Friday, December 06, 2019

Senator Patty Murray is right, it's cruelty

SNAP?  Are you following the story?  If not, Meenakshi Jagadessan (WSWS) catches us up to date:

The Trump administration has announced a new rule aimed at depriving several hundred thousand American citizens of critical food stamp benefits. The Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) is currently providing critical federal assistance to over 36 million Americans.
Under existing rules, all able-bodied adults without dependents can receive SNAP benefits only for three months over a three-year period, unless they are working or enrolled in an education or training program for at least 20 hours a week. However, states have been able to waive the work requirement and ensure access to SNAP benefits beyond the time limit given challenging economic conditions. The new rule severely limits the ability of states to apply such waivers.

From April 2020 onwards (when the new rule will take effect), only states that have an official unemployment rate of 6% or above can apply for work waivers. As a comparison, under the current system regions with unemployment rates as low as 2.5% were included in the waived areas. It is anticipated that the new rule will affect about 7% of SNAP recipients, those designated as “Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents” (ABAWD).
The rule aimed at limiting work waivers is tied to two other proposals—one capping deductions for utility allowances, and the other aimed at cutting SNAP benefits for working-class families. A study by the Urban Institute estimates these three proposals combined would cut 3.6 million people from SNAP benefits per month, reduce monthly benefits for millions more, and lead to 982,000 students losing access to reduced-cost or free school meals.
Each of these proposals has been presented by the Trump administration and its supporters as an essential trimming of a bloated federal budget, and a gesture of respect to hard-working taxpayers. Given the passage of the biggest Pentagon budget as yet, vast amounts spent on the war against immigrants and the massive tax-cuts granted to corporations, this claim holds no water.

That is outrageous.  It is appalling and heartless.  C.I. slid over Senator Patty Murray's response so let me post that:

Dec 04 2019

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the statement below following final approval on a Trump Administration rule that will remove nearly 700,000 people from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“It’s hard to see this as anything but the President being cruel for cruelty’s sake. There is absolutely no reason to deny struggling individuals the food assistance they need. President Trump may not understand how much damage steps like this cause—but I do and I’m not going to stop fighting to get this heartless rule and others like it reversed.”

Cruelty.  There's no reason to call it anything else, that's what it is.

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

Thursday, December 5, 2019.  Protests continue in Iraq and the protesters continue to be attacked while, in the US, Joe Biden appears to be making the case for why he shouldn't be president.

Starting in the US with the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Joe Biden campaign calls Donald Trump "a president the world is laughing at" in a new video

So two major points here.  First off, is that a bad thing?  Because if it is, maybe Joe and others need to take a look at themselves.  I really don't think it's the end of the world of an issue -- even if the claim is true.  But if Joe thinks it's important enough to make a Tweet about and a political ad about, apparently he feels this does great damage to the US?

If that's the case, then a lot of people need to be held accountable.  Those people would include the Senators like Tammy Duckworth who go around mocking and hissing with terms like "President Bonespurs."  If it's so damn important how the US president is seen around the world, then members of Congress who have spent the last years trashing Trump (and trashing the institution, yes, that is what they are doing), should be held accountable.

Again, I don't feel it's a big deal.  Clearly, Joe does.

Second major point, if a president who is a joke is so awful, is Joe announcing he's dropping out of the race?  This is the idiot who doesn't know where he's at and confuses New Hampshire with Vermont.  This is the fool who tells tales of Corn Pop.  This is the moron who said that African-Americans are failing their children by not using their record players (his term) enough.  This is the perverted stooge who got all glossy and waxy talking about letting children play with his leg hairs and bounce in his lap.

Biden claims he’s spent ‘a lot of time’ with Kim Jong-Un…Despite the fact that they’ve never met. What in the world is wrong with Joe Biden? It’s one thing to make the occasional “gaffe” it’s quite another to be a senile old fool.

If Joe Biden doesn't believe laughingstocks should become president, he can help stop that by immediately dropping out of the race.

Joe had his groupies, in fairness, he has his groupies.  Like this idiot.

This is a solid ad and a great argument. This Republican is ready to vote for if he’s the eventual nominee.

Philip Paige wants the country to know that he's one Republican who could vote for Joe.  Guess what, we don't need him.

We're returning to the point we made last month.  There's no need to move to the center.  Has there ever been?  Probably not.  But this election cycle, there's no need at all.

Are the never-Trumpers like delicate Philip going to vote for Donald Trump?  No, they aren't.   Donald does have a base and it should not be underestimated.  He may win in 2020 -- especially if Democratic members of Congress continue their nonsense.  (They better pray that come December 31st of this year, Americans aren't asking one another: What did the Democratically controlled House do this year to try to reverse climate change?  They've done damn little in the House.)  But he also brings with him a lot of conservatives who will not vote for him (they love war and that's their beef with him).  So to win, you need a candidate who can energize the base of the Democratic Party and that's not a move to the center.  You need a Bernie Sanders or an Elizabeth Warren who demonstrate that they can turn out crowds, energize crowds and really inspire.

People will get out and block walk for those two, they will get voters to the polls for those two, they will phone bank for those two.  Joe Biden?  Joe Biden's an argument for a long mid-day nap, nothing more.

At JACOBIN, Liza Featherstone observes:

Private equity, as an industry, has been responsible for massive wealth theft in recent years: that is, large-scale redistribution of wealth upward, from the working class to the ownership class. Whether through bankruptcies and job loss (famously at Toys “R” Us, for example), the looting of pensions, or increasing the ranks of the billionaire class, private equity is an enemy of the 99 percent and especially the working class.
The sector’s profiteers have money to spend to buy political influence, and they’d love to make a return on that investment. The good news is, some of their favorite candidates are tanking.

Bernie Sanders is running a solid second in most polls, with a message strongly opposed to the exploitation and inequality that private equity (PE) epitomizes. Not surprisingly, the industry flatly does not want either Sanders or Elizabeth Warren to be president, and its employees haven’t donated significant sums to either candidate. In fact, judging from their contributions, the industry — apart from the segment supporting Trump out of pure short-term id — is desperate to find candidates who can defeat the Left within the Democratic Party. PE doesn’t like the sound of wealth taxes, nor of redistributive programs like the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, or free college.

While these vampires do not like Bernie or Elizabeth, they love Joe Biden, Tiny Pete, Deval Patrick and other menaces to a free and fair society.

Turning to Iraq, some numbers.

After two months of protests in , 460 people have been killed and 17,000 injured according to the country’s High Commission for Human Rights. The Iraqi authorities have an obligation to protect its citizens and stop this bloodbath.

And the protests continue.

: Ongoing anti-government protests at Baghdad's Tahrir Square during afternoon hours (local time) of December 5; avoid nonessential travel

On the protests, Human Rights Watch issued the following yesterday:

Security forces across Iraq are using lethal force against protesters despite orders to stop, Human Rights Watch said today. The orders to stop using live ammunition were issued by Adil Abd Al-Mahdi, who resigned as prime minister on November 29, 2019, but remains in office in a caretaker status. The authorities should take urgent measures to stop security forces from using excessive force against protesters.
On December 1, Iraq’s parliament accepted Abd Al-Mahdi’s resignation, due to the ongoing demonstrations. The contrast between his statements and the continued rising death toll, particularly in southern cities, raises concerns that the government is incapable of reining in abusive forces, including groups formally under the prime minister’s control.
“The government needs to put a stop to the unlawful killing and to explain why it is unable to control its own forces,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The contrast between the government’s statements and what security forces are doing on the ground suggests that Iraq’s commander in chief is not in charge of his own forces.”
A spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on November 29 that by its count, at least 354 people had been killed and 8,104 injured since protests began on October 1, but that the actual total was most likely higher. In a November 28 statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned security forces’ use of live ammunition against demonstrators.
The most recent killings include at least 16 protesters in Najaf on November 28, and three more the next day. Security forces opened fire on mostly unarmed protesters at a Shia religious monument, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakeem shrine, and again after they burned down the Iranian Consulate in Najaf. An Iraqi journalist who was at the shrine told Human Rights Watch on November 29 that as about 300 protesters marched on Al-Hakeem shrine that day, forces protecting the shrine, most in civilian dress and some stationed on the roof, opened fire: “I have never seen anything like it, with bullets landing in all directions.”
A medic who was there corroborated the journalist’s version and said that he ended up treating at least 25 protesters wounded by bullets to the legs, neck, and chest. He said his hospital received 16 dead that night, and three more the next day.
After those killings, Najaf Governor Loai al-Yasseri urged the federal government to end the “bloodshed” in Najaf and punish forces responsible. He identified them as Saray Ashura, a unit within the Popular Mobilization Forces, which are formally under the prime minister’s control.
Also on November 28, the Interior Ministry’s Emergency Response Division opened fire on mostly unarmed protesters in the early morning hours at a Nasriya sit-in, killing at least 25 and wounding 160, according to a report from the Dhi Qar governor’s office, the Iraqi security forces’ Joint Operational Command, and Amnesty International. A protester who was there said that he and other demonstrators remained peaceful, though some threw rocks at security forces. He said he saw security forces from Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), as well as others wearing black uniforms without logos, shoot and kill four protesters next to him: “When the police opened fire on us, I felt as if it was raining bullets.”
In a letter to Human Rights Watch on November 20 about its reports on the death toll, Iraq’s Beirut embassy cited the High Investigative Committee that Abd Al-Mahdi created to investigate abuses against protesters from October 1 to 8. The panel had recommended dismissing senior security officials and investigating senior officials for the deaths of 149 protesters and 5,494 injuries during that period. The letter did not address the extent to which the government has enforced the recommendations.
However in one example of such action in response to more recent killings, on November 28, Abd Al-Mahdi stripped Lt. Gen. Jamil al-Shammari from his role as head of the crisis cell in Dhi Qar for the Iraqi security forces because of the high death toll in Nasriya on that day. He had only appointed al-Shammari 16 hours earlier. Local media reported on December 1 that a court in Dhi Qar governorate had issued an arrest warrant and travel ban for al-Shammari.
As far as Human Rights Watch is aware, so far there have been two prosecutions of security officers. Local media reported on December 1 that a police officer was sentenced to death for killing protesters in Wasit governorate, southeast of Baghdad, and that another Iraqi officer was sentenced to seven years in prison. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all countries and under all circumstances. An Iraqi security official said on December 3 that authorities would be prosecuting another 43 police officers.
The letter from the Beirut embassy also said that Abd al-Mahdi had issued strict instructions prohibiting the use of live ammunition against protesters under all circumstances, had ordered all security forces near the protests disarmed, and had instructed them to be “patient” in dealing with protesters, and ensure they are protected when demonstrating in designated areas. The letter announced the formation of a new unit “whose mission is to deal directly with protesters and protect major social events.” On November 28 the government confirmed the creation of a joint military and civilian “crisis cell.”
The statements in the letter sharply contradict the facts on the ground in cities like Najaf and Nasriya, as well as others including Basra, Muthanna, and some protests in Baghdad, where various military and law enforcement forces have fired on and killed protesters. The federal government should clarify to the Iraqi population whether security forces have ignored the prime minister’s orders, whether he has issued different orders, or whether other officials issued conflicting orders, Human Rights Watch said.
If live fire at protesters contradicts government policy, the government should condemn the unlawful killings of protesters, including the most recent killings in Najaf and Nasriya, and refer all security forces involved to the judiciary. If commanders gave orders for forces to open fire, the government should refer them for investigation and prosecution.
The authorities should investigate every death by the security forces, with the help of international experts if necessary, Human Rights Watch said. Such investigations should be speedy, fair, and independent of those being investigated with the participation of the families of those killed. They should lead to prosecutions of anyone found to have broken the law, including commanders.

“The government has chosen to hide behind claims that it has ordered the killings to stop, but that simply is not good enough,” Whitson said. “As long as this government is in power, it is responsible when its own forces kill protesters.”

New content at THIRD:

The following sites updated:

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Fred Hampton

Let's remember a passing -- a state assassination, in face.  Jefferson Morley (CounterPunch) writes:

Fifty years ago this week, a squad of Chicago police officers killed Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in a pre-dawn raid on the apartment where they were sleeping. In the decades since, a revealing body of evidence has emerged showing that Hampton was the victim of a political assassination, sanctioned at the highest levels of the U.S. government.
The story matters today, but not because the FBI still engages in assassination. The Bureau targets so-called “Black Identity Extremists” on flimsy grounds, but there’s no evidence that it has killed any of them. Indeed, FBI director Christopher Wray says new agents are required to study COINTELPRO precisely to learn what not to do.
What Wray prefers not to tell his employees or the public is that one of his predecessors, J. Edgar Hoover, instigated the murder of a promising African-American political leader, and got away with it. Hampton’s murder was a textbook example of how U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies robbed the country of hope and peaceful change and were never held accountable.
No one was ever convicted for Hampton’s murder. To this day, many journalists and historians are unwilling to state that Hoover and other senior U.S. officials countenanced the assassination of domestic foes. Yet compelling circumstantial evidence demonstrates they did exactly that in the case of Fred Hampton.

Remember Fred.  Remember what happened to him.  Remember who is responsible.

  1. Fred Hampton was assassinated by the US state on this day in 1969. He was murdered because he was incredibly effective at uniting poor whites in Chicago with the Black Panthers to fight racism and capitalism.
  2. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Fred Hampton in 1969 by Chicago police & the FBI. In remembering Hampton’s legacy, we must honor Akua Njeri, a member of the Black Panther Party who survived the 1969 attack while pregnant with their son, Fred Hampton, Jr.
  3. I say this around this time every year. Fred Hampton was assassinated because he was building a multiracial, anti-capitalist revolutionary movement and he emphasized the importance of political education. He was assassinated by the same police force that continues to murder ppl.
  4. Jay-Z, born on the day Fred Hampton died, once said "I can't help the poor if I'm one of them." Hampton made that false everyday. He was poor, like most Black Panthers. He was sleeping on a mattress, on the floor, when he was killed. Akua Njeri said they would borrow water.
  5. Fred Hampton the brilliant & charismatic Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party was assassinated 50 years ago today by the police w/help from the FBI. His success w/uniting and politicizing black & Latino Chicago gangs was too much for them. He was 21.

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019.  Oh, look, they've pulled their favorite board game off the shelf yet again.


Starting in the US where the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination continues.  And maybe it's time for some people to take a good hard look at themselves.  I'm not talking about the candidates right now, I'm talking about people covering the race.

Maybe if your name is Michael Tracey, and Margaret Kimberley has already called you out for your limited vision on race, maybe then you take a look at yourself before going to town on Kamala Harris?

Senator Kamala Harris dropped out of the race yesterday.  There's a sort of glee over this among sexists -- that does include you, Michael, and don't pretend you can hide behind Tulsi -- and it's interesting because she dropped out yesterday and Steve Bullock dropped out Monday.  But his announcement hasn't been the source of mirth and glee that Kamala's announcement has been greeted with.

What's going on?

It's Bash The Bitch -- which Ava and I addressed back in April of 2006.

And you can see the Michael Traceys pile on.  They try to drag in their token (Tulsi Gabbard) and they even lie for Tulsi, but they've been lying for Tulsi forever.  Michael beating off to the thought that Tulsi vanquished Kamala in the second debate -- he needs that girl on girl action.  That didn't happen.  And if you're going to go back to that debate you better get honest that Tulsi chose to go after Kamala who was not the front runner.  She took a pass on War Hawk Joe.  Even after Jake Tapper came back with a second chance for Tulsi to speak on Iraq.  Tulsi took a pass.  This is supposed to be her signature issue.  Joe Biden was the only one on stage who voted for the Iraq War.   He oversaw it for eight years as Vice President.  He overturned the 2010 election and stripped the Iraqi people of their voice via The Erbil Agreement.  There are so many things that he did and the big anti-war candidate Tulsi took a pass on him.  Big brave Tulsi didn't say boo.

Instead, she went after a second tier candidate and the Michael Traceys jizzed in their pants.

Michael knows nothing about race but he wants to tell you that being from Berkeley and this or that is what hurt Kamala with African-American voters (presumably in South Carolina).  And how she thought she could be "Black" like Barack.

First off, Michael, Kamala and Barack are actually bi-racial.  Second, Kamala has a mother who practices what religion?  It's not Christianity.  It's Hindu.

That's what Tulsi practices.  It's what some have used to stigmatize Tulsi as The Other so Michael should be aware of that prejudice.  Kamala could more easily be made The Other.  That really didn't take place with Barack.  Joe Biden's racist remarks about Barack represented the way Barack was seen by the establishment.  A woman -- whether it's Tulsi or Kamala -- was never going to have it as easy as Barack did.

And Michael's feeding into that now with all his non-stop attacks on Kamala.

I wasn't going to vote for Kamala.  I was clear about that here.  I noted that a friend, Willie Brown, stated I was way too hard on Kamala.  But she was never the worst one on the stage by any measurement.

In terms of direct threat to human life, for example, the most dangerous one has been -- and remains -- Joe Biden.  His record is shameful and blood soaked.  Again, Tulsi was given two chances to go after him -- and he was the front runner -- in the July debate and she took a pass.  She also spent her days after -- the media loves a cat fight -- defending Joe and, honestly, lying for Joe.  That's why I have no respect for Tulsi.

Doesn't mean I haven't defended her.  We've defended her from any attempt to make her The Other.  We've defended her meeting with Bashar al-Assad.  We've defended her from Hillary Clinton's nutty conspiracy talk.

I knew she was a fake when I laid eyes on her.  Another Dennis Kucinich who would inspire a tiny number of people only to betray them over and over.  That's Tulsi.

Kamala has her own faults.

But the glee that has gone on in the last 24 hours is something people need to look at.  She was another centrist, corporatist Democrat.  I don't really get the obsessive glee.  And a lot of people have dropped out of this ongoing race without any of this glee.

If Joe dropped out tomorrow?  You'd see huge glee here.  Because our focus is Iraq and Joe Biden supported the Iraq War, cheerleaded it, demonized those opposed to it, repeatedly tried to split Iraq into three regions with no concern or care over what Iraqis felt about that, in 2010 when Iraqis voted for national unity (that's what Iraqiya represented) we saw Joe lead the effort to overturn that election . . . I could go and on.  And let's not forget that in overturning the election, he was giving his support to thug Nouri al-Maliki who Joe noted was not a real ruler (or a decent person) in an April 2008 Senate hearing on Iraq.  But two years later, he was backing Nouri.  Nouri, of course, birthed ISIS in Iraq with his targeting of the Sunni population.

That's a lot Joe has to answer for.

So we would be gleeful.

I'm not getting Kamala's long history here where people around the world have suffered.

She was a prosecutor and that wasn't helpful to her campaign.  (Barack was not, as Michael claims, a Civil Rights attorney.)

As a candidate, she had some strong moments.  Maybe she'll run again?  If she does, maybe she'll spend the time between now and then learning a little more about the groups who felt misrepresented by her.

Her departure does not immediately improve the race.

Let's do The Hideous Ranking for those left seeking the nomination.

1) Joe Biden.  Clearly Joe Biden.  Blood on his hands due to Iraq alone.  Attacked Anita Hill behind her back and failed to stand up for her publicly.  The list of his wrongful actions is lenghty.

2) Mike Bloomberg.  An enemy to people of color, a free press and pretty much anything that we supposedly value in this country.

3) Deval Patrick.  A pro-rape corporatist.  Nuff said.

4) Tiny Pete.  It's takes a big ego to think you should be President of the United States before you are even forty.  He'll be 38 when the 2020 election takes place.  Tiny Pete has no real accomplishments.  But he feels that entitles him to be president, apparently.  A huge ego, a tiny record -- it's a template for massive conflict.

5) Amy Klobuchar.  There's no GOP talking point she won't run with.  There's no one on a stage she won't attack.  Like Joe Biden, she longs for a day in the past when you could speak about the environment but never actually do anything to stop climate change.

Let's close this discussion with numbers.


That's the number of Tweets Michael Tracey has done about Kamala Harris since the news broke that she was dropping out of the race.


That's the number of Tweets Michael Tracey did about Steve Bullock since the news broke that he was dropping out of the race.

24 and 1.  It's an obsession and, yes, it's Bash The Bitch.  As Ava and I noted when Katie Couric was the target in 2006:

For some of the left, though not all, that's at the root of their pursuit of Couric. It's the gift of impunity that allows them to operate in a fact-free environment as they compose the charges against Couric. But those who hear such a statement and nod agreeably are also engaged in the national pastime of bash-the-bitch.
Bash the bitch is as American as apple pie and rush to judgement, so who are we to complain? If it makes us "America haters" to say "Just a minute now" then so be it. Let all the ones partaking in bash-the-bitch wrap themselves in Old Glory, we'll call it the way we see it.
Here's what we see. A woman's trashed. For what she did?
Oh cookie, please, it's for being a woman. Read the commentaries. "Cheerleader" is a trumped up charge -- as usual, the true crime is gender.

Michael Tracey and a lot of others need to look at their actions in the last 24 hours.  There's a lot of latent sexism bubbling up.

On the press anointed front runner War Hawk Joe, Natasha Korecki (POLITICO) reports:

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday said he didn’t need Barack Obama’s endorsement in the Democratic primary, even if the field were down to three people.

He also scoffed at the notion that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is building enthusiasm and accused Mayor Pete Buttigieg of stealing his plans. 

Joe's campaign theme should be "Floundering."  And you know it's bad when the spouse gets involved.  Someone needs to buy a clue, if you're well liked because you're seen as non-political and you're the spouse, stay that way.  You will see your likeables droop and drop if you don't.

Branko Marcetic (IN THESE TIMES) explains:

By the close of the 1970s, Biden began calling himself a fiscal conservative and introduced what he called his “spending control legislation”: a bill requiring all federal programs to be reauthorized every four years or automatically expire. He also voted for a large but unsuccessful tax cut introduced by Sen. William Roth, his Republican counterpart.
Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, pioneering the economic program of generosity to the rich and stinginess to the poor that became known as Reaganomics. Biden was right there with him.
Biden, Reagan and other conservatives pushed the flawed idea that the government is like a household and must take drastic measures to pay off debt to stay solvent. Six months into Reagan’s first term, Biden called the reduction of deficit spending “the single most important” path toward “an economically sound future.”

To curtail government spending, Reagan severely scaled back or eliminated federal programs—even as he slashed tax rates for the rich. Biden voted for both (including an updated version of Roth’s failed tax cut). When the president proposed a budget freeze in 1983—to cut the enormous deficits that, ironically, his tax cut helped produce—Biden one-upped him, working with two Republican senators to propose an even more aggressive budget freeze doing away with scheduled cost-of-living increases for Medicare and Social Security.

Beautiful street art in as anti-government protests continue even after the resignation of the PM. Women have taken an increasingly larger role in the protest movement since October 2019.

in the Saadoun Tunnel, in uninviting passage under , , .

In Iraq, the protests continue.

Senseless that hundreds of young people have been killed in protests calling for reforms in Iraq. The ruling elite do not realise that either they initiate change or change will be forced upon them. Fear is no longer effective and events since 1 October prove that

Again, the protests continue in Iraq.  But the press allows Joe Biden to ignore that topic.  He can talk about his leg hair (and does), bouncing children on his lap, anything at all except Iraq, right?  Oh, he won't talk about his dead beat dad son Hunter Biden who -- even after DNA tests -- is still tangling up the court system instead of meeting his parental responsibilities.  Hey, I guess that's "as a Biden" too, right?

The following sites updated: