Thursday, September 28, 2023

A return to 1930s Nazi Germany?

Before I get started, just a disclosure.  Over the years, the biggest criticism I have received in terms of negative criticisms is that I am overly supportive of military brass.  I am no Cookie Roberts and consider myself to still be the beatnik kid in college from all those years ago.  I have held the brass accountable here for things such as Abu Ghraib.  And while I always support our enlisted in the low ranks, I do call out the brass for wars that are unnecessary.  If a general, for example, makes a call that rings true with me, I will say so.  But I am about to co-sign on something a retired general said, so I have offered that at the top and you can dismiss what I am about to write about with that if you need to.  Lee Moran (HUFFINGTON POST) reports:

Retired four-star U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey warned Wednesday that with Donald Trump-supporting MAGA Republicans “what we are seeing is a parallel to the 1930s in Nazi Germany.”

“This is worth being extremely concerned about,” McCaffrey told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes during a discussion centered on Trump’s dangerous floating of the idea of executing outgoing chief of Joint Staffs Mark Milley and Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) singlehanded blocking of military promotions in the Senate in protest of Pentagon abortion policies.

McCaffrey blamed not the entire GOP but “15 to 25 House members, a couple of senators, and all those who are Trump MAGA loyalists.”

I would agree 100% with that.  They are egging on some very disturbed people.  

I was furious when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bully Boy Bush.  But I accepted that it happened and that there was no going back.  Maybe if certain elements of the media had winked to me and certain members of Congress had told me the election was stolen in 2000, I would have acted differently?

I hope not.

But I might have.  It is bad enough when crack pot TV grifters are lying but people do have a right to expect that members of Congress will tell the truth on something as important as an election.

I am very sorry for the people who are being misled.  I do think we need to hold members of Congress accountable.

Also current members of the U.S. military.  Let me add my voice to Trina and C.I.'s voices:  Tulsi Gabbard is an active duty reserve.  She needs to stop Tweeting slams about Joe Biden.  If you want to criticize your president, go for it.  It is your right.  Unless you are actively serving in the military in which case you are not allowed to criticize the commander in chief.  He is not my commander in chief, I am not in the military, so I do not have to bite my tongue.  But military code does require that Ms. Gabbard cease and desist from her repeated slamming of the president.

Hopefully, she will either be drummed out of the service or put in a military jail.

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

Thursday, September 28, 2023.  An internet celebrity is shot dead in Baghdad, meek Ronald DeSantis recedes during last night's GOP sprawl, Amnesty International calls for justice, and much more.

Yesterday, a fire at a wedding in Iraq left at least 100 people dead and another 150 injured. Salma Abdelaziz (CNN) reports on it below.

Nineteen-year-old Ghaly Nassim was only a few metres away from the al-Haitham banquet hall when the fire broke out on Tuesday evening.

He rushed to help five of his friends who were trapped inside.

"One door was blocked, so we opened it by force. Massive flames came out of the hall. It was like Hell's doors opened," he said.

"The temperature was unbearable. I cannot describe the extreme heat."

At least 94 people were killed and 100 others were injured in the fire, which broke out during the first dance of the bride and groom. Civil defence officials told BBC News Arabic that the couple survived, though initial reports said they had perished.

Mr Nassim described the scenes as a "real tragedy".

"I could not do anything but run away from the fire," he said, sounding exhausted over the phone line.

"After the firefighters arrived, I rushed inside to look for my friends. I saw 26 dead bodies in the bathroom. A 12-year-old girl was completely burnt and left in a corner." 

In other news, internet personality Noor BM was shot dead in  Baghdad on Monday.


Known on social media as “Noor BM,” 23-year-old Noor Alsaffar had over 370,000 followers collectively on Instagram and TikTok. Alsaffar mostly posted short videos showing dresses, hair and makeup styles, often dancing to music. Following news of the shooting, many posted comments lamenting Alsaffar’s death. Some others cheered it, celebrating the man who fired the shot.

The Iraqi security source told CNN that “an investigation has been opened,” speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media. “The deceased has been taken to the forensic department.”         

Khaled Almehna, spokesperson for the Iraqi police, described the attack as a “criminal incident” on Tuesday, adding that he will provide “important updates” at a later time.     

 The killing comes as Iraq cracks down on LGBTQ expression and moves to criminalize it in law. While being queer is not explicitly banned under current Iraqi legislation, LGBTQ people are often targeted under vague morality clauses in its penal code.

Before the shooting, Alsaffar faced online abuse, as well as questions about sexuality and gender. In a 2020 interview on Iraq’s Al Walaa channel, Alsaffar said: “I’m not transgender and I’m not gay. I don’t have other tendencies, I’m only a cross-dresser and a model.” Alsaffar identified as male who worked as a model and makeup artist.       

Turning to the US, last night Republicans competing for their party's presidential nomination took the stage for what some termed a "debate" but what most resembled a shouting match.  

Though many brought a shout, Ronald DeSantis only packed a pout.  And he never looked sadder.  This is the guy that they said was the sure thing at the start of the year?  He was like  Sad Dad (Andy Richter) on THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE.  But, as the brawl continued, it became obvious that DeSantis was Chris Chritie's mini-me -- both in looks and in judgment -- neither wanted to pick someone to boot off the stage (though moderator Dana Perino, trying to be 'with it,' used the term "island" which would've nailed it . . . in 2004).  Chris Christie finally found an answer -- Donald Trump who, point of fact, was not on the stage.  His mimi-me DeSantis had already noted that and squeaked that Donald owed it to the voters to be here.  "He should be on this stage tonight," Ronald all but sobbed.  His larger self, Chris Christie, tried to tag Donald with a new nickname: Donald Duck.  Get it?  Because he's 'ducking' the debate?  No, it's not a good nickname -- most people like Donald Duck.  

While Ronald DeSantis played meek and awkward, Nikki Haley was going after everyone.  At one point, arguing over Tik-Tok -- because that is the most important problem for the country right now, apparently --  she told Vivek Ramaswamy, "Every time I hear you, I feel a little dumber."

Repeating, Nikki Haley, of all people, told Ramaswamy, "Every time I hear you, I feel a little dumber."

Who would have thought that was possible?

"Joe Biden shouldn't be on the picket line, he should be on our southern border working to close our . . ."

The mincing hand gestures made it difficult to follow what Tim Scott was saying throughout the night but he did set that remark semi-off.  A shame because no one expects a US president to be physically at a US border working on that border.  But Tim's not too smart as he repeatedly demonstrates.

Paul Rudnick Tweeted:

The big question with Tim of course is, since he says he's straight, why should anyone vote for him? He's 58 years old.  That's basically forty seasons of THE BACHELORETTE and he's telling America that in all that time no woman's ever chosen him.  

Forty adult years and no woman's ever chosen him.  But America should?

Strange logic there.

Desperate for the country to know that at least someone chose him, Mike Pence felt the need to brag that he's been "sleeping with a teacher for 38 years."  Leave it to Prudish Pence to try to sexualize the debate.

CNN did a fact check on the sprawl and we'll note this:


Moderator Ilia Calderón asked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to address the descendants of enslaved people regarding his state’s new standards on how to teach Black history in schools.

Calderón: “Florida’s new Black history curriculum says, ‘slaves developed skills, which in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.’ You have said slaves developed skills in spite of slavery, not because of it. But many are still hurt. For descendants of slaves, this is personal. What is your message to them?”

DeSantis: “First of all, that’s a hoax that was perpetuated by Kamala Harris. We are not going to be doing that. Second of all, that was written by descendants of slaves, these are great Black history scholars, so we need to stop playing these games,” DeSantis said.

Facts First: DeSantis’ claim is false. Florida’s new standards for teaching Black history do include the clause that Calderón read out.

In July, the Florida Board of Education approved a new set of standards for how Black history should be taught in the state’s public schools. The standards for middle schoolers include a benchmark that says, “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

When asked about the benchmark in July, DeSantis told CNN he “wasn’t involved.” Instead, just as he did in his response tonight, he deferred to those who wrote the education standards.

“You should talk to them about it. I didn’t do it. I wasn’t involved in it,” DeSantis said at the time.

Pressed further at the time, he said: “I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into, into doing things later in life. But the reality is, all of that is rooted in whatever is factual. They listed everything out. And if you have any questions about it, just ask the Department of Education.”

DeSantis has argued that it is unfair to depict the standards as broadly pro-slavery, saying that they are clear and detailed about the evils of slavery.

The new standards have been criticized by civil rights advocates and Black lawmakers. Vice President Kamala Harris also criticized the new standards, saying in a speech in July “they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery.”    

Be interesting to see if anyone slams Pence for his anti-union remarks.  

Moving on . . .

So, Gov. DeSantis, all within a few days, turns down $350 million in federal aid from the Inflation Reduction Act that would have supported environmental and green energy projects as well as provided rebates to Florida utility customers, at a time when DeSantis has done nothing to improve Florida’s energy efficiency efforts or helped Floridians with the increases in electric rate increases.

Add to this the fact that he refused to meet with President Biden when he visited the hurricane ravaged Big Bend area. Why? He doesn’t seem to see the need, even though the federal government’s FEMA program can and will benefit those hit hardest by this historic storm. Perhaps, DeSantis does not want to give any attention to a president who actually gets things done on his watch rather than restrict freedoms and protect donors, as is DeSantis’ custom.

We have to live with DeSantis folks, but America doesn’t, and America is wise to DeSantis’ autocratic notions, actions and pettiness…and its getting wiser every day. The shame? We will have to put up with him until 2026. Hey, better us than America at large.

-- John King, Pensacola

Yep, America has been warned.  

A do-nothing Congress.  That's long been an image for Americans.  The late Alexander Cockburn (COUNTERPUNCH) used to say it was better than the alternative and we might be better off when Congress did nothing.  But we've got a government shutdown looming -- possibly Sunday --  and it's a probably a good time to note that some members didn't take their jobs seriously.  For example, Marjorie Taylor Green.  The US House Repellant, Michael Luciano (MEDIAITE) reports, wasted her time and our time since we pay her salary:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) managed to insert a provision into a short-term funding bill that would reduce the yearly salary of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to just $1.

The Republican-controlled House is presently barreling toward a government shutdown at the end of the month thanks to GOP lawmakers’ inability to agree on spending bills amongst themselves. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a 45-day stopgap bill that would, if passed by the House and signed by President Joe Biden, keep the government funded until mid-November. In the meantime, the House could try to hammer out twelve separate spending bills that would earn the backing of the Senate and the White House.

[. . .]

“I would like to introduce an amendment that uses the Holman rule to slash the secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin’s salary, to no more than a $1,” she began. “Secretary Austin has not fulfilled his job duties. As a matter of fact, he’s destroying our military. During Secretary Austin’s tenure, military recruitment has reached crisis levels of low recruitment. The numbers show that the Army expects to fall 15,000 recruits short of its annual recruiting goal this year. The Navy is expecting to be short 10,000 recruits. The Air Force is down another 3,000. This cannot stand, especially with our government funding and fueling a war in Ukraine that is leading us undoubtedly to World War III.”

Racist Marjorie is at it again.  She's wasting all of our time because Lloyd Austin is an African-American male.  That is only in doubt if you haven't attended Congressional hearings where she's 'questioned.'  Her questions on children always result in her saying "White children," for example.  She's a racist puerile and simple-minded.  

I don't want to spend too much time trying to introduce actual facts into her lunatic conversation but I do have to make the point here that her hero Donald Trump?  They weren't meeting recruitment goals under him either.  One example, the year the target goal was lowered in August of that year when it was clear that they would not make the target.  Again, I'm not going to waste too much time explaining just how wrong she is because she doesn't traffic in facts or in truth.  She saw an African-American man rise to a level of success and, instead of trying to avert a shutdown, she decided to waste everyone's time with her nonsense and lies.

Luciano notes another idiot liar:

Elsewhere, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) succeeded in inserting an amendment that would also reduce Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly’s salary to $1.

“This delusional man thinking he is a woman, embodies and espouses the woke-ism that that’s causing significant harm to our military readiness and troops’ morale!” Boebert said on the floor about the defense official, who is transgender.

Elaine's already addressed The Whore of Congress in "Trashy Lauren Bobert gets even worse:"  

The Assistant Secretary of Defense is only worth $1 a year?  No doubt Lauren's planning to fish a crumpled one out of her thong to pay the dollar?

That is so disgusting on so many levels.  First off, Lauren isn't better than anyone -- we're talking gutter trash dweller Lauren.  Second off, how dare she insult the office like that.  Forget the person holding the office for just a moment, how dare she insult the office.  Someone also explain to me how gun nut Lauren didn't go off into the military? Chicken Hawk.

She is not funny and, goodness knows, she's not cute.  All the make up the world doesn't cover her acne pock marks, for example.  I think about how she's probably about to be kicked out of Congress and how that's happening as her children get older.  They're going to see what a crazy piece of trash that they have for a mother.  She's going to find, as they kids grow and get married, that they don't want granny coming over preaching her hate and 'jokes' against LGBTQ+ people.  She's going to be the old racist at any family reunion and people will avoid her like crazy.

As they should.

I will just add that Shawn Skelly is a woman and she's a woman who served her country.  Boebert is an overgrown girl who's served any man who would have her -- repeatedly.  They're different kinds of service, of course.  What I'm saying is Lauren is special in her own way and that's okay.  Give her a participation ribbon -- and a shot of penicillin.  

Texas law prohibiting certain “sexually oriented” performances from taking place on public property or where they may be viewed by minors is unconstitutional, a federal judge declared Tuesday.
District Judge David Hittner, who had temporarily halted the state’s ban a day before the law was set to take effect in August, in a ruling on Tuesday wrote it represented “an unconstitutional restriction on speech” and barred state officials, including the attorney general, from enforcing it.

Hittner said drag shows were protected by the First Amendment.

“Indeed, First Amendment protection has been extended to all types of activities, even some that seem untasteful to society,” Hittner wrote in his opinion, citing a 2020 case concerning exotic dancers.

“Further, a survey of court decisions related to the issue of drag shows reveals little divergence from the opinion that drag performances are expressive content that is afforded First Amendment protection,” he wrote, referencing recent court decisions blocking drag bans passed in Tennessee, Florida and Montana.

Back to the 2024 horse race,  Jack Birlle (WASHINGTON EXAMINER) reports:

Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader said he is backing President Joe Biden over any Republican or third-party candidate in the 2024 election because of the "two-party duopoly" presidential elections have become.

Nader, best known for running as a Green Party candidate in the 2000 presidential election, said in an interview with the Washington Post that he is "stuck with Biden" because of the perceived threat the GOP poses.

"We are stuck with Biden now," Nader said. "In a two-party duopoly, if one should be defeated ferociously, the logic is that the other one prevails."

The longtime activist also compared the choice between Democrats and Republicans as between "autocracy" and "fascism," arguing autocracy is the better of the two.

"I know the difference between fascism and autocracy, and I'll take autocracy any time," Nader said. "Fascism is what the GOP is the architecture of, and autocracy is what the Democrats are practitioners of. But autocracy leaves an opening. They don't suppress votes. They don't suppress free speech."

No living person who has run as a third party candidate has gotten as large a percent of the vote as Ralph did in 2000 -- he got 2.7%.  That does not make his word law.  I did not vote for Ralph in 2000 because I didn't believe in him (as I repeatedly note over the years here, the ROLLING STONE interview killed any chance that I would've supported him -- I'm a citizen of the United States, I define myself as a citizen, not as a consumer).  I also don't believe he cost Al Gore the election in 2000.  Let's say the  mantra we've said year after year here for close to 19 years now -- No one owns your vote, they earn it (or not).  Your vote is your vote.  If Al Gore hadn't taken his home state for granted, for example, or if he had campaigned stronger and not tried to appear so eager to sell out (that is what drove many leftists elsewhere, Al and the triangulation) or if he'd had a personality, he would have done better.  

Is Ralph Nader right?  Ralph Nader has an opinion and if he or Kyle Kulinski or anyone else wants to make that argument, they should.  Making an argument doesn't make the right.  But I have heard for decades now from friends who voted for Ralph in 2000 and they always want to apologize to me.  I'm not in the mood.  I'm not a priest, don't confess to me.  If you were happy when you voted for Ralph on election day, that's great.  You can't second guess the future.  You made the best choice you could at that time.  

I have never said to anyone, "You cost us the election!  You're the reason we got Bully Boy Bush in the White House!"  In part, I haven't said that because the Supreme Court butted into a process that they had no business in (how we resolve that matter was outlined in the Constitution and the country had already dealt with the issue in 1876 -- there was no reason for the Supreme Court to step in other than to rig the outcome).  If you were happy with the vote, good for you.  And some friends have remained happy with their vote so good for them.  But a lot of people have made noises of regret.  It's simpering and I don't have time for Laurie Metcalfs.  She simpered as Jackie on the final season of ROSEANNE, she voted for Jill Stein!  If she'd voted for Hillary, Donald might not have become president.  I really don't have time for that whiny behavior.

So I am very open to people making the argument that Ralph is doing or that Kyle has done.  Know what you're doing now because I don't personally want to hear whining later.  I'm not telling you how to vote and no one should.  But if you are planning to vote, be happy with your vote.  

Back to Iraq to wind down with this from Amnesty International:

Iraq: Four years after Tishreen protests, no justice for state and militia violence 

The Iraqi authorities must ensure truth, justice and reparations for the killing of hundreds and maiming of thousands by Iraqi security forces, Amnesty International said today ahead of the four-year anniversary of the nation-wide anti-government protests. As an immediate step, the authorities should reveal the fate and whereabouts of people forcibly disappeared during the protest movement that began in October 2019.  

During the mass protests, known as the Tishreen [October] protests security forces including anti-riot police, counterterrorism forces and members of Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a large network of militias legally considered part of the Iraqi Armed Forces, used lethal force against protesters and pursued a sinister campaign of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.   

“Since the Tishreen protests, successive Iraqi governments have reneged on their promises to ensure truth and justice for the state and militia violence inflicted on Iraqi protesters, activists, and lawyers and their families. The meagre number of prosecutions and investigations – which pale in comparison to the scale of the abuses – clearly demonstrate that the authorities are not interested in accountability,” said Razaw Salihy, Amnesty International’s Iraq Researcher. 

“Justice for the Tishreen protests is long overdue. The Iraqi authorities must ensure independent and impartial investigations into crimes committed since 2019 against protesters, activists and their families, publish the findings and hold those suspected of criminal responsibility accountable in fair trials that meet international standards. They must also protect families demanding justice from reprisals”. 

Reprisals to silence calls for justice  

While some families have continued to insist on calling for accountability and pursuing investigations left dormant, reprisals for speaking out have deterred other families from continuing their pursuit of justice.  

In one stark case, the father of a human rights lawyer who was forcibly disappeared in October 2019 was killed in March of 2021 after campaigning for answers about his son’s whereabouts. Amnesty International had warned of threats to the family’s safety in November 2020 and called on the Iraqi authorities to ensure their protection. 

The family of Sajjad al-Iraqi, another prominent activist who was forcibly disappeared in September 2020 in Nasiriya, has also been subjected to numerous threats by people believed to be linked to the abductors and to the PMU. These individuals have on several occasions called the family or come to their home to pressure them to drop their court case related to Sajjad al-Iraqi’s disappearance. Sajjad al-Iraqi’s activism focused on corruption issues.  

No meaningful accountability 

Very few prosecutions of members of security forces or affiliated militias have taken place for their role in violence against protesters and activists.

The meagre number of prosecutions and investigations – which pale in comparison to the scale of the abuses – clearly demonstrate that the authorities are not interested in accountability.

Razaw Salihy, Amnesty International

In a report released in June 2022, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) was only able to identify the conviction of four “unidentified armed elements” since May 2021 and of six members of the security forces for targeted shootings, killings, and abductions. The report added: “UNAMI/OHCHR was unable to identify any other cases that progressed beyond the investigative stage during the reporting period.”  

A family member told Amnesty International that they met with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani nine months ago and that he promised to follow up on Sajjad al-Iraqi’s case. On 22 March 2023, the Thi Qar Criminal Court convicted two individuals in absentia for kidnapping Sajjad al-Iraqi. 

However, Sajjad al-Iraqi’s whereabouts remain unknown, and no arrests have yet been made in his case. A relative told Amnesty International: “There is no interest in Sajjad’s case. It is just false promises and reassurances. It is just ink on paper.” 

Lack of transparency  

Since 2019, successive Iraqi governments have formed numerous committees to investigate violations committed in the context of the protests at the national and governorate level, but these committees have failed to deliver on truth or justice.  

The most notable was the ‘Fact-Finding Committee’, established by Executive Order 293 issued by then-Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on 18 October 2020 with the goal of gathering evidence, publishing a comprehensive report, and identifying those responsible for the crimes committed. Under the decree, the Committee has the right to refer cases to the judiciary, however there has been no transparency as to whether this has occurred.  

In a letter from Prime Minister Shia al-Sudani’s Office to Amnesty International on 2 April 2023, the Office said that “the Prime Minister ordered in November 2022 the activation of the work of the [Fact-Finding] committee and outreach to representatives from the demonstrators”. The Prime Minister’s Office outlined measures the Fact-Finding Committee had taken, including having looked into “more than 215 cases obtained from the Rusafa Central Investigative Court and reviewed more than 5,375 official documents that included medical reports, victim autopsy forms and reports of forensic experts, and the committee continues to examine documents received from courts of appeal”.  

The Prime Minister’s Office also confirmed that reparations had been paid to the families of those killed, amounting to ten million Iraqi dinars for each victim.  

However, reparations are not a substitute for establishing the truth or bringing perpetrators to justice, and nearly three years after it was first formed, the Fact-Finding Committee has yet to publish any findings. 

Enforced disappearance is currently not a crime under Iraqi law and therefore cannot be prosecuted as a distinct offence. On 6 August 2023, the Iraqi Council of Ministers a draft “Missing Persons Law” and sent it to Parliament. The draft’s stated aim is to help relatives of the missing learn their fate and be given access to reparations, including by setting up a national commission for the missing. Yet, this draft law does not criminalize enforced disappearance or outline penalties for perpetrators. 

The following sites updated: