What do you say? "Heaven help us"? OMG? "That takes the cake"? I have no idea how to react to this news:
United States climate envoy John Kerry claimed Tuesday that President Biden had no idea the US-UK-Australia submarine deal would upset the French government and “had not been aware of what had transpired” — as Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Paris in an effort to ease the diplomatic tensions.
Kerry, secretary of state in the Obama administration, was asked in an interview on French television about the Biden administration forging the agreement with Australia — even though France already had a $40 billion deal with Australia for 12 submarines.
“President Biden asked me about it, and I told him and expressed…,” Kerry said, according to the National Review.
“You told Joe Biden that it was not the right…,” the interviewer said.
”He asked me. He said, ‘What’s the situation?’ and I explained
exactly. … He was, he had not been aware of that, he literally,
literally had not been aware of what had transpired,” Kerry said in the
Is John Kerry trying to portray President Biden as a buffoon? What was he thinking? He is never going to be president. Does he get that and is he jealous of Mr. Biden? I have no idea why anyone serving in the administration would say such a thing. He is basically stating that Mr. Biden is too stupid to conduct international affairs.
And maybe Mr. Biden is. But does someone in the administration think it is okay to say that?
Now here is THE CONVO COUCH.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Tuesday, October 5, 2021. As Iraq's elections get closer, the body of an Iraq War veteran is discovered in Alabama, John Chilcot, head of the UK's Iraq Inquiry passes away, Hobby Lobby gets some unwanted attention, and much more.
As I've said before, I don't know how anyone can shop at Hobby Lobby. They've stolen so many artifacts around the world for their Museum of the Bible. It is not one item that they've trafficked in, it's many. Erin L. Thompson (SLATE) documents many of their thefts while noting that many more may exist:
While it’s true that the Museum of the Bible is not staffed with supervillains rappelling down from skylights to snatch cultural treasures, it didn’t simply accidentally drift into the black market. When the Greens first started their shopping spree, they consulted with noted cultural heritage specialist Patty Gerstenblith about the laws governing the antiquities market. I know Gerstenblith. Don’t let the “Patty” fool you; she is formidable, knowledgeable, and very clear about what’s right and what’s wrong. She should have put the fear of God into the Greens—or, at least, the fear of the Department of Justice. But instead, they seem to have turned her warnings about what not to do into a handy checklist of tips for evading the law.
Apologists have also argued that the museum has fully cooperated with the federal investigations into the Dream Tablet and the falsely labeled antiquities shipments. This might be true—but, at the very same time, Hobby Lobby was trying to get Iraq and Egypt to sign away their rights. In 2020, I received a leaked copy of the agreement Hobby Lobby was asking Iraq’s ministry of culture to sign, and shared it with Candida Moss, who wrote about it for the Daily Beast. Among other things, the agreement promised to return the Dream Tablet and other antiquities to Iraq in return for the right to display some of these antiquities as loans—and a total waiver of all causes of action Iraq might have against the museum or any of its donors (e.g., Hobby Lobby and the Greens). But the company was trying to bargain with a chip it didn’t have—the feds had already seized the Dream Tablet in 2019. Unsurprisingly, the museum had to admit that it was “not able to finalize the desired agreements,” since both Iraq and Egypt refused to let them keep drawing in audiences and gaining scholarly legitimacy with their illicit purchases.
The museum would like you to think it takes a proactive approach to provenance concerns. Indeed, its description of the 2020 return of a manuscript to the Greek Orthodox Church is enough to practically make you tear up, with its description of a curator’s generous scholarly sleuthing to connect the manuscript to the World War I looting of a monastery in Greece. But the museum conveniently fails to note that in 2018, this church sued Princeton University for failing to return another manuscript looted from the same monastery. In this context, once an outside scholar noticed the marks on the museum’s manuscript identifying its origins, the museum had little choice but to grin and bear the repatriation.
The museum returned yet another stolen manuscript to the University of Athens in 2018, after a Greek researcher spotted it; in that case, the museum handled the negotiations well enough that the manuscript is now on display as a loan. In another prominent case, the Greens bought about 150 papyrus fragments in 2010–13 from Dirk Obbink, a professor who most probably stole them from the collection of papyri he oversaw at Oxford University. Although museum staffers were questioning how Obbbink got the papyri as early as 2016, and Hobby Lobby asked him to refund the money for one of their purchases in 2017, it was not until 2019 that they got in touch with the Oxford collection’s leaders to share their suspicions, well after scholars began to raise alarms. (Last month, Hobby Lobby sued Obbink.) Rather than the careful, research-heavy approach to acquisitions the antiquities market demands, the museum seems to have taken more of a catch-and-release approach to collecting, grabbing what it could and letting go only when the authorities seemed likely to pay attention.
Again, I have no idea why, with this history and these patterns documented, anyone would shop at Hobby Lobby. Do what you want but their actions are known. They have been exposed and what they've done is so harmful -- really much more harmful than whatever celebrity Tweet has enraged the Rage Crowd this week.
Their actions have been known for years and widely covered. Here's CBS NEWS and then PBS' THE NEWSHOUR.
And here's a segment of TABITHA SPEAKS where Tabitha addresses these culture vultures.
Also in the news, an Iraq War veterans was murdered here in the US. TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE reports:
A man found dead inside a burning home more than two weeks ago has now been identified, and investigators say he was killed before the fire started.
Authorities identified the victim as 33-year-old Christopher Diltz. Birmingham police said he was stabbed to death.
Diltz is being remembered for being kind-hearted and always putting others before himself. He served as drum major for Woodlawn High School, and then went on to join the Alabama National Guard where he served in Iraq with the 217th Military Police Company.
Diltz was a member of the 128th Military Police Company and worked as a police officer with Veteran Affairs in Birmingham.
Those who knew Diltz said everyone loved him.
2016 Sir John delivered in a 2.6 million-word report, four times longer
than War and Peace, and particularly in a 30-minute statement
accompanying it, an excoriating verdict on the conduct of Blair and his
government before the 2003 invasion and their failure to plan for its
A softly spoken man, he found every arm of the Establishment wanting in a report that couldn’t have been stronger in the scale of its condemnation.
Sir John’s report reminded us all that the decision to go to war must always be a final step after exhausting all possibilities and with the full understanding and responsibility for the consequences and exit plan.
And Louise Kettle Tweets:
Leaving Iraq for a moment, The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. had a roundtable yesterday and you can read it at the following:
Back to Iraq, Belkis Wille (Human Rights Watch) draws attention to inequality in Iraq that prevents all from being able to participate in the upcoming election:
Next week, Iraq will hold parliamentary elections, but many people with disabilities are effectively denied their right to vote due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places.
Iraq, plagued by decades of violence and war, has one of the world’s largest populations of people with disabilities.
Ahead of the elections, Human Rights Watch is urging Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to improve access to polling places for people with disabilities, and IHEC is one of the very few institutions in Iraq that has engaged seriously with our concerns and research. Hours after our campaign release, the IHEC spokesperson announced it had ordered that people with disabilities have access to transportation on election day. Some people with physical disabilities face obstacles reaching polling places because the government usually bans cars on the roads on election day for security reasons. The IHEC has also started publishing informational videos with sign translation and said it was carrying out trainings for people with disabilities on how to vote.
At the end of September, we were told the IHEC would call on the Higher Electoral Security Committee to issue special permits for vehicles of people with disabilities on election day. The commission called on polling places to ensure physical accessibility and said it would locate ballot boxes on the ground floor of schools. It also said it was setting up a hotline so that people facing obstacles to voting could report their experiences.
Unfortunately, the commission did not address other Human Rights Watch recommendations. It said it could not hire people with disabilities to work at polling places, claiming the tasks involved are too “physically demanding,” perpetuating stigma against people with disabilities. It said it would not be able to consider any forms of early or alternative voting for people with disabilities (though other groups in Iraq get to vote early) or print Braille ballots.
The commission has yet to announce which polling places are now physically accessible, which is key to encouraging some people with disabilities make the effort to reach them.
While more is needed, the positive commitments of IHEC in these elections represent a significant advance and should pave the way towards ensuring that the next time Iraqis head to the polls, every person with a disability who wants to vote can do so.
The elections are looming as the Netherlands Embassy in Iraq notes:
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:
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:
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 International Crisis Group speaks with analyst Lahib Higel who shares:
I can remember a time when the ICR used to flood the public e-mail account with various items and we'd ignore them because I don't approve of the ICR. That was years and years ago, when we had many outlets we could highlight. As more and more have WalkedOn.org from Iraq, we can't be so picky sadly.
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