Thursday, September 15, 2022


I know it's difficult to keep up with all the ways in which Joe Biden is a failure.  But we need to add one more to the list.  Yahoo News reports:

The former Obama White House official who negotiated the reopening of relations with Cuba is sharply criticizing President Biden’s policies toward that country, saying his administration is “gaslighting” Havana by maintaining and even expanding harsh sanctions imposed by former President Trump.

“Disappointed doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of how I feel about the Biden-Cuba policy,” said Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s deputy national security adviser, in an interview for the Yahoo News’ “Conspiracyland” podcast. “The Cuban government made an agreement with me based on the idea that they could trust that we would keep our agreement.”

“Granted it was Trump” who initially reversed Obama’s policy of normalizing relations with Cuba, he added. “But then Biden doubles down” on Trump policies, Rhodes said.

“Why would any Cuban official ever, ever negotiate anything with America ever again after this? We had Trump — in the most grotesque, callous way — politicizing this. But then to have a Democratic administration legitimize what Trump did by continuing it — it’s a gaslighting to those people in Cuba, you know?”

[. . .]

Cuba’s communist government denounced Biden’s moves, saying they had harshly punished the country’s economy during the COVID epidemic and contributed to shortages of food and medicine. There is “no difference” between Biden’s and Trump’s policy toward Cuba, Johana Ruth Tablada de la Torre, the deputy director for U.S. affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, says in an interview for the “Conspiracyland” podcast, adding that what the U.S. is doing to Cuba is “criminal.”

File it under another Biden Blunde.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2022.  Climate change is destroying Iraq and a bunch of unqualified fools on the US court system are determined to destroy rights and liberties.

In the US, the court system has an all time low rating and that's because you've got a bunch of wack jobs unfit to serve -- that includes the likes of Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court but it's not just the Supreme Court -- it's the idiots and fools lower in the court system funneling cases on up to destroy the lives of many.  As Clarence made clear in his opinion in DOBBS, it's not just abortion rights that they want to end.  He's going after birth control and marriage equality.  

Last week a Federal Judge in Texas ruled unconstitutional an Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that US healthcare plans cover a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drug which prevents the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The judge made this reactionary attack on public health on the basis that covering HIV prevention drugs violates the religious freedom of the plaintiffs. The WHO says that HIV, which, left untreated, leads to the life-threatening AIDS syndrome, is still a major global health emergency with more than 40 million deaths worldwide to date.

The case was brought to court in 2020 by a group of Republican Party connected Texas Christian fundamentalists on the behalf of Braidwood Management and Kelley Orthodontics, arguing that the lifesaving drugs such as Tuvada and Descovy can “facilitate or encourage homosexual behaviour,” with the plaintiffs challenging the legality under the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. 

The Biden administration has announced it is “reviewing” the decision.  

US District Judge Reed O’Connor went further than just HIV prevention, however, using it as a launching board for a broad attack on the entire framework of coverage for preventative services recommended by the US Preventative Task Force which are covered by private health insurance at no cost to the patient under ACA rules. The American Medical Association and a coalition of 60 medical organizations have warned that the ruling could mean that “patients would lose access to vital preventive healthcare services, such as screening for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, preeclampsia, and hearing.'

In fact, this is one of the primary aims of the lawsuit. No doubt businesses would be thrilled at the cost savings of not covering preventative care for their employees, and as will be shown, the real plaintiff to the case is the Republican Party, one of the twin parties of big business in the US. As much as the American financial oligarchy has moved to dismantle public health, letting diseases like COVID-19 and Monkeypox run rampant, so too does it move to remove access to life saving drugs. As Lenin wrote, “Political reaction all along the line is a characteristic feature of imperialism.” Its attitude to public health is no different.

Since their approval in the last decade, HIV PrEP treatments have become one of the necessary measures required to prevent further transmission of the virus, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) crediting its use with the decline in HIV diagnoses. Nearly 2.8 million people around the world rely on the drug according to the Global PrEP tracker database.

According to the Centers of Disease Control new HIV diagnoses decreased by 8 percent in the US from 2016 to 2019. 

Male-to-male sexual contact still constitutes the vast majority of HIV infections in the US. That said, 1 in 5 new HIV infections are among women, according to the CDC, with the vast majority being through heterosexual contact. HIV operates on objective biological laws; it does not ask if someone is a gay male before infecting them, contrary to the idiotic insinuations of the Republican Party Christian fundamentalists. In short, anyone can acquire HIV.

Your stupidity is not a  religious objection.

Insurance is to cover medical conditions.  You don't want to cover medical conditions?  I guess we can outlaw all of insurance then, right?  Certainly the Christian Science faith would be a reason to drop coverage for cancer treatment or really anything.  Per that religion, you can basically pray anything away, right?  

So I guess this CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR could announce to their employees that all health coverage was ended because their faith -- the faith of their founder -- was that disease is the cause of a person's estrangement with the Lord Jesus Christ, no health coverage -- other than prayer -- is necessary or needed.

Religious freedom means you can worship whatever you want and you can attend any faith assembly you want.  It's not supposed to mean that your crock pot fantasy that Jesus or whomever would object to property tax means you don't have to pay it.  By the same token, it shouldn't apply to insurance either.

If the people working for the homophobic Braidwood Management and Kelley Orthodontics  in Texas have religious freedom, it can also be argued that their religious freedom is being challenged and threatened by the decision -- they have the right to believe PrEP should be covered.  So isn't the decision siding with the owners challenging the employees religious freedom?

The case never should have been brought to begin with.

Medical care that's needed should be covered.  The homophobic and hateful people in charge at Braidwood Management and Kelley Orthodontics  should have been told that by the court.  They should have been told that they sound like hateful idiots who don't grasp that AIDS is a disease and that insurance is for treating health issues.  

Instead, an idiot on the court has encouraged them and now it will wind on through the system, possibly up to Clary Thomas -- Idiot of the Supremes.  

Braidwood's religious beliefs do not trump the religious beliefs of others or the rights of anyone to be free of religious dictates in the United States of America.

In a functioning society, people would have made reality clear to Braidwood -- both in the court system and at the clinic itself by refusing to utilize it and put it out of business.

Next up, the idiots at Braidwood sue over regulations on emissions because they don't believe in climate change or because they believe global warming is God's will and that efforts to mitigate it or slowing the end of times.

On the issue of climate change, AFP notes

The Middle East is heating at nearly twice the global average, threatening potentially devastating impacts on its people and economies, a new climate study shows.

Barring swift policy changes, its more than 400 million people face extreme heatwaves, prolonged droughts and sea level rises, said the report released ahead of the UN's COP27 climate summit in Egypt later this year.

The study found an average increase of 0.45 degrees Celsius per decade across the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean region, based on data for 1981-2019, during which the global average rise was 0.27 degrees per decade.

Without immediate changes, the region is projected to heat up by five degrees Celsius by the end of the century, possibly exceeding "critical thresholds for human adaptability" in some countries, the report states.

People "will face major health challenges and risks of livelihood, especially underprivileged communities, the elderly, children and pregnant women", wrote Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute, which both provided support for the research.
The study covers the region stretching from Greece and Egypt in the west through to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and the Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates as well as Iran in the east.

We'll note these Tweets:

Iraq's famous Lake Sawa in southern al-Muthanna province is now completely dry. (Image: )
Lake Sawa in Iraq’s southern al-Muthanna province ceased to exist. (Image by @IraqClimate, March 2022)
Climate change leaves Iraq’s ‘breadbasket’ with less water, wheat, and farmers:
#Iraq is the world’s 5th most vulnerable nation to the effects of #climate_change, including #water & food. How this threat interconnects w/ other political and security challenges the country is facing? Read Policy Note:

Turning to other realities . . .


Anyone in the UK who imagined they lived in a representative democracy – one in which leaders are elected and accountable to the people – will be in for a rude awakening over the next days and weeks.

TV schedules have been swept aside. Presenters must wear black and talk in hushed tones. Front pages are uniformly somber. Britain’s media speak with a single, respectful voice about the Queen and her unimpeachable legacy.

Westminster, meanwhile, has been stripped of left and right. The Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties have set aside politics to grieve as one. Even the Scottish nationalists – supposedly trying to rid themselves of the yoke of centuries of an English rule presided over by the monarch – appear to be in effusive mourning.

The world’s urgent problems – from war in Europe to a looming climate catastrophe – are no longer of interest or relevance. They can wait till Britons emerge from a more pressing national trauma.

Domestically, the BBC has told those facing a long winter in which they will not be able to afford to heat their homes that their suffering is “insignificant” compared to that of the family of a 96-year-old woman who died peacefully in the lap of luxury. They can wait too.

In this moment there is no public room for ambivalence or indifference, for reticence, for critical thinking – and most certainly not for Republicanism, even if nearly a third of the public, mostly the young, desire the monarchy’s abolition. The British establishment expects every man, woman and child to do their duty by lowering their head.

Twenty first-century Britain never felt so medieval.

Wall-to-wall eulogies

There are reasons a critical gaze is needed right now, as the British public is corralled into reverential mourning.

The wall-to-wall eulogies are intended to fill our nostrils with the perfume of nostalgia to cover the stench of a rotting institution, one at the heart of the very establishment doing the eulogising.

The demand is that everyone show respect for the Queen and her family, and that now is not the time for criticism or even analysis.

[. . .]

At the height of her rule, 20 years later, British troops were given a green light to massacre 14 civilians in Northern Ireland on a protest march against Britain’s policy of jailing Catholics without trial. Those shot and killed were fleeing or tending the wounded. The British establishment oversaw cover-up inquiries into what became known as “Bloody Sunday”.

And in the twilight years of her rule, her government rode roughshod over international law, invading Iraq on the pretext of destroying non-existent weapons of mass destruction. During the long years of a joint British and US occupation, it is likely that more than a million Iraqis died and millions more were driven from their homes.

The following sites updated: