Friday, December 13, 2019


Ted Rall has a new commentary at CounterPunch, this is the opening:

“In ten years or so, we’ll leak the truth,” the Dead Kennedys sang. “But by then it’s only so much paper.”
But it might just score you a Pulitzer Prize.
Award bait and bragging rights are no doubt the principal goals of The Washington Post’s self-congratulatory data dump, “The Afghanistan Papers.” As the headline implies, the 2000 pages that a court-ordered the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction to release to Jeff Bezos’ newspaper paints a Robert McNamara-esque portrait of not-so-best-or-bright Bush and Obama Administration bozos privately admitting what they knew all along—that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was always an unwinnable, counterproductive mistake—at the same time they were telling the American people that victory in the post-9/11 “good war” was right around the corner. All we had to win was win Afghan hearts and minds.
“The [I.G.] documents also contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting,” the Post reported. “Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul—and at the White House—to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.”
“The Afghanistan Papers” is a bright, shining lie by omission. Yes, our military and civilian leaders lied to us about Afghanistan. But they could never have spread their murderous BS—thousands of U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghans killed, trillions of dollars wasted—without media organizations like the Washington Post, which served as unquestioning government stenographers.
Press outlets like the Post and New York Times weren’t merely idiots used to disseminate pro-war propaganda. They actively censored people who knew we never should have gone into Afghanistan and tried to tell American voters the truth.

People like me.

Read the whole thing.  Ask yourself why we're still in Afghanistan and ask yourself why The Washington Post is acting like a hero for telling the truth 18 years after the fact?

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

Thursday, December 12, 2019.  As protests continue in Iraq, no one does more damage to Joe Biden's campaign than . . . Joe Biden.

Starting in the US where the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination continues and where gaffe prone Joe Biden continues to destroy his own campaign.


Link to headline article

What are we talking about?

Ryan Lizza (POLITICO) reported yesterday:

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s top advisers and prominent Democrats outside the Biden campaign have recently revived a long-running debate whether Biden should publicly pledge to serve only one term, with Biden himself signaling to aides that he will serve only a single term.

While the option of making a public pledge remains available, Biden has for now settled on an alternative strategy: quietly indicate that he will almost certainly not run for a second term while declining to make a promise that he and his advisers fear could turn him into a lame duck and sap him of his political capital. 

So, follow this, we're going through a bruising primary season and it's so Joe can serve for one term?  As the report resulted in various negative reactions, Joe's campaign attempted to dismiss the rumor.  THE WEEK notes:

His deputy campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, responded to the report by saying "this is not a conversation our campaign is having and not something VP Biden is thinking about."
[Senator Chris] Coons, who has endorsed Biden, also responded by saying "just the opposite" is true and that Biden "has made it clear to me that he is ready and able and willing to serve two terms if necessary," per CBS News' Alan He.

Coons shares pillow talk but it does nothing to end the talk.  So Joe himself was sent out to speak.  David Gardner (EVENING STANDARD) quotes Joe stating, "I don’t have plans on one term."  Igor Derysh (SALON) points out Joe "told The Associated Press in October that he would also not commit to running for a second term."  William Goldschlag and Dan Janison (NEWSDAY) observe, "There's a strong argument against any presidential candidate saying such a thing out loud. A new president who said four years but no more would be a lame duck on Day One, instantly hemorrhaging the political capital to pursue an agenda."  Jordan Weissmann (SLATE) argues:

For starters, if Biden thinks there’s a chance he simply won’t be able to handle the job in five or six years, he should realize there’s a chance he won’t be able to do it in two or three either. Being president is hard; it tends to age politicians rapidly, and Biden shouldn’t gamble on his ability to fill the role.

But beyond all that, serving as a one-term president will vastly diminish his powers in office and possibly set back Democratic policy priorities. It’s not a fix for anything.         
One of the most important parts about being a first-term president is running for reelection. It gives you leverage over your party on Capitol Hill, since lawmakers want to help you nab that second term or at least don’t want to piss off primary voters by denying you legislative wins and undermining your chances. Plus, you can do more in eight years than four. You get more time to appoint judges. You can implement legislation that takes a while to get up and running. (The Affordable Care Act’s exchanges didn’t even start selling insurance until Obama’s second go-round.) And even if the opposition takes over Congress, you can still use the Justice Department and regulatory agencies to push change. (Donald Trump, for instance, is cutting food stamps at the moment by administrative fiat.)       

 It's not a good day to be Joe Biden -- but is there ever a good day to be Joe?  Cleve R. Wootson Jr. (WASHINGTON POST) points out, "An October AP-NORC poll found a 69 percent majority of Americans said it was 'inappropriate' for Hunter Biden to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president."  Wootson also notes that Joe attempted to defend Hunter's actions in an interview by insisting, "Look, the American public knows me."

Do they?  Keith Griffith (DAILY MAIL) notes:

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden paid his female staffers less on average than men over several decades, a new analysis finds.
In his 35 years in the Senate, Biden paid full-time female staffers on average just 67 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, according to an analysis of Senate records by the Washington Free Beacon
The biggest gap came in 1983 and 1984, when women in Biden's Senate office made less than half of what men made, on average — just 44 cents on the dollar.
A spokesperson for Biden's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from

And yet some self-appointed 'spokerwomen' vouch for Joe on behalf of other women.  Speak for yourself and stop trying to act as though you're leading a movement.  Joe's treatment of Anita Hill is just the tip of the iceberg on a long anti-woman bias.

Joe as president means the world will be in a lot worse shape after four years of Biden.  Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) explains:

Former Vice President Joe Biden must ditch his industry-friendly, "middle-of-the-road" climate policy in favor of an agenda that completely rejects fossil fuels if he wishes to be taken seriously as an environmental leader in the 2020 Democratic presidential race.
That's the message of a petition launched Wednesday by 350 Action. The group charges Biden's centrist approach to the climate emergency "won't cut it anymore" and demands that he "do better."
"Vice President Joe Biden has dragged his feet in responding to the urgency of the climate and environmental crises across the country," Tamara Toles O'Laughlin, 350 Action's North America director, said in a statement. "Stunningly, we've watched a strident Biden attend fundraisers hosted by fossil fuel power brokers and rub shoulders with dirty fuel magnates."
O'Laughlin said Biden's climate plan, which leaves the door open to new fossil fuel development, pales in comparison to the sweeping environmental platforms of leading 2020 contenders Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
350 Action's climate scorecard gives Biden "unknowns" on two of its three criteria: Support for the Green New Deal and opposition to fossil fuel drilling. The group also noted that Biden "has supported demonstrably false solutions like 'carbon capture.'"

"The other 2020 frontrunners, Senators Sanders and Warren, have plans for the people," said O'Laughlin. "They have pursued the gold standard of climate leadership with real commitment to make polluters pay for a just transition and the Green New Deal. We deserve better than Joe Biden's silence in the face of crisis."

 Norman Solomon (COMMON DREAMS) surveys the field of candidates and explains:

From three different vectors, the oligarchy is on the march to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. Pete Buttigieg has made big gains. A timeworn ally of corporate power, Joe Biden, is on a campaign for his last hurrah. And Michael Bloomberg is swooping down from plutocratic heights.
Those three men are a team of rivals—each fiercely competitive for an individual triumph, yet arrayed against common ideological foes named Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The obvious differences between Buttigieg, Biden and Bloomberg are apt to distract from their underlying political similarities. Fundamentally, they’re all aligned with the nation’s economic power structure—two as corporate servants, one as a corporate master.

For Buttigieg, the gaps between current rhetoric and career realities are now gaping. On Tuesday, hours after the collapse of the “nondisclosure agreement” that had concealed key information about his work for McKinsey & Company, the New York Times concluded that “the most politically troubling element of his client list” might be what he did a dozen years ago for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan—“a health care firm that at the time was in the process of reducing its work force.”
The newspaper reported that “his work appeared to come at about the same time the insurer announced that it would cut up to 1,000 jobs—or nearly 10 percent of its work force—and request rate increases.”
This year, Buttigieg’s vaguely progressive rhetoric has become more and more unreliable, most notably with his U-turn away from supporting Medicare for All. Meanwhile, wealthy donors have flocked to him. Forbes reports that 39 billionaires have donated to the Buttigieg campaign, thus providing ultra-elite seals of approval. (Meanwhile, Biden has 44 billionaire donors and Warren has six. Forbes couldn’t find any billionaires who’ve donated to Sanders; he did receive one contribution from a billionaire’s spouse—though that donation was later returned.)

Not surprisingly, the political orientations of the leading candidates match up with the spread of average donations. The latest figures reflect candidates’ proximity to the class interests of donors, with wealthier ones naturally tending to give more sizable amounts. Nearly two-thirds (64.9 percent) of Biden’s donations were upwards of $200 each, while such donations accounted for a bit more than half (52.5 percent) of the contributions to Buttigieg. Compare those numbers to 29.6 percent for Elizabeth Warren and 24.9 percent for Bernie Sanders.

Rebecca Traister surveys the media landscape for how it portrays the candidates.

I wrote about Morning Joe, Steve Schmidt, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, which candidates get tagged as dishonest, which ones get anointed as straight-talkers and how it doesn’t actually correspond to their truth-telling history:

At THE CUT, she offers:

The week before the last Democratic primary debate of 2019, a panel of pundits on MSNBC’s Morning Joe gathered to make an explicit critique of one of the candidates. Citing a “whiff of fraudulence,” political writer John Heilemann talked with host Joe Scarborough, former Missouri senator Claire McCaskill, and former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt about the perception that there’s something dishonest and untrustworthy about Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.
“Is this woman who she says she is?” asked Heilemann, citing controversies over her claims of Native American heritage, her consulting work on bankruptcy, and her recent assertion that her children attended public schools when in fact her younger son Alex also was enrolled in private schools, as not being about those issues, but rather reflecting the larger concern of voters: “Is she a phony? Is she a fraud?”
I’m not saying she’s any of those things!” Heilemann made sure to say.
Then came Schmidt, who said those things. Claiming that Warren has a “tremendous talent for self-righteousness and hypocrisy,” Schmidt said that “over and over again she has misrepresented herself” and argued that he was just telling hard truths: “Why is it that Elizabeth Warren checked the box as a Native American on the Harvard Law School application? I know why she checked the box; she was trying to game the system.”
In fact, extensive reporting has shown that Warren did not identify as Native American through the hiring process at Harvard, though the law school, then under sharp criticism for not hiring women of color, later claimed her as one.
There are extremely valid criticisms to be made around Warren’s handling of her past claims of Native American ancestry; none of them are about whether she was qualified to teach at Harvard Law School on the merits. But the most compelling thing about the Morning Joe critique wasn’t the bevy of specific charges against Warren, some of which were false and some of which, including her answer on her son’s schooling, are rooted in real unforced errors. Warren, like scores of presidential candidates before her and alongside her, has a decent but imperfect record of accuracy when it comes to how she’s told her own story.

What’s really fascinating is whose imperfect record gets cast as fatally phony and whose does not — to whom perceptions of untrustworthiness stick and to whom they do not and to what end. Who gets called to correct the record and who permits lies to get repeated? It’s not always just the candidates.

While the media was nailing Elizabeth Warren to the cross, they were giving many other candidates a pass.  Here's Rebecca on how Joe got waived through without questioning:

Take Joe Biden, who left the 1988 Democratic primary after being charged with plagiarism both on the campaign trail and back in law school, as well as with inflating his own academic record: Biden had claimed to have graduated in the top half of his law-school class, when in fact he graduated 76th out of 85 students. In 1987, when pressed by a reporter on his academic record, Biden had angrily responded, “I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do” (an exchange he would recall in a later memoir as “so stupid,” yet repeated just last week with a voter who asked him about his son Hunter’s work in Ukraine). Back then, Biden told the New York Times, “I exaggerate when I’m angry, but I’ve never gone around telling people things that aren’t true about me.” But, just as a point of fact, he had told people — lots of people! — things that weren’t true about himself, not just about his school years, but in borrowing details about the life of the British politician whose speeches he’d plagiarized.
Early in this campaign season, Biden’s campaign was again found to have lifted language; his climate and education plans initially included phrases taken from other publications without attribution. He’s also been caught out telling a false story about traveling to Afghanistan to award a Navy Captain a Silver Star, apparently a conflation of several different events. Back in 2007, he claimed to have been “shot at” in Iraq; this was not true. Anita Hill has recalled that back when he was in charge of Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Biden initially assured her that she would be able to testify first, but that after negotiations with Republican colleagues, Thomas had been permitted to go first. “I leave you to say whether he lied or not,” Hill said to a New York Times reporter earlier this year.
Yet despite his career-long penchant for exaggeration and misleading recollection, Biden gets regularly presented by the mainstream political media as a man of deep integrity, a trustworthy guy; he’s currently on his “no-malarkey” campaign tour.

A similar advantage seems to have been accrued by Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has been pushing the view of Elizabeth Warren as deceptive — the same view expressed vocally by the Morning Joe panel on Tuesday — for months. In October, Buttigieg said that his opponent has been more “forthcoming about the number of selfies she’s taken” than about how she planned to pay for Medicare for All (Warren has since released her detailed plan on how to pay for Medicare for All), and his campaign has recently hit her hard with the suggestion that she’s hiding something regarding the bankruptcy expert’s past work as a “corporate lawyer.” But Buttigieg has significantly changed his positions, including on Medicare for All, during his time on the campaign trail, and until pressed by the Warren campaign, had not permitted press into his fundraisers, released his list of donors, or the list of clients he’d worked for as a McKinsey consultant, a lot of which he did this week. Buttigieg also recently rolled out a list of black supporters in South Carolina, some of whom had never in fact endorsed him, and felt they had been misled by his campaign.

We included Tiny Pete.  The whole column has to be read.

In Iraq, the protests continue.


About an hour after gunmen began attacking a protest encampment in Iraq’s capital at the weekend, Mustafa — who had slept there for weeks — went offline.

As protests in Iraq enter their 3rd month, the numbers of arrests, abductions & killings of protesters continue to rise. Security forces should be protecting the demonstrators. Instead, some security forces are the ones doing the killing.

Human Rights Watch's Belkis Wille writes:

As protests in Iraq enter their third month, the numbers of arrests, abductions, and killings of protesters continue to rise. But instead of protecting the demonstrators mostly peacefully protesting on Iraq’s streets, some security forces are the ones attacking and killing them. Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi had promised in a letter to Human Rights Watch that security forces would no longer use live ammunition against protesters, before announcing his own resignation on November 29. But killings and abductions of protesters have continued.
Since the beginning of these protests, Human Rights Watch has also documented unidentified armed men attacking protesters while the state security forces apparently stand by. Last week alone, these unidentified actors abducted one protester in Baghdad and opened fire on another in Karbala, killing him.
Early on December 6, Zaid Mohammed Abd Ali, 23, a photographer who attended the protests daily in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, was abducted from outside his house, his brother said. The family’s CCTV camera footage from that morning shows four men, one with a gun, get out of a car and grab Ali as he was arriving home. They hit him, put him in the car, and drove away. The family went straight to the police, but officers said they needed to wait 24 hours after the incident before they could open a missing persons complaint. The police opened a complaint the next day and told Ali’s family they are reviewing the CCTV footage but have provided no other information on their supposed investigation.
On December 8, a gunman on the back of a motorcycle shot and killed Fahem al-Tai, 53, a protester in Karbala. Timestamped footage from a street camera showed the entire attack unfold. Human Rights Watch reviewed the footage and spoke to a friend who was with al-Tai at the time of the attack. He said the police had not yet contacted him, despite his presence at the scene.
Reports emerged on December 11 of another two activists – one a well-known environmentalist – who have gone missing.

The Iraqi government needs to start protecting its citizens, by ending its own security force’s unlawful violence against protesters, and taking effective action against the groups now attacking them. This means taking urgent action to find anyone abducted by these groups, and arresting and prosecuting anyone responsible for murder and other crimes. Otherwise, the death toll will continue to climb, and Iraq’s next prime minister and cabinet will face a Herculean task in restoring the rule of law.

The following sites updated: