Thursday, September 30, 2021

Iraq snapshot

 Thursday, September 20, 2021. Iraq gears up for elections as the US seems determined to destroy free speech.

IANS reports, "The Iraqi ministry of health reported on Wednesday 2,254 new COVID-19 cases, raising the nationwide caseload to 2,000,869."  It's a world wide pandemic.  In the United States, the number has passed 43 million.  The pandemic hasn't ended.

But a bevy of corporations that need to leech out more money and a Congress that doesn't give two s**ts about the people contribute to a false sense of safety, a belief that the pandemic has ended or is winding down.  No one knows what's happening next. That means, yes, it could be winding down.  It also means that we may be a masked society this time next year or even longer

It's a world wide pandemic.  It's a time that we really should be grasping the need for Medicare For all (which, actually, most Americans favor) and our so-called representatives should be working to create.  It's also a time when we should feel a need to help one another.

Instead, we get the hateful Amanda Marcotte.  How much does one awful person get to survive?  Her racism hurt her book but didn't silence her.  Her toxic hatred of anyone religious hasn't seen outlets turn away from her.  I know she poses as a Hillary Clinton supporter but I also remember what she said in 2007 and 2008 and I also remember that her choice was the well known womanizer Grabby Hands Edwards.  We all know how that went down.  

Nothing stops that awful Amanda.  She's making hateful statements and it may seem new to some people.  It's not new.  We look back now and we remember things much more fondly than they really are/were.  A friend has a documentary that'll be airing on PBS next month.  It's on a topic we've long discussed here.  The reality of the way gays and lesbians were treated.  I'm not referring to LGBTQ because back then the understanding wasn't expansive enough to include all.  But it did acknowledge gay men and lesbians.  And it deemed them sick, mentally ill.  Readers of THE NEW YORK TIMES were told that over and over.  Educated people were told by their news media that lesbians and gay men were sick.  The struggle for rights and recognition was much harder than we sometimes remember.  And I also remember the hatred similar to what Amanda's currently spewing when the 'gay disease' began emerging in the 1980s.  AIDS wasn't a gay disease but that's how it was covered by many news outlets.  And the hatred was out there publicly.  Amanda should be ashamed of herself for offering hatred at the masses.  History, if it remembers her at all will not judge her kindly.

Her hatred, please note, can be expressed.  It's always allowed.

And I am fine with that because I do believe in free speech.  But fear and hatred are now targeting our basic rights -- including free speech.  Big Tech continues to attack our rights and they are urged on by Congress.  

Jonathan Turley notes:

YouTube continued the expansion of corporate censorship on the Internet with the encouragement of leading Democratic leaders. The company has banned channels associated with anti-vaccine activists like Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Once again, rather than rebutting or refuting claims made by others, many sought to silence those with opposing views. YouTube will not allow people to hear views that do not comport with an approved range of opinions.  The move magnifies concerns that we are seeing the emergence of a new type of state media as private companies conduct censorship operations barred by the Constitution for the government to conduct directly. This move comes days after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) asked Amazon to steer customers to “true” books on subjects like climate change to avoid their exposure to “disinformation.” It also follows YouTube censoring videos of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny before Russia’s parliamentary elections. The move helped Putin and his authoritarian government crack down on pro-Democracy forces.
The Google-owned site is now openly engaged in viewpoint regulation to force users to view only those sources that are consistent with the corporate agenda. Facebook banned misinformation on all vaccines seven months ago and Twitter regularly bans those questioning vaccines.

These companies are being encouraged by many on the left to expand censorship.

As Elaine noted last night, "It's outrageous.  In the name of 'safety,' they're destroying free speech.  This will not end people's suspicions or doubts.  Censorship never does.  It's appalling.  Shame on people who support this.  Today it's this group, tomorrow it's another.  Pretty soon, there is no free speech. "


Go back a few decades and my calls for equality would be censored.  Hell, in college, I was censored for calling out apartheid in South Africa.  Censored and attacked by the campus newspaper.  Not once, but an entire semester.  It only raised awareness on the reality of apartheid, it only taught students how damaging and out of control the press could be.  They were in the wrong, running a feature on a student from that area and quoting the student on how "good" Blacks had it and how "fair" and "caring" the system of apartheid was.  It was an offensive article.  The paper should have never run those quotes.  And could easily have done a profile on the asshole without printing (and endorsing) his views on apartheid.  But they chose to run it -- that's free speech.  I chose to respond with a letter - caustic, yes.  The thing about a biting wit is that some feel the bite more than others.  Free speech meant that they could air their offensive views and that I could respond with an indictment of apartheid.  That was the start of the semester.  Instead of letting it die, they (the newspaper students) spread rumors about me (I was sleeping with the editor of the paper which makes it even more disgusting) and every new edition all semester carried letters attacking me.  Letters that the paper urged the writers to write, that in three cases, the staff wrote for the letter writers.  

Because there is some fairness, there was pushback.  Huge.  And the paper had a ton of letters that they hadn't run.  I learned of that as did others and the paper was under pressure as the semester wound down to publish this huge response that they had hidden and ignored.  They tried to get out of it by asking me to instead write a column for them on the issue.  I insisted they run the letters.

Speaking out about the rights of people with HIV was not a popular position and those of us who did speak out were attacked.  In today's climate, we could be censored.  Throughout my life I've taken positions which, right now in 2021, are popular but when I took them in real time, were positions you got attacked for.  

That semester in college, I don't think most students on campus -- at least the ones I knew -- had thought a great deal about apartheid.  If we didn't have free speech, they never would have thought more about it.  I was never bothered by the various attacks from the paper and its staff. It wasn't about me.  It was about an important issue.  And we need to discuss and debate important issues.  We need to be willing to disagree.  

We won't progress without it.  Joe Biden rightly talked about how the TV show WILL & GRACE did a great deal to change attitudes about LGBTQ people.  It did.  Representation in media matters.  A nation that used the media to 'educate' people that LGBTQs were sick and needed mental care owed the people better representation so that we could move beyond that sickness.  The sick were never the gay men and the lesbians, the sick were the people who swallowed hatred from the media.

I know it's hard to stand up and I know it's hard to question.  But that's what we need to do.  We need to consume the media while asking what this story is really about.  If we'd done that with the claims of WMDS, a lot more people would have been opposed to the Iraq War.  The media says it so it must be true?  That's a stupid opinion.  You may be the most educated person in the world but if you accept what the media tells you unquestioningly then you are a stupid person.  

Harvey Weinstein's actions were known for years and years.  And people covered for him.  Favors were called in to protect him.  He was done in not by a brave press.  He was done in because he had alienated so many people.  He wanted Academy Awards and went overboard at best.  It's amazing that Berry Gordy may have cost Diana Ross the Academy Award with an ad campaign that some tsk-tsk-ed looked like he was trying to buy an Academy Award when, a few decades later, Harvey would turn the Academy Awards into a blood sport.  He would work overtime paying people to help him destroy Ron Howard's film or this person's film.  He made it blood sport.  And he amassed one enemy after another.

That's what did him finally.  No more favors left to call in because too many in the industry had turned against him.

I don't see a lot of bravery in Harvey's takedown -- no bravery in the press (I see bravery in Rose McGowan) -- I see them finally filing stories that were always known but weren't told because of what happened behind the scenes.

We need free speech.  We're not a democracy without it.

Our country took a huge hit after 9/11.  Fear was used to turn people against 'others' -- Arabs, Muslims, foreigners, truth tellers, you name it.  Now the pandemic is being used to attack free speech.  As someone who has often been ahead of the curve on issues, I do not support censorship.  If what YOUTUBE Is doing right now had been in place in 1961, I wonder how much attention the brave leaders of the Civil Rights Movement would have received.  The answer is never to silence others.  Let them say what ever they want.  Let Amanda be as hateful as she wants to be.  Let that idiot promoting apartheid make the hideous remarks he did.  But let us have free speech so that we can counter it.  Don't play the judge of what we can say or what positions we can hold.  Let us make the case and sort it out in the public square.

That's Jimmy Dore addressing the CIA's plot to assassinate WIKILEAKS publisher Julian Assange.  

Defending Julian from persecution is not a popular position with some in the US.  There's an idiot who keeps e-mailing me hateful e-mails about how Julian "hacked the 2016 election" and she means he hacked the voting machines, she honestly believes that.  Blame it on a crazed media and MSNBCers who whisper and insinuate.  Julian didn't hack the voting machines.  Hillary lost because Hillary ran a lousy campaign.  If she'd campaigned in the 2016 general election like she did in the 2008 primaries, she would have won.  Her loss is on her.

Julian's blamed for many things.  And defending him means you get attacked.  Comes with the territory.  I was asked during a meet-up with students a week or so ago why I loved Julian?

I don't love him.  I don't hate him.  I don't know him.  I don't need to know him to know that what's being done is wrong.  And we don't just defend the people we like if we believe in freedom and fairness.  I get that WSWS plays that game.  But that's not how you ever bring about real change.  

What has been done to Julian and what is being done to Julian is wrong.  We need to be calling out our government.  We should also think about how much money -- our tax dollars -- is being spent on this continued persectuion?

Julian Assange came on everyone's radar for publishing the truth about the Iraq War.  He has been a casualty of the Iraq War.  If you don't speak out and demand justice, it's very likely that Julian could end up a fatality of the Iraq War.  I'm not willing to let that happen.  Are you?

Whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg Tweets:

Biden should drop his appeal to extradite Julian Assange and dismiss all charges against him, on the new disclosures that Assange has been subjected to the same governmental crimes that led to the dismissal of my own prosecution half a century ago. 1/

Changing topics, we'll note this Tweet:

A top cleric in #Iraq is urging people to vote in the parliamentary #election. Take a closer look:

Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) reports:

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani on Wednesday called on the public to head to the polls on October 10 and vote for a new government.

The country will hold early elections – a key demand of the protesters who have taken to the streets since October 2019 – which will allow the politician who secures the most support from parliamentary blocs to form a government.

“The supreme religious authority encourages everyone to participate consciously and responsibly in the coming elections,” said Mr Al Sistani’s office.

“Although it is not without some shortcomings, it remains the best way to achieve a peaceful future and avoids the risk of falling into chaos and political obstruction,” it said.

AFP observes:

Initially expected in 2022, the vote was brought forward in a rare official concession to autumn 2019 protests, when tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to demonstrate against crumbling public services and a government they decried as corrupt and inept.

Hundreds died in months of protest-related violence.

But the ballot has generated little enthusiasm among Iraq’s 25 million voters, while the activists and parties behind the uprising have largely decided to boycott the ballot.

The early elections have only been scheduled because of the brave protesters. The October Revolution  kicked off protests in the fall of 2019 and forced the prime minister to step down and early elections to be announced.  As ARAB WEEKLY notes, "Tens of thousands of Iraqi youths took to the streets to decry rampant corruption, poor services and unemployment. Hundreds died as security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds."  This is what forced the resignation of one prime minister and has led to national elections which are supposed to take place October 10th.  (Members of the Iraqi military will vote October 8thTwo election simulations have been carried out by the IEC and the third and final one will take place September 22nd.)    that the candidates for Parliament include 951 women ("close to 30% of the total number of candidates") who are running for the 329 seats.  Halgurd Sherwani (KURDISTAN 24) has reported Jeanine Hannis-Plasschaert, the Special Representiative in Iraq to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, declared that Iraq's "Female candidates face increasing levels of hate speech, violence, and blackmail intended to force them to withdraw their candidacy." 

Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) counts 3,249 people in all seeking seats in Parliament  BROOKINGS notes this is a huge drop from 2018 when 7,178 candidates ran for office.   RUDAW is among those noting perceived voter apathy, "Turnout for Iraq’s October 10 parliamentary election is expected to be a record low, with a recent poll predicting just 29 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots." Human Rights Watch has identified another factor which may impact voter turnout, "People with disabilities in Iraq are facing significant obstacles to participating in upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10, 2021, due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Without urgent changes, hundreds of thousands of people may not be able to vote.  The 36-page report, “‘No One Represents Us’: Lack of Access to Political Participation for People with Disabilities in Iraq,” documents that Iraqi authorities have failed to secure electoral rights for Iraqis with disabilities. People with disabilities are often effectively denied their right to vote due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places and significant legislative and political obstacles to running for office."  And Human Rights Watch Tweets:

“Every election day is the most depressing day for me,” said Suha Khalil, 44, who uses a wheelchair said she has never participated in an election. “Everyone goes to vote and I am stuck at home waiting for the day to end.” #IraqElection Take action:

Another obstacle is getting the word out on a campaign.  Political posters are being torn down throughout Iraq.  Halgurd Sherwani  (KURDiSTAN 24) observes, "Under Article 35 of the election law, anyone caught ripping apart or vandalizing an electoral candidate's billboard could be punished with imprisonment for at least a month but no longer than a year, Joumana Ghalad, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), told a press conference on Wednesday."  And there's also the battles in getting out word of your campaign online.  THE NEW ARAB reported weeks ago, "Facebook is restricting advertisements for Iraqi political parties and candidates in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections, an official has told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site."

THE WASHINGTON POST's Louisa Loveluck Tweeted: of how "chromic mistrust in [the] country's political class" might also lower voter turnout.  Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) also notes, "Experts are predicting low turnout in October due to distrust of the country’s electoral system and believe that it will not deliver the much needed changes they were promised since 2003."  Mistrust would describe the feelings of some members of The October Revolution.  Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) notes some of their leaders, at the recent  Opposition Forces Gathering conference announced their intent to boycott the elections because they "lack integrity, fairness and equal opportunities."  Distrust is all around.  Halkawt Aziz  (RUDAW) reported on how, " In Sadr City, people are disheartened after nearly two decades of empty promises from politicians." 

How to address apathy?  Ignore it and redo how you'll count voter turnout.  RUDAW reports, "raq’s election commission announced on Sunday that turnout for the election will be calculated based on the number of people who have biometric voter cards, not the number of eligible voters. The move will likely inflate turnout figures that are predicted to hit a record low."  As for the apathy, John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed (REUTERS) convey this image

Iraq’s tortured politics are graphically illustrated in a town square in the south, where weathered portraits displayed on large hoardings honor those killed fighting for causes they hoped would help their country.

The images of thousands of militiamen whose paramilitary factions battled ISIS hang beside those of hundreds of young men killed two years later protesting against the same paramilitaries.

After the election, there will be a scramble for who has dibs on the post of prime minister.  Murat Sofuoglu (TRT) observes, "The walls of Baghdad are covered with posters of Iraq’s former leaders, especially Nouri al Maliki and Haidar al Abadi, as the country moves toward its early elections on October 10. Both men however were forced out of power for their incompetence, and yet they are leading in the country’s two powerful Shia blocks."  Outside of Baghdad?  THE NEW ARAB explains, "However, in the provinces of Anbar, Saladin, Diyala, Nineveh, Kirkuk, Babel and the Baghdad belt, candidates have focussed on the issue of the disappeared and promised to attempt to find out what happened to them."

Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has 90 candidates in his bloc running for seats in the Parliament and one of those, Hassan Faleh, has insisted to RUDAW, "The position of the next prime minister is the least that the Sadrist movement deserves, and we are certain that we will be the largest and strongest coalition in the next stage."  Others are also claiming the post should go to their bloc such as the al-Fatah Alliance -- the political wing of the Badr Organization (sometimes considered a militia, sometimes considered a terrorist group).  ARAB WEEKLY reported, "Al-Fateh Alliance parliament member Naim Al-Aboudi said that Hadi al-Amiri is a frontrunner to head the next government, a position that can only be held by a Shia, according to Iraq’s power-sharing agreement."  Some also insist the prime minister should be the head of the State of Law bloc, two-time prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki.  Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters do not agree and have the feeling/consensus that,  "Nouri al-Maliki has reached the age of political menopause and we do not consider him to be our rival because he has lost the luster that he once had so it is time for him to retire."

In one surprising development, Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) has reported: "Iraq’s electoral commission aims to announce the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10 within 24 hours, they announced on Thursday following a voting simulation."


A new endorsement may get some attention.  Karwan Faidhi Dri (RUDAW) notes:

A senior official from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Tuesday said they endorse the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Iraq’s October 10 parliamentary elections and called on people to vote for the party. 

Cemil Bayik claimed to PKK-affiliated Sterk TV that the Turkish government is trying to weaken Sulaimani’s ruling PUK by targeting PKK members in the province.

Voters in Sulaimani “have to abolish this plan. No matter what ideology they have - whether they are affiliated to the PUK or not - everyone should want the PUK to emerge strong in these elections so that the games of the enemy do not work,” he said. 

The PKK has enjoyed good relations with the PUK for two decades, but its relationship is thorny with the PUK’s main rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which enjoys strong economic ties with Turkey.

The KDP dismissed the PKK's endorsement of the PUK. Jaafar Imniki, a member of the party's politburo, told Rudaw's Shaho Amin on Wednesday that Bayik "has no business in Iraqi elections at all."

The following sites updated: