Saturday, June 12, 2021

Iraq: Mustafa, militias and madness

 Confusing reports out of Iraq.  AFP reports:

 Iraq announced Saturday it has arrested two generals on suspicion of taking bribes to waive customs duties, a practice estimated to cost the state $6.3 billion a year in lost revenues.

Both men worked at the Gulf port of Umm Qasr, a key entry point for imports of foodstuffs and medicines which is reputed to be the most corrupt in Iraq.

The sums allegedly found in their position were tiny given the scale of corruption in Iraq, which is estimated to have cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars since the US-led invasion of 2003.

One thousand was found with one general, a little over two thousand with the other.

That's not the confusing part.  The confusing part is where is the story about the military being outraged, demanding that the accused be immediately released, circling the home of the prime minister and making threats against him and others?

Oh, wait.  This is the Iraqi military.  They answer to the Iraqi government.  It's not the militias who do whatever the hell the want and issue public threats when not killing civilians.


Mr Al Kadhimi faces an uphill struggle reining in militias linked to powerful political parties backed by Iran, who gain funds from the Iraqi state and have infiltrated government ministries and the security forces.

These groups, including militias within the state-sanctioned Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), have been working to implement Tehran’s foreign policy in Iraq. These include the ousting of US and other foreign coalition forces invited by the Iraqi government to help fight ISIS.

Iran-backed PMF groups also stand accused of killing hundreds of Iraqi protesters who are demanding an end to Iranian-influence, corruption and poor services

Mr Al Kadhimi’s attempts to hold the groups to account have often stumbled.

In June 2020 the prime minister was pressured to release 14 members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia who were accused of attempting to fire rockets at foreign forces stationed within Baghdad international airport, and had been arrested at the scene by the state's Counter Terrorism Service.

Last week, the Iraqi Higher Judicial Council ordered the release of a PMF commander, Qassem Musleh, who was accused of murdering an activist and running protection rackets.

Militias are using murder and intimidation to force Mr Al Kadhimi into a corner and preserve their powerful role in the Iraqi state.

On June 7, the campaign to undermine his government took a more ominous turn when Col Nebras Shaban, an officer in the intelligence services, was shot dead near his home.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been prime minister since May 7, 2020.  Elections are expected to be held this coming October in Iraq.  A month or a couple of months from now, they may have a prime minister.  (2010 holds their longest record for the time between elections and announcing a prime minister-designate -- 2010 saw the process take over eight months due to the political stalemate).  Mustafa has not accomplished much.

His inability to protect the activists or to hold their murderers accountable has led some to say that they will be boycotting the upcoming elections.  Mustafa had a chance to turn it around earlier this month when he ordered the arrest of a militia thug but then the man was released without a trial.

Can he win over the activists -- and the many Iraqis who support the activists -- before the elections take place?  Who knows but Sura Ali (RUDAW) reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met on Saturday in Nasiriyah with protestors and the families of a number of activists who were killed in the October (Tishreen) 2019 movement, stating violence against activists comes as part of a “battle the state is waging against corruption.”

Kadhimi’s media office said the PM met the mother of protestor Omar Sadoun, one of dozens who were killed in the so-called Nasiriyah Massacre that occurred on November 28, 2019, one day after demonstrators torched the Iranian consulate. 

He also met with the family of Anas Malik, who died earlier in June of this year from wounds he sustained in the massacre two years ago. 

In addition, Kadhimi met the mother of a prominent Nasiriyah activist, Sajjad al-Iraqi, who disappeared on the evening of September 20, 2020, after being kidnapped by unknown gunmen. 

"The absence of activists and the assault on them comes as part of a battle waged by the state against corruption and devastation and the expansion of corrupt abusers…..the youth chose their place in the trench of confrontation with these people from the moment they went out to protest for Iraq," Kadhimi said.

Upcoming elections already carry a great deal of back door negotiating.  For example, Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr already entered a conditional agreement with Mustafa regarding possible partnership and now Moqtada's attempting to seal a similar agreement with the Kurds.  Of elections in Iraq, Guy Burton (INTERNATIONAL POLICY DIGEST)  observes:

There the connection between leaders and society has become weaker. Despite the presence of many political parties and electoral competition, many voters feel disconnected from the political process. The negotiations which take place to form governments after elections provide little space for the public while Iraq’s post-2003 governments have been perceived as distant and unrepresentative. That contributed to growing frustrations in society in relation to the lack of economic opportunities and income, poor public services, and growing public insecurity and disorder. This culminated in an outburst of protests during 2019 and 2020. As a result, when Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to power last year, he proposed to bring elections forward.

The following sites updated:

Top Chef's Kwame Onwuachi on Living in Nigeria


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Andrew Yang, Andrew Cuomo, Freeze The Rent With Ross Barkan, Ava Farkas & New Yorker Sam

Journalist Ross Barkan, Housing Organizer Ava Farkas and New Yorker Sam Alcoff discuss the mayor's race. Ross Barkan, is the author of THE PRINCE: ANDREW CUOMO, CORONAVIRUS, AND THE FALL OF NEW YORK. Ava Farkas is the executive Director of Met Council on Housing. Rent relief Katie on Ilhan Omar ***Please support The Katie Halper Show *** On Patreon Follow Katie on Twitter:




Tomorrow is a big day at record stores, so they're getting all gussied up,

They're pulling out their brand new t-shirts, unpacking fresh posters, stuffing swag bags and of course, laying out all those special records and other treats (Yellow Submarine turntable!) for when you visit your local record store tomorrow. 

Tomorrow is the first of two special Days this year when we're celebrating record stores. Maybe not yet a full blown Record Store Day, but we think you're gonna like what they've got in store.

RECORD STORE DAY DROP 1 Saturday June 12 
Find a record store near you and let's tell 'em how much we love 'em 
Heading out to the record store? 
Be sure to check your wishlist over.

There have been some changes--titles moving to Drop 2 and some coming later in the year.
Plus, you might see something you missed before. Click and check the List! 
Copyright © 2021 *Record Store Day*, All rights reserved.
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fishing in the bohol sea


Photoessay by David Bacon
Food First, 6/11/21

These photos are taken from the archive at the Green Library at Stanford University:

Walking up the road in the warm night, with the town sleeping around them, two men turn onto a dirt track between ramshackle houses towards the beach.  Where the coconut palms meet the rocks and gravel, they pass young men who have wrapped themselves in thin colored cloth.  They're sleeping on the ground, their heads invisible.  

Fishing boats are drawn up on the beach.  The two men, a young teenager and an older man, walk over to the best-looking boat, painted red with indistinct words on the side.  It's a thin, shallow hull, with a small covered section in the middle over a diminutive motor.  Two white outriggers are tied to the end of curving bamboo arms, one on each side.  A big net is wrapped up under a cover in the middle of the boat.
The sleeping men wake up.  Together they begin pushing the boat on bamboo rollers down the beach.  Lifting the outrigger arms, they slide the hull into the water, and the boat floats in the small waves.  It's almost totally dark, a crescent moon moving in and out of clouds crossing the sky.

The older man hoists a bag full of beer, and gingerly walks from the needle-nose prow down into the hold between the engine and the net, as the boat rocks gently beneath him.  He is Ayon, the captain.  Beboy, his helper, jumps on. Ayon starts the motor, and the boat pulls away from the beach.  

Ayon loops a wire connected to the accelerator around his big toe.  With one hand he steers the boat with a long pole connected to the rudder, while he guns the small engine with his foot.  They set out into total darkness, the boat rising and falling with the waves.  Bohol's strange peaks are looming dark shapes on the horizon, above the tiny lights of the towns of Garcia Hernandez and Jagna.

[. . .]


Online Interviews and Presentations
Exploitation or Dignity - What Future for Farmworkers
UCLA Latin American Institute
Based on a new report by the Oakland Institute, journalist and photographer David Bacon documents the systematic abuse of workers in the H-2A program and its impact on the resident farmworker communities, confronted with a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.
Organizing during COVID, the intrinsic value of the people who grow our food
Sylvia Richardson - Latin Waves Media
How community and union organizers came together to get rights for farm workers during COVID, and how surviving COVID has literally been an act of resistance.
Report Details Slavery-Like Conditions For Immigrant Guest Workers
Rising Up With Sonali Kohatkar

The Right to Remain

Beware of Pity

En Español
Ruben Luengas - #EnContacto
Hablamos con David Bacon de los migrantes y la situación de México frente a los Estados Unidos por ser el principal país de llegada a la frontera de ese país.

Jornaleros agrícolas en EEUU en condiciones más graves por Covid-19: David Bacon
SomosMas99 con Agustin Galo Samario

"Los fotógrafos tomamos partido"
Entrevista por Melina Balcázar Moreno - Laberinto

David Bacon comparte su mirada del trabajo agrícola de migrantes mexicanos en el Museo Archivo de la Fotografia


Online Photography Exhibitions
Documentary Matters -  View from the US 
Social Documentary Network
Four SDN photographers explore themes of racial justice, migration, and #MeToo
There's More Work to be Done
Housing Assistance Council and National Endowment for the Arts
This exhibition documents the work and impact of the struggle for equitable and affordable housing in rural America, inspired by the work of George “Elfie” Ballis.
Dark Eyes
A beautiful song by Lila Downs honoring essential workers, accompanied by photographs

A video about the Social Justice Photography of David Bacon:

The David Bacon Archive exhibition at Stanford Libraries

Exhibited throughout the pandemic in the Cecil H. Green Library at Stanford. The online exhibition (, which includes additional content not included in the physical show, is accessible to everyone, and is part of an accessible digital spotlight collection that includes significant images from this body of work. For a catalog: (


Online Exhibit
Los Altos History Museum

History Museum of Tijuana
Museo de Historia de Tijuana

The exhibitions in the following list were scheduled before the current COVID-19 crisis.  Public gatherings are now being rescheduled.

March 21, 2021 - May 23, 2021
Carnegie Arts Center, Turlock

Spring, 2022
San Francisco Public Library

Rescheduled for a date when the gallery reopens
Uri-Eichen Gallery, Chicago

In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte
Photographs and text by David Bacon
University of California Press / Colegio de la Frontera Norte

302 photographs, 450pp, 9”x9”
paperback, $34.95 (in the U.S.)

order the book on the UC Press website:
use source code  16M4197  at checkoutreceive a 30% discount

En Mexico se puede pedir el libro en el sitio de COLEF:

Los Angeles Times reviews In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte - click here

THE REALITY CHECK - David Bacon blog

Books by David Bacon

The Right to Stay Home:  How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  (Beacon Press, 2013)

Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants  (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

En Español:  

EL DERECHO A QUEDARSE EN CASA  (Critica - Planeta de Libros)


For more articles and images, see and

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Suzanne Simard Explores Forest Wisdom


Bioneers Pulse – updates from the Bioneers Community


In his book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, legendary biologist E.O. Wilson challenges humanity: “Only by committing half of the planet’s surface to nature can we hope to save the immensity of life-forms that compose it. Unless humanity learns a great deal more about global biodiversity and moves quickly to protect it, we will soon lose most of the species composing life on Earth. The Half-Earth proposal offers a first, emergency solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: By setting aside half the planet in reserve, we can save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilization required for our own survival.” 

Although global biodiversity counts continue to plummet, leading global conservation actors have coalesced around a science-backed policy framework called The Global Deal For Nature, an effort to conserve, protect and restore 30% of the earth’s surface by 2030. At the same time, science is finally beginning to unravel the depths of nature’s complexity – and what they’re uncovering is truly astonishing: a glimpse into the innate wisdom within entire ecosystems. Taken together, the push for global biodiversity conservation and the exploration of the wisdom of the wild offer a glimmer of hope as we work towards restoring humanity’s right relationship with our home.

This week, learn from two of the planet’s leading scientists along with a cutting-edge philanthropic institution, all of whom are transforming how we protect and understand our planet.

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Suzanne Simard: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

“One of the first clues came while I was tapping into the messages that the trees were relaying back and forth through a cryptic underground fungal network. When I followed the clandestine path of the conversations, I learned that this network is pervasive through the entire forest floor, connecting all the trees in a constellation of tree hubs and fungal links. A crude map revealed, stunningly, that the biggest, oldest timbers are the sources of fungal connections to regenerating seedlings. Not only that, they connect to all neighbors, young and old, serving as the linchpins for a jungle of threads and synapses and nodes. I’ll take you through the journey that revealed the most shocking aspect of this pattern—that it has similarities with our own human brains. In it, the old and young are perceiving, communicating, and responding to one another by emitting chemical signals. Chemicals identical to our own neurotransmitters. Signals created by ions cascading across fungal membranes.”

Scientist Suzanne Simard explores the communal nature of trees and their shared network of interdependency in her new bestselling book, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest.

Read an excerpt from the book here. 

A Global Deal for Nature: How New Targets for Land Protection & Regeneration Are Transforming Conservation

The Global Deal for Nature is a groundbreaking proposal that calls for a milestone of at least 30% of lands protected by 2030 with an additional 20% in climate stabilization areas. It is also the first global plan to include land, freshwater, and marine ecoregions. Teo Grossman, Senior Director of Programs and Research at Bioneers, interviews Dr. Carly Vynne, one of the proposal’s co-authors, about the ambitious plan and experiences that led her to focusing on natural conservation.

Read more here.

Protecting Cultural and Biological Diversity Is Central to Solving Climate Change

“It is more important than ever to respect and support the diverse cultures which have helped to preserve these priceless ecosystems. The complex web of life in places like the Amazon have helped to regulate our global climate system for tens of thousands of years, enabling humanity to evolve. But right now, the web is unraveling, with many Indigenous peoples facing growing pressures from extractive industries like mining, drilling, logging, and industrial agriculture.”

Justin Winters, Co-Founder & Executive Director of One Earth, discusses why Indigenous peoples territorial land rights and environmental stewardship take priority in solving climate change. 

Read more here.

Conservation, Biodiversity and Innovative Philanthropy | Kris Tompkins, John D. Liu and Marina Silva

Learn about the struggles to preserve some of the last large-scale vibrant ecosystems on Earth, crucial to the diversity of life on our planet, the climate and to our own species’ survival. This discussion was hosted by Atossa Soltani, Founder and Executive Director of Amazon Watch, among the most effective groups in the world conserving the Amazon and its peoples.

Listen to the unedited audio here.

Podcast: Got Dirt? Get Soil! Ditch the Plow, Cover Up and Grow Diversity

An agricultural and ecological renaissance is underway to combat the damaging effects of the profit-hungry agribusiness empire. In this episode of Bioneers Radio, learn from biologist Ann Biklé and geologist David Montgomery as they share solutions from nature on regenerative agriculture. 

Listen here.

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