Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The peddlers of hysteria

Two lousy writers teamed up for a lousy book -- Michael Isikoff and David Corn.  Isikoff is 'famous' of course for his close relationship with Linda Tripp, et al and David Corn is infamous for his close relationship witht he CIA.  Neither man has a background anyone would point to with pride -- though each blowhard is very, very puffed up with self-pride. 

Carl Boggs (COUNTERPUNCH) takes the wind out of the two gas bags:

The central Isikoff/Corn thesis is not only devoid of factual support but is totally inverted: the present state of affairs is exactly the opposite of what they argue.  There has been no “Putin’s war on America”, but rather sustained U.S. (and NATO) warfare against Russia – political, economic, ideological, military – since 2000, if not earlier.  The Russians occupy the other, targetedend of the power spectrum, obvious to any serious observer.  Who has invoked harsh and repeated economic sanctions on whom?  Who has militarily encircled and targeted whom?  Who has deployed nuclear weapons at whose border?  Who has financed and orchestrated a hostile coup adjacent to whose territory?  Who has carried out non-stop ideological hysteria against whom?
In the world as it now exists, it is worth asking whether Russia could plausibly assume the role of imperial aggressor in its dealings with the world’s leading superpower?   Consider that in 2017 the total Russian GDP as barely 1.5 trillion dollars, roughly one-twelfth that of the U.S. ($19.5 trillion) and not even one-tenth that of the European Union ($14 trillion).  Military spending breaks down accordingly: nearly one trillion for the U.S. and $250 billion for NATO compared to $61 billion for Russia.  As for intelligence operations, the imbalance worsens – a budget of six billion dollars for the FSB and military GRU combined, compared to $75 billion for Washington not counting another $45 billion for the DEA and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) in tandem.
In fact Russia, despite its nuclear prowess, does not have the leverage and resources to threaten American (much less broader Western) geopolitical objectives – the real “threat” coming from the stubborn fact of Russian independence that was squelched during the Clintonite 1990s, when Washington used its power to reduce post-Soviet Russia to puppet status under Boris Yeltsin.   During the Yeltsin period the U.S. was never content with simple “meddling” in Russian affairs: it propped up a weak president, dismantled the public infrastructure, coddled an emergent stratum of oligarchs, and then spent $2.5 billion to sway the 1996 election in favor of a weak and unpopular Yeltsin.  Only with Putin’s emergence in 1999 did the nation regain a semblance of independence, restoring economic and political sovereignty, much to the disgust of Western ruling interests.
American intrusion into domestic Russian affairs is never explored by Isikoff and Corn, as it would undermine their one-sided tract. Nor do the authors have much to say about the post-Soviet eastward march of NATO, which allowed the U.S. and its allies to partially encircle Russia with both nuclear and conventional forces. The opening salvo of this strangulation gambit was President Bill Clinton’s “humanitarian” war against Serbia ending with the 1999 U.S./NATO bombings.   This was followed by President George W. Bush’s decision to scrap the crucial ABM Treaty with Russia in 2002 before invading Iraq in 2003.  CIA and State Department efforts to orchestrate regime change in Ukraine, ultimately achieved in 2014, came soon thereafter.
The ongoing Western campaign of economic warfare, media propaganda, and military provocations directed at Russia has only served to bolster Putin’s legitimacy, as shown by his overwhelming support in the 2018 election.  Yet Isikoff and Corn can write: “He [Putin] was a Russian nationalist to the core.  He wanted to extend Russian power. . . [as] an autocrat in the long tradition of Russian strongmen and had little interest in joining the club of Western liberal democracies – or winning its approval.”  Given the rampant imperial behavior of Washington and its European partners, Putin would have to be certifiably insane to respond in a manner that would permit further Western encroachments.
It is the expansionist U.S./NATO alliance that has maliciously targeted Russia, not the other way around. 

To make their cases, the blowhards ditch reality and write a self-serving and deceptive book.  In 40 years, MOTHER JONES will make an effort to hide the fact that David Corn ever worked for them -- like THE PROGRESSIVE ignored the fact that Judith Miller once worked there when celebrating their 100th anniversary.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Tuesday, April 24, 2018.

RUDAW reports:

Some residents in the Iraqi capital are voicing their dissatisfaction with the current government's empty promises to improve services like sewers and roads.

"The state is financially strong. Its net worth surpasses billions of dollars. The whole world is eyeing our country due to our oil. In other words, we are the richest country in the world, but at the same time we are the poorest people in the world," Halim Hatam, a resident from Tariq neighborhood in Baghdad

Residents there and in the Muntazar neighborhood have complained of litter piling up on the streets — grounds where children play.

"[The government] does not implement what we are asking for. Nobody cares about us. We do not know who we should turn to. Look, we are just asking them to pave a single street with asphalt," said another man in Tariq.
These are serious issues -- the litter, the roads.

But especially serious are the sewers in parts of /Baghdad.  All areas of Iraq were destroyed by the US-led invasion.  But parts of Baghdad, the poorest areas, especially suffer because of the sewers.  When the rains come, the water in these areas does not drain quickly and it can quickly be knee level or even higher.  This leads to the areas flooding.  This is not a new development.

From back to the November 21, 2012 snapshot:

In Iraq, the rains have been falling with significant consequences.  Tuesday, All Iraq News reported that the rest of the week would be rainy and foggy.  And Iraq had already seen heavy rain fall.  Sadr City was one of the areas effected.   Joseph Muhammadwi and Mahmoud Raouf (Al Mada) reported on the flooding of Sadr City and included a photo of the water up to the frame of a mini-van. Despite the flooding and continuing heavy rains, traffic police stand outside directing vehicles. One resident jokes that Nouri can replace the food-ration cards with free small boats.  The water's flooded the streets and also gone into homes and schools and a makeshift bridge of bricks has been constructed to allow access to one school.  Dar Addustour noted that many of the cities, such as Kut, have been hit with the heavy rains.  Baghdad residents protested the lack of public services -- proper sanitation (i.e. drainage) would alleviate a great deal of the standing water. Nouri's had six years to address Baghdad's sewer system and done nothing.  AFP reports today the heavy rains in Kut led to houses collapsing resulting in the death of six children and leaving one adult male injured.

From December of the same year:

All Iraq News notes that Baghdad is receiving the most rainfall it's seen in thirty years. Alsumaria adds that the last days alone have seen the amount of rainfall Baghdad usually receives in a full year (note the picture of the three men walking down the street with water up to their knees). Kitabat notes that the rain is destroying the infrastructure (check out the photo of the man who's apparently  trying to get home with bags of groceries).

This is not just due to rainfall.  This is also the result of Iraq's crumbling infrastructure -- infrastructure Nouri al-Maliki has had six years to address and he's done nothing.

Alsumaria notes yesterday's rains have caused 3 deaths and two people to be injured in Baghdad -- two deaths from a house collapsing due to the rain and one from electrical death (with two more injured in that as well) and that main streets in the capital are sinking.   All Iraq News notes Baghdad has been placed on high alert because of the torrential rains.

You could mistake Baghdad for Venice in this All Iraq News photo essay which notes that students are forced to walk through the high standing water to get to schools.   They also note of Tuesday's rainfall:  Baghdad had the most yesterday (67 mm) followed by Hilla, Azizia and Karbala (rainfall was also recorded in Samawa, Rifai and Basra -- of those three, Basra was the highest and Baghdad's rainfall was three times Basra's).   It's not just Baghdad.  Alsumaria notes that after ten house collapses in Wasit Province village, the Iraqi Red Crescent began evacuating the entire village. Dar Addustour notes Nouri issued a statement yesterday that he's going to oversee a committee that will try to address the situation.

Big words from Nouri.  That's all he ever offered.  No actions, just words.

From the November 12, 2013 snapshot:

As for thug Nouri?  It's not been a period of good opticals for Nouri.   Sunday, we noted:

Al Mada reports that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers to participate in the parliamentary elections expected to be held in April 2014.  He stated voting is a right and that Iraqis must use their rights for the good of the people.  He encouraged his followers to vote for those who will serve the people.
Clearly that person couldn't be Nouri. We've noted why many times but click here and look at All Iraq News' photo of a section of Baghdad today.  The cars are almost underwater.  And why?  Rain.  Rain in a country that Nouri's 'led' for over 7 years and never bothered to improve the sewage system.  So when it rains, the water doesn't drain, it stands and floods.

Monday,  Wael Grace (Al Mada) reported that in addition to drainage and sewage issues, Baghdad is sinking.  This has to do with a channel from fifty years ago and the government's aware of it and, at one point in the last few years, had $500 million to spend on it but didn't spend it on fixing the problem.And you can check out the photo in this report by Alsumaria -- a report which notes the current sewage system -- in the capital of the country -- dates back to the 1960s.  It's over five decades old and further destroyed by war but Nouri's done nothing to update it.  Alsumaria also reports the flooding is taking place in Anbar Province as well and that roads are being cut off.

How bad is the problem -- this problem that's worsened with 7 years of Nouri's neglect?

All Iraq News reports Nouri's announced "a meeting with Governors to discuss the raid-related floods."

And from the meeting Mr. Big Talk Nouri announced?  Nothing.  Not one damn thing.

We could provide many, many more examples.

Corruption is a big issue in Iraq because the Iraqis see their lives continue suffering and degrade.  The public services have only worsened.  In the safety of the fortified Green Zone, corrupt politicians haven't had to suffer.

May 12th, elections are supposed to take place in Iraq.  Ali Jawad (ANADOLU AGENCY) notes, "A total of 24 million Iraqis are eligible to cast their ballots to elect members of parliament, who will in turn elect the Iraqi president and prime minister."  RUDAW adds, "Around 7,000 candidates have registered to stand in the May 12 poll, with 329 parliamentary seats up for grabs."  AFP explains that the nearly 7,000 candidates includes 2014 women.   RUDAW also notes that 60 Christian candidates are competing for the five allotted minority seats.  The chief issues?  Mustapha Karkouti (GULF NEWS) identifies them as follows, "Like in previous elections, the main concerns of ordinary Iraqis continue to be the lack of security and the rampant corruption."

As noted in the April 3rd snapshot, pollster Dr. Munqith Dagher has utilized data on likely voters and predicts that Hayder al-Abadi's Al-Nasr will win 72 seats in the Parliament, al-Fath (the militias) will get 37 seats, Sa'eroon (Moqtada al-Sadr's new grouping) will get 27 seats, Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law will get 19 seats, al-Salam will get 18 seats (KDP and PUK parties for the Kurds), Ayad Allawi's Wataniya will get 15 seats. There are others but Dagher did not predict double digits for any of the other seats. The number are similar for the group of those who are extremely likely to vote (Hayder's seats would jump from 72 to 79 seats).  Other predictions?  The Middle East Insstitute's Fanar Haddad insists to Sammy Ketz (AFP) that the post of prime minister will come down to one of three people: Hayder al-Abadi (current prime minister), Nouri al-Maliki (two time prime minister and forever thug) or Hadi al-Ameria "a leader of Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary network that played a pivotal role in defeating IS. Ameri comes from Diyala province and is a statistics graduate from Baghdad University. He fled to Iran in 1980 after Saddam executed top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr. The 64-year old is widely viewed as Tehran's favoured candidate."

XINHUA reports:

Iraq's firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Monday called for the people of Iraq to actively participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections to rid the country of corruption.
A statement issued by Sadr office said that Sadr's repeated calls for active turnout is aimed at eliminating Iraq from corruption and corrupt politicians.
Sadr followers are taking part in the competition for the parliament seats under a political party known as Istiqama, or Integrity Patriotic Party (IPP), headed by former lawmaker Jaafar al-Musawi.
IPP joined umbrella coalition under the name of Sa'iroun, which includes some smaller political groups, in addition to the Iraqi Communist Party.

Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has led protests against corruption.  But, as the turnout for the protests have suggested, corruption is an issue that rallies more than just his base.  It is an issue that, like security, is important to all Iraqis.

IRAQ : New electronic voting machines will announce the elections results a few hours after the voting period ends and that will prevent any fraud or rigging attempts.

IRAQ : New electronic voting machines will announce the elections results a few hours after the voting period ends and that will prevent any fraud or rigging attempts.

Yesterday, REUTERS noted, "A new electronic system will deliver the results of Iraq’s upcoming national election within hours of polls closing, the country’s chief electoral officer said, a marked improvement from previous years when it took weeks to announce the outcome."

This is only an improvement if the vote is secure.  That means that the voting is protected and verifiable.  The Iraqi people should be sure that they own the machines, that there is a paper ballot trail should recounts need to take place and that the machines are inspected to ensure security.  Without taking these and other measures, the machines can be hacked -- just as easily as any other machine can be.  The only real benefit is quick results but quick results mean nothing if the results are questionable.

So much about the campaigns thus far have been questionable, Seth J. Frantzman (JERUSALEM POST) offers:

This time, eyes will be on what happens in mostly Sunni Arab districts that were liberated from ISIS over the last several years. Abadi visited Fallujah, a Sunni city devastated by the conflict, on April 22. There are almost 100 seats up for grabs in Kirkuk, Ninewa, Diyala, Salah a-Din and Anbar governorates, where most of Iraq’s Arab Sunnis live. Turnout will also be watched closely in Kurdish regions.

Some Kurds have been calling to boycott the elections since Baghdad sent its army into Kirkuk, a largely Kurdish city in northern Iraq. Baghdad sought to reassert Federal control after the September 2017 Kurdistan independence referendum.

IRAQ’S 2005 constitution reserves a quarter of the seats in parliament for women, but in practice, women hold only about 17%. In this election women candidates, who feature prominently on many electoral posters, have been targeted by misogynistic attacks. A purported sex video circulated online ended the candidacy of Prof. Intidhar Ahmed Jassim, a member of Abadi’s party. Another video of Dr. Heshu Rebwar Ali, a KDP candidate, was circulated allegedly showing her in a short dress.

In another bizarre episode, two tribes in Najaf came into conflict after a video showed a 20-year old male from one tribe kissing the campaign poster of a female candidate from the other. In the end, $84,000 was paid to satisfy the “honor” of the woman’s tribe. The instances of targeting women illustrates the use of salacious rumors to harm candidates and tends to target successful women, reducing their chances of running and of other women’s willingness to do so.

In the US, it's also election year.  First comes the primaries.  In June, California holds its primary.  Kevin de Leon is running for the US Senate (I am supporting Kevin).

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, DISSIDENT VOICE and PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated: