Friday, February 21, 2020


Like most music lovers, I love Sade.  So let's offer five great Sade tracks.

"By Your Side."

I love that song and it may be the best thing Sade's ever written or recorded.


"The Moon And The Sky."

"Soldier Of Love."

"King of Sorrow"

Did you notice?  All the tracks are from the albums LOVERS ROCK and SOLDIER OF LOVE.  Sade just gets better and better with each album.  Yes, "You're Love Is King," "No Ordinary Love" and others are wonderful songs but the last two studio albums have demonstrated that Sade is an artist who continues to grow.

LOVERS ROCK came out in 2000, SOLDIER OF LOVE in 2010.  I hope that means that we will have a new studio album shortly.  Remember, Sade did "The Big Unknown" for the film WIDOWS. Sade also did "Flower Of The Universe" for A WRINKLE IN TIME.  Those are two songs begging to be on the next studio album.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, February 21, 2020.  Michael Bloomberg continues in his mission to buy the Democratic Party (with the help of some DNC leaders), he continues to refuse to release the women from the NDAs he forced them to sign, protests continue in Iraq, and much more.

Starting in the United States where Michael Bloomberg continues his attempt to buy the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  He didn't pay for this Tweet.

Remember when you had protesters and journalists arrested when you hosted the RNC rally? Remember you went on stage for your boy GW Bush and supported the invasion of Iraq.

It is a sign of the insanity in the leadership of the Democratic Party (and the hostility to Bernie Sanders -- which may also be a form of insanity) that they are considering Bloomberg, that they are breaking rules to get him on the debate stage and so much more.

Replying to   and 
Tom Perez is dangerous to our democracy. He is allowing Bloomberg to rig the election

The Tweet's directing to this POLITICO article about how they are plotting a brokered convention strategy.  Don't think it can happen?  In 2008, Nancy Pelosi took to the stage to announce that the states would not be voting in the middle of the roll call.  That should never have happened.  People who believe in democracy should decry any attempts by Pelosi to pull such a stunt again.

THE NEW YORK TIMES has a column by a lie-face piece of crap that we're not linking to.  The lie-face heard the stop-and-frisk case and wants you to know that Bloomberg "had a pure heart."  Shame on NYT.  That is beyond the scope of any hearing or the call of any judge.  They rule on legal issues, they do not peer into one's soul and determine whether or not someone is of "pure heart."  That the judge wrote that garbage goes to the fact that the judge is not -- and was not -- qualified to sit on a bench.

For reality on Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk policy and actions, see German Lopez's piece at VOX.

Julia Conley (COMMON DREAMS) notes:

Women's advocacy group UltraViolet called on the Democratic National Committee to keep former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg off the debate stage until the billionaire releases his former employees from non-disclosure agreements about alleged mistreatment at his company.
The group reiterated its call Thursday after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) lambasted Bloomberg over the dozens of sexual harassment allegations against him and his company and for refusing to release the women from NDAs at Wednesday night's presidential debate. UltraViolet originally circulated a petition ahead of the debate regarding the issue.

They are exactly right.  Elizabeth Warren is exactly right.  Joe Biden is exactly right.  If Bloomberg cannot release the women from the NDAs, he shouldn't be on the debate stage.

This is about transparency and a democratic process.

At IN THESE TIMES, Julianne Tveten offers:

Reaching staggering heights, billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Democratic presidential campaign has exceeded $400 million in spending for television, radio and online advertising. In early February, the campaign announced plans to dramatically increase that number—still a paltry fraction of Bloomberg’s fortune of over $60 billion.
It’s hardly unorthodox for a presidential candidate to devote millions of dollars to advertising. Historically, major candidates have spent roughly comparable amounts—regardless of the sources of their donations—generating a relatively level playing field in financial terms. In 2016, for example, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign spent a reported $73.7 million on TV ads, while Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton spent $62.6 million. Republican candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush spent $72.7 million and $66.9 million respectively.
Yet these numbers are a mere sliver of Bloomberg’s totals. In fact, Bloomberg’s expenditures aren’t just astronomical; they’re unprecedented, amounting to what many critics have called an act of grand-scale bribery in pursuit of the world’s most powerful political position.

Bloomberg formally entered the presidential race comparatively late, in November of 2019. Since then, he has eschewed the traditional campaigning methods used by opponents Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar, such as town halls in the earliest primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, relying instead on a colossal advertising budget. As part of that strategy, Bloomberg reportedly plans to concentrate on highly populous Super Tuesday states like California and Texas; Florida, whose primaries are on March 17; and New York and Pennsylvania, which hold primaries on April 28.

Tyler Bellstrom (JACOBIN) zooms in on another issue in this election:

Call it war fatigue, call it a realization of a mistake, or just call it a strategic repositioning, but it is clear that “endless war” is no longer considered de rigueur in Washington. The latest CNN/Des Moines Register presidential debates attempted to tease out exactly what the Democratic candidates meant by repeatedly saying, “We must end endless war,” in campaign rallies and in speeches. To the media, this becomes flattened; both Donald Trump and the Democrats say they are doing it — but who is right?
President Trump seems to favor the slogan when it suits him (particularly to cover whatever made him withdraw troops in Syria, thereby give the green light to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to invade), but it hasn’t stopped him from expanding presidential war powers or taking us to the brink of a major conflict with Iran. He has also ramped up strikes in Afghanistan, resulting in more civilian casualties, and expanded the drone war and aerial bombings, including rolling back some Obama-era reforms. His obsession with dismantling Barack Obama’s legacy has turned a relatively constructive relationship with Iran into an escalating confrontation. Trump is not ending endless war, no matter how much the media portrays him as wanting to rein in our military misadventures abroad. 
There seems to be major disagreement about what ending “endless war” or the “forever war” means. Taken simply, it would mean repealing the 2001 and 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which give legal authorization to the president to deploy troops and use drone attacks in areas of conflict from the Philippines to Mali. It certainly means ending the war in Afghanistan, the United States’ longest war. But in a larger sense, it requires a shift in US activity in the world, from a state of constant and endless war toward an attempt at peace. Politicians have been talking out of both sides of their mouth when prescribing and carrying out policy while deploying the phrase — they want to use the popularity of the idea without the rupture of policy change. They want to have their proverbial cake and eat it, too. This has been evident in the Democratic presidential primary.
Former vice president Joe Biden is attempting to position himself as an establishment voice with credibility based on his experience — his presidency would be a restoration of the American status quo. In advertisements, debates, and op-eds, he shows himself as a statesman, the man to bring the United States back to a leadership role in the world. In the same sentence, he calls for an “end to the forever wars,” but he does not want to end the war in Afghanistan, nor end “patrolling the Gulf,” nor bring troops home from Iraq and Syria. This is clearly not a call to end the forever war against terrorism, but a shift to what he calls being “strong and smart,” using special forces under the 2001 AUMF to reinforce local governments — remarkably similar to the current ineffective and radicalizing setup. It is disingenuous at best.
Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, while playing up his Afghanistan service, has repeatedly argued for repealing the 2001 AUMF, but he wants to replace it with an authorization that has a sunset. He also believes in the need for special forces and intelligence in Afghanistan — again, not a full withdrawal, not a true end. This is similar to what Obama wanted to do in his second term when he was pursuing an authorization to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq but couldn’t get it passed. It’s not clear what President Buttigieg would do if he was in the same situation as Obama and couldn’t get an authorization that he wanted. Would he continue the endless wars, or would he repeal the 2001 AUMF and not replace it, thus forcing a withdrawal from places he says must never “be used to become a terrorist bases” again?

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have sketched out their ideas and diagnosed the ills of endless war, both its ineffectiveness and its immorality. They want to prioritize diplomatic tools over military ones, and base their future actions on multilateralism rather than unilateralism, but they will face the same questions a President Buttigieg or Biden, or even current President Trump, does if truly withdrawing troops. Will they be alright with the criticism they’ll receive? Will they be comfortable being labeled weak? Will they be able to handle the Neville Chamberlain comparisons or being called isolationists? Both plan to involve Congress in new AUMFs — what if that fails? Will they have the courage to withdraw from potential “hot spots” of violence without congressional cover?

In Iraq, the protests continue.

I talk to people in Tahrir Square today & asking what they think of & aren’t they afraid that the virus 🦠 distributes, one of the protesters told me that they think the virus is already in , & the corona virus will not make them to stop.

Protesters in Kut city in southern Iraqi province of Wasit has closed the Mahran border crossing between and due to that has been spread in Iran, and local reports claim that 13 cases diagnosed until now.
Protesters in , Dhi Qar celebrate a wedding of one of the demonstrators to mark the peacefulness of the , which has continued for 5 months to end the role of in Iraq and restore freedom and independent of .

Iraq's southern protesters refuse to back down

Threats and violence have not stopped the protests.

Ongoing systematic crimes against the protesters underline authority’s intent to end their activity by any means. Kidnapping of activist follows shortly after pledges for protection of protesters and enacting reforms by PM-designate.

The activists will not be intimidated.  They are fighting for a better Iraq, for an end to corruption, for basic needs such as jobs.  Their government responds with threats and violence.

Iraq’s anti-government demonstrations have seen 528 protesters killed and 24,000 more injured since they began on October 1, according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR).

Each week appears to start with a new horror.  The latest horror?  The government (which the militia is a part of) now uses hunting rifles to attack the protesters.

Where is the United Nations and the international community? The Iraqi government and criminal militias are brutally suppressing peaceful protesters in Iraq in the use of internationally prohibited weapons such as hunting rifles. Why don't they do anything about it ?

For any new to these protests, Sajad Jiyad (WORLD POLITICS REVIEW) notes:

Anti-government protesters in Iraq have spent more than four months calling for political and economic reforms and venting their anger at the failure of successive governments to provide better living standards and economic opportunities. Security forces, caught off-guard by the strength and resilience of the youth-driven protest movement, have responded with a campaign of repression that has killed more than 600 people and wounded tens of thousands more across the country. But the crackdown has only intensified the crisis, as Iraqis continue to take to the streets demanding justice for slain demonstrators and reforms of the political system.
The government has been largely ineffective in the face of the unrest. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has led a caretaker government since announcing that he would resign in late November, as the country’s leading political factions—the pro-Iran Bina coalition and the Sairoon bloc, which is headed by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr—took two months to settle on a compromise candidate to replace him: Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, a former communications minister. But immediately after President Barham Salih announced Allawi’s nomination earlier this month, protesters denounced Allawi as part of the same political establishment that they have been railing against. 

Originally, Shi'ite cleric and goon squad leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for the protesters to be protected.  By this month, he had unleashed his own goons on them.  Moqtada isn't in in Iraq -- he once again, tail between legs, fled to Iran.  Harith Hasan (EPC) observes:

Al-Sadr was surprised by the strength and breadth of the rejection of his priorities, and that the protest movement had developed in a way that made it difficult for him to fully control its dynamics. In fact, the Sadrists clashed with other protesters in Najaf and Baghdad leaving a number of people killed. The incidents produced a new polarization which sometimes took on an ideological character between “Islamist” Sadrists and “secular” civilians. Therefore, Al-Sadr has found himself in a difficult and unprecedented situation, not only because he was no longer "immune" from public criticism as the case in the past with thousands of demonstrators chanting against him now, or the collapse of his previous alliance with the "civilian" forces, but also because he is seen as the prime advocate for the upcoming Allawi government at a time when the Shiite religious authority did not show much enthusiasm towards this government and the fact that the rest of Shiite forces refrained from voicing full support of the government. As a result, Al-Sadr has been recently trying to deescalate with the protesters and reaffirm that the Allawi government must not be controlled by political parties but rather must be an independent and technocratic government.
Allawi faces the challenge of reconciling his desire to gain popular legitimacy by forming a non-partisan government, and his need for the parties' votes in the parliament. This challenge is further exacerbated by the pressure exerted by Al-Sadr, the rejection shown by large sections of the protest movement to Allawi's nomination and the pressure exercised by some political forces seeking positions in the next cabinet. Nevertheless, if Allawi succeeds in retaining Al-Sadr's support and Iran's acceptance, and manages to introduce a lineup that does not provoke more popular opposition, he may succeed in endorsing it in the parliament only with the help of Al-Sadr's and Iran's pressure on the Shiite forces that can guarantee a majority even in the event of opposition by the Kurdish and Sunni forces demanding ministerial positions. However, the endorsement of this government will not likely be the end of the conflict between the political class and the grassroots, but rather the beginning of a new phase.

Allawi was supposed to announce his new government -- his Cabinet.  This is supposed to be happening.  Last Saturday, ARAB NEWS and AFP reported:

Iraq is close to announcing an independent and impartial cabinet made up of competent and impartial individuals, the country’s caretaker Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi said on Saturday.
"We're nearing a historic achievement: completing an independent cabinet of competent and impartial people, without the intervention of any political party," Allawi said on Twitter.

He pledged to "submit the names of these ministers within the current week", which begins on Sunday in Iraq.

As noted in Monday's snapshot, many of the protesters are rallying around Alaa al-Rikaby as the one who should be named Prime Minister designate.  Earlier this week,ARAB NEWS and AFP report:

Iraq is close to announcing an independent and impartial cabinet made up of competent and impartial individuals, the country’s caretaker Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi said on Saturday.
"We're nearing a historic achievement: completing an independent cabinet of competent and impartial people, without the intervention of any political party," Allawi said on Twitter.

He pledged to "submit the names of these ministers within the current week", which begins on Sunday in Iraq.

Now he's back peddling, insisting it will be Monday instead.  Oh, and no formation, just going to send the names to Parliament which will then vote.

Muhammed Tawfiq Allawi to hand over his cabinet papers to the Iraqi parliament on Monday. Allawi has refused any candidate the Kurdish political parties has nominated, and he has chosen three independent Kurdish candidates, each from a province. According to a Kurdish MP
Uncharted political territory in where prime minister elect Mohammad Allawi refusing to give parties control over appointing cabinet ministers. Parliament vote expected Monday with some major blocs saying they won't support him.

Quite a step down from his earlier proclamation.  He was already shaky in terms of support.  This delay may further erode his support.   Today, THE WASHINGTON POST's Louisa Loveluck Tweets about al-Rikaby.

Rare interview here with Alaa al-Rikaby, who some of Nasiriyah's protesters have rallied around as an alternative to PM-desginate to Allawi. He says he's faced many threats, sleeps in a different location every night: great work .

Here's the video she's noting.

Along with support from many of the protesters, al-Rikaby is said to have the support of many Iraqis.  This apparently extends into the Parliament as well.

In Iraq, political alliance of Speaker of Parliament, Iraqi Power, says it will not vote for nomination of Muhammad Allawi as new PM. Allawi does not have the approval of protesters.

Schluwa Sama (JACOBIN) looks at the protests:

In Iraq, “we need a homeland” is the most popular and persistent demand by protesters. It is not only chanted in slogans but also represented in people’s practices in the occupied squares, the most prominent of which is Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. What might sound like a purely nationalist sentiment is nothing less than a call by Iraq’s unemployed, impoverished youth — supported by the middle classes — to take ownership over all facets of life from the ruling class and strip away the imprints of war and sectarianism that have destroyed the country.
In the demonstrations, which originally erupted in October, young men and women are protesting together, shouting, “Here are your men, oh homeland” and “Here are your women, oh homeland” — a response to the recent entreaties by Muqtada al-Sadr, the influential cleric, that protesters of mixed genders not mingle, that they refrain from smoking, and that all women wear headscarves. These defiant displays are a way of embodying a new type of homeland, radically breaking with the vision of leaders like al-Sadr, who has proclaimed that Iraq is and shall stay “a conservative society.”
If anything, al-Sadr’s attack on the protests has only strengthened them. On January 26, thousands of students joined the uprising, denouncing Iranian and US influence in the country. The massive turnout showed not only the movement’s readiness to defy any representative of “the old homeland” (i.e. the ruling elite), it also revealed splits within al-Sadr’s largely poor constituency, with some growing disillusioned with the cleric’s rhetoric and joining the call for a homeland devoid of sectarianism.
When Iraqis draw graffiti with the cuneiform script of the ancient Sumerian civilization in Tahrir Square, they are actively remaking their own history and denouncing the sectarianism that has divided the nation for the ruling class’s benefit. When they put up posters speaking in the name “of the people” and ban any sectarian language, they are expressing their desire to put ordinary Iraqis of all stripes first.

The country’s sectarianism is an outgrowth of the 2003 US invasion, whose exponents viewed Iraq as irrevocably divided between Sunni, Shi’a, and Kurds and institutionalized a sectarian system. The arrangement fueled an insurgency, sectarian violence, and the rise of ISIS — all while a corrupt, Iraqi-exiled elite, in close affiliation with the US, exploited Iraq’s resources. At the height of the sectarian war between 2006 and 2008, fifty-two thousand people lost their lives and Iran moved in, seeing opportunities to gain political and economic might within Iraq. In 2017, the war against ISIS took the lives of an estimated nine thousand to eleven thousand civilians, all while militarizing society and strengthening the militias that people are now struggling against.

Lastly, the US government is refusing to release records and hiding behind "national security claims" yet again.  The editorial board of WSWS notes:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has rejected a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by David North, national chairman of the Socialist Equality Party (US) and chairman of the international editorial board of the World Socialist Web Site. North had filed his request to obtain access to whatever documents the government may have acquired through surveillance by the FBI and related intelligence agencies of his activities in the socialist movement over a period spanning nearly 50 years.
After an almost nine-month delay that violated numerous statutory deadlines, the US Department of Justice informed North that his FOIA request had been denied. It stated that for reasons of national security and foreign intelligence operations, the government would neither admit nor deny the existence of records pertaining to surveillance of North and illegal efforts to disrupt his political activities.
In the letter dated February 15, 2019 rejecting North’s request for documents, the Department of Justice wrote:
The nature of your request implicates records that the FBI may or may not compile pursuant to its national security and foreign intelligence functions. Accordingly, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of any records about your subject as the mere acknowledgment of such records [sic] existence or nonexistence would in and of itself trigger harm to national security interests. … This response neither confirms nor denies the existence of your subject’s name on any watch lists.
The FBI gives “neither confirm nor deny” responses—known in legal terminology as “Glomar responses”—in only the most sensitive cases. In Fiscal Year 2018, for example, the government responded in this manner in just three percent of total FOIA requests.
The FBI took 270 days to respond to North’s FOIA request, which was filed in May 2018. Under FOIA, the government is obligated to respond within 20 days or notify the requestor of “unusual circumstances” necessitating a further 10-day delay. On average, the FBI responds to “simple” requests in nine days and “complex” requests in 121 days.
The text of the FOIA statute establishes that an “unusual circumstance” justifies delay only when (1) the records in question are spread out across multiple “field offices,” (2) there is “a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request,” or (3) where the FBI has a “need for consultation … with another agency having substantial interest in the determination of the request.”

The statute also requires the government “set forth the names and titles or positions of each person responsible” for a request denial. In North’s case, the FBI has provided no explanation for the “unusual circumstances” justifying its delay, nor for its failure to enumerate those individual agents responsible for the denial.

The following sites updated: