Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A slap in the face of democracy

 Joseph Kishore is running for the US presidency.  You hear of Joe Biden but not of Joe Kishore.  He is a third party candidate.  They have to work overtime just to get a few seconds of media time.  In a democracy, they have to fight to get media coverage.

They have to fight for ballot access also.  This is not how a democracy is supposed to work.

At WSWS, Joseph Kishore explains:

The American government has a lot to say about “democracy,” the “rule of law” and “fair elections” abroad when one or another state has gotten in the way of the interests of Wall Street. However, the United States is not a democracy in any meaningful sense of the word. It is an oligarchy, with a political system controlled by two parties, the Democrats and Republicans, that represent this oligarchy.

This basic political fact is thoroughly exposed by the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week, effectively ending the Socialist Equality Party election campaign’s legal challenge to California’s undemocratic ballot access laws in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

On June 30, my running mate Norissa Santa Cruz and I filed a lawsuit against California Governor Gavin Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla, both Democrats, challenging the state’s decision to require us to collect nearly 200,000 physical signatures to appear on the ballot. Given the pandemic that has raged throughout the period when signature-gathering is allowed, any attempt by us to fulfill this requirement would certainly have contributed to spreading COVID-19 and significant deaths.

On July 20, California District Judge Dolly M. Gee, nominated by former President Barack Obama, ruled against our challenge, siding with the position of the Newsom administration that we should have risked life and limb to fulfill this requirement. We appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit, which set a timetable that would have concluded the case well after ballots—without our names on them—were already printed.

On July 27, a three-judge panel on the court—comprised of judges appointed by both Democrats and Republicans—denied a request that the appeal be heard on an expedited basis. Our motion for reconsideration of this decision was denied by the same panel on Wednesday, August 5. This effectively ends the SEP’s legal case, since any decision would be made after the state already took the action that the lawsuit was aimed at preventing.

The appeals court’s decision is a political, not a legal ruling based on the merits. There is ample precedent for expedited hearings involving cases of this character, and there are absolutely no defensible legal grounds for denying the request.

The panel of judges announced its decisions with one-paragraph rulings that did not address any of our arguments. In essence, it is saying: We do not want to hear the case on its merits as the legal issues are clear, so we will prevent the case from being heard in time.

Even if you're not planning to vote third party, you should be offended by the court verdict.  It is an abdication of judicial oversight and it is a slap in the face of democracy.

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

 Tuesday, August 11, 2020.  Two attacks on military convoys in Iraq (US military says none, Iraqi government admits otherwise), covid continues to terrorize the globe and Joe Biden's got a War Hawk party platform but watch corporate news work overtime to ignore that reality.  

Starting with Iraq where a convoy was attacked.

REUTERS reports:

An explosion near the Jraischan border crossing at the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border on Monday evening targeted a convoy carrying equipment for US forces, three Iraqi security forces told Reuters.

[. . .]

A security source had earlier said that the explosion was caused by an Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim militia targeting a US military base near the crossing by smuggling in an explosive device, and that some staff on the base had been injured, but this was later contradicted by other security sources who said a convoy was attacked, not a base.

REUTERS also notes, "Kuwait and Iraq separately denied an attack took place against a convoy carrying equipment for American forces."  The denials come as the attacks increase to two -- one this morning, one Monday evening.  AL KHALEEJ TODAY notes that, while denying any attack took place, "The US said on Tuesday it will investigate claims of an explosion on the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border that was aimed at a convoy carrying equipment for American forces."  While the US military command continues to play dumb, the Iraqi denial has ceased:  "A blast from a planted explosive device hit a convoy of the U.S.-led coalition near the Taji base north of Baghdad on Tuesday, the Iraqi military said in a statement."

In other violence, Lawk Ghafuri (RUDAW) reports:

An Iraqi police officer from a federal police unit was killed and two civilians were wounded in western Kirkuk province on Monday, in what the Security Media Cell labeled a terror attack.

“Security forces repelled an attack by terrorist elements on the village of Al-Majid in Al-Riyadh district in Kirkuk province,” the statement read. “The attack resulted in death of an officer in the Third Infantry Brigade of the Fifth Division of the Federal Police, and the wounding of two civilians.”

The statement also revealed that the attack wounded a member of Hashd al-Ashairy, the Sunni unit of Iraq’s Shiite majority Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), known in Arabic as Hashd al-Shaabi.

In other news, INTERNATIONAL QURAN NEWS AGENCY notes that Iraq, on Monday, "records highest daily coronavirus infections."  Again.  That's been a near daily headline for weeks now.  As Feng Yasong and Gao Wencheng (XINHUA) note, the pandemic is worldwide, "Global COVID-19 cases reached 20 million on Monday, with more than 730,000 deaths worldwide, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.  The global case count reached 20,001,019, with a total of 733,897 deaths worldwide as of 2335 GMT, the CSSE data showed. The bleak number of global infections has doubled in less than two months as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the world."  XINHUA also notes, "Iraq has so far confirmed 153,599 coronavirus cases in the country amid a surge in new infections.  It also reported 72 fatalities on Monday, raising the death toll to 5,464, while 2,015 patients recovered in the day, bringing the total number of recoveries to 109,790."  At the end of June, Jane Arraf filed a report for NPR:

Jane Arraf: This is a war against the coronavirus, and we've lost the war, a government official tells me. He doesn't want his name used because he's not authorized to speak publicly. It's so difficult getting accurate statistics in Iraq that almost no one believes the official ones. And although on paper there are more than enough intensive care beds in Iraqi hospitals, that's not the reality. Dr. Aizen Marrogi is a former senior medical officer for the U.S. Army and at the U.S. embassy in Iraq.

AIZEN MARROGI: Corruption is No. 1. All the medications get - first, second, third day after they arrive, they disappear. The government pays for a lot of employees that don't exist. They're ghost employees.

ARRAF: He says the health care system lacks proper managers, nursing staff and technical expertise. The crisis is a major test for the country's new prime minister. Mustafa al-Kadhimi took power in May after anti-government protests forced out his predecessor. He's promised to fight corruption and rein in Iran-backed militias. But now he's also grappling with a drop in oil prices and a deepening crisis over the virus.

Iraq can't seem to catch a break.  RUDAW notes:

A large medical warehouse storing medications needed to treat coronavirus in downtown Kirkuk caught fire on Friday. The crucial supplies were destroyed as numbers of new cases rise on a daily basis. 

The fire started place around 6:00 Friday and was extinguished about two hours later. Firefighters had to break through the walls of the building to access the interior. 

The warehouse belonged to Kirkuk’s Great Hospital, one of the main hospitals in the city. It was storing a large amount of medications, but is one of 10 such sites in Kirkuk so the fire may not lead to a major shortage, head of the provincial health directorate Ziyad Khalaf told Rudaw. 

The fire is not thought to have been set on purpose.  Instead, they believe it was an electrical issue.  Iraq's infrastructure continues to crumble as money that could upgrade the infrastructure instead goes into the pockets of various Iraqi politicians.

"The problem is," THE NATIONAL's Mina al-Oraibi observed in a podcast with AL-MONITOR, "the system of corruption that set into the country."  And the possibility of reform as the prime minister insists he wants to carry out?  "The corruption, nepotism, mafia-state that has emerged in the country makes their ability quite limited."  Mina has a clear-eyed view of how things are in Iraq but she also expresses hope and ties that to, among others, the youth of Iraq and their ongoing protests.

The protesters? Since September 30th, they've been protesting.  Nothing has ended the protests -- not covid, not attacks on the protesters, not murder of the protesters.  Iraq's youth -- the bulk of the country is the youth, it's a land of widows and orphans as a result of the never-ending war -- is not backing down in their quest for a better Iraq.  Lawk Ghafuri (RUDAW) reports a new development:

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi received in Baghdad a group of wounded Iraqi protesters from the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on Monday, during which the official promised to aid those injured in the mass demonstrations that began in October.

“Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi directs the formation of a committee to coordinate between the Prime Minister's office and the wounded protesters to monitor their health conditions,” the Iraqi PM’s media office tweeted on Monday.

Kadhimi “vowed” to provide medical treatment to wounded protesters in a separate tweet, saying they would “transfer some of them for treatment outside Iraq if necessary.” 

“The government is determined to fulfill the demands of the peaceful demonstrators, which are among the priorities of its program,” the office stated in another tweet.

As for the mafia-style corruption . . . 

The interview is in Arabic but the closed caption is in English.  MEMRI notes:

Iraqi journalist Hussein Al-Sheikh said in a July 27, 2020 interview on Al-Ahd TV (Iraq) that Iraq is run by gangs and that his situation is as if someone broke into his house, raped his mother and his sister, stole his money, and told him to remain silent. He said that in light of the assassinations of journalist Ahmed Abdul Samad and researcher Husham Al-Hashimi were killed anyone could be next.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party seems about to put together yet another presidential ticket where at least one of the people on the ticket voted for the Iraq War.  They've never put together a ticket with someone in Congress who voted against the Iraq War but, since the start of the 2003 wave of the never-ending war, the Dem's presidential ticket has always had at least one person who supported and sold the Iraq War.  Joe Biden is expected to be this year's presidential nominee.  He is a War Hawk.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) examines the party platform his people just put together:

The Democratic platform backs a continued US military presence in Iraq “to train our Iraqi partners,” and in Syria to keep up “the offensive against ISIS” while restoring the US alliance with Kurdish forces in Syria that Trump reneged on.

The platform declares “Our commitment to Israel’s security, its qualitative military edge, its right to defend itself” to be “ironclad.” Initially, the platform language referred to the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank, a term that was removed at Biden’s personal insistence. The draft now merely criticizes “settlement expansion” and “annexation.”

Biden pledges to “close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay,” as Obama pledged in 2008. Twelve years later, the prison still stands and not one of the prisoners has been brought to trial.

On China, the Democratic platform attacks Trump from the right, claiming that his trade war policies have not restored jobs in the United States and pledging to “stand up” to China on its trade practices and alleged theft of intellectual property.

There is also this pledge: “We will underscore our global commitment to freedom of navigation and resist the Chinese military’s intimidation in the South China Sea. Democrats are committed to the Taiwan Relations Act and will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.”

In his interview with the minority journalists referenced in the first part of this article, Biden answered one foreign policy question. He said that Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods had provoked retaliation that had devastated US manufacturing and agriculture. “We’re going after China in the wrong way,” he declared, saying that a Biden administration would review the tariffs and focus on issues such as protecting intellectual property and opposing Beijing’s restrictions on US businesses operating in the Chinese market.

This morning, the 'public affairs' programs are yet again jaw boning about who Joe Biden might pick as his running mate.  They've done that non-stop since June.  It's cheap and easy journalism.  And it doesn't anger anyone.  It also serves no public purpose.  Examining the party's new platform is a public service, it is news and it does have value.  

The following sites updated: