Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Big Money


Nick Beams (WSWS) reports:

Eight billionaires, six of them from the United States, own as much combined wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population, some 3.6 billion people, according to the latest report on global inequality from the British-based advocacy group Oxfam.

The report was released Monday, on the eve of the annual World Economic Forum in the mountain resort of Davos, Switzerland, at which many of the ultra-rich will converge this week. The Oxfam document contains a range of figures that highlight the staggering growth of social inequality, showing that the income and wealth gap between a tiny financial elite and the rest of the world’s people is widening at an accelerating rate.

New data made available to Oxfam reveals that wealth is even more concentrated than the organization had previously believed. Last year, Oxfam reported that 62 people controlled as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity. In its latest report, the charity notes that “had this new data been available last year, it would have shown that nine billionaires owned the same wealth as the poorest half of the planet.”

Oxfam writes that since 2015, the richest 1 percent of the world’s population has owned more than the rest of the world put together, and that over the past quarter century, the top 1 percent has gained more income than the bottom 50 percent combined.

“Far from trickling down, income and wealth are being sucked upwards at an alarming rate,” the report states. It notes that the 1,810 dollar billionaires on the Forbes 2016 rich list own $6.5 trillion, “as much wealth as the bottom 70 percent of humanity.”

This is what happens when the taxes are repeatedly slashed for corporations.

This is what happens when you don't punish the wealthy tax cheats or stop the nonsense of allowing them to operate offshore.

Business used to have to pay real taxes.

The rates have gone down over and over. 

I'm not talking about back during the Civil War.

I'm talking about JFK's presidency.

They paid more then.

The tax burden has since become overwhelmingly placed upon middle class and downward earners.

Tax relief for most Americans could easily be achieved by returning to business taxation rates of the early sixties.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017.  We explore the lies that allow the Iraq War to continue.

Gwen Ifill was a closeted lesbian, Laura Flanders is now an out lesbian.

Due to various reasons -- none of them positive -- a number of e-mails have been noting Flanders and how she's been awful and didn't make the list I did of the most disappointing a few weeks back.  She didn't?  I'll take your word for it.  I'm limited in what I can say about Laura Flanders. (Though if I take a current book offer -- I probably won't -- I don't care what's supposedly off the record and what's not.)  So if you think she's getting a pass, she's not.  I know a great deal more than I'm allowed to say publicly and so I tend to avoid her.

But among the reasons some of you are upset in e-mails (and if you're a community member, I'll gladly write about Laura for this Friday's gina & krista round-robin and you'll get why I try to avoid Flanders) is that Ms. Media Critic Laura Flanders Tweeted love to the late Gwen.

As you note, this is the Gwen who laughed -- on air -- when Blackwater attacked civilians -- dismissed the shooting and joked that it was no more than a bottle of water being thrown at them.

This is the Gwen who carried water for the Bully Boy Bush administration.

The Gwen who was a cheerleader for the Iraq War before it started, etc., etc.

Why in the world would Laura Flanders praise her?

The only reason I can offer publicly (in this forum) is what I offered at the top.

Remember when that hideous 'journalist' wrote that embarrassing cover story on Ann Coulter?

And remember how Rachel Maddow defended the article -- the article everyone was trashing -- media critics, the left?

It was left to me to explain to you that Rachel was personal friends with the writer -- she 'forgot' to tell you that.  Although he himself told me he considered Rachel his "angel."

She spent three days on radio defending that story and never told her listeners that she knew the author, let alone that she was friends with him.

There are so many layers that never get made public.

(And that, by the way, is how my book editor friend is trying to hook me.  For those of you in the press who are not my friends, unless you're Tim Arango, you should worry.  Especially if you're a certain economist who used to work for THE NEW YORK TIMES and write nasty e-mails attacking me for my 'mistakes' but the errors were actually at THE DAILY HOWLER.  I could do a whole chapter on your stupidity and foul mouth alone.)

Gwen was a joke in life and she remains one in death.  Dying did not make her a better person and it certainly didn't make her a better journalist.

Gwen was a joke, PBS is a joke.

As a friend with THE NEWSHOUR likes to say, "If we told the truth, do you think they'd keep us on air?"


To demonstrate that, let's drop back to Friday's NEWSHOUR when they pretended to explore Iraq.

There were two segments.

First, a supposed report.  Second a discussion.

Let's start with the alleged reporting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Looking at President Obama, he came into office with a desire to wind down America’s wars overseas and step up the focus at home, but events had a way of intervening, especially in the Middle East.
Tonight, we take stock of the president’s record in that volatile region.

[. . .]

MARGARET WARNER: That view colored the president’s approach to making good on two of his campaign promises: ending the U.S. war in Iraq, and investing more military resources to Afghanistan, where the Taliban was regaining ground.

[. . .]

MARGARET WARNER: To fulfill a second campaign promise, the president moved briskly to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, ending the U.S. combat mission in 2010. Negotiations to leave even a residual force foundered in a dispute with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

MICHELE FLOURNOY: When we removed our forces, we lost our ability to reassure Maliki, to influence Maliki, and, absent that reassurance, he took a very hard turn towards sectarianism.

[. . .]

MARGARET WARNER: In January 2014, President Obama dismissed is as a J.V. basketball team. But after ISIS took Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, and threatened Iraqi Kurdistan, the U.S. began airstrikes. The bombing campaign soon expanded into Syria.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

MARGARET WARNER: He would later add U.S. special forces, trainers and some troops in Iraq and Syria, where they remain today.

It starts with a lie and really never gets better.

Barack never said he'd end the Afghanistan War.

If anything, like John Kerry campaigning in 2004, he offered that he'd focus on that war.

I would love for the Afghanistan War to be over and I think you can certainly blame him for it not being over -- he was president for 8 years -- but I have never said he broke a promise there because he didn't.

Barack did not campaign on the issue of ending the Afghanistan War.

It wouldn't have gotten him votes.

American then and now remains mixed on Afghanistan.  It's been falsely tied to 9/111 -- Afghanistan did not attack the US, the Taliban did not attack the US.

The supposed reason for attacking Afghanistan was that they were harboring Osama bin Laden (turns out that would be Pakistan -- which the US did not attack).  Afghanistan said if the US government provided their evidence for feeling bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks, they would turn him over.  Then Secretary of State Colin Powell said hand him over and we'll provide it afterwards.

On this -- and Ellie Smeal's vaginal desire to see war on Afghanistan -- the US went to war.

That's the public record, that's no conspiracy theory.

The 9/11 attacks were tied in by the media and the White House to Afghanistan which is why the American people have largely looked the other way -- to this day -- on what happens in Afghanistan.

The Iraq War?

The media also tied it into 9/11.  In fact, we seem to be the only ones alive today who remembers that the first front page lie on THE NEW YORK TIMES tying Iraq to 9/11 was not written or co-written by Judith Miller.  It did carry Chris Hedges' byline.

Briefly, MOTHER JONES tried to report on that.

But Hedges wasn't talking then or since.

And they all cover up for each other, they refuse to hold one another accountable -- that's the media whether it's big media or small.

Chris co-wrote the piece on the Iraqi informers.

He's never had to answer for it.

But though Iraq was falsely tied to 9-11, it didn't hold.  The lie fell apart.

And the anger over the lies were felt in the population.

The 2008 presidential election was going to go to a Democrat -- whomever they named -- because the country was furious about the Iraq War.

The Democrats were slow to grasp that.

They ran on ending the Iraq War in the 2006 mid-terms, however.  Give us one house of Congress, said Nancy Pelosi, and we'll end the war.  America gave them control of both houses.

And they didn't end the war.

Because they'd found another issue they could nothing on -- like abortion -- but use for votes.

(Abortion rights have been chipped away by not only the Supreme Court but by Congress as well.  If the Dems stood by abortion in the halls of Congress the way they do in speechifying at election time, abortion rights would be safe.)

Why keep your promise to the American people and end the war when you can use it to win the presidency?

So the Dems did not end the Iraq War in 2007 or 2008.

Enter Obama.

Barack loved to yell "We want to end the war!" at those rallies of The Cult of St. Barack.

And he promised he would do it.

Elect him and he'd bring the troops home.

He lied.

What's really sad is so did journalists.

It was THE NEW YORK TIMES, for example, who had a long conversation with him and printed his talk about ending the war -- when the actual transcript showed that really wasn't the case.  How lucky we are that the paper of record chose to edit out the statements Barack made.

We noted this reality in the November 2, 2007 "Iraq snapshot" and two days later, at THIRD, we used the transcript to write the report THE TIMES should have published "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'."

And of course all the idiots -- Davy D, you a big old idiot -- came out in March of 2008 to defend 'poor' Samantha Power.  She was fired because of Hillary!

No, she had to step down.

And not because of Hillary.

She had to step down because the BBC was airing her interview with them where she stated Barack's promise to end the war was just talk and he'd figure out what he'd do when he got into office.

That's why she resigned.

And we covered all the above in real time.

The March 8, 2008 "Iraq snapshot" covered Samantha's remarks to the BBC.  Days later, Isaiah even did a comic on it.


From March 9, 2008, "Kamikaze Sammy:"

Samantha Power swoops down declaring, "You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in." Her comments to the BBC about how Barack Obama (whom she was an advisor to) making a 'pledge' to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months is nothing but pretty words that the campaign cannot and does not intend to live by.

John Nichols whored for Sammy in the month of March.  And we called him out "John Nichols employs 'girl power' for Sammy Power."

Even better the old drunk and lech Tom Hayden played dumb until Barack made some comments in July of 2008 that he didn't like.  Roaring drunk on the Fourth, Tom wrote about Samantha's March comments and then apparently fell asleep (passed out).  Oh, those lousy drunks.

From the July 4, 2008 "Iraq snapshot:"

Turning to the US presidential race.  Barack Obama?  Arab News notes, "For Obama, who recently changed his positions on campaign finance and a wiretapping law, the suggestion that he was also changing course on a central premise of his candidacy holds particular peril. While Obama has long said he would consult commanders in the field when withdrawing troops, that point might have been lost on many Democratic primary voters who supported his call to end the war."  What's going on?  A bit of reality on War Hawk Barack. Suzanne Goldenberg (Guardian of London) puts it this way, ".Barack Obama was yesterday fending off charges from right and left that he had abandoned the core premise of his candidacy - the withdrawal of all US combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office - in an attempt to attract voters from the political centre." Suzanne's a little out of it.  So were Katrina vanden Heuvel and Arianna Huffington on ABC's This Week last Sunday.  Withdrawal in 16 months?  That's 'so January 2008.'  Barack promised withdrawal of all (combat) troops within 10 months in a speech in Houston, Texas.  Always one to carry water for Barack, Tom Hayden immediately penned "End the War in 2009" (which popped up online at The Nation, Feb. 20th and elsewhere a bit later). Hayden: "In his victory speech in Texas Tuesday, Barack Obama promised to end the Iraq war in 2009, a new commitment that parallels recent opinion pieces in The Nation.  Prior to his Houston remarks, Obama's previous position favored an American combat troop withdrawal over a sixteen-to-eighteen-month timeframe.  He has been less specific on the number and mission of any advisors he would elave behind."  (The Texas primary was in March.  Barack was in Texas campaigning, for any more confused than usual by Tom-Tom's bad-bad writing.)  Texas community members saw the 10 month 'promise' pushed in advertising as well as on the campaign trail.  Those were his words (and Tom-Tom notes 'words matter') so let's all drop the nonsense that Barack's plan was 16 months (or at least leave the lying to Katrina who's become so very good at it).  Goldenberg's uninformed, ignorant or lying -- take your pick.  In her piece (dated tomorrow), she traces the uproar to Thursday when Barack said he might 'refine' his Iraq 'plan.'  If that's when the uproar started, is Arianna Huffington psychic?  Arianna was calling him out for 'refining' on Iraq Sunday on This Week. More water carrying from the allegedly 'independent' Guardian of London (which never wrote about the Downing Street Memos because 'independence' did not include informing people that Tony Blair lied England into an illegal war -- no time for 'truth-telling'  while Blair was in office at any rate.)  CNN reports that presumed GOP presidential candidate John McCain and the RNC are calling Barack a "flip-flopper" and they quote Barack's 'clarification' where Barack lies and says he has always said 16 months.  No, Barack, you went to ten months in February.  AP reports he celebrated the 4th of July in Butte, Montana (Kansas, he's done with you, he got what he needed) eating a hot dog. Tom Baldwin (Times of London) observes, "Grassroots activists whose energy and donations have helped to propel Barack Obama towards the White House are suddenly choking on the bitter pill of disillusion.
In less than a month since clinching the Democratic nomination, he has performed a series of policy pirouettes to assuage concerns about his candidacy among a wider and more conservative electorate." Geoff Elliott (The Australian) points out, "Barack Obama has started a dramtic reversal of the policies that helped him defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination, softening hardlines stances on the Iraq war and troop withdrawals.

Campaigning in North Dakota, Senator Obama said that while the US could not sustain a long-term presence in Iraq, his trip to the Gulf nation this month might prompt him to "refine my policies" on the war." John Bentley (CBS News) quotes Brian Rogers of the McCain campaign stating, "Today, Barack Obama reversed that position, proving once again his words do not matter. He has now adopted John McCain's position that we cannot risk the progress we have made in Iraq by beginning to withdraw our troops immediately without concern for conditions on the ground. Now that Barack Obama has changed course and proven his past positions to be just empty words, we would like to congratulate him on taking John McCain's principled stand on this critical national security issue. If he had visited Iraq sooner or actually had a one-on-one meeting with Gen. Petraeus, he would have changed his position long ago."  Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) terms it Barack exploring "the possibility of slowing a promised, gradual withdrawal from Iraq". NPR has two audio reports here. How bad it is?  A friend just called to laugh at ____'s latest nonsense.  In place of a now killed feature for Third, we may address ____'s latest nonsense and his plethora of lies throughout the campaign.  Poor ____, it's even harder to airbrush out reality today than it was following his expulsion from the Red Family commune in his "smash the state" days (when he fancied himself Chris Jones in Wild In The Street).

"____," of course, was Tom Hayden.

And "was" in so many ways since he's now thankfully dead.

We did cover it at THIRD with "Letters to An Old Sell Out: Iraq:"

In "Obama's Position on Iraq Could Put His Candidacy at Risk" (Aging Socialite's Cat Litterbox), Tom Hayden declared last week:

The most shocking aspect of Samantha Powers' forced resignation earlier this year was not that she called Hillary Clinton a "monster" off-camera, but that she flatly stated that Obama would review his whole position on Iraq once becoming president. Again, no one in the media or rival campaigns questioned whether this assertion by Powers was true. Since Obama credited Powers with helping for months in writing his book, The Audacity of Hope, her comments on his inner thinking should have been pounced upon by the pundits.

No one questioned it, Tom-Tom? Check The Washington Post's archives. It wasn't that the media refused to challenge it (or that this site refused to challenge it, check our archives) it's that the Barack 'movement' (a fringe group of largely White eggheads in Panhandle Media) refused to even mention it! Did Jeremy Schaill rip Barack a new one? No. Did Amy Goodman immediately report it on Democracy Someday!? Hell no.

[. . .]
So did John Nichols. C.I. called out John Nichols nonsense on Saturday March 8th (the day after Power's remarks were known) when Johnny Five-Cents was lamenting "Samantha Power and the Danger of Gotcha Politics." Not only did John Nichols cover for Samantha Power (his post at The Nation is labeled "03/07/2008 @ 11:28 pm" meaning his article went up that Friday hours and hours after the "Iraq snapshot" calling out Power did -- isn't Johnny Five-Cents supposed to be a 'journalist'?), so did you. You want to show up on July 4th and blame the lack of attention to this story on the MSM when The Washington Post was blogging about it as the story broke, when they would go on to do a print report on it and yet Panhandle Media couldn't even be bothered with it?

Like Nichols, they were all lying. Davey D would go on to lament -- on KPFA's The Morning Show -- that Samantha "Powers" (it helps to know the name of the person you're broken up about, Davey) had left the campaign for (he said) calling Hillary a "monster." But let's stay with The Nation where Tom-Tom sits on the board. It never got into The Nation and he damn well knows that. Not on March 7th, not on March 8th. March 20th, Eric Alterman would feel the need to weigh in Power's leaving the campaign in "The Ritual Sacrifice of Samantha Power" and though he would note "monster" and "NAFTA," he never said a DAMN word about the BBC interview that entered the press cycle March 7th. He didn't say one DAMN word. It didn't stop there. Michael Massing's "The Power Conundrum" (published online May 22nd and in the June 9th issue of The Nation) found time to recount the "monster" remark which was rather strange since he was reviewing Power's book on the UN involvement in the Iraq War. Wouldn't the better thing to have referenced when reviewing a book on Iraq have been Power's remarks on Barack's so-called "promise"?

June 12th, John Nichols was back on the scene ["Students for Hillary, er, McCain (or McKinney)" -- what a wit and joy he must be for the others at the SciFi conventions] quoting a missive that referred to the "monster" incident. No need on his part to enlarge the topic and note Power's interview to the BBC.

March 12th -- five days after the Power remarks were in the news -- FIVE DAYS AFTER -- Air Berman was offering "It's Okay to be Intemperate!" (at The Nation's blog Campaign '08) and yet again recounting Samantha Power's 'unjust' departure over the "monster" remark (when not licking Hendrick Hertzberg's aging sack). Never once -- FIVE DAYS AFTER -- did Berman mention Power's remarks to the BBC. He would conclude his sad eulogy to Sammy (and presumably devote full attention to "Rick") with this, "Thanks to the events of the past week, campaign officials will be even more guarded when dealing with the media, and I don't blame them. It's an outcome that benefits no one." Apparently Ari thought he could help fight that trend by not telling readers what Samantha Power said about the Iraq 'promise'? It needs to be noted that the day the news broke, Ari Berman attempted to distract from Power's statement by filing "Clinton Does McCain's Bidding" which was nothing but his rummaging through old chat & chew transcripts in an effort to discredit Hillary on Iraq. Needless to say, he said nothing about Power. [As we noted in our March 9th in "Editorial: The Whores of Indymedia."]

What we got from the alleged 'independent' media (including The Nation) and from the alleged 'independent' web was inane defenses of War Hawk Samantha Power that avoided her Iraq remarks. Check out Josh Michah's Marshy & Hairy Butt Crack where Greg Sargent posted "New Hillary Campaign Video Seeks To Revive Samantha Power Controversy." It's a March 19th post and what does Sargent conclude of the commercial featuring Power revealing that Barack's 'promise' isn't a promise? A snippy: "Given that this is weeks-old story, the timing of its release is pretty obvious: The Hillary camp is hoping to use it to overshadow Obama's big Iraq speech today." That's from mind reader Greg Sargent and even then (and terming the commercial an "attack video"), check out the reaction of Josh's groupies (conditioned to salivate at the mention of Barack's name): "Ah, Hillary. Desperation becomes her," purrs one while Patagonia and das2003 lead the sizeable number who are offended and outraged that the video was even posted at Joshy's site.

You were lied to then, you're lied to now.

It's not just the corporate media that's been the problem.

The press gave Barack a pass.

And they continue to.

Barack campaigned on ending the Iraq War.

He did not do that.

No where in Margaret Warner's 'report' did we hear those basic truths.

Now for the discussion:

JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on this part of the president’s foreign policy legacy, we turn to three guests with deep experience managing national security policy and, in some cases, fighting the United States’ wars.
Retired General David Petraeus commanded American forces in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and for the entire Middle East. He also served as President Obama’s director of the CIA, a post he resigned in 2012. Ambassador Eric Edelman, he served in a variety of senior positions at the Departments of State and Defense, as well as the White House, and was a national security aide for Vice President Dick Cheney. And Philip Gordon, he served in the State Department under President Clinton and President Obama, and he served as the senior-most official responsible for the Middle East on Mr. Obama’s National Security Council staff from 2013 to 2015.
Gentlemen, we welcome all three of you to the program.
It’s a complicated region. There’s a lot to cover, but let’s focus on three countries.
General Petraeus, to you first.
Iraq, how do you size up the legacy of this president, President Obama, in Iraq?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), Former Commander, Multi-National Force Iraq: I think it’s mixed.
Certainly, the developments of the last couple of years, when we have responded to the actions by the Islamic State, has gathered a considerable amount of momentum and actually taken back from the Islamic State all but one of the major cities, which is likely to fall in the weeks and months ahead.
But, prior to that, of course, there was a pulling out of our forces, various explanations for that and whether that would have, if we had been able to keep them, could have given us the influence to prevent the ruinous course that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pursued that became highly sectarian and created the fertile fields for the planting of the seeds of extremism that the Islamic State exploited, before drifting into Syria and gaining lots of power in that civil war.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Edelman, how do you see the president’s legacy in Iraq?

ERIC EDELMAN, Former State and Defense Department Official: I see it largely as a lost opportunity.
When General Petraeus and our mutual colleague Ambassador Ryan Crocker negotiated the agreement in 2008, I think all of us anticipated there would be a residual U.S. force staying after December 31, 2011. And I think we would have had more influence, we would have been better able to help prevent the rise of ISIS had we kept a residual force there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And was that a mistake?

PHILIP GORDON, Former Assistant Secretary of State: Well, I think you have to remember the situation at the time.
On balance, would it have been nice to have a residual force? I think the answer is yes. It also happens to be the case that the Iraqis very much wanted us to leave. The Bush administration had agreed that we would leave by 2011, U.S. forces shall leave the country.
And so Obama was presented with a situation where you have the Iraqis asking us to leave, the U.S. public not wanting to say, the Iraqi parliament refusing to give the immunities we would need for our forces to stay.
So, while it would have been nice to have, you can’t pretend that the president, that President Obama could have just somehow come in and said, all right, we’re staying whether you like it or not. In that sense, one, it’s kind of a moot point whether it would have been nice, because it wasn’t possible.
But, two, I doubt, even though I would have rather seen some forces, that even a residual U.S. force, 5,000, 10,000, would have been enough to stop the very powerful trends that were going on in Iraq in terms of sectarianism, the rise of ISIS which was emerging from Syria, and all sorts of other things. So, yes, it would have been nice, but we should remember the context in which the president…


JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see…


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: One of the paradoxes now is that we now have nearly 6,000 troops on the ground. And we do not have a parliament…


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: We do not a parliamentary-agreed status of forces agreement.
Again, it’s just one of the ironies, the terrible ironies of a country that has suffered so much.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You want to button this up before we turn to another country?

ERIC EDELMAN: Well, General Petraeus made the point I was going to make.
I think we could have made a more serious effort with the Iraqis. I think they detected what Philip was talking about, which is that the president really didn’t have his heart in it and that the American people were tired of a long and difficult war.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn to Afghanistan, Phil Gordon. How do you size up what the president — you were in the middle of all this. How do you size up what the president did, has done in Afghanistan?

PHILIP GORDON: On Iraq, General Petraeus said mixed. I think mixed would probably be our answer for a lot of these questions

I suppose the high minded thing to do would be to hate the lie but love the liar.

Sorry, I'm going to hate the lie and the liar.

First off, does teacher need a break?

Why else are you letting two students self-grade?

I can see interviewing them for a report but to allow two who participated in the decisions to evaluate?

That's not journalism.

Second, the lies, always the lies.

Petreaus is correct that there's no Status of Forces Agreement currently.

The troops are protected under the Memorandum of Understanding that the US and Iraq governments signed in December 2011.

Yes, that same memo would have allowed 10 or so thousand troops to stay in Iraq.

But here's the thing because we're running out of time.

If Petraeus wants to argue that the mistake, knowing Nouri was paranoid (the CIA profile conducted in 2005 and completed in 2006 -- early 2006 -- demonstrated that and that the US could use it to control him if he was made prime minister), was not leaving troops in beyond 2011?

Then the greater problem was not backing the Iraqi voters in 2010.

In March 2010, they voted for a change of direction, a new course.

For eight months, Nouri refused to step down as prime minister.

Finally, Barack had US officials broker a contract (The Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.

And this is after the press has exposed Nouri's secret prisons and torture chambers -- a detail that Petraeus 'forgets' in the discussion.

ADDED: Credit to Barack for commuting Chelsea Manning's sentence. She's a whistle-blower.

Hopefully, there's some action coming for Ed Snowden as well.

The following community site -- plus Jody Watley-- updated:

  • iraq

    Saturday, January 14, 2017

    Barack brings in more illegal spying

    Thanks, Barack.

    You've done an awful job and you're staying true to the very end.

    George Gallanis (WSWS) reports:

    With the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump only days away, the Obama administration announced on Thursday a vast expansion of the spying power of American intelligence agencies. Under the new rules, the National Security Agency (NSA) can now share raw bulk data consisting of private communications with 16 other intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
    In response to the recent rules set forward by the Obama administration, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Tweeted on Thursday, “As he hands the White House to Trump, Obama just unchained NSA from basic limits on passing raw intercepts to others.”
    Previously, NSA analysts were required to sift out information they judged irrelevant and withhold the names of individuals deemed innocent before passing along information to other agencies. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch signed the new rules, which grants multiple agencies access to “raw signals intelligence information,” on January 3. The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., approved the measure on December 15, 2016.
    Executive Order 12333, enacted into law by the Ronald Reagan administration and then expanded by the George W. Bush administration, serves as the quasi-legal basis for much of the NSA’s vast surveillance dragnet. Through it, the NSA gathers information from around the world via phone and internet servers and connections, from sites such as Google, and consumes entire phone call records from whole countries and monitors satellite transmissions.
    In 2014, The Intercept disclosed that the NSA used Order 12333 to search over 850 billion phone and internet records and amass raw, unfiltered information on the activities of millions of American citizens.
    The new rules stipulate the NSA to share explicit surveillance information and feeds to different agencies only if the information is deemed pertinent to that agency’s surveillance operations.
    Agencies may be granted access if they intend to use the raw bulk data for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence investigations, and if an American citizen is found to be an agent working for a foreign country. In other words, agencies will use the raw data to spy on foreign individuals across the globe and American citizens in the United States.

    The kind view is that Barack has been useless to the end.

    The reality view is that he was never who pretended to be.

    He was always a liar and a fake.

    This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

    Friday, January 13, 2017.  Chaos and violence continue, the Canadian government won't answer to whether or not their soldiers receiving treatment in Iraq were injured in battle, when do we ever arrive at what passes for 'victory' and much more.

    More and more, I think what any occupant of the White House needs is a car with twin 11-year-olds in the backseat, bored, hopped up on Monster and kicking the seat in front of them while repeatedly asking, "Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?"

    Are we there yet?

    That's one of the most important questions that president-elect Donald Trump will face once he's sworn in as President of the United States.

    And someone needs desperately to define where ''there" is.

    The Iraq War, or at least this century's installment, started in March of 2003.

    Two months shy of 14 years, the war continues and US troops are still engaged in it -- from the air and on the ground.

    As a point of reference, WWI and WWII did not last as long -- did not last as long combined.

    Yet still the Iraq War continues.

    Erik Gustafson (THE HILL) offers four things to remember regarding Iraq.

    1) Victory in Mosul does not mean the ISIS threat is over.
    2) Young democracies like Iraq are not the place for strongmen.
    3) Reconstruction must address the longterm needs of the Iraqi people.
    4) Iraq's ability to secure its future is limited by serious economic shortcomings.

    A fifth?

    Maybe . . . don't take your eyes off Iraq?  Don't ignore it?

    Terrorism in Iraq gets far less attention, but Iraq was the site of the deadliest terrorist attack in 2016.

    Yep, it does get less attention.

    Why is that, Kenny boy?

    Because you used your Twitter feed to campaign for Hillary Clinton?

    I'm sorry, I thought Human Rights Watch was politically neutral.

    Had you just focused on Iraq, maybe it would get the attention it needs.

    Had you just Tweeted about HRW's Iraq reports, it might have gotten attention.

    But before the election you thought you were slyly promoting Hillary and post-election you've had a tantrum or two.

    Maybe if you'd focus on human rights and the work of HRW, Iraq could get the attention it deserves.

    If you're part of the problem, that's on you.

    So maybe we could also try to avoid dumb assery as well?

    The Isis campaign against Iraq’s Shia Muslims is not politics. It’s genocide | Ranj Alaaldin

    That's dumb assery.

    At best, that's dumb assery.

    The Islamic State is a terrorist organization.

    As we've long noted, it is not the problem.

    The issues in Iraq that allowed it to take root are the problem.

    Destroy ISIS today and something will quickly replace it.

    I'm not in the mood to be nice about this.

    I warned it was coming over and over, day after day and week after week while 'smart' people either ignored what was coming or insisted everything was fine.

    Sunnis are persecuted in Iraq.

    Stop persecuting them.

    Long before the Islamic State took root we were the only ones, here at this website, just us, pointing out the very strange issue around prison breaks: Prisoners weren't being caught.

    Why not?

    Because they were usually Sunni and the local residents protected and hid them.


    Because of the persecution taking place in Iraq.

    It was so bad that escapees could be hidden.

    The Islamic State wanted power -- somewhere, anywhere.

    They made Iraq a focus because Sunnis were persecuted.

    And that's why they either got support from Sunnis or the Sunni reaction was: This is between the government that persecutes us and ISIS, it's not my battle.

    If you missed that sentiment, you missed a whole lot.

    And if you can't acknowledge it today, you are a dumb ass contributing dumb assery and no one really needs you at this point.

    Maya Mailer (INDEPENDENT) reports:

    “Isis is like a mushroom. It was able to grow here, in Iraq, because there is a fertile environment. It didn’t just come from nowhere.” That is what one Iraqi activist told me, with an edge of anger and passion in her voice, when I was in Iraq late last year. She went on to say that Isis could not be – and should not be – eradicated through bombs and fighting. Instead, Iraq desperately needed to embark on a national programme of reconciliation and reform.
    “Isis is like a mushroom. It was able to grow here, in Iraq, because there is a fertile environment. It didn’t just come from nowhere.” That is what one Iraqi activist told me, with an edge of anger and passion in her voice, when I was in Iraq late last year. She went on to say that Isis could not be – and should not be – eradicated through bombs and fighting. Instead, Iraq desperately needed to embark on a national programme of reconciliation and reform.

    If that's shocking or surprising to you, then let me join you in shock and surprise.

    Where the hell have you been?

    June 19, 2014, even President Barack Obama stated that the only solution to Iraq's crises was a political solution.

    He said that.

    And then did nothing to help there.

    He started dropping bombs on Iraq.

    He put "boots on the ground."

    He surged the military.

    He just didn't surge the diplomacy.

    For the record, it's the same failure Bully Boy Bush made earlier.

    Also for the record, we repeatedly made that point throughout 2014 and 2015 and 2016.

    But nothing was done.

    And there's no reconciliation in Iraq still.

    There's no effort to end the persecution.

    So defeat ISIS with the military and you haven't defeated anything.

    They'll regroup or something else will replace them.

    The Mosul slog continues.

    It's 88 days since the operation began.

    Mosul was seized by the Islamic State in June of 2014.

    88 days ago, the liberation or 'liberation' effort began.

    The International Organization of Migration notes:

    Nearly 13 weeks into the Mosul military operation against the Islamic State (ISIL) – which began on 17 October – over 144,500 Iraqis are currently displaced. The majority are in desperate need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, especially in the cold winter weather and rain.

    According to IOM Iraq’s Displaced Tracking Matrix (DTM) the displacement count from 17 October through 12 January stands at 144,588 people. The latest Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) Emergency Tracking figures on displacement from Mosul operations are available at: http://iraqdtm.iom.int/EmergencyTracking.aspx

    This is what success looks like?


    National Defence is refusing to disclose details about several Canadian soldiers treated at a military hospital in northern Iraq in recent weeks, including whether any of them were wounded on the battlefield.
    The soldiers were among 120 patients who were seen at the medical facility since it began operating near the Kurdish city of Erbil at the end of November, according to figures provided to The Canadian Press.

    Again, the question, this is what success looks like?

    This morning, the US Defense Dept announced:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft and rocket artillery conducted eight strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Haditha, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit.

    -- Near Mosul, nine strikes engaged five ISIL tactical units; destroyed five vehicles, three mortar systems, two unmanned aircraft launch sites, three fighting positions, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a vehicle bomb manufacturing and armoring facility, a heavy machine gun, a supply cache and an anti-air artillery system; and damaged 18 supply routes and two bridges.

    -- Near Rawah, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle, a command-and-control node and a weapons storage facility.

    -- Near Sinjar, a strike destroyed a mortar system.

    -- Near Tal Afar, three strikes destroyed a vehicle, a vehicle bomb facility and an unmanned aircraft launch site.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

    It's past time someone in charge was able to answer the question of "Are we there yet?" with something more than "Not yet."

    The following community sites updated:

  • Thursday, January 12, 2017

    Stand, don't cower

    This is from Glen Ford's "As the Democrats Press for War, the Left Must Demand Peace and Social Transformation" (Black Agenda Report):

    The ruling class is, indeed, in an acute political crisis, to match its larger, systemic crisis. The duopoly system that has served the rich so well for most of the history of the Republic has come undone, split at the seams, endangering the corporate-imposed national “consensus” on empire and war. The War Party, deploying every disinformation trick in the book, foments anti-Russian hysteria to create a mass base for its imperial agenda. They point fingers at phantom “minions” of Moscow in order to make leftists into political foot soldiers of the Pentagon, Langley and the military industrial complex. MoveOn.org moves to their beat, as does the entire Congressional Black Caucus, including Barbara Lee (D-CA), the nation’s most left-leaning congressperson. Fine; they are duty-bound to go down with the Bad Ship Hillary. But the social movement activists that allow themselves to be swept up in the Democrats’ offensive-from-the-Right against Trump are the biggest dupes of all.
    The Democrats are incapable of agitating for anything more than defense of Barack Obama’s “legacy” -- chiefly, his doomed Affordable Care Act, which was already disintegrating from its own contradictions and whose final demise will create an acute crisis that cries out for single payer health insurance, the outcome Obamacare was designed to forestall. The Left should be making that demand right now, rather than helping Democrats join with Republicans to patch together an even worse private-based system, down the road. 
    The precariat economy that is emerging from Obama’s post-Meltdown restructuring, in which 94 percent of the new “jobs” are so contingent, inadequate and insecure they can hardly be called jobs at all, demands a National Minimum Income – a potentially transformative leap that the Left should be loudly championing, right now.

    Barack was lousy for most Americans and pretty dangerous around the world.

    The notion that we should be missing him is ridiculous -- as ridiculous as the pretense that Hillary would have done a great job as president -- or even a good job.

    Now is the time to make the party grovel and beg for votes.

    They did not have enough votes to win this time, they did not have the turnout.

    Hillary thought she could build a coalition with the right wing and that would allow her to win.  So she made no efforts to bring in the left voters.

    We made clear that's not going to work.

    We need to stand, not cower, not bend.

    This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday:

    Thursday, January 12, 2017.  Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq War continues, big tenting with some is simply not possible, and much more.

    Starting with Conor Friedersdorf.  Conor is a talented writer for THE ATLANTIC -- talented in both thought and writing.  But I'm calling out this piece:

    A large cohort of Americans have reservations about the presidency of Donald Trump, who lost the popular vote by 2.9 million, strikes many who did vote for him as a highly flawed “lesser of two evils,” and has a dismal 37 percent approval rating. These ideologically diverse skeptics must cooperate if they hope to minimize the damage they believe the Trump Administration will do to America if left unopposed. But so far, they are easily divided. In fact, they cannot even refrain from attacking or alienating one another on matters where they are mostly in agreement.
    This self-defeating approach was illustrated earlier this week when Never Trump conservatives who fully believe that Donald Trump is a bully watched Meryl Streep level that criticism. Rather than embracing a rare moment of narrow convergence with a Hollywood liberal, they let the mutual antagonism between their cultural tribes drive their reaction and wound up furiously attacking the actress over perceived hypocrisy. Doing so advanced none of their ends. It was a missed opportunity.

    A large cohort?

    When is that news?

    I and many others opposed Ronald Reagan (and George H.W. Bush -- in fact, the best thing the Bush family ever did was get his son to run for office, it's allowed George H.W. to be seen in a better -- and artificial -- light).  On the other side of the spectrum, the right felt that way about Bill Clinton before he'd even been sworn in.

    What's going on is not new and we need to stop acting like it is --  or that we're novel or original.

    So that's A.

    Let's move to B.

    Conor, you're not the industry.

    I am.

    That speech was inappropriate -- at best.

    This was a lifetime achievement award.  Yes, it was at the tacky Golden Globes which are sold to the highest bidder and always have been.  But it's still an industry function -- one that no one takes too seriously.

    But a lifetime achievement award is supposed to result in a speech of reflection -- ideally on the industry but most often on the individual's own personal career.

    Her speech was hideous.

    Tom Middleton was political in his speech -- granted he won an award -- a competitive award.

    I disagree with him on Sudan.

    I wasn't offended by the position he took or the words he said.

    I was offended by the outrage expressed afterwards.

    This is an industry function so the nonsense of some people about: Oh, his show was streamed in Sudan, he's so shocked?

    Just sit down.  You're allowed to watch, but guess what, at the end of the day you're not part of the industry.

    Which is why you made such idiotic Tweets and attacks.

    Working of a film or TV set is removed -- unless you tape in front of a live studio audience.

    You have no idea what the effect will be, what the reach will be.

    It's very easy to think of one massive glob: "the audience."

    Tom, at an industry function, was making a very solid point and he got shamed for it.

    Biggest problem, I would argue -- as someone who has repeatedly championed Tracee Ellis Ross for an Emmy -- is that Tracee's wonderful speech and her award for BLACKISH got lost.

    Julie Louis Dip**it did not deserve five consecutive Emmys for joking her way through the same series.  There's no character there.  There's no inspiration.  But five Emmys in a row?

    I'm sorry Tracee has not gotten the attention she deserves.

    Meryl wanted to whine because Hillary didn't win.

    Sorry, Conor, Hillary is not the second coming of FDR.

    Nor was Barack.

    And objecting to Meryl's ahistorical bulls**t will always be valid.

    As someone who's written about The Drone War and the spying, Conor, I'd think you'd understand why things can't be wished away.

    As for our need to resist Donald Trump?


    Donald Trump is qualified to be president.

    He met all the Constitutional qualifications and the voters approved him.

    He's fit.

    Will he be a good president?

    I don't think so.

    But that's how I operate.

    I never had a problem on auditions because I went in with the attitude of "I'm going to bomb" and I left with the attitude of "I bombed."

    Ask anyone and they'll tell you that.

    That freed me up from a lot of stress and a lot of worry.

    Didn't worry about their expectations, just went in and did what I wanted.

    So I don't expect that Trump will be good.

    I know the man and I don't like him.

    As a person, I've known him for some time.

    I did not vote for him, I would not vote for him.

    But with all that said, I'll wait for him to do something as president before I start protesting him.

    And I'll protest him the same as I would anyone else in the White House.

    I will call him out as I did Bully Boy Bush, as I did Barack Obama.

    The president is a public servant.

    The press, fey lap dogs that they are, will treat these people like kings or gods.

    They're not.

    We'll call him "Donald" because that's his name.

    He works for us.

    And if he does a poor job -- which is what I expect, but I could be wrong -- I'll call Donald out.

    But, no, I'm not an idiot like Meryl Streep who is going to pretend that the last eight years have not been hideous -- hideous in terms of wars, in terms of drone killings, in terms of illegal spying, in terms of a war on the press and whistle-blowers -- or that we lost something wonderful when War Hawk Hillary wasn't named president.

    Conor then goes on to talk about the post-inauguration march.

    A White woman and her daughter were gong to attend but are not now because on of the leaders, who is African-American, feels that African-Americans have suffered and that White people new to suffering should grab a spot at the back of the line and listen.

    Conor frets over identity politics.

    He thinks the bumper sticker "Yes We Can" is so much better.  Look, Conor, "Yes We Can" didn't even really work as a Pointer Sisters song in the seventies -- and I love the Pointers.

    The African-American woman?

    I'm not going to call her out.  I feel the same way regarding the peace movement.  All of you dirty whores -- that includes Meryl -- who couldn't say a word in the last 8 years better not try to push your way to the front of the line.

    That's what the African-American woman is saying with regards to racial discrimination: Where have you been and, more importantly, you're sudden interest doesn't allow you to commandeer this march.

    I understand what's she's saying.  I don't think it's identity politics.  I think it's about the life she's lived and the struggle she's had and I think calling that "identity politics" trivializes what she and others have lived through and experienced.

    I also understand the White woman's objection.

    Her notion was that this was a march against Trump and she wants to be against Donald -- as does her daughter.  She hears that message and, no surprise, feels she doesn't want to participate.

    It's not an inclusive message.

    But it's not an inclusive march.

    Conor's acting like all those loons who thought if they kept repeating OCCUPY WALLSTREET they could hop on that bandwagon and ride it to their own personal nirvana.

    They tried to co-opt it.

    The march isn't defined.

    One reason the march isn't defined is because people don't know what Donald will do.

    People have been encouraged to protest before he takes office.

    That's never a smart thing to do.

    They're going to be the Sour Grape Kids as a result.

    By failing to wait for some action to protest, they're just people against Donald and the press, in a year or two, will be noting that they've objected since before he became president, that they aren't critic but just haters, etc.

    I have friends who are participating and, since they're friends, I wish them luck.  But since they're friends, I also honestly state, "I think the action's a little ridiculous."

    I think the African-American woman is right to try to carve out some sort of platform or message beyond "We will resist."  She's protesting over what she feels were derogatory remarks and disrespect that Donald has shown so many during the campaign.  That's why her attitude is that those who have not lived in fear their whole life should not think they're going to be center stage at this protest.  I get that.  I also think if the protest followed her intent it would actually have meaning.

    Instead, it's a useless, watered down assembly.

    Conor wants us to big tent.

    Like Hillary and the necons did in 2016?  Shall we also hold hands with David Frum?  Maybe do some heavy petting with Henry Kissinger?

    Exactly where do we draw the line?

    So many different kinds of people 
    Trying to be the same 
    "No way," baby 
    He said "Baby, baby, there's no way" 
    If we could start again 
    Well, who knows 
    Have we really changed? 
    Some say we have 
    Reflecting our past 
    Who can say? 
    Who can say? 
     Races are run 
    Some people win 
    Some people always have to lose 
    Oooh, yeah
    -- "Races Are Run," written by Stevie Nicks, first appears on the album BUCKINGHAM NICKS

    Stevie's song still applies today.

    And for the last eight years -- no matter how much a Meryl Streep tries to pretend otherwise -- it's the Iraqi people who have lost due to a war started by the United States that continues to this day despite Barack insisting, as he campaigned for president in 2008, that he would end the Iraq War.

    In Iraq, thousands of terrorism's victims go unnamed via

    Moni Basu (CNN) writes:

    Throughout the morning, the death toll kept rising: 100, 115, 140. It would be many weeks before the final count would be known: 382.

    Among all the terrorist attacks of 2016 worldwide, the Karrada bombing on July 3 stood as the year's deadliest.

    And yet to Westerners accustomed to news reports about violence in Iraq, it would be just another bombing in which the numbers, not the victims, would be front and center. Media outlets would report what happened, who claimed responsibility and how many were killed and injured. And then the world would move on. 

    And then the world would move on.

    Like the shallow and detached Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes.

    AP notes, "In its annual report, the London-based Iraqi Body Count reported that 16,361 civilian Iraqis died in 2016, with the northern province of Nineveh the worst hit at 7,431 people killed. The Iraqi capital, Baghdad, was next with 3,714 civilians killed, the research showed."

    It does matter Conor.  And these people's lives mattered.  They aren't here anymore.  The very least the rest of us can do is stop lying that the Iraq War ended.

    A lie that's all over Twitter.

    Barack didn't end the Iraq War.  He actually made it worse.

    In 2010, the Iraqi people had enough of Nouri al-Maliki.

    Even with Nouri's bribes and well documented dirty tricks (such as refusing to allow some candidates to run and such as refusing to simplify voting in order to depress Sunni turnout), he still lost.

    Ayad Allawi won.

    He should have been named prime minister-designate.

    Nouri refused to step down.  For over eight months after the election, Iraq was at a stand-still.

    Instead of backing the winner, Barack had the US broker a contract (The Erbil Agreement) that nullified the votes of the Iraqi people and gave Nouri a second term.

    That's on Barack.

    And it gave Nouri and his paranoia the ability to persecute everyone.  He had military tanks circle the homes of members of Parliament who were Sunni or who disagreed with him.  He ordered a pre-dawn raid of the home of one Sunni MP and the MP's brother was killed in the raid.  He refused to follow the Constitution and packed a kangaroo court to declare Iraq Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi a terrorist and  him to death (six times sentenced to death).  Barack never uttered a word -- certainly not about the witness who died from torture or any other detail of the ridiculous trial -- ridiculous and illegal.

    Nouri was disappearing the Sunnis.

    He would give an order to arrest Habib Hammid (made up name for this example).  There was no arrest warrant.  His forces would go to Habib's home.  Habib's not there.  But his son or daughter is or his wife or mother or . . .  Whomever is home gets taken away.

    There was no arrest warrant.

    Not even for Habib.

    Now the person they've grabbed disappears -- maybe into one of Nouri's many secret torture cells.

    Or if it's a woman or girl and she ends up in one of the prisons (as she waits for a trial that may or may not ever come), she can be tortured and raped.

    Barack had no problem with that.

    Finally, in 2012, Barack's feelings were miffed.  So when Nouri called him after the November 2012 US election to congratulate him (Barack), Barack refused the call.

    That's taking a stand, big boy!!!!!

    It would be two more years before Barack would tell Nouri that it was time to step down.

    And that's when Barack would start publicly sending troops back in.

    So let's all stop pretending Barack ended the Iraq War.

    It did not end.

    For those not getting it, this morning the US Defense Dept announced:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft and rocket artillery conducted eight strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Beiji, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle.

    -- Near Huwayjah, two strikes engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL-held buildings and a command and control node.

    -- Near Mosul, five strikes engaged three ISIL tactical units; destroyed three fighting positions, three ISIL-held buildings, two heavy machine guns, two mortar systems, a command-and-control node, a vehicle bomb factory, a vehicle bomb, an ISIL unmanned aircraft, a supply cache and an artillery system; and damaged 24 supply routes and an ISIL-held building.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

    It should be clear, even to Meryl, that the Iraq War has not ended.

    Even to Meryl.

    The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley -- updated: