Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 11, 2017.  Chaos and violence continue, the Mosul slog continues, US troops may remain in Iraq beyond the defeat (if it happens) of the Islamic State, Barack cries in public during his farewell speech, I defend Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and more.

We're starting with the issue of when I know someone.  I have not written once of Joe Biden's wife.  I may after Joe's out of office and she's in private life.  I have nothing but praise for her.  But if I ever wrote about her here that would mean if something went wrong I might have to call her out.

I still consider Bob Filner a friend.  I am so sorry for the women who were hurt by him.  I hope their lives are better today now that they've spoken out.  I would have loved not to have to ever mention that Bob harassed those women.  But I wrote about him and when, to my shock, those revelations came out, we covered it.

Nothing like that would have happened with Joe's wife but the press loves to create drama so I've avoided mentioning her here in case they went to town on her.  That way I could always respond to someone who knows me, "I've never mentioned her name before, why would I now?"

And though I like Joe, he's Vice President, and I've torn him apart here.  He's also gotten praise here but when he was wrong -- or my opinion was he was wrong -- we didn't put on the kid gloves.  I didn't try to be nice like The Cult of St. Barack did with their personal savior.

If he did something idiotic -- or John Kerry -- they got called out.

I know RFK Jr.  I've disclosed that before.

Were he to serve in any capacity on a commission or panel on vaccinations or oversee a study, it would be a benefit to the nation.

I get that this is a country where historical amnesia is instilled.

I get that the corporate press will always go along with big business -- whether it's Big Pharma or Big Tobacco.

As someone who has spent decades doing fund raising on the issue of autism, I am aware of and versed in the debate on vaccines.

My role is to gather money for research and treatment of autism.

In that capacity, I need to show respect -- not have tantrums in public like Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes.

There are many people with many strong opinions on this topic.

I do not have a strong opinion on vaccines.  But I do listen to those who insist that they do not cause autism and I do listen to those who insist that they do.

I get very tired of these 'science' devotees -- they don't know science but maybe listened to a Rooster Teeth podcast -- whose lives have not been effected reel off this or reel off that.

Cigarette smoking is probably on the way out.  (I smoked for years.  I miss it every day.)  If the known truth about cigarettes had been put out long, long ago, less and less people would smoke today.  We'd have less cancer deaths, less this, less that.

Are we getting the full truth on the vaccines?

I don't know.

I don't presume to know.

One of the largest donor families, with regards to autism, has been split down the middle by this debate.  Both the parents and the adult daughter care deeply about this issue.  I do not believe either the parents or the daughter (I know both and have raised from money from both) are crazy or idiots or uninformed.  They care passionately about this issue.

You can't work on this issue and work with everyone if you're taking sides.

That's the reality.

And I've sometimes said, "Why are men weighing in" on abortion "it's a woman's body."

Similarly, I'm tired of the fake scientists weighing in -- and those are the people with no skin in the game and no scientific background.  But they want to mock a Jenny McCarthy or whomever.

I'm sorry, who in your family is autistic?

(I do have family members which is why this is a cause I've worked on all my life.)

If no one is, how about you stop insulting people?

Let's say for the sake of argument that Big Pharma's been completely honest and that your dumb little podcasts that you listen to truly did give you a doctorate in science and you're now an expert.

Let's say that.

So what?

If you're such an expert you should be fully aware that beyond your science is the reality of what families have to live through and with when they are effected by autism.

If the group that believes vaccines caused it are completely and 100% wrong, so what?

You're not the one who has a child with autism.

You're not dealing with that stress and those fears.

To you it's all abstract.

To them it's reality and very personal.

So maybe you can just stop talking about an issue that doesn't effect you if all you have to offer is slamming someone who is suffering?

Robert Kennedy Jr. is a very wise person.  I think of him as a friend but I think I would see him that way regardless.

As someone willing to question -- "skeptic" the press hisses, as though it's a bad thing -- his serving on a panel/committee/whatever would give it an authenticity that it wouldn't otherwise have.

He's also seen as honest -- for good reason.

I don't believe he would lie, he would be forthright.

I'm very angry that someone who could do so much may now be denied that chance because a lot of idiotic loudmouths won't shut the hell up.

If you don't have someone with autism in your family?

Just close your mouth and sit down.

This issue doesn't effect you and you cannot begin to know the struggle that so many families have with it.  And many of them believe vaccines are safe (and they may be) and many believe that vaccines aren't safe (and they may not be) and there's a middle that doesn't know what to think and a section that doesn't want to think about it at all.  Those are the people that matter in this discussion because they are dealing with these issues.

In other words, the Whoopi Goldbergs of the world -- idiots paid to pontificate despite having no ethical framework to speak of (pro-torture Whoopi wants to talk about ethics?) -- need to turn their motor mouths off because this does not pertain to them.

It is an explosive issue within a community and if you're not part of that community don't speak for it.
If you're not living through it, it doesn't effect you and you do not what you're talking about.

You haven't had to see some beautiful boy or girl who, for whatever reason, has been divorced from the world we want to be a part of.  You haven't had to ask yourself, "Why?"  Or "Did I do something wrong?" Most importantly, "What can I do now to help my child/brother/sister/etc?"

As far I'm concerned, the only crackpot in this discussion is Mia Farrow who claims one of her children was autistic (I know which one) and that she cured him via the color red.  I'm not joking about that.

That's a crackpot.

(As always, Mia's stories supposedly about other people are really stories that glorify herself -- fantasies she hopes will be repeated when she dies and lead to her beatification.)

In my role, I cannot take a position.  To do so would impact fund raising and further a split in a community.  And that's not, "I cannot take a public position."  I don't even tell a friend like Elaine where I would fall on the spectrum.

My role is to fund raise and to try to help heal the divide -- not to solve it, I'm not a scientist.  But to try to help heal it so that, for those of us involved personally, there's a space where we can show respect for everyone regardless of their viewpoint.

Robert could do a great deal to heal this divide and he could do a great deal in many other ways.

I am disgusted by the tabloid press -- NYT, that includes you -- and their nonsense attacks.

I rarely write about autism here -- but have a standing offer to anyone in the autistic community -- regardless of where they are on the spectrum of beliefs -- that if they want something published they can e-mail it or, if they know me personally, they can hand it to me, and will go up without me weighing in.  A friend is being treated very poorly by the press and this is an autism issue so I'm weighing in.

I am taking Robert's side on his decency, his honesty and his character.  I am praising him for his ability to question.  I am not saying his views are my views but I am saying he has the personal integrity to go by truth and if truth doesn't support his personal views, he's not going to lie about it. (And if truth backs up his personal views, he's not going to lie about.)

I think he is the ideal person and the tabloid press needs to back the hell off because all they're doing is preventing a voice that could heal from helping.

Turning to the Mosul slog . . .

It's day 85 of the operation to liberate or 'liberate' the city seized by the Islamic State in June of 2014.

AFP reports, "Iraqi forces have retaken at least 80 percent of east Mosul from the ISIL Takfiri group, the spokesman of the special forces spearheading the campaign said on Wednesday."

So in about 20 more days, Mosul will be liberated?

Uh, not so slow-fast.

AP reports:

A top Iraqi commander told The Associated Press that the operation to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group could be complete in three months or less.

"It's possible" that Mosul will be liberated in in that time frame, Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday evening. However, he warned it is difficult to give an accurate estimate of how long the operation will take because it is not a conventional fight.

AP goes on to note that the Iraqi government (Hayder al-Abadi) claimed awhile back that the operation would be done at the end of 2016.  That didn't happen.

AP fails to note that the original end-date, before the operation started, was to be before the US presidential election.  This was to be the October surprise to deliver the election to Hillary.

POLITICO'S Mark Perry reported at the start of August that Barack was planning to start the battle to retake Mosul in early October and, "If Mosul is retaken, it would both mark a major political triumph for Barack Obama and likely benefit his party’s nominee at the polls, Hillary Clinton, undercutting Republican claims that the Obama administration has failed to take off the gloves against the Islamic State."

Yeah, that failed too.

Barack failed at his promise to end the Iraq War as well.

He delivered a farewell address last night.

  1. No tears for the families murdered by US bombs.

It was notable for his crying.

But not for the people he killed, for his wife.

There was a time when a sitting president did something like that, people would question his mental state.  This will no doubt be written off as another charming moment from Barack.

Niles Niemuth (WSWS) observes of the speech:

As with every address Obama has delivered over the last eight years, his speech in Chicago was full of clichés, his rhetoric padded with empty phrases and delivered with a false gravitas, signaled by his trademark pursed lips and affected whisper.
The speech was rife with contradictions, the starkest being the juxtaposition of Obama’s boasting of the great social progress achieved by his administration and his warning of threats to American democracy arising from ever-growing social inequality and economic insecurity.
The president declared: “If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history… if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11… if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens—you might have said our sights were set a little too high.
“By almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.”
He made no attempt to explain why, given this impressive record of social progress and foreign policy success, his party was routed in the elections and the billionaire demagogue Donald Trump was preparing to succeed him in the White House.
A basic component of the answer, of course, is the grotesquely false rendering of his record and the state of American society as he leaves office. Hardly a week goes by without a new report on signs of extreme social crisis or ever-more obscene levels of wealth among the financial elite. Just in the past month, studies have been published showing the first decline in US life expectancy in 23 years, plunging pay for young adults, a 72 percent surge in deaths from synthetic opioids, and home ownership rates at historic lows for young people.
Other surveys have documented a $237 billion increase in the wealth of the world’s richest 200 billionaires, driven largely by the US stock market boom under Obama, and an acceleration of the transfer of wealth from the bottom half of the US population for the top one percent.

No domestic accomplishments.

And only war, war, war in foreign policy.

People of Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Gaza will remember 3 things about Obama: Bombs, bombs and more bombs. Good riddance.

Grateful citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen bid farewell to Barack Obama and his prize-winning drones of peace.

Barack's departure will not be missed by the world -- especially those in war zones he perpetuated or kick-started.

And Andrew V. Pestano (UPI) reports, "U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said the United States could maintain a presence in Iraq after the Islamic State is defeated in the battle for Mosul."

Thanks Barack for getting US troops out of Iraq and ending the Iraq War -- oh, wait, he did neither.

The hideously shallow Meryl Streep spoke Sunday at the Golden Globes (a mockery of awards, FYI, sorry Jimmy Fallon, the 'voting' is bought -- ask Pia Zadora who won one).

Reflecting on Streep, Kristine Mattis (COUNTERPUNCH) weighs in on the reality of Barack's two terms as President of the United States:

As fitting at the Golden Globes, where the awards are given by the Hollywood Foreign Press, Streep underscored the obligation of a vibrant fourth estate, saying, “We need the principled press to hold power to account.” Actors like Meryl echoed the same sentiments during the George W. Bush administration, but why did we not hear those sentiments from them when Nobel peace prize-winning Obama started dropping bombs in seven foreign countries, when he escalated drone warfare – killing untold numbers of innocent civilians, when he deported more immigrants than any other president in U.S. history, when he rubber-stamped the surveillance state, when just a couple of weeks ago he  passed a law that amounts to enacting an Orwellian Ministry of Truth, when he and Clinton pushed for the TPP, when he and Clinton supported fracking, when he and Clinton derided and jailed whistleblowers like Snowden and Manning? If we are to hold one power to account, we should hold ALL powers to account, Meryl.
Furthermore, Streep called for support for the Committee to Protect Journalists, perhaps forgetting that the Obama administration has sentenced more whistleblowers than all other previous presidents combined. These whistleblowers committed the grave act of leaking to the press, and thus to the public, the immoral and nefarious deeds of our government. You know, holding power to account. Obama will now pass on his legacy of attacking and imprisoning journalists and their sources to the unhinged Trump.

At Monday's US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson John Kirby refused to answer a question insisting he'd done it last week.  Tuesday, spokesperson Mark Toner moderated and he addressed the question.

QUESTION: On Friday, we discussed here the U.S. guarantee of a $1 billion loan to Iraq. And you very helpfully clarified that it was a loan guarantee and not a loan, so thank you for that.

MR TONER: It was Kirby who did that.

QUESTION: Well, I mean in general.

MR TONER: He’s smarter on that stuff than I am. No --

QUESTION: The – the plural you. Okay.

MR TONER: Yes, that’s right. (Laughter.) The royal you.

QUESTION: Yes, because you’re royal folks. Okay.

MR TONER: Go ahead, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: But the second part of the question, there was – there’s a problem in the answer, because it is – and that question, just to remind ourselves, was what assurance was there that the Kurdistan region would receive its fair share. And the answer assumed an agreement on budget sharing, but Iraq’s national assembly – Kirby explained that this budget law had referred to sharing revenues, but there is no real agreement on the budget sharing, because when the national assembly passed that law, it changed the language in such a fashion as – so as the Kurdistan region will receive more revenue if it does not reach an agreement with – does not abide by this agreement with Baghdad. If it just sells oil on its own it’ll get more revenue from that. So why get less money from Baghdad? So there is in reality no agreement about budget sharing, which means that the Kurdistan region won’t see any part of any loan that the Iraqi Government might conclude which the U.S. has guaranteed.
So my question: Are you involved in any effort to resolve this dispute between Baghdad and Erbil and are you hopeful of a resolution?

MR TONER: So these discussions between Baghdad or between – well, frankly, Baghdad and the KRG on budgetary issues are an internal matter – an internal Iraqi matter – and so, I have to refer you to the Government of Iraq. I think we’re encouraged by what we would view as the unprecedented cooperation that’s been shown between Baghdad and the KRG in the fight – in the overall fight against [the Islamic State] and the liberation of Mosul, which is ongoing, as you know. And we believe that the sovereign loan guarantee will help the Government of Iraq meet its – the needs of all Iraqis, and by all Iraqis I mean including those in the Kurdistan Region.
So to sum up, internal matter for them to discuss, but we hope that this – as I said, this arrangement would benefit and meet the needs of all Iraqis, including those in Kurdistan Region.

QUESTION: Well, if one had a less benign view of the – what Baghdad might – might do and was not hopeful that it would share the money with the Kurdistan Region, are there other ways to address this problem? Because the need of the Kurdistan Region is not less than that of Baghdad, and maybe something like guaranteeing a loan to – would you consider guaranteeing a loan to Erbil just like you did to Baghdad?

MR TONER: I don’t think we’re at that point. I don’t think that’s something we’re necessarily looking at. Look, I mean, as I said, we’ve signed this loan. We believe it should be to the benefit of all Iraqis, and that includes the citizens or the people of the Kurdistan Region. But as you well know, the United States has also taken measures to help the Kurdistan Regional Government and the people there. I think we’ve provided over $1 billion in humanitarian emergency assistance through the – our Bureau of Population, Migration, and Resource – or Refugees, rather. And the majority of those funds have gone to the Kurdistan Region.
But we’re not talking about another loan guarantee at this point that I’m aware of. We expect this to be resolved internally.

QUESTION: Well, let me formulate – last way of formulating it.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Because, as the United States did guarantee this loan, assuming that Baghdad will, in fact, get a considerable loan from someplace guaranteed by the United States, is it your intent to use your influence with Baghdad to make sure that that money is also shared with the Kurdistan Region?

MR TONER: Well, as you note, it is an – it is a loan, and that does give us some degree of influence on how it’s used. I think I would just stay where I was, which is I thought I was very clear on the fact that we believe that this money should be shared and should be available to all Iraqis, and that includes the Kurdistan Region. Okay? I’ll stop there.

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