Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Obergefell runs for office

Jim Obergefell, whose landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationally, is hoping he and fellow Democrats can make gains in the Ohio Statehouse this year with a message grounded in equality.

“It really just all comes down to: Can’t we all just get along and treat each other like human beings? Can’t we be decent people?" the celebrity plaintiff -turned-Ohio House candidate told the Democratic Women of Erie County on a recent summer evening. “And we all deserve to be part of ‘We the People.’"

Obergefell, 56, is unopposed in a primary Tuesday for a state legislative seat representing Ohio’s Lake Erie coast through Ottawa and Erie counties. He’s already looking toward a November faceoff against second-term Republican Rep. D.J. Swearingen, 36, a Sandusky attorney who has focused his campaign on “kitchen table” issues.

Good.  Face to face can be a good learning experience.  Senator Tammy Baldwin has been reaching out to Republican colleagues in the Senate to put a face on the issue of marriage equality.  

We discussed Senator Baldwin's efforts in the "Roundtable" for Third.

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2022.  Joe continues to persecute Julian, Nancy sews chaos and the international press pretends not to notice that Muatafa al-Kadhimi's government has different responses to protesters.

Another case of COVID or not, US President Joe Biden continues to make time to persecute Julian Assange for the 'crime' of journalism.  Binoy Kampmark (COUNTERPUNCH) observes:

They really do want to kill him.  Perhaps it is high time that his detractors and sceptics, proven wrong essentially from the outset, admit that the US imperium, along with its client states, is willing to see Julian Assange perish in prison.  The locality and venue, for the purposes of this exercise, are not relevant.  Like the Inquisition, the Catholic Church was never keen on soiling its hands, preferring the employ of non-church figures to torture their victims.

In the context of Assange, Britain has been a willing jailor from the start, guided by the good offices of Washington and none too keen in seeing this spiller of secrets released into the world.  Bail has been repeatedly, and inexcusably, refused, despite the threats posed by COVID-19, the publisher’s own deteriorating health, and restrictions upon access, at regular intervals, to legal advice from his team.  Just as some banks are deemed too large to fail, Assange is considered too large a target to escape.  Let loose again, he might do what he does best: reveal government venalities in war and peace and prove the social contract a gross deception and mockery of our sensibilities.

The UK legal system has been the ideal forum to execute the wishes of Washington.  Each legal branch that has examined the extradition case has assiduously avoided the bigger picture: the attack on press freedom, exposing war crimes, illegal surveillance of a political asylee in an embassy compound, the breaches of privacy and legal confidentiality, the encroachments upon family life, the evidence on proposed abduction and assassination, the questionable conflicts of interest by some judicial members, the collusion of State authorities.

ANTIWAR.COM's Scott Horton notes:

On the 8th of August at 3:00 Eastern, Roger Waters will be joined by retired U.S. Army major Todd Pierce in an event to support Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and his resistance to being extradited to the U.S. on bogus espionage charges.

RSVP here.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, thousands turned out.  FRANCE 24 notes, "Thousands of demonstrators opposed to Iraq's powerful cleric Moqtada al-Sadr staged a protest on Monday at the edge of Baghdad's fortified government zone, where Sadr's supporters were holding an open-ended occupation of Iraq's parliament."  Thousands.  Thousands to Moqtada's hundreds.

Moqtada controls Sadr City, a slum in Baghdad.  He's controlled it for roughly two decades now.  It was a slum then and it's a slum now.  That's what's peeled off a number of his cult followers.  They're aware Moqtada lives large and, of course, they're aware that they don't.  Year after year, the slum has seen no improvement.  All Moqtada has is his cult and the promise that he can awe the press by turning them out.  But occupying the Parliament?  He only got hundreds to turn out this go round.  

And the Shi'ite opposition to him turned out thousands.  Martin Chulov (GUARDIAN) types:

Demonstrators from Iran-backed groups, known as the Coordination Framework, joined the fray as concerns grew of spillover violence among the country’s Shia communities and even deeper chaos for a country battered by a series of socio-economic crises.

The unpredictable Sadr performed strongly in a national election held last October, but ordered his MPs to resign and has recently begun rallying his formidable numbers on the Iraqi streets – posing a mounting threat to the political establishment.

Iranian-linked groups on the other hand performed poorly in the poll and have since been trying to claw back losses, refusing attempts to name a president, or prime minister and insisting that their influence remains strong in the 329-seat parliament.

All these months later, Martin, is still too difficult to be honest.  Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who is very unpopular with the Coordination Framework (they openly accused him of treason ahead of the elections and did so outside Mustafa's home), made a decree right before the election that these militia members would not be allowed to participate in early voting.  Since they were required to guard polling stations the day of the election, this disenfranchised many.

Why can't you be honest about that, Martin?  Why do you have to lie?  Once upon a time when Nouri went after you, we defended you here.  I don't think I'd defend you today as you go out of your way to mislead your readers.

And please note what happened when these people protested, "The demonstrators gathered near the fortified government zone with clashes breaking between the protestors and security forces, who set up roadblocks, firing a water cannon at the crowds to keep them away from the parliament."

Oh, so they will still use force.

Just not on Moqtada's cult.  

So it does back to the issue of a stand down as Arabic media has noted since Sunday.  Mustafa is currying favor with Moqtada and he's refusing to have the security toss Moqtada's cult out of the Parliament.  Just like he refused to order them to follow basic procedures and disperse Moqtada's cult when they began dismantling barriers around the Green Zone to enter it.  The normal response to that, tearing down the barriers, is to open fire.  That has been the standing response since the summer of 2006 when Iraqis first attempted to get into the Green Zone.  Somehow, when Moqtada's supporters try to tear down the barricade and actually manage to enter the Green Zone, the standing response is tossed aside.  

I see REUTERS also reports that a water cannon was used on these new protesters but REUTERS also fails to note the obvious: This wasn't done to Moqtada's cult.  

Two different groups of protesters and two different responses.  

Used to be that was exactly the topic that would inspire journalists to produce a lot of copy.  

Here we just get silence.

Let's also note that the counter-protesters were not attempting to enter the Green Zone.  They had been told by their leaders not to and the closest they came was too approaching a bridge.  But they were fired on -- with temperatures over one hundred degrees, they were fired on with hot water.  

But Moqtada's cult was just allowed to break in and enter the Green Zone with no push back at all -- twice allowed in one week.

AL MAYADEEN reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi called Monday on all parties to sit at the table for a national dialogue in order to reach a political solution to the current crisis.

Al-Kadhimi considered that "Our dear Iraq is witnessing great political tension that may threaten - God forbid if the wise do not interfere - with dire consequences."

"We call on all parties to calm down and reduce escalation, to start an initiative for a solution on national grounds, calling on everyone not to be drawn into accusations, the language of treason, the instigation of hostility and hatred between the Brotherhood in the same country," the Iraqi Prime Minister expressed.

A liar's going to save the country?  Not only is he enforcing one standard for Moqtada's cult and another for others who protest, he's the liar who took Iraq here.  The October Revolution forced the resignation of a prime minister.  Mustafa was then inserted as prime minister and he was supposed to bring early elections -- that did not mean a few months earlier.  He was supposed to bring them about before he had a year in office.  He was supposed to call for elections, make it happen, let the people vote and let a new prime minister take over.

But corrupt Mustafa decided he wanted to stay prime minister.  So he delayed the start of early elections.  He is part of the problem, The October Revolution identified him as such.  

If you think things can't get more absurd, note this from TRT:

Türkiye has urged "common sense and restraint" as opposing demonstrations in Iraq over the nomination of a new prime minister are feared to further escalate tensions.

Türkiye follows the developments in Baghdad with "concern," the Foreign Ministry said on Monday in a written statement, adding that it hopes the current political uncertainty is settled soon.

It urged that "an inclusive and representative government" should be established without delay in line with the expectations of the Iraqi people.

Or what?  The Turkish government will fire on another resort killing people including children?  Yes, events have been extreme in Iraq over the last few days, but, no, Recep, the world has not forgotten that you are a killer and you fired on civilians -- including children.

Yesterday, at ARAB NEWS, Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami pointed out:

The artillery shelling of Zakho, a mountain tourist resort in the Iraqi Kurdistan region of Dohuk, on July 20, which killed or injured dozens of innocent civilians, raised questions about the significance of the timing and the parties responsible.
There are also many questions about the objectives of the attack at this delicate juncture in the Iraqi arena, with tensions already high between various political factions and alliances. Iraqi-Turkish relations are also strained by differences over water and security issues, not to mention an additional layer of volatility from the worsening Turkish-Iranian rivalry in northern Iraq.
The timing of the attack on Dohuk could barely have been worse, coming as it did when the Iraqi arena is mired in a complex and precarious political deadlock involving various Shiite factions and a scandal over a potentially explosive leak. In a leaked recording, Nouri Al-Maliki, the notorious former Iraqi prime minister, secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party and head of the State of Law Coalition, is heard remarking on his “good” relations with Qais Khazali, the leader of the controversial pro-Iranian Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq militia, which is designated as a terrorist entity by the US. Al-Maliki also confirms that the Fatah Alliance, the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades and Sayyid Al-Shuhada factions are all affiliated with Iran, among other things. The contents of the recording brought the Shiite factions to the verge of infighting.
The Dohuk attack also took place only a day after the whistleblower who leaked the recording predicted that, if published, Al-Maliki’s supporters would “blow up” the Iraqi arena to distract Iraqis from the contents of the recording. Furthermore, the attack occurred as Turkey was preparing for a new military campaign in northern Syria and just days after a tripartite summit involving Turkey, Russia and Iran, during which Moscow and Tehran attempted to exert pressure on Ankara to dissuade it from the military operation — efforts it vehemently rejected.
The attack also added an unwelcome complexity to Turkish-Iraqi relations, resulting in a new atmosphere of escalatory diplomacy between the two neighbors, which has already had an adverse effect on their trade relations. This quickly became evident from the Iraqi government and people’s rapid and hostile reaction against Turkey. Ankara was immediately accused of involvement in the attack and official Iraqi responses hinted at the possibility of summoning the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad, withdrawing the current Iraqi charge d’affaires from Ankara and suspending measures to appoint a new ambassador there. Iraq also submitted a dossier to the UN Security Council, containing the dates and details of consecutive Turkish attacks against Iraq, with the goal of putting an end to such acts that violate UN norms.
In addition, Iraq rejected Turkey’s denial of involvement in the attack and its allegations accusing the PKK of responsibility, as well as rebuffing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warnings not to fall into what he insisted was a trap. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein announced that his country has recorded more than 22,700 Turkish transgressions against Iraqi territory since 2018, saying that the country has lodged 296 protest notes as a result of such interventions.

We'll wind down with this from Andre Damon (WSWS):

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will arrive in Taiwan in the next 24 hours, flanked by a US aircraft carrier, a destroyer, a cruiser and dozens of F-35 aircraft in a deliberate effort to provoke an escalation of the US-China conflict.

Pelosi's arrival in Taiwan is deliberate and calculated provocation against China. The consequences are potentially catastrophic.

Working people in the United States must oppose this deliberate provocation, carried out with the imprimatur of the White House, which threatens to spiral out of control, risking countless lives in Taiwan, China, the Asia/Pacific region and the United States itself.

Figures within the US political establishment have made clear that any Chinese military response would be met with a military response by the United States. Zack Cooper, former National Security Council official, told the Washington Post, “If the Chinese intentionally take action or if there’s some sort of accident that leads to a real clash—ships or aircraft touch each other, or if you get a radar lock on an aircraft or a missile that flies very close over Taiwan—I think that you’d see that the United States feels it has to respond quite forcefully to that.”

“The risks of escalation are immediate and substantial,” warned Evan Medeiros, a former Asia adviser to President Barack Obama, in a statement to the New York Times. “This is an exceptionally dangerous situation, perhaps more so than Ukraine.”

For their part, Chinese officials have said that they see Pelosi’s visit as crossing a “red line.” Famously, U.S. President Joe Biden declared in December 2021, “I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” leading to the US-NATO war against Russia over Ukraine.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “If the United States insists on going ahead, China will have to take firm and forceful measures to defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

China’s Global Times newspaper, speaking for significant factions within the Chinese state and military, responded to the planned visit by declaring that the response from China would be “military but also strategic.”

In a phone call with Biden last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Biden that “Those who play with fire will perish by it,” the most open threat of military retaliation by a Chinese president in recent history.  

The claim that the White House cannot stop Pelosi from traveling to Taiwan is a lie. Pelosi will be traveling on a military aircraft, supported by at least a half-dozen warships, and will likely be escorted by fighter jets. As “commander-in-chief,” it is entirely within Biden’s purview to withhold these military assets.

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