women cannot engage fully or equally on the political, social, and economic levels. The prevalence of GBV not only violates women’s basic human rights as guaranteed by international standards outlined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by Iraq, but also violates Security Council resolutions on women, peace, and security (WPS) that have, for more than 20 years, emphasized the important linkages between protection and participation.[7] For women to have a voice in determining their country’s future, the violence must end.

Therefore, I urge the Security Council to call on the Iraqi Government to take all necessary measures to protect girls and women from all forms of GBV and to support access to justice for survivors. This requires adopting the long-overdue draft Anti-Domestic Violence Law, amending the Penal Code, and preventing the interpretation of the Personal Status Law on sectarian grounds.[8] Adopting the Anti-Domestic Violence Law could provide an important solution for the thousands of Iraqi girls and women who are exposed to GBV on a daily basis. I also urge you to call on the Government of Iraq to provide GBV survivors with robust access to shelters for those fleeing domestic violence, including shelters operated by NGOs, and ensure their access to psychosocial support, access to justice and legal services, as well as support for livelihoods.

Finally, we call on the Iraqi Government to allocate a budget for and fully implement the Yazidi Survivors Law adopted in March 2021.[9]

As for women’s political participation:

Today, 29 percent of the members of Iraqi Parliament are women, and the cabinet includes three women ministers, including the Minister of Finance.[10] While this is a positive first step, there must be far greater efforts by political parties to ensure the meaningful participation of women in all processes. It is not enough to only increase the number of women in decision-making positions — they must also have meaningful influence over the outcomes of such processes and negotiations.[11] Quite simply, without women at the table, decisions will remain the preserve of men in the political process and fail to reflect women’s rights.

Therefore, I call on the Security Council to encourage the Iraqi Government to establish a national mechanism for women, whether it is a council or a ministry, with competent human resources, and to allocate a sufficient budget to implement the second National Action Plan to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).

Concerning the gendered impact of climate change:

We know that Iraq is the fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change in the world.[12] The percentage of Iraqi lands exposed to desertification reached 92 percent.[13] Iraq also contributed 9 percent on average of all global emissions of greenhouse gasses, methane, and carbon dioxide.[14]

As is the case with wars, the first victims of climate change are women. After the agricultural lands dried up in Iraq, migration from rural to major urban centers increased in search of livelihoods, exposing women to sexual harassment, economic violence, loss of adequate shelter, and deprivation of their most fundamental rights.[15]

In this regard, Asuda organized awareness campaigns calling on stakeholders to take concrete measures to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change on women and girls and to include them in programs to improve irrigation systems and resource management.

Therefore, the Security Council should call on the Government of Iraq to abide by the Paris Agreement and the Helsinki Principles on climate change. This would help ease internal migration to large cities and provide livelihoods for the displaced, especially women, rehabilitate them and provide them with information, psychosocial support, and economic opportunities to ensure security and respect for their rights.

On the renewal of UNAMI’s mandate:

The United Nations has a vital role to play in supporting and advocating for the protection and advancement of women’s human rights, gender equality, and their full, safe, equal and meaningful participation in peace and political processes within Iraq.

As the mandate for UNAMI is renewed, it is essential to strengthen its role in advancing any issues related to WPS. I strongly encourage the Security Council to be explicit in calling on UNAMI to support women’s participation in all political and decision-making processes. Additionally, UNAMI must monitor and report on any violations or retaliation against women human rights defenders and civil society leaders. UNAMI should also prioritize regularly engaging with Iraqi civil society to ensure their views inform its work throughout the country. UNAMI must also provide the necessary support to the Government of Iraq to carry out judicial and legal reforms, protect women’s rights, support women’s organizations, and prevent all forms of GBV in line with all relevant Security Council resolutions. Finally, the Security Council should urge the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for UNAMI to provide comprehensive analysis on WPS issues in all upcoming briefings and reports to the Security Council.

In conclusion, I can say that Iraq is currently in the process of being built. I urge the international community to relinquish militarized approaches and to instead support us, with technical expertise and resources, as Iraqis, to rebuild our homeland, end corruption and work towards lasting peace. As I hope my statement today highlights, none of this is possible without respect for women’s rights, or without women taking their rightful place at the table.

Thank you.

The rights of women in Iraq get very little attention from the international press.  If a murder gets reported -- not takes place, but actually gets reported in the international press -- we might see a paragraph of two on the issues facing women in Iraq today -- we might even get a sentence of how women's rights were destroyed in the 2003 invasion.  That's pretty much all.  Ali Younes (ARAB NEWS) is the only one I'm seeing who reported in English on the testimony above (click here).

 UN Special Representative for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert didn't address the issue nor did she speak of the disappeared.  The latter was especially surprising since it was just last month that the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances noted that forced disappearances continue in Iraq -- their timeline covered "he Ba’ath era from 1968-2003 - characterized by the authoritarian rule of Saddam Hussein - through to the anti-Government protests from 2018 to 2020. "  She may represent UNAMI but how can Hennis-Plasschaert represent the UN when she can't even speak to that?  And please note, this is not a minor issue.  She has been protested in Iraq for ignoring this very topic.  She's also been protested for some of the people she elects to meet with -- known assassins and gangsters and she infamously refused to meet with the mother of Ihab al-Wazni.  Ihab was one of many activists who was assassinated.  In 2021, she had to be publicly shamed into meeting with Samira al-Wazni. 

One thing Hennis-Plasschaert did address, as an aside and late into her remarks, was water:

Something else, Madam President: water. Water represents the most critical climate emergency for Iraq. By 2035, it is estimated that Iraq will have the capacity to meet only 15% of its water demands. 90% of Iraq's rivers are polluted, and 7 million people are currently suffering from reduced access to water. This is a significant multiplier of threats to Iraq’s stability.

The priority placed on the issue of water security by Iraq’s Government is, therefore, most welcome. And, plans for the extensive updating of Iraq’s water management systems are said to be underway. This will be vital in meeting demands driven by population growth and urbanization.

The fair sharing of resources among Iraq’s neighbours is equally important. If water is a competition, everyone loses. Bold domestic actions and close regional cooperation offer the only winning solution.

Saturday, May 6h, Baghdad hosted the International Water Conference.  Though the conference was needed, there was no real attention from the international press.

You'll note Iraq's prime minister, foreign officials, a WHO rep, the United Nations, etc.  Why isn't this being covered by the US press?

Lack of interest in Iraq?  Lack of interest in climate change?  Or both.

Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) reported:

Iraq on Saturday called for emergency assistance from the international community to help restore the flow of water in the country's two main rivers.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani made the plea for “urgent international intervention” at the start of the two-day Baghdad International Water conference.

“The issue of water has become a sensitive one not only in Iraq but in all countries,” Mr Al Sudani said.

Water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which account for more than 90 per cent of Iraq's freshwater reserves, have declined significantly over the years, partly as a result of the construction of dams and diversion of water upstream in Turkey and Iran.

The Prime Minister warned that a shortage of water compounded by climate change would have a substantial impact on Iraq's economic development and environment, with wider ramifications for regional stability.

KURDISTAN 24 noted:

The KRG Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Begard Dlshad, is heading the delegation to present the Region’s perspective on water issues such as drought, that has negatively impacted Iraq in recent years, the minister told Kurdistan 24.

The United Nations is also participating in the conference along with representatives of neighboring countries, including Iran and Turkey.

“The KRG’s dam construction project aims to reduce the reliance on water flow from neighboring countries,” the minister told Kurdistan 24 and added that 30 percent of Iraq’s water reserves are in the Kurdish region.

45-year-old Begard Dlshad Shukralla has her degree in biology and has previously held the following posts: 2011 to 2013 head of the PUK's Office for Monitoring and Follow Up, 2013 to 2017 MP in the Kurdistan Parliament and, in 2017, Secretary of the Kurdistan Parliament.  Julian Bechocha (RUDAW) reported:                                                                             

Iraq is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including water and food insecurity, according to the United Nations. It is facing a severe water shortage because of reduced precipitation and higher temperatures, and waste and mismanagement. The crisis is worsened by dams upstream in Turkey and Iran that have led to a significant decrease in the volume of water entering the country. 

A visit by Sudani to Turkey in March saw measurable success after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to double the water releases in the Tigris River for a period of one month, saying the decision was made “in order to relieve Iraq’s distress.”

“The government has set the water file as one of its priorities, and has taken many policies. And it was necessary to identify the problems with upstream countries so our meetings with the countries emphasized the need to give the full share of water,” Sudani said. 

During the conference, Sudani also pleaded for “the efforts of all friends” of the international community to “urgently” assist Iraq counter water insecurity.

In one of the latest stark warnings of the threats a heating climate poses to Iraq, a report by the Ministry of Water Resources late last year predicted that unless urgent action is taken to combat declining water levels, Iraq’s two main rivers will be entirely dry by 2040. 

The following sites updated:

  • Thursday, May 18, 2023

    Graham Elwood, Mickey Z and the crooked Ron DeSantis

    First up, Graham Elwood.  

    So he's going to El Salvador.  That should be exciting.

    Mickey Z has a great photo essay at DISSIDENT VOICE about the tree by his apartment in Queens.  I can't excerpt is without spoiling it, so use the link.  Now let's note crooked Ron DeSantis.  Matthew Cunningham Cook (JACOBIN) reports:

    lorida governor and Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis has been crusading against “woke” investments for allegedly threatening his state employees’ retirement funds. But the most imminent threat to Florida public employees’ retirement dollars appears to be the massive state pension investments that have gone to some of the Republican Party’s Wall Street donors under DeSantis’s watch.

    Despite a federal anti-corruption rule designed to prevent donors from receiving pension investments, private equity executives have donated millions to political groups supporting DeSantis, all while the governor oversaw the transfer of more than $1 billion of Florida public employees’ retirement dollars into these donors’ high-fee, high-risk “alternative investments.”

    Our review found that had the state pension fund instead been invested in a simple, low-cost index fund, compared to its present mix of holdings, teachers, police officers, and other state employees would have about $10 billion more in their retirement funds.

    “From a distance, it sure looks like the pensioners are getting hurt here,” Kathleen Clark, an ethics expert and professor at the Washington University in Saint Louis School of Law, told us. “It certainly seems like it raises the distinct possibility that the decisions that the pension board is making may be serving DeSantis’ political interests and not the pensioners’ interest.”

    The low-return, high-fee investment strategy under DeSantis — who serves with two other Republicans on the state pension board — has been harmful for the state’s retirees, who had already been struggling with subpar retirement payouts. 

    But under DeSantis’s leadership, the state pension fund’s investments have been a boon for financial firms whose executives have delivered huge donations to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), which has pumped $22 million into the Friends of Ron DeSantis, a political committee that supported DeSantis’s gubernatorial campaigns and is expected to finance a super PAC supporting his 2024 presidential bid. Friends of Ron DeSantis was the largest recipient of RGA cash last cycle.

    He is such a crook.

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

    Thursday, May 18, 2023.  Was the US government attempting to make deals with Saddam Hussein after the start of the Iraq War, Judge Clarence Thomas' corruption leads to a Senate hearing, and much more.

    Starting with a new claim.  The Iraq War has left many people dead.  The most famous death would be Saddam Hussein, Iraq's leader.  The US invaded in March of 2003 and Saddam went into hiding and eluded capture until December of 2003.   From WIKIPEDIA:

    On 13 December 2003, in Operation Red Dawn, Saddam was captured by American forces after being found hiding in a hole in the ground near a farmhouse in ad-Dawr, near Tikrit. Following his capture, Saddam was transported to a US base near Tikrit, and later taken to the American base near Baghdad. Documents obtained and released by the National Security Archive detail FBI interviews and conversations with Saddam while he was in US custody.[126] On 14 December, US administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer confirmed that Saddam Hussein had indeed been captured at a farmhouse in ad-Dawr near Tikrit.[127] Bremer presented video footage of Saddam in custody.

    Saddam was shown with a full beard and hair longer than his familiar appearance. He was described by US officials as being in good health. Bremer reported plans to put Saddam on trial, but claimed that the details of such a trial had not yet been determined. Iraqis and Americans who spoke with Saddam after his capture generally reported that he remained self-assured, describing himself as a "firm, but just leader."[128]

    British tabloid newspaper The Sun posted a picture of Saddam wearing white briefs on the front cover of a newspaper. Other photographs inside the paper show Saddam washing his trousers, shuffling, and sleeping. The US government stated that it considered the release of the pictures a violation of the Geneva Convention, and that it would investigate the photographs.[129][130] During this period Saddam was interrogated by FBI agent George Piro.[131]

    The guards at the Baghdad detention facility called their prisoner "Vic," which stands for 'Very Important Criminal', and let him plant a small garden near his cell. The nickname and the garden are among the details about the former Iraqi leader that emerged during a March 2008 tour of the Baghdad prison and cell where Saddam slept, bathed, and kept a journal and wrote poetry in the final days before his execution; he was concerned to ensure his legacy and how the history would be told. The tour was conducted by US Marine Maj. Gen. Doug Stone, overseer of detention operations for the US military in Iraq at the time.[132] During his imprisonment he exercised and was allowed to have his personal garden, he also smoked his cigars and wrote his diary in the courtyard of his cell.[133]

    On 30 June 2004, Saddam Hussein, held in custody by US forces at the US base "Camp Cropper," along with 11 other senior Ba'athist leaders, was handed over to the interim Iraqi government to stand trial for crimes against humanity and other offences.

    A few weeks later, he was charged by the Iraqi Special Tribunal with crimes committed against residents of Dujail in 1982, following a failed assassination attempt against him. Specific charges included the murder of 148 people, torture of women and children and the illegal arrest of 399 others.[134][135] Among the many challenges of the trial were:

    • Saddam and his lawyers contesting the court's authority and maintaining that he was still the President of Iraq.[136]
    • The assassinations and attempted assassinations of several of Saddam's lawyers.
    • The replacement of the chief presiding judge midway through the trial.

    On 5 November 2006, Saddam was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging. Saddam's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court in 1982, were convicted of similar charges. The verdict and sentencing were both appealed, but subsequently affirmed by Iraq's Supreme Court of Appeals.[137]

    And that's how we in the world have known the events.

    The late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein rejected a US proposal to name his vice president without power in return for his release, the head of Saddam's legal defence team has revealed. Khalil Al-Dulaimi told Al-Arabiya TV that the US also asked Saddam to stop fighting against US soldiers in Falluja and leave the country, but he refused.

    The claim could be false.  It could be true.  It could be both in that the offer(s) were made to Saddam but the US government had no intention of honoring them.  

    Now let's go to a US hearing.

    This is not a first.  Believe it or not, we’ve been in nearly this exact situation before.  Back in 2011, the nonprofit group Common Cause uncovered that Justice Thomas hadn't reported years of his wife's income paid by a right-wing dark-money group.  The New York Times reported that Justice Thomas also had not disclosed gifts of free private jet and yacht travel from the same right-wing billionaire -- the same kinds of undisclosed gifts from the same right-wing billionaire that were revealed last month.

    That is Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Chair of the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, & Federal Rights.  The Supreme Court, as many have noted, has become an illegitimate court.  This is the result of many actions including tossing aside precedent and, more recently, the non-stop scandals of Crooked Clarence Thomas resulting from his using a public office to enrich himself.  That's corruption plain and simple and it qualifies as such without a need to determine how much influence was purchased or which cases were impacted.  We, the American taxpayers, provide Clarence with a salary.  That wasn't enough for him.  Or his wife.  So they sought to use the position of Supreme Court justice to enrich themselves -- tawdry, yes; however, it's also corrupt and unethical.

    It's a betrayal of the American people and it's betrayal of the office.

    In a press release, the senator's office provides this overview:

    In 2011, Justice Thomas's undisclosed private jet and yacht trips from highly political Republican billionaire Harlan Crow were sent to the Judicial Conference’s Financial Disclosure Committee for a determination as to whether Thomas may have broken the law.  It also came to light during that era that Justice Thomas had for years failed to disclose income his wife received from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank with frequent business before the Court.

    Recent reporting from the Washington Post revealed that in 2012, Leonard Leo, the orchestrator of right-wing influence campaigns around the Supreme Court, directed payments of at least $25,000 to a consulting firm run by Ginni Thomas and asked that her name be left off the paperwork.

    In April, bombshell reporting by ProPublica exposed that Justice Thomas and his wife accepted extravagant vacations worth as much as $500,000 on the dime of Harlan Crow and did not disclose the travel.  That report was later followed by an additional ProPublica story detailing Crow’s purchase of a string of properties from Justice Thomas and his family members, which was not properly disclosed.  Further reporting by ProPublica indicates that Crow paid for multiple years of tuition for Justice Thomas’s grandnephew to attend private boarding schools.

    Congress created the Judicial Conference through statute and with passage of the Ethics in Government Act, Congress imposed clear financial disclosure and recusal rules that apply to the Supreme Court.

     "The assault . . . comes in waves," insisted Subcommittee Ranking Member John Kennedy and he tried to conjure up some innocent Court that was under attack but considering how the suit he wore assaulted the eyes, who could follow whatever nonsense he was attempting to pass off as logic?  In addition to that, his hair had distracting waves -- as though newly permed, he spoke as though he took diction from Nurse Diesel (Cloris Leachman's character in HIGH ANXEITY -- note the similarities in the heavy hitting on the letter "s"), continuously dug his tongue into the side of his mouth while speaking and don't get me started on the glasses. It was all too distracting and he came across like an Angela Lansbury wanna-be -- is that why he's so anti LGBTQ+?  Did he go through life with people mistaking him for gay?  I don't know but it's hard, having seen him now, not to laugh about this line in THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER's report on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calling (non-relative) John Kennedy out for his racist attack on Mexico: "The Louisiana Republic is known for not mincing words" -- no, no, honey, all he does is mince, he's non-stop mincing.

    "Are you kidding me?" he shook his head, grinning and looking like a lunatic.  When you're accusing a witness of mob connections, you're going to look like a lunatic anyway.  We don't have time for his unhinged mincing and we're not going to pretend that this fat femme throwing out crackpot conspiracy theories had anything of value or of interest to offer ("colorful remarks" was what the Chair termed Kennedy's lengthy opening remarks) nor are we going to waste our time attempting to fact check what appears to be the criminally insane (Senator Dick Durbin is the Chair of the Committee and participated in the Subcommittee hearing and that included refuting and correcting Kennedy's unhinged ravings -- he has far more patience than I do). Equally true, Kennedy didn't even pretend to be interested in any response to his wild accusations as evidenced by the fact that he walked out of the hearing after his grandstanding remarks.

    Back to reality, Whitehouse noted:

    One month ago, Congressman Hank Johnson and I wrote to the Judicial Conference of the United States, asking it to look at recent reports that Justice Clarence Thomas violated the Ethics in Government Act by failing to disclose gifts of travel and luxury vacations provided by a right-wing billionaire.  The Judicial Conference's responsibilities under that law are quite clear.  If there is 'reasonable cause to believe' that Justice Thomas willfully failed to file, then it must refer him to the Justice Department for investigation.

    In the hearing, Durbin noted that "what this Court has to rely on is the  confidence of the American people  and the integrity of justices when they hand down decisions.  If they hand down controversial decisions and the American people don't like them, they can at least say, 'Well that's the Court.  They can go their own way.'  But if there's any question about the character and the integrity of these justices, it really undermines the institution of the Court."

    And the Court has been undermined due to its own actions.  Mark Sherman and Emily Swanson (AP) reported yesterday, "Confidence in the Supreme Court sank to its lowest point in at least 50 years in 2022 in the wake of the Dobbs decision that led to state bans and other restrictions on abortion, a major trends survey shows."  In January, Daniel De Vise (THE HILL) noted, "Public approval of the nine-justice panel stands near historic lows. Declining faith in the institution seems rooted in a growing concern that the high court is deciding cases on politics, rather than law. In one recent poll, a majority of Americans opined that Supreme Court justices let partisan views influence major rulings."

    Crooked Clarence is a disgrace to this country and he is harming the reputation of the Court with his gold digging greed.  

    Appearing as the witness before the Subcommittee was Judge Mark Wolf:

    My name is Mark L. Wolf. I am a Senior United States District Judge in the District of Massachusetts. Prior to my appointment in 1985, in addition to practicing law in Washington, D.C. and Boston, Massachusetts, I served in the Department of Justice as: a Special Assistant to Deputy Attorney General Laurence H. Silberman (1984); a Special Assistant to Attorney General Edward H. Levi (1975-77); and Deputy United States Attorney and Chief of the Public Corruption Unit in the District of Massachusetts (1981-85). Since 1985, in addition to my work as a trial judge, I have been actively involved in the governance of the judiciary. I have served as Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (2006-12); as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States (2010-12); as Chair of the group of District Judge members of the Judicial Conference (2012); and as a member of the Judicial Conference Committees on Criminal Law, Codes of Conduct, and Criminal Rules.

    But US District Judge Mark Wolf, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, said on Wednesday that the full Judicial Conference did not receive notice of the complaints sent to leaders of the conference and therefore couldn’t decide how the body should act on them.

    “This concerned me because the issues raised by the letters were serious,” Wolf said in testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee looking into court ethics.

    “Pursuant to established conference policies and procedures, if the committee (on financial disclosures) had considered the letters, my colleagues on the Judicial Conference and I should have been informed of them in its reports to the Conference, even if the committee was not recommending any action by the Conference,” he said.

    “Such information would have afforded me and the other members of the conference the opportunity to discuss and decide whether there was reasonable cause to believe Justice Thomas had willfully violated the act and, if so, to make the required referral to the attorney general,” Wolf added.

    "What is this judge doing? How can we trust his judgment if one Texas billionaire has such a large part of his life in terms of his attention?" is what the American people has to wonder, Senator Durbin noted.

    Judge Mark Wolf: It's essentially what you characterize accurately based on what I hear just being a citizen may be the reaction of the man on the street. However, as I wrote in my testimony The Ethics in Government Act emerged after the Watergate scandal for good reasons: Greater transparency of  financial activities of public officials -- not just judges -- was understood to be very important to assure, among other things, the impartiality of judges.  And I think that act struck, as its written, a very appropriate balance.  It gives the Judicial Conference the opportunity and the obligation, to determine whether there's reasonable cause to believe there has been a willful violation.  It doesn't permit, though, the Judicial Conference to make the ultimate determination of whether there was.  If the Judicial Conference makes a referral to the Justice Department, it should diminish the potential and the perception that the Justice Dept has launched a 'witch hunt' against a judge or justice. Uh, but members of the Judicial Conference don't -- are not all impartial.  There are friendships, there are professional relationships there are interests --

    Senator Dick Durbin: That goes to the heart of the issue before us. And that is the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States of America has not  established a code of conduct and ethical standards that in and of itself are trustworthy.  And when this matter came before this Committee, several weeks ago, there were dissenters on the other side, the Republican side, at to whether or not this was even worthy of  talking about.  They accused us of smear and harassment to even raise the facts brought up by PRO-PUBLICA.  And I also want to say there's a second argument we've just addressed here and that's separation of powers.  Do we have any business as Congress, when it comes to the ethics of the Court?  Well I thought that we did until we received a response from Chief Justice [John] Roberts and let me read it to you.  This response was from the 2011 Year End Report On The Federal Judiciary.  Chief Justice Roberts wrote:

    Senator Dick Durbin (Con't): In other words, I think he's going to the heart of  the question as to whether anyone can raise a question about the ethical standards or establish ethical standards -- even those embraced by the rest of the federal government. That, to me, gets to the heart of why we need to enact federal legislation.  Senator Whitehouse has a bill on the subject, others do.  I'm sure this Committee is going to address it.  This is not a witch hunt, this is not a smear, this is not a harassment.  This is to try to rescue the reputation of the Court from some very sordid facts that have been disclosed and proven. 

    We'll note this exchange.

    Senator Mazie Hirono:  Judge Wolf, does the Supreme Court have a code of ethics that applies to them?

    Judge Mark Wolf: No.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: Is there a code of ethics that applies to the federal  district and circuit justice and courts?

    Judge Mark Wolf: Yes.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: Is there any reason that the Supreme Court should not have a code of ethics that applies to them as it applies to every other federal judge?

    Judge Mark Wolf: As I wrote in the article, it was consistent with the code of conduct 2021, I think it would be beneficial if the Supreme Court had a code of conduct.  But if I could say, as I wrote in my testimony, as I continue to think about these things, I think that the discussion of enacting a statute that would require the Supreme Court to adopt a code of conduct is distracting from the more important issue about enforceability -- Well, the way the existing statutes are being enforced because if there was a code of conduct for the Court and it was the ultimate arbiter of whether a justice was complying with the code of conduct, you'd have -- I predict -- enforcement problems that are similar to the problems that I've identified to the ethic ends.

    Senator Mazie Hirono: Judge Wolf, the enforcement of a code of conduct is, I think, a separate issue that we would need to address.  But, really, the bottom line question is: Should they have a code of conduct as applicable to them as to every other federal judge and your answer is yes.  We can figure out how to do it.  For example, in Hawaii, our constitution requires the Supreme Court to establish a process where it will abide by a code of conduct that we establish.  And there is established a commission that does not have any judges and if that commission determines that there needs to be further referral then it does go to the Supreme Court but the judge, justice, who is involved would have to recuse himself.  So there are ways that we can do the enforcement part. 

     The judge agreed and noted that his state (Massachusetts) had a similar system.

    The hearing concluded with Judge Wolf responding to some of Senator Kennedy's crazed musings (the ones that took place at the start of the hearing).  We'll conclude with this observation that Senator Dick Durbin made:

    For anyone -- including my colleagues in the Senate on both sides of the aisle -- to believe that this is normal, acceptable conduct for an elected official -- Supreme Court justice, senator -- to be receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts and vacations, to have your mother's home purchased by an individual so she doesn't have to pay a mortgage any longer . . . The list just goes on and keeps going on.

     We need to wind down.  Rebecca noted last night:

    john stauber really is disgusting.  he used to be a media critic.  today, the transphobe tweets: 

    a real media critic would have noted that the trans hatred was fueled by 'the times' and had nothing to do with 'a few stories of regret.'  it had everything to do with the paper ignoring science and ignoring medical experts.  it had everything to do with promoting fear based hate - to the point that bette midler did her ridiculous tweet and then couldn't grasp why people were outraged.  because you fell for a hate trap, bette.

    today, john stauber is just another transphobe.  

    he's an embarrassment.

    if 'the times' wants to talk about the war on transpersons, they should have the guts to admit that they're responsible for it and have helped carry it out.

    THE TIMES article notes that the 'witnesses' around the country are the physical equivalent of astroturf (when one small group of people -- as a campaign -- would write letters to the editor -- the same letter usually -- and send it out everywhere to try to make it look as though they were the majority) -- it's a small group that's paid to go state to state telling their stories.  This is intended to harm the rights of transgendered persons.  John Stauber is mocking the notion that 'only a few' -- reality, and we've noted this before, we all regret some decision.  The tattoo, the haircut, the drink we shouldn't have had, not stopping at 7-11 which would have allowed us to have missed the traffic cop, etc, etc.  And as I've noted before, life is about choices.  You make the wrong one, own it.  Don't blame it on other people.

    Whether it's the nearly 50 year old transition-non-transition creep or anyone else, own your decision.  Having spent decades in the military, remember that guy, and over 40, he decides he is a woman.  Now he's decided he's a man.  And now he's attacking the VA and others for what was done to him.

    What was done to him?  His requests were honored -- medical requests made by an adult.  Now he regrets it.  Boo-hoo.  Grow the hell up.  And, as with so many of these types, he never had surgery.  He's whining about some hormones he took.  He is the whore moan as he moans and whines.  And as we noted in real time, his real problem was that transitioning would make him a woman, not the 16-year-old girl that he wanted to be.

    The bulk of transgendered persons who receive medical assistance and treatment do not regret it.  

    Look at plastic surgery.  You or I can say Michael Jackson overdid it but it was his face.  And he was an adult.  And he had the right to get whatever work he wanted done.  Now are there people who regret having plastic surgery?  Yes.  They don't like their nose job or the face lift left them lop-sided or they don't like that people are talking about how they had work done.  That's life.  

    An adult should be able to make choices and an adult should be responsible and own their choices -- good or bad.

    And children?

    I find it amazing that the hate merchants want to insist on 'parental rights' in what is stocked on a library shelf while dismantling parental rights with regards to your child's health.  If a minor wants to have therapy or even surgery, that's to be decided by them and their parent(s) (or legal guardian -- unless they're an emancipated minor).  But the hate merchants, in state after state, are stripping parents of their rights and no one's supposed to notice or comment on that.  No one's supposed to notice that Candy Jones can get THE COLOR PURPLE pulled from a school library with her 'parental rights' but Candy Jones can't okay that her child take hormones prescribed by a medical doctor.  It's not about parental rights, it's about destroying LGBTQ+ people.

    THE TIMES article is an improvement over their previous hideous and non-scientific coverage.  It is not a cure for all the paper has published before.  GLAAD notes:

    Last week the Pulitzer Prizes were announced, and noticeable among the accolades for strong, authentic journalism was the absence of awards for individual New York Times pieces. 

    For more than a year, The New York Times has published irresponsible, biased coverage of transgender people, and repeatedly elevated the views and opinions of the small fringe of anti-LGBTQ activists, often without identifying their connections to anti-LGBTQ groups, amplifying inaccurate and harmful misinformation about transgender people and issues. Three months after a coalition of GLAAD and more than 100 coalition partners sent a letter to The New York Times demanding fair, accurate, and inclusive trans coverage, the Times did not receive any Pulitzer Prizes for individual articles, nor for Investigative Reporting (the prize went to the staff of The Wall Street Journal), Explanatory Reporting (awarded to Caitlin Dickerson of The Atlantic), National Reporting (awarded to Carline Kitchener of The Washington Post), Feature Writing (awarded to Eli Saslow of The Washington Post), Commentary (awarded to Kyle Whitmire of, Birmingham), or Editorial Writing (awarded to Miami Herald Editorial Board, for a series written by Amy Driscoll). The complete list of prizes is here.

    The Pulitzer Prizes recognized robust, inclusive, and empathetic reporting on vulnerable communities, with winners representing topics of massive impact on diverse, marginalized, and voiceless people—indigenous and Black populations, children, immigrants, detainees, prisoners—and stories that did not trade in an artificial “both sides” dynamic that has characterized the Times’s transgender coverage. The prizes included recognition of work that featured inclusive reporting of vulnerable communities by journalists who are members of those communities, including awarding the prize for General Nonfiction to Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa for their book, His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Viking). 

    Despite what the Times’s leadership has claimed, more precise and empathetic journalism can and should include reporters whose own backgrounds and experiences reflect the people they are reporting on. Ignoring critiques as “activism” and silencing colleagues from oppressed backgrounds reflects a moral, intellectual and emotional failure across the Times’s leadership. In the three months following the coalition letter, the Times has refused to publicly acknowledge its coverage failures, respond directly to the letter, or meet with trans leaders. 

    GLAAD continued its protest of The New York Times on May 9, with a digital billboard at the entrance of the New York Times building in Manhattan. 

    Also in awards news this past week, on May 13, GLAAD announced recipients for the final 18 of this year’s 33 categories of the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City hosted by producer, Critics Choice-nominated actor and GLAAD Award winner, Harvey GuillĂ©n.  

    The following sites updated: