Thursday, July 08, 2021

Free speech?

Jonathan Turley:

Free speech on American college campuses has been in a free fall for years. From high schools through law schools, free speech has gone from being considered a right that defines our society to being dismissed as a threat. According to polling, the result is arguably one of the most anti-free-speech generations in our history. The danger is more acute because it has reached law schools where future judges and lawyers may replicate the same intolerance in our legal system.

A recent controversy at Duke Law School highlights this danger. “Law & Contemporary Problems” is a faculty-run journal that recently decided to do a balanced symposium on “Sex and the Law” — including transgender issues — and asked Professor Kathleen Stock of the University of Sussex (who has criticized transgender positions) to participate.

Protests erupted over allowing such intellectual diversity.

The new set of student editors demanded that Stock be removed from the symposium. The faculty board issued a statement explaining the importance of freedom of speech and academic freedom, particularly on a journal that serves as a forum for debates on contemporary issues. Students resigned rather than associate with a journal offering both sides of such issues.

Some legal columnists echoed calls to ban those with opposing views. The legal site “Above The Law” (ATL) published an article denouncing the faculty for supporting free speech. ATL editor Joe Patrice ran a factually inaccurate tirade against Duke for using academic freedom as “a shield for professors to opine and behave in ways that marginalize others.”

The ATL criticism of Duke was illustrative of the new anti-free-speech movement that is now taking hold in law schools and legal publications. Academic freedom and free speech are denounced as tools to “marginalize others.” Patrice sums up why both the student editors and the Duke faculty must be condemned: “A ‘vigorous and open exchange of ideas’ is valuable only to the extent it improves the academic mission of improving the human condition. Is Trans skepticism within that field? It shouldn’t be, but here we are.” In other words, you are entitled to free speech so long as you cannot be accused of “marginalizing” others. 

There were a lot of things wrong with my college days but at least we had free speech and our professors and deans at least pretended to respect that.

If people aren't being taught the importance of free speech in college, I don't think they'll pick it up later in life.

That doesn't bode well for our future or for democracy.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

Thursday, July 8, 2021.  Tensions continue to flare in Iraq as two US service members are injured in an attack.

Basic truth:  If US troops aren't stationed in Iraq, they can't get injured in Iraq.  But they are and they do.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Two US service members were injured Wednesday in a rocket attack targeting the al-Asad airbase in Iraq which hosts US, Iraqi, and coalition forces." Caitlin McFall (FOX NEWS) adds, "U.S. officials told Fox News that one of the American service members injured during the rocket attack suffered a concussion while the other had minor scrapes following the incident."  Chad Garland (STARS AND STRIPES) explains, "About 14 rockets fell on al Asad Air Base at about 12:30 p.m., said U.S. Army Col. Wayne Marotto, a coalition spokesman, who confirmed the injuries and that all personnel had been accounted for."

ANI points out, "This is the second rocket attack on the Ain Al-Assad base this week. On Monday, the air base was hit by three rockets that did not result in any injuries or material damage."  And if you pull back a little so you're not zooming in on just al-Assad, the picture gets even worse.  Jeff Schogol (TASK AND PURPOSE) offers this context, "Wednesday’s rocket attack on Al-Asad Air Base marks the third time in as many days that U.S. installations in Iraq have come under fire — and it is still not clear who is responsible for the recent strikes."  Attacks that continued today in Iraq as ARAB WEEKLY notes, "Three rockets were fired at the US embassy in Iraq early Thursday, the Iraqi army said, at the end of a day marked by rocket and drone attacks on bases hosting American forces in Iraq and Syria."  NEWSWEEK's Tom O'Connor informs:

Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Yahya Rasool had earlier condemned such strikes in the wake of previous operations against Ain al-Asad Air Base in Al-Anbar Province, which injured two personnel of yet undisclosed affiliation, and Erbil Air Base in the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

Referring to these operations as "terrorist" attacks, Rasool said that "once again, the enemies of Iraq are intrusive and targeting the country's security, sovereignty and the safety of our citizens."

He also referred to earlier attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as illegal.

Rasool said the perpetrators were "targeting the headquarters of diplomatic missions that fall under the protection of the state, which represents a flagrant violation of all laws, and an attack on the prestige of the state and its international obligations."

Iraq was raised in yesterday's US State Dept press briefing held by spokesperson Ned Price:

QUESTION: Can I just ask about Iraq? There has been quite a bit of an increase in rocket attacks. Iraqi army officials say the pace of recent attacks against U.S. bases and with rockets and drones is unprecedented. Why do you think that is on the rise at this particular moment? What is your assessment on who is behind it?

MR PRICE: Well, I’d have to correct one thing you said. There are no U.S. bases in Iraq.


MR PRICE: There are a limited number of U.S. and other coalition advisors —

QUESTION: U.S. and coalition, yeah.

MR PRICE: — at Iraqi bases, at Iraqi Government invitation that, in turn, assist and enable Iraqi Security Forces to confront the remnants of ISIS. Look, I wouldn’t want to speak to the motivation of these attacks. I will say that what we recognize is that these attacks reflect and are representative of the threat that Iran-backed militias present fundamentally to Iraq’s sovereignty and to Iraq’s stability. We —

QUESTION: Do you know for a fact that they’re carried out by Iranian-backed militias, these attacks over the past couple of days?

MR PRICE: So obviously there have been recent attacks, and I wouldn’t want to prejudge investigations that are ongoing. But as we have said in the context of attacks that have taken place in recent months, they have been carried out by Iran-backed militias and President Biden, in turn, has responded – responded in different ways. But of course, perhaps most visibly, by authorizing the military strikes – most recently late last month, but also before that as well – on Iran-backed militia infrastructure in Iraq and Syria.

US military spokesperson Col Wayne Marotto was a little more specific on Twitter regarding the al-Assad base attack.  He typed:


confirms that OMG rocket launcher at AAAB caused damages to local homes and a Mosque.

while reTweeting the following photos of destruction:

بالساعة ١٢٣٠ توقفت عجلة حمل (نوع تريلة) بداخلها حاوية في منطقة البغدادي بمحافظة الانبار ، كان الظاهر من هذه العجلة انها كانت تحمل أكياس مادة الطحين، الا انها كانت تحمل قاعدة لاطلاق الصواريخ، حيث اطلقت ١٤ صاروخاً باتجاه قاعدة عين الأسد الجوية سقطت في محيط القاعدة...

Meanwhile, Philip Athey (MARINE TIMES) notes a US fatality in Iraq:

 A Marine Corps musician died in Iraq in April while on Marine Security Guard duty, according to a Navy safety report.

Marine Sgt. Amanda Nicole Brazeal, 26, from Chunchula, Alabama, enlisted in the Corps in 2017 shortly after graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in music, according to her obituary.

Jerry Genesio Tweets this morning about the passing:

DIED IN IRAQ - 04/22/21: Marine Sgt AMANDA N. BRAZEAL, 26, of Chunchula, AL. Marine Security Guard, US Consulate, Erbil, Iraq. Sgt Brazeal experienced shortness of breath during physical training and went into cardiac arrest. See

And, weeks ago, Kaitain Tweeted:

U.S. Marines carry team transfers the remains of Sgt. Amanda N. Brazeal of Chunchula, Alabama, April 24, 2021 at Dover AFB, Delaware. Brazeal was assigned to Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Region 2, Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Headquarters, Quantico, Virginia.

In case the video in the Tweet directly above didn't show up, here it is via YOUTUBE.

US troops wouldn't be wounded or dead in Iraq if . . . they weren't in Iraq.  What's the excuse -- the sorry excuse -- for US troops still being on the ground in Iraq?

Boxer Orwell Tweets:

There wasn’t a good reason for our troops to be in Iraq in 2003, there sure as hell isn’t a good reason today. Americans can’t get shot where they aren’t present. #Afghanistan is a good start, let’s keep bringing them home. Flag of United States

Bradley Blankenship (CGTN) argues:

Yet again, a base hosting U.S. and other allied troops was attacked by rocket fire on July 7 in Iraq. While there has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, a series of U.S.-launched bombings against Iranian-backed militias that are suspected of having committed similar attacks in the past in Syria and Iraq raises the question of what happens next.

If precedent is of any relevance, however, we can expect a U.S. retaliation against whoever is believed to be behind the attacks. As Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby has made clear in the past, the U.S. believes it has full legal justification to launch such attacks.

"As a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense. The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and appropriately limited in scope. As a matter of domestic law, the President took this action pursuant to his Article II authority to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq," Kirby said after strikes launched against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on June 27.

However, this is a flimsy argument since the U.S. and its allies are occupying these two sovereign countries illegally. This is not just a blanket condemnation of all U.S. military occupations around the globe, which is something not at all difficult to justify, but a mere observation of the fact that both Baghdad and Damascus have made clear that U.S. and U.S.-allied troops are not welcome.

For its part, Damascus has made this clear from the very beginning of the Syrian conflict that the U.S. is an occupying force and, for its part, the U.S. has made it clear that it does not accept the legitimacy of the current Syrian government nor respects the sovereignty of Syria as a state since it is currently occupying about one-third of the country's land.

I don't disagree with his outrage or with his argument that US troops should leave.

But we do need to note that he invoked "legally" and, legally, the occupation is not illegal.  The Iraq War remains illegal.  The occupation has not been.  After the start of the war, the United Nations offered legal cover for various countries -- including the US and the UK.  After the UN mandates were discontinued, they were replaced by agreements for each occupying country.  So, for example, the US negotiated its own agreement with the Iraqi government to continue the occupation.

If Bradley had argued that the puppet government created, installed and fostered by foreign forces (such as the US) was itself illegal, he'd be on stronger ground for making the argument regarding the legality of the ongoing occupation.  But even then, we'd be left with the reality that legal agreements -- by representatives of both governments (Iraq and the US) -- were in place covering the ongoing occupation.

He also doesn't know international law which he incorrectly invokes but we'll just make that observation and move on.  (He can take it up with whomever fed him that interpretation he floats in his article which is histrionic but not accurate.)

Related, regarding Afghanistan, a lot of claims are being made.  Including that the US is 'getting out' and the same should happen with Iraq.  Anyone making those claims needs to refer to the Pentagon press briefing John Kirby held earlier this week (his only one so far this week).  And then put on your thinking caps.  Afghanistan?  Troops can go back in.  That's openly offered in that briefing.  And that certainly happened in Iraq following the drawdown (not a withdrawal).  

While we're noting the ridiculous, let's note a new report that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the US Stated Dept are rather proud of.  They're pride is highly misplaced for numerous reasons.  We'll stay with our focus on Iraq and just note that a report entitled "The Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Congressional Report" -- a report which is 42 pages when appendices are included -- but never manages to even name check Iraq in a single sentence is a report that's a joke.  Afghanistan, Brazil, etc -- most foreign countries are mentioned throughout -- usually multiple times.  Iraq?

Not once.  Sometimes silence says more than words ever do.

If you have time to waste, [PDF format warning], here's the report.

That report was sent to Congress.  

The same Congress that has leadership -- in the Democratic Party -- that were pressing US President Joe Biden for 'action' earlier this week when the bases in Iraq were being attacked and who are only upping the pressure now that 2 US troops have been injured.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is arguing for something "visible" and "sweeping" -- something in an aerial response. She's among those -- and again, these are Dems advocating -- insisting that a response must be carried out and it must not look ''weak.''

Did Nancy really invoke the term "savages"?  I'm told she did.  Hopefully, she was just referring to those she labels "terrorists" and not the Iraqi people but, with Nancy, who knows?

The latest column from Margaret Kimberley (BLACK AGENDA REPORT) went up yesterday and the excerpt below is from it:

When the people get a little help, as happened with additional stimulus funds for the unemployed, politicians across the country took up arms for the ruling class and turned down free money just to stay in the good graces of their bosses.

Currently 25 states out of 50 have rejected additional help for the unemployed. The money came from the federal government and didn’t impact state budgets, but politicians know who calls the shots. When called upon to help struggling people they chose to do just the opposite. They helped their exploiters and in the process made a mockery of what passes for democracy.

There is no labor shortage in this country. Instead, there is a shortage of jobs that pay a living wage and that is because of the power of capitalists. They have grown richer precisely because they have forced workers to live in a constant state of precarity, and now it is quite literally better to stay home than to work for a pittance. 

Of course, the richest man in the world, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, is a master at coming up with new ways to subjugate workers. Any reports of job growth should be viewed with a very jaundiced eye as predatory capitalism has driven down wages and created a dystopia for workers. Bezos has mastered squeezing the most and giving the least. 

Amazon warehouse workers suffer from injuries  at higher rates than other employees in similar jobs but the injuries are part of the cost of doing business. It is expected that the grueling working conditions will create high turnover  which is exactly what Amazon wants. A revolving door of employees serves their needs quite nicely. Bezos made a big deal about a $15 per hour starting salary but he could certainly afford to pay a lot more, a real living wage. The tight-fisted billionaire who could potentially become a trillionaire got rich the old fashioned way. He cheats workers.

Bezos also comes up with new and ingenious ways to spread the suffering. Amazon Flex   delivery drivers are hired by apps and fired by algorithms. They have no interaction with human resources or any humans at all and they must pay a $200 fee to contest terminations that are rarely decided in their favor. 

Even when American workers lose their jobs they are still at the mercy of corporate giants.  contracts with states to provide public access to web sites such as those used for unemployment claims. Their facial recognition  software doesn’t verify everyone properly and desperate people wait days and weeks for their unemployment payments to arrive. As with Amazon there is no one to speak to for help. But state governments turn over millions of dollars to in order to cheat people out of benefits they have earned. Currently 30 states contract with to make sure that the most vulnerable are kicked while they are down.

The algorithm hirings and firings and the facial recognition technology problems are not bugs in the system. They are features. They are doing precisely what they are intended to do, keep workers poor, desperate, and at the mercy of capitalists. Cruelty is the point.

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