Friday, July 24, 2020

Find some joy

Louis Proyect is a writer I read that I often disagree with.  I've criticized him a few times here.  He has an article at COUNTERPUNCH which is worth reading.  I agree with him a bit more than usual, on this article, but the reason I'm noting it is because it's a topic that has gotten a lot of attention of late: cancel culture.

I'd also recommend you read the piece C.I. wrote on the topic last week, "Cancel Culture, anyone?"

Speaking of C.I. --  Ava and C.I., I hope you already read their "TV: A Dull Dead World" about how awful BRAVE NEW WORLD is.  PEACOCK should have been so much better.  Instead, it's deeply disappointing -- and that includes their refusal to be available on ROKU or AMAZON FIRE.  It's a great piece that they've written and I love how they weave so many things into it: Robert Wagner, Stephanie Powers, Anita Loos, Anais Nin, Lindsay Wagner, Charlotte Perkins, Octavia E. Butler, Jack Nicholson, Anita Ekberg . . .  And I love their concluding paragraph:

When Wagner began trashing Powers publicly, he ruined the chance that the show would garner many new fans.  Who wants to watch a pedestrian show when you know the leading man hated the leading woman?  We're not saying that Robert Wagner wants to drown Stephanie Powers, we're just saying that anyone who read his hideous 2008 PIECES OF MY HEART: A LIFE would have no reason to ever want to check out HART TO HART.  And far from sharing his distaste for Stephanie, most readers probably understood why she decided to stop working with him.  TV magic is feather-light and can be destroyed by many things, just ask Robert Wagner.

That line was originally, "We're not saying that Robert Wagner wants to murder Stephanie . . ."  But they changed it to "drown" and that made it even better.

Now I watched BLINDSPOT and I agree strongly with Stan's take "BLINDSPOT -- wtf???!!!! "  I could've taken a happy ending or a tragic one but I thought it was crappy to refuse to deliver one or the other and instead try to have it both ways. 

I also agree strongly with Ann's "Was Casey Sheehan a War Criminal?"  I love Cindy Sheehan but that interview with Dario Hunter was b.s.  And Cindy's assertion that Howie Hawkins is a War Criminal because he served in Vietnam was outrageous.  My father served in Vietnam, don't you call my daddy a War Criminal, Cindy.

That's so disgusting.  And the glee and snide attitude coming off her is repulsive. 

Find some joy, Cindy, find some joy in life.

"Future Hillary" made me laugh.  We have to find joy in life -- especially during the pandemic.

From earlier this week, please be sure to check out Ruth's "Why does Chuck Todd still have a job?" and see if you can figure out the answer to that question because I sure can't.   I also enjoyed Rebecca's "young americans?" about the variety show genre and Kat's "The Mamas and the Papas and Laura Nyro" and Mike's "MARVEL AGENTS OF SHIELD" and Trina's "Congress doesn't give a damn about We The People" and Marcia's "Women, let's stop being stupid" -- In fact, let me talk about that last one.  Stop putting your purses down on countertops outside your home.  This is a pandemic.  Keep your purse on your shoulder or in your hands.  It's nasty if you're putting it on countertops.  And it can make you sick or the people you love sick.  It's not safe. 

I always enjoy Elaine's music posts but I especially enjoyed "5 takes on 'What A Fool Believes'" where she gathered up five versions of "What A Fool Believes" by five different artists. 

Think I'm done?  I'm not.  Loved Cedric and Wally's joint-post this week:

See there, I managed to note everyone.  C.I. and Cedric and Wally always note everyone in the community's post -- every post.  I barely manage to note one other person's post a week. 

I haven't done a science post this week but I did work on "Mars" at THIRD.  We may do a science post there this weekend as well.  Ava and C.I. asked what I thought about doing one and we've done that before when we were short on material or needed to expand the focus a bit. 

But here's a video about my favorite land rover Curiosity.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, July 24, 2020.  In Iraq, a kidnapping victim is freed while in the US the race for the presidency continues. 

Starting with news out of Iraq, Hella Mewis who was kidnapped earlier this week.

She has been freed.  Thirsty Works Tweets:

Foreign Minister Maas is "very relieved": Iraqi security forces have freed the kidnapped German cultural mediator Hella Mewis. She was then taken to the German embassy in Baghdad.

Who is Hella?  DEUTSCHE WELLE explains:

The German national has lived in Baghdad for several years, promoting the work of young Iraqi artists.

Mewis is a prominent figure in the Iraqi art scene and a known supporter of the widespread demonstrations that erupted last year against the Iraqi government, which some critics accuse of being corrupt and too close to Iran.

Her abduction sparked concern among other foreigners and activists living in the country and authorities have not given any information about who was behind her disappearance.

Hella is free
Smiling face with open mouth
this is great news ! #HellaMewis #freedom_for_hella
6:50 AM · Jul 24, 2020

And while it is great news, note that no one is being held responsible.  AP explains:

Hella Mewis was freed at 6:25 a.m. local time (11:25 p.m. Thursday) in an operation southeast of the capital Baghdad in which security forces raided a location based on intelligence they obtained regarding her whereabouts, a security official said. A second security official said she had been found blindfolded.

[. . .]

Iraqi security forces comprised of Interior Ministry personnel, intelligence officials and the federal police had worked to free Mewis by monitoring surveillance footage, among other methods, a statement from the Interior Ministry said.

Brig. Khaled Al-Muhanna, a spokesman for the ministry, said the kidnappers had not been arrested. The statement said an investigation was under way to bring the perpetrators to justice.

They monitored security footage, did they?

Why didn't they just ask the Iraqi police?  It was already noted in multiple press accounts that she was kidnapped in broad daylight and that the police saw it happen and did nothing.  

For example,  Helen Holmes (OBSERVER) noted: "Additionally, according to the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, police officers in Baghdad witnessed Mewis’s kidnapping but did not intervene."

Why would they do nothing?  For the same reason that her kidnappers are not being arrested.

German national Hella Mewis, kidnapped in Baghdad on 20 July, has been rescued. Most kidnappings in Iraq are perpetrated by organised criminals for ransom, some are political, usually to blackmail, influence or to deliver a warning. Hella's kidnapping was political.

It was political.

Why was she targeted?  One reason is noted by EURONEWS, "She is said to be an ardent supporter of recent mass anti-government protests across the capital and the country's south, which is mostly Shia."

The protests ousted the previous prime minister.  Though the current prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, has promised to bring to justice the members of the security forces who injured and killed protesters, nothing has been done and protesters continue to be targeted.  

That is only one of many possible reasons Hella was targeted.

In the United States, a presidential election is scheduled to take place in November.  Presumptive Republican Party nominee is Donald Trump, the current president.  Emily Aubert (BALLOTPEDIA) reports, "Donald Trump raised $20 million during the campaign’s first virtual fundraiser. Joe Biden launched a $15 million advertising campaign across six battleground states."  Joe Biden is the presumed presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. 

The election will take place in November.  Presumably, these two people and the parties they represent want Americans to vote for them.  But with an election only months away -- less than four full months away -- they offer nothing to We The People.

And they offer nothing in the midst of a global pandemic.  Not only are they offering nothing, they're now working -- united -- to reduce unemployment benefits.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) reports:

Behind the various proposals by the White House and congressional Republicans and Democrats is a common class purpose. American capitalists regard the $600-a-week supplemental unemployment compensation as a major barrier to their campaign to force millions of workers to go back to their jobs, regardless of the dangers from coronavirus.

Corporate executives have complained that for many workers, the average of nearly $1,000 a week in state and federal unemployment payments combined represents a pay raise compared to the miserable wages they previously received for working 40 hours a week in warehouses, factories, fast-food restaurants and retail stores.

The business magazine Forbes carries a headline on its web site today: “Potential Unemployment Plan Means Huge Income Cut For Tens Of Millions Who Can’t Afford It.” For the financial oligarchs, that is not an indictment, but rather the purpose of the plan. These workers, they calculate, will have no choice but to take any job on offer, no matter how dangerous in terms of COVID-19 and no matter how low the pay.

In addition, big business wants to ensure that, like the CARES Act, the lion’s share of any new federal outlays will go to corporate America, both in large-scale loans and grants, and the so-called “small business” funds in the Paycheck Protection Program, much of which has gone to large companies and those with political connections to members of Congress.

Official Washington is fully conscious of the tidal wave of mass suffering and deprivation that the ending of federal extended benefits will unleash. The Trump administration has quietly extended for 30 days a moratorium, first enacted in the CARES Act, on evictions from federally backed housing. The White House wants to make the necessary preparations—particularly in bolstering local police and sheriff’s departments—before it begins to move against the estimated 12.3 million households who are now in arrears on rent and will face eviction after September 1.

The scale of the impending social collapse is indicated by a Washington Post report Thursday that as many as one million families in a single state, North Carolina, “have fallen behind on their electric, water and sewage bills, threatening residents and their cities with severe financial hardship unless federal lawmakers act to approve more emergency aid.” Duke Energy alone has more than 130,000 customers who are 60 days behind on their electric bills.

The American ruling class and its two corporate-controlled parties are planning to stage an election campaign over the next three months that will unfold against the backdrop of an unprecedented social calamity. Neither the fascistic Trump nor Democrat Joe Biden, the favored candidate of Wall Street and the CIA, offer anything to tens of millions of working people.

Martin also notes:

The Socialist Equality Party and its candidates in the 2020—Joseph Kishore for president and Norissa Santa Cruz for vice president—say that the working class is not responsible for the crisis caused by the incompetent and homicidal policy of the American financial elite. We demand an end to the premature and unsafe back-to-work and back-to-school campaigns, full wages and benefits for all workers sidelined by the pandemic, and a safe workplace and hazard pay for essential workers who remain on the job.

Joseph Kishore Tweeted yesterday about the madness coming out of the corporate controlled system:

This is incredible. With the #COVID19 pandemic raging out of control, the auto companies are so determined to keep production going that they forced workers to work in the dark after a power outage at Chicago Ford. Photo from a worker in the article.

Joseph is one of the non-corporate duopoly candidates.  Gloria La Riva is another.  She is the US presidential nominee for the Party of Liberation and Socialism.  The Minneapolis chapter of the PSL Tweets:

Only a socialist system, in which the productive powers of society are brought under democratic control, can protect our planet! Help put socialism on the ballot in Minnesota by signing the ballot access petition for Gloria La Riva and Leonard Peltier at!
12:43 AM · Jul 24, 2020

And the PSL's newspaper LIBERATION carries this statement from candidate Gloria:

I strongly condemn Israel’s planned annexation of much of the West Bank and I demand an end to U.S.aid to the state of Israel. I also call for an immediate end to the annual gift of $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel, an highly militarized state, the only one in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons. The U.S. government also provides Israel with billions more in loan guarantees and assistance.

In the midst of a deadly pandemic, tens of millions of people have lost jobs, housing, health care and more. While severely cutting food stamps at a time of rapidly growing hunger, the Trump administration is sending billions to fund the brutal occupation and repression of the oppressed Palestinian people.

Trump, while promoting the worst neo-Nazi, racist and anti-Semitic elements, simultaneously pretends that his support for Israel is based on sympathy with Jewish people! Through the backing of Israel’s annexation of Syrian land in the Golan Heights, the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and the so- called “Deal of the Century,” the Trump administration had given a green light to Israel to seize much of the West Bank. The worldwide uprising against racism, however, caused the administration to block Israel – at least temporarily – from annexing 30% or more of the West Bank.

As despicable as Trump and his cohorts are, it would be wrong to see the support for Israel and its anti-Palestinian apartheid system as just a Republican project. In fact, going back to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the driving out of most of the Palestinian population, the Democratic Party has been the main supporter of vast military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President supported every form of aid to Israel in his 36 years as a U.S. Senator and eight years as vice-president.

Neither the Democrat nor Republican leaders’ support for Israel has anything to do with sympathy for Jewish people. They view Israel as a vital extension of U.S. military power in a key strategic region of the world. Israel’s wars against Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian people were also proxy wars against countries and movements viewed as enemies by Washington.

My campaign, the La Riva for President 2020 Campaign, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation, we express our full solidarity with the people of Palestine, and the various ongoing movements to bring mass attention to their struggle for emancipation, such as the international call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). My campaign calls for no annexation and supports true self-determination for the Palestinian people including the right of return to their stolen homeland for all Palestinian refugees.”

Third party and independent candidates face many hurdles.  There is a disinterested corporate media that either ignores them or mocks them.  And let's stop saying corporate media on that.  Howie Hawkins was declared the Green Party's presidential candidate two weeks ago.  Not only has Amy Goodman refused to invite him on DEMOCRACY NOW! since then, she hasn't even included a headline about the Green Party's national convention or about Howie securing the nomination.  In addition to the media hurdle, there is also the hurdle of ballot access -- getting their names on the ballot so that Americans can vote for them.  "Write them in!"" Sure, but in some states, a write in vote only counts if the candidate has been approved as a write in candidate.  

Benjamin Cox (WLDS) reports on Illinois state':

In the U.S. Presidential race, the most notable name to file yesterday was hip-hop star Kanye West. West, who is originally from Chicago, was joined by some less notable names filing on Monday. According to some sources, 3178 signatures appear to have been accepted from West’s 4120 that were turned in. West’s campaign petitions have an address for a vacant lot and out building that West owns in Cody, Wyoming.

Leonard Peltier a federally imprisoned Native American activist in Florida filed as a Vice Presidential candidate on the Party for Socialism and Liberation. He previously ran for president in 2004. Peltier is one of the longest serving political prisoners in the world, as he has spent 43 years in prison. In a controversial 1977 trial, Peltier was convicted of aiding and abetting the murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He is not scheduled for parole until 2024. Peltier is the running mate to long-time socialist activist Gloria La Riva. This is La Riva’s 10th consecutive presidential or vice presidential candidacy.

Brian Carroll of Visalia, California and Amar Patel of Lombard, Illinois filed with the American Solidarity Party as president and vice president.

Signatures on petitions will be allowed to be contested until July 27th. Ballots will be finalized late next month.

If the media would cover fairly, most voters would be aware that there's probably a candidate for everyone.  For example?

Maybe you hate soldiers.  Not the military system, mind you, but just soldiers.  If you hate soldiers, Dario Hunter is the candidate for you.  As Ann notes in "Was Casey Sheehan a War Criminal?" he participated this week in a conversation with Cindy Sheehan where the two discussed how the American men who served in Vietnam were War criminals -- in their minds.  All of them.  They weren't talking about any War Crimes, actual ones, they were just saying that if you were an American and you served in Vietnam, you were a War Criminal.

So if you're someone who hates American soldiers, Dario Hunter is the candidate for you.

Dario ran for the Green Party's presidential nomination.  Well . . . he walked for it.  A little.  He lost to Howie Hawkins because he ran a s**ty campaign but, since losing, he's gone on various podcasts to tell America a big conspiracy theory about how he was denied the nomination and the Greens just wanted Howie all along.

Green Party members certainly wanted Howie.  That's how he secured the nomination.

That's Howie and his running mate Angela Walker.

Remember how we were saying there's a candidate for everyone?  Well maybe you don't hate all American soldiers.  Maybe you're someone who thinks the president of the United States should be someone who served in the military?  If that's your requirement, Howie's your guy.  He's the only nominee this year who served in the military.

Howie served in Vietnam.  That's how Cindy Sheehan and Dario Hunter brought up Vietnam.  I mean, it's 2020 for goodness sake.  And Cindy can't even be bothered with talking about Iraq anymore -- for years now, in fact.  So why was she talking Vietnam?  Because she and Dario wanted to trash Howie as a War Criminal.

And you thought it only got ugly with Biden and Trump?

  • Howie Hawkins shared a blog post he wrote about non-voters, describing them as alienated rather than apathetic. He highlighted turnout rates among working-class voters.
  • Jo Jorgensen released a digital campaign ad, “War Is Over,” focused on foreign policy and national security. “We need to have a strong military defending our shores, but there’s no reason for us to be defending the rest of the world. It only makes things worse. We’ve got to come home,” Jorgensen says in the clip.

  • Here's Jo Jorgensen discussing COVID.


    Jo Jorgensen is the US presidential candidate representing the Libertarian Party.  Laura Burrows of the Los Alamos chapter of the Libertarian Party notes:

    On August 8 at 10:30 a.m., protesters are gathering in the first nationwide #LetHerSpeak driving protest in counties all across the nation. The Los Alamos Libertarian Party will lead a group of local community members in a COVID-safe demonstration, driving convoy style down Trinity Drive, and Diamond and Central (see google maps specific route plan). They will be decorating their cars parade-style and will “go live” together on their social media channels.

    This is a coordinated effort across the nation to protest the Commission on Presidential Debates continued decision to silence the Libertarian Nominee for the United States President, Dr. Jo Jorgensen, and all third parties are who are listed on the presidential ballot.

    One hundred years ago this year, women were taking to the streets to protest the government to recognize their rights as sovereign citizens, and their right to be heard in elections, led by the Women Voters Coalition. The WVC also created the first presidential debates to give American voters a greater understanding of all their presidential candidates. In 1987, the Commission on Presidential Debates was formed to take over sponsorship of the debate and boxed the WVC out.

    The CPD created polling restrictions to not allow third-parties in the debate by selecting random polls to determine who is polling above 15%. The catch? Most of these polls do not even mention a 3rd party candidate. In 2012, the minimum to participate was 10%, but when Gary Johnson got 12%, the CPD raised the polling requirement to 15%. Voters are being left in the dark with systemic voter manipulation.

    We demand polling restrictions are changed to quantifiable results that cannot be manipulated by the CPD. Third parties who are listed as options on American ballots shall be allowed to debate so that Americans can properly compare their choices.

    It’s been 100 years since the 19th amendment was passed, and Dr. Jo Jorgensen, the only female candidate (who is highly qualified), is still being silenced by the CPD. Dr. Jo Jorgensen has her Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology, is a Senior Lecturer at Clemson University, is an accomplished entrepreneur, and has a pristine record. The Libertarian Party is one of the only parties in the U.S. that has secured ballot access for presidential candidates in all 50 states. She is an educated and articulate woman with fresh ideas, and with as divided as the American public is, she deserves to be heard.

    “Government is too big, too bossy, too nosy, and, worst of all, often hurts the very people it intends to help. The government doesn’t work; liberty and freedom do” – Dr. Jo Jorgensen

    We invite all local press to participate in this grassroots event and meet us at the Ashley Pond Parking Lot on 20th Street and Trinity Drive on August 8 at 9:45 a.m. for a short rally before the convoy begins and “go live” with this historic event!

    All participants will be wearing masks and be staying with their cars.

    The following sites updated:

    Thursday, July 23, 2020

    Taraji? For real?

    So there's going to be an EMPIRE spin-off.

    Who's really asking for that?

    At it's highest, the show pulled in 17.62 million for an episode.  By the time it limped to its end? 2.94 million.

    It was the show we all loved and it became the garbage we couldn't get away from fast enough. 

    But FOX thinks we want a spin-off and, get this, that we want it to star Taraji P. Henson's tired ass.

    She's destroyed any image she might have had -- any good image.  She lied and whored for Jussie Hoax Smollett.  I'm surprised she's not defending the actor who played her youngest son -- the one who was just arrested for battery.

    Her laughable line of make up is teetering.

    Her film career is over.  She's had too many flops and she's too old.

    I think the best thing that could happen would be to let Cookie fade.

    She was an embarrassment.  A doormat who repeatedly said, "I'm done with you, Lucious.  I'm focusing on me."  And then she would doormat her way back into Lucious' arms.

    She had no female friends.  She had no male friends.

    She was a hateful little hood rat and she was that if she had money and if she didn't have money.  Cookie was a stunted woman who acted like a little girl because she never grew up.

    And we need to see that? 

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
    Thursday, July 23, 2020.  A briefing on Iraq lets the press show their real colors, a high profile kidnapping takes place in Iraq, Turkey continues to terrorize Iraq and, remember, it's safe to talk about Joe Biden and Iraq if you only focus on when he was a US senator.

    Yesterday, US Maj Gen Kenneth P. Ekman ("deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve") gave a briefing via satellite from Baghdad.  He's been deputy commander in Iraq since April 2020.  Prior to that, he was stationed for two years at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

    At the end of his opening remarks, Ekman noted that a US service member had died in Syria the previous day.  Here's the DoD release on that death.


    A service member with Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve died in Syria, July 21.


    Initial reports indicate the incident was not due to enemy contact.


    The incident is under investigation. 


    It is CJTF-OIR policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities after the next of kin have been notified.

    Attending the press conference was NPR's Tom Bowman.  As usual, Tom ignored Iraq.  He asked about Syria and he asked about Turkey.  Ekman reminded him that Turkey wasn't OIR's focus ("As you know, we're focused on Iraq and Syria.").  It's a pity NPR never reminds Tom Bowman that US service members are stationed in Iraq and a press briefing from Baghdad should include questions about Iraq.  

    But Tom Bowman's been allowed to blow off Iraq for a decade now.  

    Courtney Kube is with NBC.  So let's guess what her focus was.  Iraq?  No.  No. And no.  Russia.  She's part of the crazy Russian madness -- obsessed with it.  But if that wasn't the case, she wouldn't work at NBC, now would she?  And you can't be a cable crazy without asking about Russia which explains CNN's Ryan Browne's wasting everyone's time with his Russia conspiracy theories

    Who asked about US forces?  I'd love to tell you it was ABC . . .

    After Tom ignored Iraq, after AP's Lolita Baldor focused on Iraq and Iran (valid) and after Courtney obsessed over Russia, we finally got this: "This is Lucas Tomlinson with Fox News. General, how many U.S. troops are in Syria and Iraq right now? And are there any plans to remove some of those forces?"

    Maj Gen Kenneth P. Ekman: Yeah, so on numbers, first I'll just tell you that our coalition and U.S. troop presence varies somewhat as we go through the various phases of the operation in both Syria and Iraq.

    With regards to U.S. force presence in Iraq, that is something that we continually coordinate with the government of Iraq, and right now the number is 5,200. That is the enduring number that we've coordinated with our hosts, as they invited us here. I will tell you that those numbers are subject to some discussion as we progress our way through the campaign and as we work our way through the strategic dialogue that will negotiate and sort through our relationship with Iraq in the future.

    With regards to Syria, those numbers are managed very carefully to make sure that we have sufficient forces to achieve our objectives in Syria, and those have been fairly stable for a while.

    Lucas Tomlinson:  So you said 5,200 in Iraq, and I didn't hear the number for Syria, General.

    MAJ. GEN. EKMAN: Yeah, and we try to keep those pretty constant just because the numbers in Syria tend to point to specific capabilities. We're careful about how specifically we cite them, just given kind of our limited footprint there.

    Thanks, though.

    I believe the next section is AFP's Sylvie Lanteaume.

    STAFF: Moving back to the phone line, Sylvie of AFP.

    Q: Hello. Hello. Thank you.

    You say that you are getting smaller, but answering Lucas' questions, you seem to say that the number is stable. So how are you getting smaller?

    MAJ. GEN. EKMAN: Yes ma'am. Hey, thanks for your question. I didn't catch your name in the introduction.

    And so we're at that point in our campaign -- and I covered this some in my opening remarks -- where we've been quite successful. We're continuing to transfer bases back to our Iraqi hosts. The most recent will be Basmaya, where the transfer ceremony occurs on the 25th of July. All of that is a sign of progress. What that has allowed us to do is to reduce our footprint here in Iraq. We're going to do that slowly, and we're going to do that in close coordination with the government of Iraq. But both for U.S. forces and coalition forces, we continue to work with our hosts so that our footprint here supports our mutual objectives.

    Q: So excuse me, sir. I can follow up. So you are saying that it's not done yet. You are going to get smaller.

    MAJ. GEN. EKMAN: Yes, ma'am. I think over time what you will see is a slow reduction of U.S. forces here in Iraq in coordination with our Iraqi hosts.

    Russia fear mongering was also provided by TASK & PURPOSE's Jeff Schogol who attempted to cite his false god Brett Blue Balls McGurk.  Jeffy loves Brett's balls -- blue and all.  But he's too busy fantasizing about being in Brett's arms to keep up to date.  Brett has a title.  Consultant to the United Nations investigative team on ISIS.  This was announced July 20th:

    is delighted to welcome
    to #UNITAD as a senior consultant. Brett’s vast diplomatic experience and expertise as the former head of the Global
    to Defeat #ISIL will add immense value to our efforts

    Could there be a more stupid move?

    For those who've forgotten, Sunnis and Kurds were not fond of Brett and were the loudest objecting when Barack Obama tried (and failed) to make Brett US Ambassador to Iraq.  He's not seen as fair.  He's not seen as impartial.

    We'll return to the press conference tomorrow.  For now, let's note a kidnapping in Iraq. Murtada Tweets:

    Hella Mewis a #German artist and curator based in Baghdad. Was kidnaped today at 20:00 in the center of #Baghdad #freedom_for_hella
    3:32 PM · Jul 20, 2020


    "I love Iraqi food, I love the Iraqi people," the art curator told Sary Hussam, an Iraqi journalist, in an interview in January 2020 posted on YouTube. "Of course I have difficulties with the social customs here, but as a foreigner I can enjoy my freedom and am not involved."

    There can be no doubt that Hella Mewis, who has lived in Iraq for years, was aware of the omnipresent danger for foreigners. Many live barricaded behind thick concrete walls and barbed wire, protected and escorted by armed security personnel. Not so Hella Mewis. "I can't live without Baghdad," Mewis said in the interview. "If I leave Baghdad just for an hour, I already feel homesick!"

    Born in then-East Berlin and educated as a theater manager, Mewis discovered her love for Iraq in 2013, when she went to Baghdad for a project sponsored by the Goethe Institut. "I got off the plane, set foot on Baghdad's soil and knew: This is home," Mewis was quoted two years ago in the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau (FR), which continues, "She came to Baghdad with the aim of giving the city of car bombs, suicide bombers and militias a different look."

    Hella was featured in an April 20, 2019 NEWSHOUR (PBS) report:

  • Hella Mewis:

    When we did the first installation, exhibition, people we were shocked and said This is not art. This is a question: what is art?

  • Simona Foltyn:

    Bait Tarkib is run by Hella Mewis.

  • Hella Mewis:

    The Iraqi society, some of them of course are conservative, but some of them are simply afraid to make a change. So this is why what we are trying to do — not to be afraid to make a change and other people will follow, I'm sure, they started to follow us.

  • Simona Foltyn:

    Bait Tarkib organizes exhibitions and workshops to help emerging artists develop their portfolios and get exposure through events like the art walk. It receives funding from French and German cultural institutes, but not the Iraqi government.

  • Hella Mewis:

    The government doesn't care at all about the young generation and art especially. Culture, no, nothing. Grants like we have in Europe so we have grants for the young generation, grants for cultural institutions, here is nothing.

  • On Monday evening, as-yet unidentified perpetrators carried out the kidnapping of Hella Mewis, a German national and curator who was working as the head of the Tarkib art center in Baghdad. According to reports, Mewis was apparently in the process of leaving the Tarkib offices last night at approximately 8 p.m. when a white pickup truck and another car approached and she was taken away. Additionally, according to the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, police officers in Baghdad witnessed Mewis’s kidnapping but did not intervene. The newspaper also stated that instances of kidnapping of foreign nationals living in Iraq have increased significantly in 2020.

    Meanwhile, the government of Turkey continues to assault the country of Iraq, international law and Iraq's national sovereignty in what should be called acts of terrorism because that's what they are.  Orhan Coskun, Daren Butler and John Davison (REUTERS) reports:
    Turkey is taking its decades-old conflict with Kurdish militants deep into northern Iraq, establishing military bases and deploying armed military drones against the fighters in their mountain strongholds.
    [. . .]
    Baghdad summoned Turkey’s ambassador last month to formally complain, but the central government has limited authority in the autonomous region, while the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq is wary of antagonising Turkey, which has NATO’s second largest standing army. 

     Earlier this week, George Mikhail (AL-MONITOR) noted:

    Egypt has been facing off against Turkey not only in Libya, but also in Iraq, where the Turkish army has launched attacks in the north targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party, according to a June 15 Turkish Ministry of Defense statement. Meanwhile, Iraq has been accusing Turkey of violating Iraqi sovereignty and disrespecting the principles of good neighborly relations.

    The Iraqi Parliament called on the UN Security Council July 6 to step in to stop the Turkish military incursions.

    Egypt took advantage of the Iraqi-Turkish dispute to step up its efforts to cement ties with Iraq. Cairo offered diplomatic and political support to Baghdad against Turkey and the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the Turkish military intervention June 19.

    In an earlier statement on July 3, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned ongoing Turkish violations of Iraqi sovereignty under what it called unfounded national security allegations and asserted that its actions are unacceptable and undermine regional peace and security.

    Joe Biden gets softballs in interview after interview.  No one asks him about the Kurds, about what Turkey's doing, about anything to do with Iraq.  But, as he endlessly boasts, when he was Vice President, Barack put him in charge of Iraq.  Reality, that didn't work out very well.  Does the press plan to ever examine that?

    At FOREIGN POLICY, Robert Draper looks at Joe Biden's relationship with the Iraq War as a senator (yes, it's ground that's been traveled over and over -- playing it safe gets you published in FOREIGN POLICY):

    Not by design, my book arrives at a time of national crisis, when polls suggest that Americans are fed up with the Trump administration’s pervasive amateurism. But Biden is not yet a shoo-in in the November election. Though the pandemic has revealed a nationwide yearning for straight talk and scientifically validated guidance, recoiling from the White House’s antics has not translated into a reacquired appreciation of old hands on the Hill like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example—or, for that matter, of the media. Respect for such institutions remains abysmal.

    Biden therefore remains afflicted with an indelible weakness—an inability to convince voters that 45 years’ worth of government experience represents a surefire cure for what now afflicts the United States. After all, what did all that expertise get Americans two decades ago? George W. Bush brought with him to the White House a highly skilled staff, featuring a star-studded foreign-policy team that had worked in government going back to the Ford administration. The new president managed to pass major bipartisan legislation with a Congress that was enjoying a relatively even-tempered interval between Newt Gingrich and the Tea Party. Meanwhile, newsrooms were well resourced and not yet convulsed by the internet. All of which is to say that Bush’s first year in office came at a time when Washington was at a peak of functionality.

    [. . .]

    During the campaign, Biden has passed on opportunities to elaborate his lessons learned from the Iraq experience. That’s not to say he hasn’t learned any. A nuclear physicist on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s payroll, Peter Zimmerman, had warned the committee’s chairman, Biden, of flaws in the prewar intelligence. Biden later apologized to Zimmerman for not listening. The question is, who would a President Biden listen to now?

    The following sites updated: