Saturday, April 25, 2020

Science post: Rain and earthquakes, smell and wildflowers

"Raining."  Carly Simon's song that appears first on her boxed set CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE.  It's time for a science post and let's take a look at rain.

First, some basics from WIKIPEDIA:

Rain is liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then become heavy enough to fall under gravity. Rain is a major component of the water cycle and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water on the Earth. It provides suitable conditions for many types of ecosystems, as well as water for hydroelectric power plants and crop irrigation.
The major cause of rain production is moisture moving along three-dimensional zones of temperature and moisture contrasts known as weather fronts. If enough moisture and upward motion is present, precipitation falls from convective clouds (those with strong upward vertical motion) such as cumulonimbus (thunder clouds) which can organize into narrow rainbands. In mountainous areas, heavy precipitation is possible where upslope flow is maximized within windward sides of the terrain at elevation which forces moist air to condense and fall out as rainfall along the sides of mountains. On the leeward side of mountains, desert climates can exist due to the dry air caused by downslope flow which causes heating and drying of the air mass. The movement of the monsoon trough, or intertropical convergence zone, brings rainy seasons to savannah climes.
The urban heat island effect leads to increased rainfall, both in amounts and intensity, downwind of cities. Global warming is also causing changes in the precipitation pattern globally, including wetter conditions across eastern North America and drier conditions in the tropics. Antarctica is the driest continent. The globally averaged annual precipitation over land is 715 mm (28.1 in), but over the whole Earth it is much higher at 990 mm (39 in).[1] Climate classification systems such as the Köppen classification system use average annual rainfall to help differentiate between differing climate regimes. Rainfall is measured using rain gauges. Rainfall amounts can be estimated by weather radar.
Heavy rain falling over the desert at sunset

Rain is also known or suspected on other planets, where it may be composed of methane, neon, sulfuric acid, or even iron rather than water. 

Our planet needs rain.  Can there be too much rain?  Yes.  We can have flooding.  But can too much rain cause other problems.  SCI NEWS reports:

The 2018 eruption of Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii was likely initiated by prolonged, and at times extreme, rainfall in the months leading up to the event, according to new research from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.

Very interesting. Doyle Rice (USA TODAY) explains:

"We knew that changes in the water content in the Earth’s subsurface can trigger earthquakes and landslides. Now we know that it can also trigger volcanic eruptions," said study co-author Falk Amelung, professor of geophysics at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School, in a statement.
"Under pressure from magma, wet rock breaks easier than dry rock. It is as simple as that," he said.
Prior to the eruption, Hawaii had several months of unusually high amounts of precipitation, the study said.

And the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science adds:

While small steam explosions and volcanic earthquakes have been linked to rainfall infiltration at other volcanoes in the past, this is the first time that this mechanism has been invoked to explain deeper magmatic processes.
“Interestingly, when we investigate Kīlauea’s historical eruption record, we see that magmatic intrusions and recorded eruptions are almost twice as likely to occur during the wettest parts of the year,” said Jamie Farquharson, a postdoctoral researcher at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study.
The authors highlight that if this process can be detected at Kīlauea, then it is likely to occur elsewhere as well.
“Having established the evidence for rainfall-triggered eruptions at Kīlauea, it will be fascinating to investigate other volcanoes,” said Farquharson. “If we can identify regions of the globe where this kind of coupling between rainfall and volcanism exists, it could go a long way towards advanced warning of associated volcanic hazards.”
“It has been shown that the melting of ice caps in Iceland led to changes of volcanic productivity,” said Farquharson. “As ongoing climate change is predicted to bring about changes in rainfall patterns, we expect that this may similarly influence patterns of volcanic activity.”

“This study was only possible thanks to a number of Earth-observing satellites,” said Amelung. “We obtained precipitation information from a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese Space Exploration Agency and ground deformation observations from a mission of the European Space Agency.”

Rain waters trees, grass, flowers, plants, etc.  David Downey (PRESS ENTERPRISE) reports:

The coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a screeching halt. But Mother Nature kept right on going.
Thanks to soaking March and April rains, colorful wildflowers are springing up from the sun-splashed hills of the Inland Empire to the fog-kissed coastal bluffs of Los Angeles and Orange counties.

“It’s a strange year,” said Evan Meyer, executive director for the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants in Los Angeles’ Sun Valley. “We got a lot of rain early and then it was really dry. And then, all of the sudden, we got a lot of rain again.”

How can you see some of these wildflowers?  Downey also lets you know that:

The Payne Foundation, which posts Wild Flower Hotline reports each Friday, is emphasizing the convenience of virtual peeks.
That’s a good way to see sprawling fields of poppies at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, which is closed, Meyer said.
It’s also a way to see the wide variety of coastal and desert wildflowers at Prisk Native Garden in Long Beach at Prisk School. The garden is closed, a foundation report said, but anyone can take a virtual tour via a recorded video the garden posted on Facebook.
Live video feed of Walker Canyon is being provided by the city of Lake Elsinore on its website,
In Orange County, flowers are blooming profusely. For example, on Wednesday afternoon, April 22, Huntington Beach residents Jason Brown and Mary Durham hiked past blooming Garland daisies along Weir Canyon Trail in Santiago Oaks Regional Park, in Anaheim Hills.

Because parking lots at Orange County parks and trails are closed, spokeswoman Marisa O’Neil wrote in an email that officials are urging people “to enjoy nature from home” by viewing content on social media pages.

I love that moment when rain is about to fall.  The air feels thicker and moist.  It tends to be cooler and you just expect it, feel it, and, yes, after it falls, sometimes we can smell it.  Rich Haridy (NEW ATLAS) reports:

New research from an international team of scientists is suggesting that instantly recognizable earthy smell after rain is released by bacteria trying to attract a particular arthropod as a way to spread its spores. The smell is a 500-million-year-old example of chemical communication, evolved to help a particular type of bacteria spread.
Scientists have long been fascinated by the unique odor that appears when it rains. The scent is particularly prominent when the first rains of a season hit dry soil. Two Australian researchers named the odor petrichor, after an influential study in the 1960s suggested a particular oil is produced by certain plants during dry periods, and then released into the air when it rains.
One major component of petrichor is an organic compound called geosmin. Scientists have known for some time that a common genus of bacteria, known as Streptomyces, produce geosmin. Virtually all species of Streptomyces release geosmin when they die, but until now it has been unclear exactly why the bacteria generates this distinctive aroma.

I haven't noted Curiosity in a while so let me note this background on the Mars mission from NASA:

Launch: Nov. 26, 2011
Mars Landing: Aug. 6, 2012 (EDT)

Building on the success of the two rover geologists that arrived at Mars in January 2004, NASA's next rover mission is being planned for travel to Mars before the end of the decade. Twice as long and three times as heavy as the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Science Laboratory would collect martian soil samples and rock cores and analyze them for organic compounds and environmental conditions that could have supported microbial life now or in the past. The mission is anticipated to have a truly international flavor, with a neutron-based hydrogen detector for locating water provided by the Russian Federal Space Agency, a meteorological package provided by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science, and a spectrometer provided by the Canadian Space Agency.
Image right: Artist's concept of Mars Science Laboratory. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Mars Science Laboratory is intended to be the first planetary mission to use precision landing techniques, steering itself toward the martian surface similar to the way the space shuttle controls its entry through Earth's upper atmosphere. In this way, the spacecraft would fly to a desired location above the surface of Mars before deploying its parachute for the final landing. As currently envisioned, in the final minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft would activate its parachute and retro rockets before lowering the rover package to the surface on a tether (similar to the way a skycrane helicopter moves a large object). This landing method would enable the rover to land in an area 20 to 40 kilometers (12 to 24 miles) long, about the size of a small crater or wide canyon and three to five times smaller than previous landing zones on Mars.

Like the twin rovers now on the surface of Mars, Mars Science Laboratory would have six wheels and cameras mounted on a mast. Unlike the twin rovers, it would carry a laser for vaporizing a thin layer from the surface of a rock and analyzing the elemental composition of the underlying materials. It would then be able to collect and crush rock and soil samples and distribute them to on-board test chambers for chemical analysis. Its design includes a suite of scientific instruments for identifying organic compounds such as proteins, amino acids, and other acids and bases that attach themselves to carbon backbones and are essential to life as we know it. It could also identify features such as atmospheric gases that may be associated with biological activity.

Using these tools, Mars Science Laboratory would examine martian rocks and soils in greater detail than ever before to determine the geologic processes that formed them; study the martian atmosphere; and determine the distribution and circulation of water and carbon dioxide, whether frozen, liquid, or gaseous.

NASA plans to select a landing site on the basis of highly detailed images sent to Earth by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter beginning in 2006, in addition to data from earlier missions.

NASA is considering nuclear energy for powering the Mars Science Laboratory. The rover would carry a U.S. Department of Energy radioisotope power supply that would generate electricity from the heat of plutonium's radioactive decay. This type of power supply could give the mission an operating lifespan on Mars' surface of a full martian year (687 Earth days) or more. NASA is also considering solar power alternatives that could meet the mission's science and mobility objectives.

For more information visit

Make sure you read "Life just got a little harder for fake asses like Alyssa Milano (Ava and C.I.)" -- I am glad I believed Tara Reade.  God's got her back and he's backing her story up.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, April 24, 2020.  Joe Biden maintains his silence on the rape accusation, Iraq's prime minister-designate still struggle to come up with a portfolio, Barbara Slavin sees US troops leaving Iraq, and much more.

ADDED 4/24/203:28 EST: Ryan Grim has a scoop at THE INTERCEPT:

In interviews with The Intercept, Reade also mentioned that her mother had made a phone call to “Larry King Live” on CNN, during which she made reference to her daughter’s experience on Capitol Hill. Reade told The Intercept that her mother called in asking for advice after Reade, then in her 20s, left Biden’s office. “I remember it being an anonymous call and her saying my daughter was sexually harassed and retaliated against and fired, where can she go for help? I was mortified,” Reade told me.
Reade couldn’t remember the date or the year of the phone call, and King didn’t include the names of callers on his show. I was unable to find the call, but mentioned it in an interview with Katie Halper, the podcast host who first aired Reade’s allegation. After the podcast aired, a listener managed to find the call and sent it to The Intercept.
On August 11, 1993, King aired a program titled, “Washington: The Cruelest City on Earth?” Toward the end of the program, he introduces a caller dialing in from San Luis Obispo, California. Congressional records list August 1993 as Reade’s last month of employment with Biden’s Senate office, and, according to property records, Reade’s mother, Jeanette Altimus, was living in San Luis Obispo County. Here is the transcript of the beginning of the call:
KING: San Luis Obispo, California, hello.
CALLER: Yes, hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.
KING: In other words, she had a story to tell but, out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it?
CALLER: That’s true.

King’s panel of guests offered no suggestions, and instead the conversation veered into a discussion of whether any of the men on set would leak damaging personal information about a rival to the press.

Joe Biden thinks he deserves to be president.  But he doesn't think he has to answer publicly when a woman accuses him of assault or rape.  Tara Reade has come forward to accuse Joe of assault.  Katie Halper interviewed Tara about the assault.  At THE GUARDIAN this morning, she writes:

You can hear and read Reade’s heart-wrenching account yourself, but to summarize her claims: she says she brought Joe Biden his gym bag as she’d been instructed. The two of them were alone and that is when she says “he just had me up against the wall and his hands were on me and underneath my clothes. And then he went down my skirt, but then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers ... Everything shattered in that moment.”
Reade’s good friend Jane (not her real name), who lived at the same residence and interned for another senator at the time, told me that Reade called her after the incident: “When I said, ‘Did you feel like you could walk away?’, [Tara] said no. And that his hand went where it shouldn’t below the belt...He said something that made [Tara] feel like a grain of dust… small and insignificant. On the can’t see someone’s facial expression… but you can tell when someone’s voice is shaking... She was definitely confused, disoriented.”
Reade’s brother also remembers learning about the incident: “First my mom told me about it. She was up in arms. And I was like I don’t know what happened. I think my sister was trying to spare me.” Indeed, Reade did try to spare her younger brother somewhat but, as he told me, “I remember my sister being specifically asked to handle a gym bag... And there was a moment he had her up against the wall and made a hand move under her clothes.”
[. . .]
Political leaders, the media and victims’ advocates for months have refused to honor Reade’s request to be heard, sacrificing not only one woman but basic principles at the heart of the Democratic party and the survivors’ justice movement that brave Democratic women helped build.

The corporate media has done an appalling job covering the story.  College newspapers, however, have led on this story.  Genna Edwards (THE PITT NEWS) observes:

Biden, like Trump, has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by multiple women. And like Trump, he and his campaign deny these claims. Biden’s history as a “Democratic” politician is littered with choices that are incredibly un-Democratic. He’s more of a centrist than anything, going wherever the money and power want him to go. He wavers on abortion, having supported the Hyde Ammendment. He is not an LGBTQ+ ally. He voted for the Iraq war. He is anti-Social Security and anti-Medicare. Tara Reade, a former staff assistant to Biden, has accused him of sexual assault — I believe her. I’ve seen the videos of Biden inappropriately touching and sniffing young girls.
So. As both a leftist and a queer woman, I am appalled. Losing Sanders robs us of any dignity the American people may have had left. If I have to choose between two unfit men in the fall to lead my country out of a historic pandemic that neither are fit to fix given their policies, well — I’m moving to an underground bunker.

If I thought myself naive for believing in politics before this, boy, is that smacking me in the face now. I try to have hope, stupid white woman hope, and I’ve tried to have hope again and again. I thought Sanders was it this time, that we could escape this Trump hell and feel at least marginally better about living in this country.

We'll note another college paper, Liddy Grantland (DUKE CHRONICLE) offers:

I disagree with Joe Biden on many issues. I believe that there were better choices in the Democratic primary, and I voted that way. With his ever-increasing delegate lead, though, I was begrudgingly becoming accustomed to the idea of casting my vote for him in November. As much as I remain opposed to much of his past and current work, I believed fewer people would be harmed by his presidency than would be harmed by another four years of Donald Trump in office. I still believe that. 
But I now know that no matter what happens in November, the Oval Office will almost certainly be occupied for the next four years by a perpetrator of sexual assault.
This is not the first election where voters have had to choose between two candidates who have caused direct harm. Black, Brown and Indigenous voters have had to choose between the lesser of two evils—the person less likely to rob them of their freedom and dignity—in nearly every election where they have even been able to cast a ballot. 

It would be politically convenient for me to forget Tara Reade, to ignore the harsh reality about this member of my team. Many people on my team have already made that choice. I understand it. But I will not do the same.

Lena Felton (THE LILY) speaks to a number of women about the way the media and others have treated Tara Reade:

Such is the case for Alannah Raitt, a 25-year-old bus driver and barista who’s also a volunteer aide for Joshua Collins, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Tacoma, Wash. “I will not support people who can’t seem to respect people’s bodily autonomy or can’t seem to understand the concept of consent,” says Raitt, who identifies as a victim of sexual assault. “I don’t understand how so many people can say ‘Oh, well, Trump’s done it too.’ That’s the lowest bar on the planet, and that’s not an excuse.”

The same goes for Sarah Ann Masse, who was one of the first women in October 2017 to allege sexual misconduct by disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. It doesn’t matter which party the accused stands for, she says: “For me, sexual violence is not a partisan issue. If we’re going to believe survivors, we have to believe them regardless of the politics of their abuser and regardless of whether we like their policies.”

Survivors are watching what happens.  They are seeing this unfold and they are fully aware that this is harmful to all women, to all survivors.  Instead of reporting, most outlets are attacking Tara Reade.  It sends a message.  Fake asses like Alyssa Milano have used #MeToo to cover for their failed careers.  But when they could be of any value at all, the Alyssa Milanos refuse to support women.

At COUNTERPUNCH this morning, MG outlines her experiences and notes:

I might not be ready to tell my story, but I am sharing this anyways. Nothing Tara did in the subsequent years after Joe Biden digitally raped her disqualifies her story. Nothing I did in the years following my assault changes what happened to me. Holding such a secret for so long, living a lie as truth is a defense mechanism for those of us who are not ready to tell. It is a way to pretend that “that thing” never happened. That defense mechanism kicks into overdrive when the perpetrator is a public figure. You become smaller, so you do more to deny the truth. You share a different face publicly than the emotionally scarred one.
As George Orwell said, if you want to keep a secret, you have to hide it from yourself. Shame on everyone for trying to psychoanalysis a victim that is still concealing their truth. Shame on the Democrats for forcing Biden on all the women and men who can see their story in Tara’s story. Who now see a version of their attacker in what liberals claim is the “women’s rights” candidate for the President of the United States. Biden is a secret the party is trying to hide from themselves, and it is going to cost us all dearly in the end.

THE TAKEAWAY spoke to VOX's Anna North about the charges against Biden.

On THE KATIE HALPER SHOW this week, Katie offers an interview with Tara's friend who corroborates Tara's story and was told of it in real time -- after that she speaks with THE INTERCEPT's Ryan Grim and with journalist Rich McHugh.

We're also going to note this video.

On the one hand, I can see what she's going for, healing.  On the other, I'm damn tired of women being the world's punching bag, the canary in the coalmine.  I'm tired of it.

Would INFINITE LUNCHBOX do a video about the need to help killers find their way back?  It's only when women are the targets that we have to think about the criminals and the suffering of the criminals.  Let a woman be raped and the supposed 'fair' reaction is to think about the suffering that the rapist is going through.

Assault is a crime.

It's not my job to humor or defend Joe Biden if he assaulted Tara Reade.  It's not my job to do that for anyone who assaults a woman.

I do get the whole let's-heal-America which, let's be honest, is largely bulls**t.  But I am going to repeat, we only have this attitude when it's women.

We only have this attitude when it's women and man might suffer for his actions.

How is the nonsense INFINITE LUNCHBOX offers any different from the earlier nonsense of "boys will be boys"?

It's not.  It's a new twist on rape culutre.

Danny Schechter used to bother me all the time for money.  And then he got his little feelings hurt when I said no more.  That was after terrorist Ike Turner died.  I know Tina.  I love Tina.  She lived through terrorism.  But Ike dies and there's Danny claiming that Tina forgives Ike or has to if she doesn't because . . . STFU.  I told him not to ask me for money anymore, not to bother me anymore.  He was a fan boy and that supposed to mean that a man gets to wipe away all of his crimes.

Time and again, that's what happens to women.  Ike abusing and terrorizing Tina is well established.  Even then, it becomes a case of "Oh, well, he had a hard life and Tina's forgiven him or should . . ."

No one says that about a Palestinian who's been terrorized -- nor should they -- or someone who was tortured at Guantanamo (nor should they).  But let a woman be attacked by a man and it becomes a case of the woman has to soothe the delicate feelings of the male criminal.

Only women are expected to make things better for their attacker.  That's bulls**t.

Turning to Iraq, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT reports:

Four forged ministerial lists were circulated and were said to represent the composition of Iraqi Prime Minister designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government, yet it was reported that the fifth list that has been circulating for the past two days is the legitimate one.

The list which includes 14 ministers could be passed by the parliament, while the rest of the portfolios are to be discussed between Kadhimi and the political blocs that represent the three main components in the country (Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds).

The PM-designate has not yet named figures who would head the defense and security portfolios.

Reasons behind this postponement vary. Some say differences over the interior and defense portfolios are limited between Sunnis and Shiites, while others suggest that Kadhimi wants to nominate both ministers himself without resorting to blocs or components.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi remains prime minister-designate.  He is the third prime minister-designate so far this year.  Will he succeed where the other two failed?

At THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL, Barbara Slavin offers:

A withdrawal of most US military forces from Iraq seems likely this year as the Iraqi government seeks to maintain some sort of diplomatic and economic relationship with the United States without alienating its powerful neighbor Iran. How this withdrawal is managed will help determine future US influence not only in Iraq but in the Middle East as a whole.
Iranian support for Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi—who has had good relations with the United States—appears to be predicated on his agreeing to negotiate a new Status of Forces agreement (SFA) with Washington, which aims to remove the bulk of the several thousand US troops still deployed in Iraq.
The Americans’ mission was ostensibly to prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and to train Iraqi armed forces. However, the US jeopardized their continued presence in the country by breaching the terms of a 2008 SFA; they targeted Iran-backed Shia militias and the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, on Iraqi soil after a spate of attacks on American military and diplomatic targets last year. Even if the US actions were justified both to defend Americans and to deter future attacks, they represented a significant escalation in the rules of the game—an unprecedented targeting of a senior Iranian official in a foreign country. 
The attack near Baghdad, when Soleimani was on an official visit, put Iraq in an untenable position. Iraq cannot afford to alienate a powerful neighbor with which it shares a 1,400-kilometer border and which has deep relations with a variety of Iraqi armed groups. If forced to choose, Baghdad will choose Iran, not the United States. It is, therefore, not in US interests to force Iraq to make such a choice.
While Tehran has long sought an exit of US forces from Iraq, Iran-backed militias did not attack US forces in Iraq while the US remained in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. The situation deteriorated after the US withdrew unilaterally from that deal in 2018 and sought to put a total embargo on Iran’s oil exports in 2019. That was when Iran commenced a series of retaliatory actions in the Persian Gulf and Iraq that prompted the assassination of Soleimani in early 2020. Also killed by the drone strike near Baghdad airport, were several Iraqis, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of the Kataib Hezbollah militia and deputy commander of all of the Popular Mobilization Forces that had battled ISIS. The assassinations led the Iraqi parliament to pass a non-binding resolution expelling American forces.
Tensions abated somewhat after Tehran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner on January 8, mistaking it for a hostile US missile. The outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran and its neighbors also took attention away from US-Iran strains. However, a second spate of tit-for-tat attacks occurred in March, leading to the death of two more Americans and a British citizen, as well as three Iraqi soldiers, an Iraqi civilian, and several militia members. US forces have now been withdrawn from three isolated outposts in Iraq and consolidated in the relatively safe Kurdish city of Erbil and at the al-Assad air base outside Baghdad. The United States also brought in Patriot missile batteries to defend these bases against militia rockets.
This author has argued elsewhere that the decision to kill Soleimani and Muhandis was an overreaction to Iranian provocations that would make a long-term US military presence in Iraq very difficult—if not untenable. That the crisis came at a time when Iraqis had been protesting in the streets against Iran’s excessive influence in their country made assassination even more strategically questionable. Overnight, the issue became the United States, not Iran.
However, it is still possible to retain US influence in Iraq and to offer Iraqis an alternative to complete domination by Iran. This goal would be advanced by an effort to de-escalate tensions with Tehran; at a minimum, to deal with any provocation by Iran-backed groups in a way that does not humiliate Iraqi politicians by violating their country’s sovereignty.
Ideally, the United States should re-examine its policy of “maximum pressure” toward Iran, which has not and will not achieve its stated goals. Iran is more, not less, aggressive in the region, continuing its development of ballistic missiles—including its first successful satellite launch—and has accelerated its nuclear program. More pressure will either lead to war, strengthen Iranian hardliners, or both. Even a botched initial response to the coronavirus does not appear to have increased the chances for regime change. If anything, these crises have increased the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ economic and political dominance. 
The United States could use the pandemic as an opportunity to make goodwill gestures toward Iran. While the Iranian government has rebuffed such offers, they resonate with the Iranian people, whose views of America and its citizens have historically been much more positive. The neutral US reaction to the first transaction by INSTEX was a good first step and further guidance from OFAC facilitating the supply of medicine and medical devices to Tehran was welcome. Iran should, also, be allowed to receive the emergency loan it requested from the International Monetary Fund and have access to revenue frozen in foreign banks for medical supplies.
However, even in the absence of any real improvement in US-Iran ties, it should still be possible to remove Iraq from the middle of hostilities. This will oblige the United States to significantly reduce its forces in Iraq and restrict the remaining troops’ role to training and counter-ISIS operations. Iran, in turn, should restrain its Iraqi proxies from attacking US targets and give Kadhimi a solid chance to stand up a new government.
Since 2003, little has happened in Iraqi politics without Iran playing a role, which is predictable, given Iran’s long association with the Iraqi Shia and Kurds that opposed the rule of Saddam Hussein. The US lost opportunities to cooperate with or, at least, avoid antagonizing Iran, swayed by those in the administration who hubristically believed that they could instigate regime change in Tehran. Other mistakes—such as dissolving the Iraqi army, failing to protect Iraqi infrastructure from looting, and installing a Lebanon-like system in Iraq, with top positions for ethno-religious factions—doomed the country to sectarian strife and increased Iran’s ability to manipulate political developments. Nevertheless, as memories of the 2003 invasion fade, young Iraqis are more focused on constructing a less sectarian society that delivers jobs and other tangible economic benefits. They resent Iran’s meddling and want to reconnect with the Arab world and beyond.

The United States can support this trend by keeping Iraq out of its fight with Iran to make it easier for Iraqi politicians, businesspeople, and security officials to maintain some sort of constructive relationship with Americans. US intervention in Iraq has cost thousands of American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives as well as billions in US taxpayer funds. For those who died and sacrificed on all sides since the invasion, the United States should find a way to withdraw most of its military forces with dignity. Otherwise, US credibility and influence throughout the region will fade to the benefit of Iran, China, Russia and ISIS.

The following sites updated:

  • Thursday, April 23, 2020

    You can't bully me into voting for a rapist, sorry

    Nina Turner really breaks it down in this video.

    I like Nina.

    I don't like people trying to tell me how to vote.

    Joe Biden's a rapist.  I believe Tara Reade.  

    You go vote for the rapist if you want.  I'm not going to.  You may think you have forever to get it right with God.  I don't think so though.  And I'm not going to dishonor the soul I was given by endorsing a rapist.  

    Like Tracey Chapman sings:

    All you folks think you own my life
    But you never made any sacrifice
    Demons they are on my trail
    I'm standing at the crossroads of the hell
    I look to the left I look to the right
    There're hands that grab me on every side
    Mmh, mmh
    Mmh, mmh
    All you folks think I got my price
    At which I'll sell all that is mine
    You think money rules when all else fails
    Go sell your soul and keep your shell
    I'm trying to protect what I keep inside
    All the reasons why I live my life

    I'm not living my life to celebrate a rapist.  Norman Solomon is.  But he's got a price.  I don't.  I can't be bought.  As someone whose ancestors were enslaved, the last thing I would ever do is auction myself off and shame on any White man who thinks he's going to make me sell myself.

    So somebody tell that idiot Norman Solomon and Noam Chomsky and the other bossy White people who think they can bully me into voting for a rapist:

    All you folks think you run my life
    Say I should be willing to compromise
    I say all you demons go back to hell
    I'll save my soul, save myself
    Norman and Noam, go back to hell.

    Oh, and Noam, get honest about your work recruiting for the CIA before you die.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS): 
    Thursday, April 23, 2020.  Struggling Joe Biden continues to attempt to avoid the rape allegations Tara Reade has lodged against him while Iraq remains in chaos.

    Weeks ago, Tara Reade came forward to detail an alleged assault by Joe Biden.  The media?  "See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they run" -- as the song goes.  Mary Sanchez (TRIBUNE SYNDICATE) observes:

    Biden holds up his work crafting and supporting the Violence Against Women Act as his defense — as if someone who introduced and guided such groundbreaking legislation can’t also be an abuser.
    Fortunately, women know better.
    They know that Biden wouldn’t be the first man that women trusted in a professional sense, as someone who had guided and aided their careers and aspirations, only to be exposed later for salacious behavior.
    Most must also concede this: Reade’s account strikes chords of believability. Sadly, it does so because so many women have endured similar circumstances.
    The assault to your body and dignity happens quickly. The victim is caught off-guard, in a compromising situation that she walked into unaware, a fact that will be used to shift responsibility back on her later. The man, when rebuffed, first choses to blame the woman. According to Reade’s account, after being rejected, Biden reportedly said in the moment, “‘Come on, man, I heard you liked me.'” The narrative lends itself to the typical development of sexual harassment and abuse of power.
    In her initial podcast interview with Katie Halper, Reade’s convincing. She describes being young, thrilled to be in such circles of power, planning on a career in politics.
    For some in many circles, that is all women should need to hear. They’re expecting women, as a collective, to stand firmly with Biden’s accuser, or turn in any feminist cred for not agreeing that women should be believed as a starting point.

    #BelieveWomen is a baseline, a starting point because so often women still are not believed. It doesn’t mean that every story can’t also be scrutinized, that it isn’t necessary to also expect, or at least try to obtain corroborating evidence. But this lack of scrutiny appears to be what Biden opponents appear to be counting on as a means to a political end.

    If you missed Katie Halper's interview with Tara back in March, Katie's now put the interview up on YOUTUBE:

    The corporate media has refused to ask Joe Biden to speak to this allegation.  He comes onto their programs and stumbles around on other topics and they never get a comment from him.  Bill Clinton was accused of rape two decades ago by Juanita Broaddrick.  He had a spokesperson blah blah some words.  Bill never commented then or since.  Joe appears to think that's the standard when accused of assault.  So does the media.  The accusations against Joe come not as he's in the twilight of his second term as president.  The accusations arrive as Joe is seeking to become president.  As Kennedy Bennett (YALE DAILY NEWS) observes, "The recent sexual assault allegations from Tara Reade add onto preexisting hesitations many voters express about Biden."  Biden's response appears to be: Vote for me without asking any questions.  REASON's Cathy Young notes at THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, "Biden isn’t the only one with a hypocrisy problem. Feminist pundits such as Salon writer Amanda Marcotte and New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, usually found in the “Believe women” camp, are now doubters who treat Reade’s allegation mainly as an inconvenience. Actress/activist Alyssa Milano, who used to tweet about the importance of supporting women’s #MeToo stories, now backs Biden and says believing women shouldn’t come at the expense of fairness to men. Major media outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post waited a long time to report on Reade’s allegation and subjected it to much more skeptical scrutiny than the accusations against Kavanaugh."  And John Krull (TRIBUNE STAR) lays it out, "This will come as a shock to the most ideologically blinded fanatics on the left and right, but right and wrong aren’t partisan issues."

    Senator Bernie Sanders has been asked by the media about Tara Reade's accusation against Joe Biden as has Senator Amy Klobuchar.   But the corporate media just can't seem to ask Joe Biden about it.  Is it that difficult a question to ask?

    Below, Emma Green (THE ATLANTIC) interviews Briahna Joy Gray, the journalist who was the press secretary for candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign:

    Green: But we're moving into general-election season now, right?

    Gray: But we’re not! The Democratic Party would like us to believe that’s the case, and they behaved that way even before Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race. But we are, in fact, still in a Democratic-primary season. Biden is only the presumptive nominee.
    We’re expected to be giving parades for policy positions that are more conservative than were offered up four years ago? We are living the status quo. At a certain point, voters are tired of having people—excuse the expression—piss on their leg and tell them that it’s raining.
    And there’s all kinds of whispers and rumors about whether or not something might happen at the convention, which might mean Joe Biden isn’t even the nominee.

    Green: Are you talking about the Tara Reade allegations?

    Gray: There’s a lot of reasons why Democrats might want to substitute a different person for Joe Biden as the nominee. The Tara Reade allegation has been handled abysmally by the press. If anyone looks at this closely, then they will see reason for concern.

    Oh my goodness.  Is Emma Green okay?  Did they have to call paramedics?  I mean, read the above, she managed to do an interview where she asked about Tara Reade.  Anderson Cooper has spoken to Joe how many times and he still can't ask him about Tara Reade's accusation.

    A lot of people are being silent and it sends a lousy message to survivors.  Holly Otterbein and Marc Caputo (POLITICO) offer:

    “The disgusting behavior that Christine Blasey Ford had to deal with from the right is the disgusting behavior that Tara Reade is having to deal with from many on the left,” said Sarah Ann Masse, one of the numerous women who accused Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. “Survivors in the world watch this, and those who have not come forward publicly, those who have not shared it with their family or gone to the police or sought out mental health support, they see this and it silences them.”
    Reade’s allegations against Biden, [. . .], have even led to scrutiny of the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, which was founded in 2018 to help victims of sexual harassment and assault. The group said it helped connect Reade to attorneys, but determined it could not fund a lawyer or public relations for her because Biden is a candidate for federal office and it believed its nonprofit status could therefore be threatened. 
    “It really bothers me,” said former actress Louisette Geiss, another woman who accused Weinstein of harassment, of its decision not to help Reade financially. “What we're saying here in the #MeToo movement is that's it, time's up, if you will. You cannot engage in this behavior anymore no matter who you are — Trump, Biden, Harvey.”

    Howard Lisnoff (COUNTERPUNCH) notes the hypocrisy of politicians who have endorsed Joe:

    Tara Reade’s allegations seem believable. She reported the incident to others following the incident and later, and she has suffered trauma in ways that are commonly reflected in this kind of assault.
    Even a casual observer has to weigh in on the insensitivity involved in endorsing someone like Biden when this most serious of allegations was made. A few days following Bernie Sanders grand capitulation, Elizabeth Warren followed suit, saying she would accept the office of vice president if asked by Biden. Left sufficiently reeling from these pronouncements of falling into line with neoliberalism, one wonders if anything political is sacred to these people? Certainly, integrity is not one of those scared values!

    When will those on the political left learn that electoral politics in the US is a zero-sum “game?” The liberal Vice President, Henry Wallace, was dropped from the Democratic ticket in 1944, as he was getting too close for comfort to the serious corridors of power. Lyndon Johnson blindsided the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the Democratic Convention in 1964. Hubert Humphrey dragged the Democratic Party to certain defeat in 1968, as he refused to take a bold stand against the Vietnam War and break with Lyndon Johnson. In 1972, antiwar progressive George McGovern won the Democratic Party nomination, and because of his defeat those with the levers of power in the Democratic Party vowed that another liberal candidate would get nowhere near the presidency. The latter became obvious through the neoliberal Clinton’s nomination by the Democrats in 2016 and her loss at the polls. The Democrats would rather lose electorally and continue as lapdogs of the power elite.

    The only thing worse than endorsing Biden?  A woman becoming his running mate.  Earlier this week, we noted a woman writing about Joe assaulting her.  That didn't surprise me.  A New York outlet is weighing going forward with another woman.  By the time summer rolls around, Tara may not be the only woman publicly accusing Joe of assault.  Imagine how Senator Amy Klobuchar or Kamala Harris will look -- or any other woman but especially those two 'tough on crime' women -- if they're the running mate and you've got six or eight women publicly accusing Joe of assault.  I believe that's called "career suicide."  You don't overcome that.  You don't get to show up in 2024 and say, "Look America, trust my judgment.  Sure, four years ago, I was on the ticket with a man accused of rape by multiple women, but trust my judgment this time.  In four years, I've learned, I've really, really learned."

    At THE GW HATCHET, Victoria Freire explains:

    I refuse to vote for Biden because he has consistently favored the wealthy elite over the working class. At a time in which radical policy changes are the only way to prevent climate catastrophe and mass deaths from COVID-19, Biden’s platform instead includes a want to not “demonize” the wealthy and have “no one’s standard of living change,” as he told rich donors at a fundraiser last June. When he attempts to glorify former President Barack Obama’s years in office, he notably neglects those who suffered the most as a result of the administration’s mass deportations, record civilian drone strikes and infamous Wall Street bailout. These policies have most directly affected low-income communities of color, communities Biden has not been particularly sensitive to. Biden has idealized his work with segregationists as work of “civility,” opposed integrated busing and worried such desegregation policies would cause his children to grow up “in a racial jungle.” He also authored the 1994 crime bill, which led to mass incarceration of disproportionately black and brown Americans. Just a few months ago, Biden gave a speech in Iowa claiming “poor kids are just as bright as white kids.” We have always known Biden was a racist, but Democrats only care about racial oppression when it’s their opponents who perpetrate it.
    Just as horrifying is Biden’s longtime pattern of sexual harassment, and now, Biden has an allegation of sexual assault. Regardless of who you decide to vote for, I implore you to listen to Tara Reade’s story. Any Democrat who dismisses these allegations as uncredible or illegitimate is a hypocrite. I believe Reade, just as I believed Christine Blasey Ford and E. Jean Carroll. And as much as Democrats want me to, I do not believe in voting for the “lesser” of two rapists.
    We must not forget that Biden voted for the Iraq war, voted for NAFTA, has consistently supported corporate bailouts and opposes Medicare for All amid a pandemic (one that he has been largely absent from).

    The Iraq War.  Yes, Joe voted for the Iraq War.  Every presidential cycle since the start of the Iraq War (2003) has seen the Democratic Party run at least one supporter of the Iraq War on the national ticket -- in 2004, they ran two.  They just don't seem to learn, do they?  This is considered the worst fiasco (the proper term is "crime') when it comes to foreign policy in the 21st century.  And, of course, Joe did more than just vote for it.  He attacked those opposed to it.  He repeatedly attempted to split Iraq up into three different governments -- he only gave that up in February of 2008.  As Vice President, he took part in tossing out the votes of the Iraqi people in 2010 when they said no to a second term for thug Nouri al-Maliki.  Joe sold not only the legal contract that overturned the votes (The Erbil Agreement), he also went to Iraq to explain to leaders why they had to support Nouri for a second term.  As he babbled away, it all had something to do with Ireland.  (Emma Sky does a perfect recap of that moment and how absurd it was and how stupid Joe came off to the Iraqi leaders.)  He did a lot including dismissing ISIS early on.  Joe's been no friend to the Iraqi people although he has managed to do his part to ensure that the war never ended.

    It goes on today.

    At The Atlantic Council, Abbas Kadhim offers:

    The protests that started in October 2019 ushered in a new political era in Iraq. For the first time in the post-2003 process of democratic transition, a government was forced to resign due to popular pressure.
    The resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet forced the Iraqi political leadership to face contentious constitutional and procedural questions about government formation. Iraq’s constitution contains many ambiguities about the prime minister selection process even under usual circumstances (i.e. following a regularly scheduled election). The challenging situation was exacerbated by a reckless combination of both politicizing the interpretation of the constitution and circumventing it entirely.
    Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi prophetically advised his opponents to agree on his successor before he submitted his resignation, for he knew that the Iraqi political framework would not function in the vacuum that would result from his absence. His fears were well-justified. The chaos that ensued following his resignation nearly paralyzed Iraq’s leadership, as they struggled to deal with mass gatherings of angry protesters with a broad list of demands, a dangerous escalation of the US-Iran conflict that played out on Iraqi soil over recent months, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
    After exceeding the constitutionally mandated deadline to choose a new prime minister and transparently exhausting all the loopholes to buy time to create a political consensus, President Barham Salih designated Mohamed Tawfik Allawi to form a government. Despite the selection, objections from various powerful political blocs ground the process to a halt. The Council of Representatives failed to reach a quorum twice and Allawi’s cabinet was not put up for a vote. Salih, then, designated Council of Representatives Member Adnan Alzurfi to form a cabinet, but Alzurfi’s candidacy caused deep cleavages within the Shia political blocs and he was forced to withdraw his nomination before a confirmation session could be scheduled.

    Salih, next, designated a third candidate, National Intelligence Chief Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to form a cabinet. Al-Kadhimi was supported by a Shia consensus and, absent any major disputes over the negotiations of “who gets what,” he will be confirmed as Iraq’s new prime minister. But this will only be the beginning of the formidable challenges Al-Kadhimi will face. 

    Not only did Joe Biden support the war, he supported every decision that led to the current shambles Iraq is in.  He can't stop telling America that "Barack put me in charge of Iraq."  Yes, Joe, he did.  And how does that speak to your qualifications?

    Iraq is a failed state.

    And ISIS remains active in Iraq.  Lawk Ghafuri (RUDAW) reports:

    Eighty-two Iraqi civilians were killed and 120 injured between January 1 and April 15 as a result of the conflict between the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Islamic State (ISIS) militants, the ministry of defense acknowledged on Tuesday evening.

    Despite the coronavirus pandemic and coalition withdrawal from several bases across the country, the ISF has conducted 1,060 operations and killed 135 targets since January 1, defense ministry spokesman Yehia Rasool said in a series of tweets.

    According to these latest figures, operations took place in every Iraqi province aside from those in the Kurdistan Region over the first 15 weeks of 2020, to clear bomb factories, arms caches, and secret tunnels used by the jihadists, Rasool said.

    At least 88 ISF soldiers were killed and 174 wounded during these operations.

    The following sites updated: