Monday, August 29, 2022

Blake Masters -- national embarrassment

Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters appeared to suggest on Twitter that female, Black and gay federal officials are responsible for the difficulties facing the U.S. economy.

On Sunday, Masters, a Republican endorsed by former President Donald Trump, shared a story from the Associated Press on Twitter about diversity at the Federal Reserve. The AP said that the Fed's leadership "has become its most diverse ever. There are more female, Black and gay officials contributing to the central bank's interest-rate decisions than at any time in its 109-year history."

"Finally a compelling explanation for why our economy is doing so well," Masters wrote, likely speaking with sarcasm about problems currently facing the U.S. economy, such as high inflation and concerns about a recession.

Wow, a triple insult.  This is what we need in the US Senate?
He insulted me personally, three times over.  
I'm a woman.  I'm gay.  And I'm African-American.
What a weak and rotten mind Masters has.


Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Monday, August 29, 2022.  Joe Biden continues to persecute Julian Assange, even as the dirty tricks of 2020 continue to surface, while in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr is leaving political life, he insists.

Starting with US President Joe Biden's ongoing persecution of Julian Assange.   Julian's 'crime' was revealing the realities of Iraq -- Chelsea Manning was a whistle-blower who leaked the information to Julian.  WIKILEAKS then published the Iraq War Logs.  And many outlets used the publication to publish reports of their own.  For example, THE GUARDIAN published many articles based on The Iraq War Logs.  Jonathan Steele, David Leigh and Nick Davies offered, on October 22, 2012:

A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.
Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.
The new logs detail how:
US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.

A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.

The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent death. 

To make sure no one's confused, Joe Biden is not going after Julian Assange because Julian committed War Crimes in Iraq.  Joe is going after Julian because Julian exposed War Crimes.  In Joe's mind, War Crimes are like his son's laptop in that both should be hidden from the public.

Binoy Kampmark (COUNTERPUNCH) reports:

On August 26, Assange’s legal team filed his Perfected Grounds of Appeal before the High Court of Justice Administrative Court.  The claims stretch back to the original decision of January 4 last year and focus on the seminal points that make the case scandalous.  They include the claim that Assange is being prosecuted and punished for his political opinions (s. 81(a) of the Extradition Act); that he is being prosecuted for speech protected by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights; that the request itself violates the US-UK Extradition Treaty and international law because it comprises political offences; that the US government has misrepresented core facts of the case to the UK courts; and that the extradition request and its surrounding circumstances constitute an abuse of process.

The application also makes the claim that Patel erred in approving the extradition order on grounds of specialty and because it violates Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty.  Article 4 stipulates that extradition will not be granted where “the competent authority of the Requested State determines that the request was politically motivated.”  As Julian Assange’s wife, Stella, stated, “overwhelming evidence” had emerged since the previous ruling “proving that the United States prosecution” against the publisher “is a criminal abuse.”

From the issue of ailing health, deemed a primary consideration in the lower court’s approach to Assange, the focus now turns upon the entire raison d’être of the case.  Assange, through provocative publishing, came to be seen as an agent of political disruption and disorder.  An informed populace is, as governments have found out, a dangerous thing.

In giving the rules of the sordid game away – exposing the atrocities, the abuses of power, the bankruptcy of unrepresentative politics – the Australian founder of WikiLeaks became the most prominent political target of the US imperium.  Journalism and activism have, in Assange, combined, his case nothing if not political.  It remains to be seen if the “competent authority”, to use the words of the poorly drafted, ill-weighted Extradition Treaty, agrees.


Attorneys for Assange will argue that the Australian journalist, who has been locked up in a UK supermax prison since 2019, is being prosecuted and punished for his political standpoints and also for protected speech, and that the extradition request violates the US-UK Extradirion Treaty and international law as it relates to what it calls political offenses.

Since the last ruling, overwhelming evidence has emerged, proving that the United States prosecution against my husband is a criminal abuse, said Stella Assange, Assange´s wife.

According to Stella, who met on Thursday in Geneva with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the High Court judges will now decide whether Julian is given the opportunity to put the case against the United States before open court, and in full, at the appeal.

Past week, attorneys and journalists filed a lawsuit in New York against CIA and its then director Mike Pompeo for spying on their conversations while visiting Assange in his asylum time in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The United States intends to prosecute the WikiLeaks founder for exposing war crimes committed by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thousands of State Department´s top secret files.

Oscar Grenfell (WSWS) adds:

In the US, the Biden administration is continuing the extradition request, initially lodged by Trump. In Britain, the Conservative government and the Labour opposition of Keir Starmer have demonstrated their intense hostility to Assange.

In Australia, where Assange was born and holds citizenship, the current Labor government has continued the line of the previous Liberal-National government and all earlier administrations. It is refusing to use its diplomatic and legal powers to secure Assange’s freedom, instead deepening the country’s alignment with the US confrontations with Russia and China.

This underscores the fact that the defence of Assange and the fight for his liberty depend on the development of a movement of the working class, directed against the entire political establishment. The basis for such a movement exists in the increasingly explosive struggles by workers against the soaring cost of living, austerity and the broader turn to authoritarianism by governments, of which the attack on Assange is a spearhead.

Joe Biden is no different than the despots the US government has spent years calling out.  He is attacking the press, he is harming the First Amendment.  He is carrying out a vendetta and (mis)using the US government to do so.  In a rational world, he would be urged to resign and, barring that, he'd find himself in a cell like Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno did.  

Legal expert Jonathan Turley weighs in on another issue related to Joe -- the partisan FBI:

Recently, I wrote about the disclosure of an alleged backchannel between the CDC and Twitter on censoring critics of the agency and its recommendations. Now, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed how the FBI warned Facebook about “Russian propaganda” before the Hunter Biden laptop story dropped in 2020. This follows reports that the FBI told agents not to pursue the laptop and to slow walk any investigation into Hunter Biden’s alleged influence peddling schemes.

Zuckerberg stated on The Joe Rogan Experience that “The FBI, I think, basically came to us – some folks on our team – and was like, ‘Hey, just so you know, like, you should be on high alert…  We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. We have it on notice that, basically, there’s about to be some kind of dump of that’s similar to that. So just be vigilant.’”

It is not clear why the FBI considered this type of media outreach was part of its responsibility as a law enforcement agency. This was before the presidential election and actively discouraged a major platform to allow discussion of major allegations of corruption. The use of the FBI for such a role gave Facebook officials ample cover to expand their censorship operations.

[. . . ]

Zuckerberg just shrugged when pressed on his company effectively joining the effort to kill the story before the election: “Yeah, it sucks. It turned out, after the fact, the fact-checkers looked into it. No one was able to say it was false.”

As with the earlier column on the CDC’s work with Twitter, there is a growing concern over the use of such backchannels for censorship by surrogates in these social media companies.

Zuckerberg stressed that, unlike Twitter, Facebook only buried the story but allowed limited discussion. It is the type of rationalization that only a censor would see as redeeming.  The alternative is free speech where Facebook does not assume the right to control what people discuss on such political issues.

On Sunday, Elaine pointed out another issue with regards to Zuckerberg's revelations, "Here's the point that's not made that needs to be made:  You don't say that two years after the fact.  You don't.  If you're being asked to silence/limit/censor a story, you need to reveal at that time.  It's not only censorship, it's also betraying the trust of your users."

Tara Reade Tweets:

You are starting to hear leaking through some truths: the FBI used their authority to censor negative stories about Joe Biden in social media in 2020 election. Mainstream media colluded as well. They are complicit. My history with Joe Biden was suppressed. This abuse of power.

If you've forgotten, Tara made credible allegations against Joe of assault.  The press, the everybody, response was to attack her and try to silence her.  We say 'the everybody' because YOUTUBE needs to explain their own censorship.  John Stauber Tweeted the following YOUTUBE video in 2020.

It never got beyond draft form at THIRD because there was always something else to cover.  But we did notice that, following John's Tweet, the video jumped to 15,000 views.  Briefly.  Then the views disappeared and it was down to 97.  That's not how the count's supposed to work.  And anytime the video's started to climb again in 2020, hours later it would drop again.  

The tech world was willing to violate every rule and every guideline to get Joe into the White House.  That's disgusting and that's shameful.  The ends never justify the means but these ends do make it very easy for the next political hack to get carried along by the press and social media.

I believe Tara.  I believe Joe assaulted her.  I believe THE NEW YORK TIMES knows this.  They worked very closely with Anita Dunn to smear Tara.

Let's move over to Iraq.  Last night, this is what we were noting.  

If cult leader Moqtada al-Sadr could find a bra for his pendulous breasts, would he be in a better mood?  Every day his mistakes himself or having more power than he does and he issues another ultimatum.  RUDAW notes:

Iraq’s Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Saturday gave a three day ultimatum to Iraqi political parties, saying he would sign an agreement only with people that have not been a part of the government since 2003.

“There is something more important than dissolving the parliament and holding early elections, and the most important thing is: the non-participation of all parties and personalities that have participated in the political process since the American occupation in 2003 until today,” read a statement from Salih Mohammed al-Iraqi, a figure close to Sadr, adding that such principle also applies for the Sadrists.

The statement set a deadline of 72 hours, during which Sadr would sign an agreement with parties that are interested in his initiative.

That was Saturday's demand.  Today's demand:

A spokesman for the Sadrist movement called on Sunday for the establishment of a new Iraq, devoid of militias, illegal possession of weapons, violence, fighting, sectarianism and warring parties.

“No to sectarian quotas,” said Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi, a close associate to Sadrist leader Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

He urged the establishment of a state of law “where brotherhood prevails, minorities are dignified, the judiciary is honest, balanced ties are forged with the outside, peace can reign, the army can protect, the government can serve, and religions and creeds are respected.” 

Even if you disregard everything but the results of the October 2021 elections, Moqtada does not represent much.  He represents a cult.  His cult didn't even get the most votes.  The political party that got the most votes in the October election was the KDP.

Yet he issues non-stop demands over and over.  Suadad al-Salhy (MIDDLE EAST EYE) reports:

Muqtada al-Sadr no longer has many options. Armed clashes, feared but not yet witnessed, are now imminent, Iraqi armed factions leaders and politicians told Middle East Eye.

It seems the latest escalation by the influential Shia cleric's supporters - marching on the headquarters of the judiciary - has caused considerable anger in Iraq and internationally.

[. . .]

As the Iraqi public nervously watched the Sadrists withdrawing on TV and social media, the commanders of the Popular Mobilisation Authority (PMA), a governmental paramilitary umbrella group that includes Sadr's Iran-backed rivals, met in Baghdad.

They convened to discuss developments in the situation and proposed steps to stop Sadr's "transgression of the sanctity of state institutions", a commander who took part in the meeting told MEE.

Apparently, Moqtada longterm desire to be a wet nurse has resulted in his decision to leave political life.   Ismaeel Naar (THE NATIONAL) reports this morning:

The powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr has announced his resignation from political life and the closure of his personal offices, a statement he released on Twitter said.

“I had decided not to interfere in the political affairs,” Mr Al Sadr wrote. "Now I announce my final retirement, and the closure of all institutions, except for the Holy Shrine, the Sharif Museum, and the Al Sadr Heritage Institute.

His resignation came a day after Iraqi President Barham Salih held talks with special UN representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi to discuss the continuing political crisis in the country.

A statement released by the president’s office said the meetings “discussed ways to get out of the existing crisis, stressing the importance of adopting dialogue among all to reach satisfactory results that guarantee the security and stability of Iraq”.

REUTERS notes, "Sadr has previously announced withdrawals from politics or government and the disbanding of militias loyal to him but retains widespread control over state institutions and still has a paramilitary group with thousands of members. He has often returned to political activity after similar announcements, although the current political deadlock in Iraq appears harder to resolve than previous periods of dysfunction."  MIDDLE EAST EYE quotes the Arab Center's Zeidon Alkinani, "Sadr announces his retirement from politics for almost the 10th time. As usual, he’ll be back in no time."


Because what I was told in an e-mail from one of his political buddies was that Moqtada was left a bullet on the end table by his bed and this is what prompted the decision.  That detail would explain why, as ALBAWABA reports, Moqtada added this detail to his resignation,  "The Sadrist leader also asked his supporters to pray for him in case he dies or is assassinated in a surprised move."

 The following sites updated:

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