Thursday, October 7, 2021


The story of immigration should be a story of open arms.  Instead, it is something completely different right now.  This is from today's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED (NPR):


Rickety boats packed with people are increasingly getting intercepted in the ocean between Haiti and the U.S. Hundreds of Haitians desperate to flee their country have been caught on the water just in recent weeks. And authorities in the Caribbean region are concerned it could be a new smuggling trend.

Patrick Oppmann is CNN's international correspondent and Havana bureau chief, and he joins us now to talk more about this. Welcome back to the program.

PATRICK OPPMANN: Thank you so much.

CHANG: So can you just describe this journey that these migrants are taking? Exactly what kind of boats are they using?

OPPMANN: You know, I don't even think it's fair to say that they're boats when you see some of the images of people in overcrowded vessels that they've built themselves, in a lot of cases. And we're talking in recent weeks about, you know, more than a hundred - in one case, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicting a boat full of - about 200 people aboard one boat. And these are boats that don't have proper navigation. Oftentimes, their engines break down. That's why we've seen some arriving here by accident in Cuba. And this is very, very dangerous at any time.

CHANG: You know that many of these people are trying to navigate the ocean without proper equipment, without proper navigation. Is there evidence that smugglers are involved?

OPPMANN: Absolutely. And people have to pay, you know, hundreds of dollars, sometimes more, to get on these boats. And usually, it's more often than not a journey that ends in failure.

CHANG: And the people who are willing to make this journey, are these mostly families or mostly single adults?

OPPMANN: You see young children a lot of times. But I think it's people that have one thing in common, which is they just don't want to be in Haiti, despite the danger of getting on a boat like this and spending days at sea. And what we've heard from people is that the economic conditions in Haiti are forcing them to leave - the chaos that's been caused by the pandemic, a real sharp increase in gang violence in Haiti - gangs that oftentimes seem to control parts of Haiti more than the government does. And then, of course, the earthquake and the political instability caused by the assassination of the President Jovenel Moise in July.

Annika Kim Constantino (CNBC) reports:

A former senior State Department official who oversaw the Biden administration’s Haiti policy said he resigned last month after learning on the news about the deportation of Haitian migrants. 

Daniel Foote, the former U.S. special envoy for Haiti, said during his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday that the administration did not consult him about the deportation of thousands of Haitian migrants who sought shelter last month in the border town of Del Rio, Texas. 

Foote’s revelation comes as President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have fallen, in part because of the way his administration has handled migrants and the border. Images of the Haitians, who took refuge under a bridge in Del Rio, turbocharged backlash against Biden’s immigration policies.

“Nobody asked me about the deportations,” Foote said Thursday. “I found out about it on the news just like the rest of us.” 

Shortly after seeing news about the deportations, Foote said, he learned more about the Biden administration’s plan to deport the majority of the Haitian migrants who were in Del Rio. 

 “I just couldn’t be associated with the treatment and just the knee-jerk decision to send them back to Port au Prince,” he said at the hearing. 

Remember when the White House used Wendy Sherman to try to smear Mr. Foote?  All the lies in the world will not cover up the lack of humanity the U.S. government is showing the Haitian migrants.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Thursday, October 7, 2021.  As Iraq gears up for elections, the US press and pundits are in denial over Hunter Biden.

Starting with White House spokesperson Jen Psaki.

That's not an answer that she's providing.  It does appear to be a pay-for-play scheme.  Psaki can say she's commented but she hasn't.  Her previous comments ere made before this went active.  She was speculating at that point -- that the nonsense the White House insisted would avoid conflicts of interest would work out.  Now the deal is being tested.  Clearly, she needs to refine her remarks and speak to not a hypothetical but what is now in practice.  I'm surprised no one in the press hit her with that.  

This is no longer a debate bout what could happen.  We now saw what could happen.  What happened appears to be a conflict of interest.  She needs to address that, the White House needs to address that.

Hunter Biden is US President Joe Biden's son.  Having left the mother of his children for the widow of his brother's wife and then having left the mother of his youngest child for a woman he met in 2020 and married weeks later, Hunter's pretending he has eveything straightened out.  But he doesn't.  And people are allowed to speculate.  Including about his drug addiciton.  We heard throughout 2020 that he was done with drugs.  Then his book -- that few bothered to read -- comes out a few months back and turns out that while that was being said, Hunter was still doing crack.  The son of the get-tough-on-users Joe Biden who did more damage in the Senate than anyone else with regards to penalizing addicts was using in 2020.  And that's the year he got married.

You cannot clean up your partner's drug addiction.  That's not how it works.  Yes, the press loves to tell that story which is a lie and it does great damage.  The data on recovery rejects that fairy tale and the media repeating it does real harm.  The reality is that he was active in his disease in 2020 and he shouldn't have been starting a new relationship with anyone if his plan was to become sober and stop using.  That's what the data supports.  Strange how we supposedly only care about 'the science' these days but repeatedly promote medical untruths.  Another person does not strip you of your addiction.  Even Bully Boy Bush never claimed that with regards to his drinking.  He was hitting rock bottom, he turned it over to God (higher power -- for those familiar with the 12 step program), etc.  

The media lied in 2020 and presented a 'for the love a good woman' bit of garbage that was harmful to addicts and to those who are in relationships with them.  

Hunter clearly cannot think clearly.  He has no long term sobriety that allows him to leave his 'stinking thinking' (to use AA jargon and he's got nothing to base decision making free of drugs on.  For that reason alone, he would need oversight and he would need clearly defined goals.  Joe failed to provide those as a parent and that's a failure within a family.  Joe is now the sitting president of the United States and his son is trying to profit off that with a money making scam which is enabled by people pretending that Hunter has talent as a painter.  He doesn't. Instead of offering that cold reality, too many media outlets are lying to protect an addict and pretending which is not going to help him with his disease.

The plan to avoid a conflict of interest was always a joke.  But we were all dealing in hypotheticals then.  It just went into practice days ago and already there are real and serious questions being raised.  

Jen Psaki or anyone else claiming that they spoke to this last week or last month or whenever doesn't cut it.  That was when the plan was just words.  We are now seeing it in practice.

From the transcript:

[MS. PSAKI}: Emerald, I promised I’d go to you next.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  I appreciate it.  First, following up on Jeff’s question regarding China and Taiwan: China has grown increasingly aggressive under this administration, and then now we’re set to start trade talks back with them.  There was concern when President Biden took office about his son’s business dealings with China.  He was supposed to divest himself of his stake in a Chinese private equity firm in December with ties to the Chinese central bank.  As of April, he had not yet done that.  And at some point, you were going to get back to us on that.  Do you have an update on that?  Has he dissolved that interest now?

MS. PSAKI:  I’d point you to his representatives on that.  He doesn’t work in the administration.  I would say though, Emerald, that — and I think you’re referring today to the announcement — this speech by Ambassador Tai about phase one.  And what I think it’s important to note here is that this approach definitely differs from the approach of the prior administration, in our view. 

Their approach hurts select sectors of the American economy and wasn’t targeted to address strategic problems we have.  These initial steps will help — we’re taking — are going to realign our trade policies towards — from the PRC toward our priorities.  And that’s the objective of this President.  It’s just the first stage in this process.  Obviously, the Ambassador gave an extensive speech today.

Q    But as we enter into this, though, the President has said during the campaign that none of his family will have any business relationship with anyone that relates to a foreign corporation or a foreign country.  Wouldn’t it be assuring to the American people, as we head into this, if they just let the American people know if Hunter has divulged himself of that to make sure there’s no (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI:  Again, I conveyed to you — and then I think I’m going to have to move on — that you should talk to —

Q    No, there’s — I have one more on Peter —

MS. PSAKI:  — that you should talk to his representatives.  And —

Q    Okay, I will.

MS. PSAKI:  There’s no reason to yell.  I’m certainly not yelling.  You should talk to his representatives.  That remains his policy.  He’s been working to wind that down.  Beyond that, I would talk to his representatives.

Again, this is not an adequate answer.  I'm grading on spokesperson terms, by the way.  I'm not expecting honesty.  I'm expecting basic common sense.

The question does not go to Hunter and his attorneys.  The question goes to the President of the United States, to someone who ran for that job and seemed to want it.  The promise was between Joe and the American people.  This has nothing to do with Hunter's words or his attorneys.  

It appears, since Jen won't answer, that Hunter's still in business with China.  If that's the case , Joe's promise to the American people has been broken and that question is news and it is one that the White House spokesperson should be prepared to answer.

Hunter Biden is an addict.  If he's not still active in his disease, that would be surprising.  Joe can't push off on his addict son the responsibility for Joe's promise to the people.

And before some idiot  e-mails the public account, learn what active in your addiction means.  Hunter's fairy tale about his drug usage and his 'cure' by marriage demonstrates that he is still active in his disease -- regardless of whether he's using drugs right now or not.  Study up on the literature before you e-mail, I'm not in the mood.  It's not easy being the only grown up in the room while various lefties rush to pretend there's no problem here and raising basic and serious questions is off limits.  It's not.  He is active in his disease.  If the press is too stupid to grasp that and if some lefty talkers are too whorish to tell that truth, that's on them.  I know what I'm talking about.  And f**k Hunter because this has real world applications.  You are misleading people and you're making it that much harder for people who want help for their addiction -- or their loved one's addiction -- to get help.

Let's deal with spouses/helpmates, whatever.  You're pushing guilt off on them with your b.s. garbage.  You're encouraging them to believe that if only they loved their partner as much as Hunter's wife loves him, their partner would be 'cured.'  

Do you not know the amount of guilt that partners already live with over addiction? And you want to add more to it with this garbage fairy tale that you insist upon presenting as reality?

Do you want to live with a death of some addict because you've lied and told them the love of a good partner will 'cure' them?  So instead of seeking professional help, they go off on a string of one night stands looking for Mr. or Ms. Right who will provide the cure?

How many overdoses are you willing to be responsible for in order to carry out that lie?

A pack of cigarettes comes with a warning, maybe the press needs one as well if this sort of nonsense about 'curing' addiction is what passes for 'reporting.'

I'm not in the mood.  The Aaron Mates of this world can whore and lie and do the very real damage they're doing apparently without any guilt.  Should we be surprised?  This is the same man who worked for DEMOCRACY NOW! and (a) helped sell war on Libya and (b) never even had the guts to correct Amy Goodman on his own name.  At the end of every broadcast while he was with the show, Amy ended every daily show mentioning him and the other people on the show -- every show.  And she never pronounced his name correctly.  Forgive me if I don't flip through PROFILES IN COURAGE looking for Aaron Mate's name.

Turning to Iraq . . .

AFP Tweets:

VIDEO: Iraq will hold early elections Sunday as a concession to a youth-led protest movement, but in Nasiriyah, the city at the heart of the revolt, most young people won't vote as they doubt the election will bring much-needed change to the war-scarred country
Youth in Iraq protest hub vow to boycott 'rigged' polls


For Chatham House,  Renad Mansour and Hayder al-Shakeri offer an analysis which opens with the following:

On October 10, Iraqis head to the polls in their country’s sixth election since regime change in 2003. Despite the promises of democracy, many Iraqis have become disillusioned with their political system, which deprives them of basic services and fundamental standards of living.

Many disillusioned Iraqis tried to bring about change through protests in October 2019. They believed their voice could be heard louder through mass demonstrations, instead of elections that only reinforced their corrupt political system.

Their demands were to put an end to the political elite’s institutionalized corruption, and many asked for a change in government through early elections in a safe and fair atmosphere. But the system proved resilient.

Despite the widespread public dissent, Iraqi state-allied armed actors clamped down on protesters, leaving more than 600 dead and tens of thousands wounded. Activists and potential mobilisers have continued to be targeted  in broad daylight at their homes before they can organise further protests.

The illusion of democratic elections helps give the system resilience because, at face value, it offers Iraqis a choice of who governs them. But in reality, the Iraqi elite use it as a mechanism to re-enforce their grip on power and state wealth.

The early elections have only been scheduled because of the brave protesters. The October Revolution  kicked off protests in the fall of 2019 and forced the prime minister to step down and early elections to be announced.  As ARAB WEEKLY notes, "Tens of thousands of Iraqi youths took to the streets to decry rampant corruption, poor services and unemployment. Hundreds died as security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds."  This is what forced the resignation of one prime minister and has led to national elections which are supposed to take place October 10th.  (Members of the Iraqi military will vote October 8thTwo election simulations have been carried out by the IEC and the third and final one will take place September 22nd.)    that the candidates for Parliament include 951 women ("close to 30% of the total number of candidates") who are running for the 329 seats.  Halgurd Sherwani (KURDISTAN 24) has reported Jeanine Hannis-Plasschaert, the Special Representiative in Iraq to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, declared that Iraq's "Female candidates face increasing levels of hate speech, violence, and blackmail intended to force them to withdraw their candidacy." 

Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) counts 3,249 people in all seeking seats in Parliament  BROOKINGS notes this is a huge drop from 2018 when 7,178 candidates ran for office.   RUDAW is among those noting perceived voter apathy, "Turnout for Iraq’s October 10 parliamentary election is expected to be a record low, with a recent poll predicting just 29 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots." Human Rights Watch has identified another factor which may impact voter turnout, "People with disabilities in Iraq are facing significant obstacles to participating in upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10, 2021, due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Without urgent changes, hundreds of thousands of people may not be able to vote.  The 36-page report, “‘No One Represents Us’: Lack of Access to Political Participation for People with Disabilities in Iraq,” documents that Iraqi authorities have failed to secure electoral rights for Iraqis with disabilities. People with disabilities are often effectively denied their right to vote due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places and significant legislative and political obstacles to running for office."  And Human Rights Watch Tweets:

“Every election day is the most depressing day for me,” said Suha Khalil, 44, who uses a wheelchair said she has never participated in an election. “Everyone goes to vote and I am stuck at home waiting for the day to end.” #IraqElection Take action:

The Assyrian Policy Institute Tweets, "Electoral reforms in Iraq instituted following the Iraqi protests did not involve minority stakeholders and failed to address the exploitation of the minority quota system.  Assyrians will largely be deterred from voting on Oct. 10 as a result."

 Another obstacle is getting the word out on a campaign.  Political posters are being torn down throughout Iraq.  Halgurd Sherwani  (KURDiSTAN 24) observes, "Under Article 35 of the election law, anyone caught ripping apart or vandalizing an electoral candidate's billboard could be punished with imprisonment for at least a month but no longer than a year, Joumana Ghalad, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), told a press conference on Wednesday."  And there's also the battles in getting out word of your campaign online.  THE NEW ARAB reported weeks ago, "Facebook is restricting advertisements for Iraqi political parties and candidates in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections, an official has told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site."

THE WASHINGTON POST's Louisa Loveluck Tweeted: of how "chromic mistrust in [the] country's political class" might also lower voter turnout.  Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) also notes, "Experts are predicting low turnout in October due to distrust of the country’s electoral system and believe that it will not deliver the much needed changes they were promised since 2003."  Mistrust would describe the feelings of some members of The October Revolution.  Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) notes some of their leaders, at the recent  Opposition Forces Gathering conference announced their intent to boycott the elections because they "lack integrity, fairness and equal opportunities."  Distrust is all around. The President of Iraq has identified corruption as one of the biggest issues in Iraq.  Halkawt Aziz  (RUDAW) reported on how, " In Sadr City, people are disheartened after nearly two decades of empty promises from politicians."   Karwan Faidhi Dri (RUDAW) explains, "People in Basra are not hopeful that the parliamentary election will bring about meaningful change and reform. The southern Iraqi province has seen several large anti-government protests in recent years."  AFP notes, "But the ballot has generated little enthusiasm among Iraq’s 25 million voters, while the activists and parties behind the uprising have largely decided to boycott the ballot."

How to address apathy?  Ignore it and redo how you'll count voter turnout.  RUDAW reports, "raq’s election commission announced on Sunday that turnout for the election will be calculated based on the number of people who have biometric voter cards, not the number of eligible voters. The move will likely inflate turnout figures that are predicted to hit a record low."  As for the apathy, John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed (REUTERS) convey this image

Iraq’s tortured politics are graphically illustrated in a town square in the south, where weathered portraits displayed on large hoardings honor those killed fighting for causes they hoped would help their country.

The images of thousands of militiamen whose paramilitary factions battled ISIS hang beside those of hundreds of young men killed two years later protesting against the same paramilitaries.

KURDISTAN 24 quotes political leader Ayad Allawi stating, "Corruption, illegal weapons in the hands of militias, armed groups, political money, and regional interference are the reasons for having no suitable election environment in Iraq."  While Chatham House's Renad Masnour notes Iraq's current system is "unable to . . . provide sufficient jobs or services."  ANEWS Tweets:

#Iraq's President #BarhamSalih says he expects difficulties in carrying out the country's coming elections.


After the election, there will be a scramble for who has dibs on the post of prime minister.  Murat Sofuoglu (TRT) observes, "The walls of Baghdad are covered with posters of Iraq’s former leaders, especially Nouri al Maliki and Haidar al Abadi, as the country moves toward its early elections on October 10. Both men however were forced out of power for their incompetence, and yet they are leading in the country’s two powerful Shia blocks."  Outside of Baghdad?  THE NEW ARAB explains, "However, in the provinces of Anbar, Saladin, Diyala, Nineveh, Kirkuk, Babel and the Baghdad belt, candidates have focussed on the issue of the disappeared and promised to attempt to find out what happened to them."

Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has 90 candidates in his bloc running for seats in the Parliament and one of those, Hassan Faleh, has insisted to RUDAW, "The position of the next prime minister is the least that the Sadrist movement deserves, and we are certain that we will be the largest and strongest coalition in the next stage."  Others are also claiming the post should go to their bloc such as the al-Fatah Alliance -- the political wing of the Badr Organization (sometimes considered a militia, sometimes considered a terrorist group).  ARAB WEEKLY reported, "Al-Fateh Alliance parliament member Naim Al-Aboudi said that Hadi al-Amiri is a frontrunner to head the next government, a position that can only be held by a Shia, according to Iraq’s power-sharing agreement."  Some also insist the prime minister should be the head of the State of Law bloc, two-time prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki.  Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters do not agree and have the feeling/consensus that,  "Nouri al-Maliki has reached the age of political menopause and we do not consider him to be our rival because he has lost the luster that he once had so it is time for him to retire."

In one surprising development, Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) has reported: "Iraq’s electoral commission aims to announce the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10 within 24 hours, they announced on Thursday following a voting simulation."

The following sites -- plus Elaine's "Sage Steele" -- updated: