Thursday, December 12, 2019

The press continues its distortion of democracy

Am I the only one bothered by our chicken s**t media?  Take this from POLITICO:

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on Wednesday night publicly named a person that some Republicans and allies of President Donald Trump claim is the alleged whistleblower who first brought the Trump-Ukraine scandal to light.
Gohmert identified the person, who POLITICO is not naming, during remarks at a Judiciary Committee meeting on articles of impeachment against Trump. Gohmert named the person as he ticked through a list of witnesses he said the committee should hear from before voting on impeachment.

Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert dropped the name of the alleged whistleblower whose complaint sparked the Trump impeachment probe in a nationally televised House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday night.
The Texas lawmaker said the name during his opening statement in day one of the committee’s two-day marathon session to debate possible “markups,” or amendments to the two articles of impeachment brought against President Trump.
Gohmert incorporated the alleged whistleblower’s name into a grouping of “fact witnesses” he claimed House Democrats have blocked from testifying in front of the committees carrying out the impeachment probe.

Eric Ciaramella  is the name that they are refusing to print.  Why?  Did Chelsea Manning get that special treatment?  No.  And Chelsea was a whistle-blower.  Eric Ciaramella is a biased and partisan attack dog who leaked gossip and nothing more.  He has no first-hand knowledge of anything.  He is not a whistle-blower.  He is a government employee.  He is someone making charges that have led to impeachment inquiries so he is of public interest and his name should be public knowledge. 

This 'protection' has never been offered to any other whistle-blower.

The way we are distorting democracy and our rules is appalling.  An accusation has been made, a very serious one, the American people should know the name and everything else about the leaker.  That is part of the process.  We don't just consider the accusation, we vet the accuser to determine whether or not we find them reliable.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, December 12, 2019.  As protests continue in Iraq, no one does more damage to Joe Biden's campaign than . . . Joe Biden.

Starting in the US where the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination continues and where gaffe prone Joe Biden continues to destroy his own campaign.


Link to headline article

What are we talking about?

Ryan Lizza (POLITICO) reported yesterday:

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s top advisers and prominent Democrats outside the Biden campaign have recently revived a long-running debate whether Biden should publicly pledge to serve only one term, with Biden himself signaling to aides that he will serve only a single term.

While the option of making a public pledge remains available, Biden has for now settled on an alternative strategy: quietly indicate that he will almost certainly not run for a second term while declining to make a promise that he and his advisers fear could turn him into a lame duck and sap him of his political capital. 

So, follow this, we're going through a bruising primary season and it's so Joe can serve for one term?  As the report resulted in various negative reactions, Joe's campaign attempted to dismiss the rumor.  THE WEEK notes:

His deputy campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, responded to the report by saying "this is not a conversation our campaign is having and not something VP Biden is thinking about."
[Senator Chris] Coons, who has endorsed Biden, also responded by saying "just the opposite" is true and that Biden "has made it clear to me that he is ready and able and willing to serve two terms if necessary," per CBS News' Alan He.

Coons shares pillow talk but it does nothing to end the talk.  So Joe himself was sent out to speak.  David Gardner (EVENING STANDARD) quotes Joe stating, "I don’t have plans on one term."  Igor Derysh (SALON) points out Joe "told The Associated Press in October that he would also not commit to running for a second term."  William Goldschlag and Dan Janison (NEWSDAY) observe, "There's a strong argument against any presidential candidate saying such a thing out loud. A new president who said four years but no more would be a lame duck on Day One, instantly hemorrhaging the political capital to pursue an agenda."  Jordan Weissmann (SLATE) argues:

For starters, if Biden thinks there’s a chance he simply won’t be able to handle the job in five or six years, he should realize there’s a chance he won’t be able to do it in two or three either. Being president is hard; it tends to age politicians rapidly, and Biden shouldn’t gamble on his ability to fill the role.

But beyond all that, serving as a one-term president will vastly diminish his powers in office and possibly set back Democratic policy priorities. It’s not a fix for anything.         
One of the most important parts about being a first-term president is running for reelection. It gives you leverage over your party on Capitol Hill, since lawmakers want to help you nab that second term or at least don’t want to piss off primary voters by denying you legislative wins and undermining your chances. Plus, you can do more in eight years than four. You get more time to appoint judges. You can implement legislation that takes a while to get up and running. (The Affordable Care Act’s exchanges didn’t even start selling insurance until Obama’s second go-round.) And even if the opposition takes over Congress, you can still use the Justice Department and regulatory agencies to push change. (Donald Trump, for instance, is cutting food stamps at the moment by administrative fiat.)       

 It's not a good day to be Joe Biden -- but is there ever a good day to be Joe?  Cleve R. Wootson Jr. (WASHINGTON POST) points out, "An October AP-NORC poll found a 69 percent majority of Americans said it was 'inappropriate' for Hunter Biden to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president."  Wootson also notes that Joe attempted to defend Hunter's actions in an interview by insisting, "Look, the American public knows me."

Do they?  Keith Griffith (DAILY MAIL) notes:

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden paid his female staffers less on average than men over several decades, a new analysis finds.
In his 35 years in the Senate, Biden paid full-time female staffers on average just 67 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, according to an analysis of Senate records by the Washington Free Beacon
The biggest gap came in 1983 and 1984, when women in Biden's Senate office made less than half of what men made, on average — just 44 cents on the dollar.
A spokesperson for Biden's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from

And yet some self-appointed 'spokerwomen' vouch for Joe on behalf of other women.  Speak for yourself and stop trying to act as though you're leading a movement.  Joe's treatment of Anita Hill is just the tip of the iceberg on a long anti-woman bias.

Joe as president means the world will be in a lot worse shape after four years of Biden.  Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) explains:

Former Vice President Joe Biden must ditch his industry-friendly, "middle-of-the-road" climate policy in favor of an agenda that completely rejects fossil fuels if he wishes to be taken seriously as an environmental leader in the 2020 Democratic presidential race.
That's the message of a petition launched Wednesday by 350 Action. The group charges Biden's centrist approach to the climate emergency "won't cut it anymore" and demands that he "do better."
"Vice President Joe Biden has dragged his feet in responding to the urgency of the climate and environmental crises across the country," Tamara Toles O'Laughlin, 350 Action's North America director, said in a statement. "Stunningly, we've watched a strident Biden attend fundraisers hosted by fossil fuel power brokers and rub shoulders with dirty fuel magnates."
O'Laughlin said Biden's climate plan, which leaves the door open to new fossil fuel development, pales in comparison to the sweeping environmental platforms of leading 2020 contenders Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
350 Action's climate scorecard gives Biden "unknowns" on two of its three criteria: Support for the Green New Deal and opposition to fossil fuel drilling. The group also noted that Biden "has supported demonstrably false solutions like 'carbon capture.'"

"The other 2020 frontrunners, Senators Sanders and Warren, have plans for the people," said O'Laughlin. "They have pursued the gold standard of climate leadership with real commitment to make polluters pay for a just transition and the Green New Deal. We deserve better than Joe Biden's silence in the face of crisis."

 Norman Solomon (COMMON DREAMS) surveys the field of candidates and explains:

From three different vectors, the oligarchy is on the march to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. Pete Buttigieg has made big gains. A timeworn ally of corporate power, Joe Biden, is on a campaign for his last hurrah. And Michael Bloomberg is swooping down from plutocratic heights.
Those three men are a team of rivals—each fiercely competitive for an individual triumph, yet arrayed against common ideological foes named Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The obvious differences between Buttigieg, Biden and Bloomberg are apt to distract from their underlying political similarities. Fundamentally, they’re all aligned with the nation’s economic power structure—two as corporate servants, one as a corporate master.

For Buttigieg, the gaps between current rhetoric and career realities are now gaping. On Tuesday, hours after the collapse of the “nondisclosure agreement” that had concealed key information about his work for McKinsey & Company, the New York Times concluded that “the most politically troubling element of his client list” might be what he did a dozen years ago for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan—“a health care firm that at the time was in the process of reducing its work force.”
The newspaper reported that “his work appeared to come at about the same time the insurer announced that it would cut up to 1,000 jobs—or nearly 10 percent of its work force—and request rate increases.”
This year, Buttigieg’s vaguely progressive rhetoric has become more and more unreliable, most notably with his U-turn away from supporting Medicare for All. Meanwhile, wealthy donors have flocked to him. Forbes reports that 39 billionaires have donated to the Buttigieg campaign, thus providing ultra-elite seals of approval. (Meanwhile, Biden has 44 billionaire donors and Warren has six. Forbes couldn’t find any billionaires who’ve donated to Sanders; he did receive one contribution from a billionaire’s spouse—though that donation was later returned.)

Not surprisingly, the political orientations of the leading candidates match up with the spread of average donations. The latest figures reflect candidates’ proximity to the class interests of donors, with wealthier ones naturally tending to give more sizable amounts. Nearly two-thirds (64.9 percent) of Biden’s donations were upwards of $200 each, while such donations accounted for a bit more than half (52.5 percent) of the contributions to Buttigieg. Compare those numbers to 29.6 percent for Elizabeth Warren and 24.9 percent for Bernie Sanders.

Rebecca Traister surveys the media landscape for how it portrays the candidates.

I wrote about Morning Joe, Steve Schmidt, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, which candidates get tagged as dishonest, which ones get anointed as straight-talkers and how it doesn’t actually correspond to their truth-telling history:

At THE CUT, she offers:

The week before the last Democratic primary debate of 2019, a panel of pundits on MSNBC’s Morning Joe gathered to make an explicit critique of one of the candidates. Citing a “whiff of fraudulence,” political writer John Heilemann talked with host Joe Scarborough, former Missouri senator Claire McCaskill, and former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt about the perception that there’s something dishonest and untrustworthy about Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.
“Is this woman who she says she is?” asked Heilemann, citing controversies over her claims of Native American heritage, her consulting work on bankruptcy, and her recent assertion that her children attended public schools when in fact her younger son Alex also was enrolled in private schools, as not being about those issues, but rather reflecting the larger concern of voters: “Is she a phony? Is she a fraud?”
I’m not saying she’s any of those things!” Heilemann made sure to say.
Then came Schmidt, who said those things. Claiming that Warren has a “tremendous talent for self-righteousness and hypocrisy,” Schmidt said that “over and over again she has misrepresented herself” and argued that he was just telling hard truths: “Why is it that Elizabeth Warren checked the box as a Native American on the Harvard Law School application? I know why she checked the box; she was trying to game the system.”
In fact, extensive reporting has shown that Warren did not identify as Native American through the hiring process at Harvard, though the law school, then under sharp criticism for not hiring women of color, later claimed her as one.
There are extremely valid criticisms to be made around Warren’s handling of her past claims of Native American ancestry; none of them are about whether she was qualified to teach at Harvard Law School on the merits. But the most compelling thing about the Morning Joe critique wasn’t the bevy of specific charges against Warren, some of which were false and some of which, including her answer on her son’s schooling, are rooted in real unforced errors. Warren, like scores of presidential candidates before her and alongside her, has a decent but imperfect record of accuracy when it comes to how she’s told her own story.

What’s really fascinating is whose imperfect record gets cast as fatally phony and whose does not — to whom perceptions of untrustworthiness stick and to whom they do not and to what end. Who gets called to correct the record and who permits lies to get repeated? It’s not always just the candidates.

While the media was nailing Elizabeth Warren to the cross, they were giving many other candidates a pass.  Here's Rebecca on how Joe got waived through without questioning:

Take Joe Biden, who left the 1988 Democratic primary after being charged with plagiarism both on the campaign trail and back in law school, as well as with inflating his own academic record: Biden had claimed to have graduated in the top half of his law-school class, when in fact he graduated 76th out of 85 students. In 1987, when pressed by a reporter on his academic record, Biden had angrily responded, “I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do” (an exchange he would recall in a later memoir as “so stupid,” yet repeated just last week with a voter who asked him about his son Hunter’s work in Ukraine). Back then, Biden told the New York Times, “I exaggerate when I’m angry, but I’ve never gone around telling people things that aren’t true about me.” But, just as a point of fact, he had told people — lots of people! — things that weren’t true about himself, not just about his school years, but in borrowing details about the life of the British politician whose speeches he’d plagiarized.
Early in this campaign season, Biden’s campaign was again found to have lifted language; his climate and education plans initially included phrases taken from other publications without attribution. He’s also been caught out telling a false story about traveling to Afghanistan to award a Navy Captain a Silver Star, apparently a conflation of several different events. Back in 2007, he claimed to have been “shot at” in Iraq; this was not true. Anita Hill has recalled that back when he was in charge of Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Biden initially assured her that she would be able to testify first, but that after negotiations with Republican colleagues, Thomas had been permitted to go first. “I leave you to say whether he lied or not,” Hill said to a New York Times reporter earlier this year.
Yet despite his career-long penchant for exaggeration and misleading recollection, Biden gets regularly presented by the mainstream political media as a man of deep integrity, a trustworthy guy; he’s currently on his “no-malarkey” campaign tour.

A similar advantage seems to have been accrued by Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has been pushing the view of Elizabeth Warren as deceptive — the same view expressed vocally by the Morning Joe panel on Tuesday — for months. In October, Buttigieg said that his opponent has been more “forthcoming about the number of selfies she’s taken” than about how she planned to pay for Medicare for All (Warren has since released her detailed plan on how to pay for Medicare for All), and his campaign has recently hit her hard with the suggestion that she’s hiding something regarding the bankruptcy expert’s past work as a “corporate lawyer.” But Buttigieg has significantly changed his positions, including on Medicare for All, during his time on the campaign trail, and until pressed by the Warren campaign, had not permitted press into his fundraisers, released his list of donors, or the list of clients he’d worked for as a McKinsey consultant, a lot of which he did this week. Buttigieg also recently rolled out a list of black supporters in South Carolina, some of whom had never in fact endorsed him, and felt they had been misled by his campaign.

We included Tiny Pete.  The whole column has to be read.

In Iraq, the protests continue.

About an hour after gunmen began attacking a protest encampment in Iraq’s capital at the weekend, Mustafa — who had slept there for weeks — went offline.

As protests in Iraq enter their 3rd month, the numbers of arrests, abductions & killings of protesters continue to rise.

Security forces should be protecting the demonstrators.

Instead, some security forces are the ones doing the killing.

Human Rights Watch's Belkis Wille writes:

As protests in Iraq enter their third month, the numbers of arrests, abductions, and killings of protesters continue to rise. But instead of protecting the demonstrators mostly peacefully protesting on Iraq’s streets, some security forces are the ones attacking and killing them. Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi had promised in a letter to Human Rights Watch that security forces would no longer use live ammunition against protesters, before announcing his own resignation on November 29. But killings and abductions of protesters have continued.
Since the beginning of these protests, Human Rights Watch has also documented unidentified armed men attacking protesters while the state security forces apparently stand by. Last week alone, these unidentified actors abducted one protester in Baghdad and opened fire on another in Karbala, killing him.
Early on December 6, Zaid Mohammed Abd Ali, 23, a photographer who attended the protests daily in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, was abducted from outside his house, his brother said. The family’s CCTV camera footage from that morning shows four men, one with a gun, get out of a car and grab Ali as he was arriving home. They hit him, put him in the car, and drove away. The family went straight to the police, but officers said they needed to wait 24 hours after the incident before they could open a missing persons complaint. The police opened a complaint the next day and told Ali’s family they are reviewing the CCTV footage but have provided no other information on their supposed investigation.
On December 8, a gunman on the back of a motorcycle shot and killed Fahem al-Tai, 53, a protester in Karbala. Timestamped footage from a street camera showed the entire attack unfold. Human Rights Watch reviewed the footage and spoke to a friend who was with al-Tai at the time of the attack. He said the police had not yet contacted him, despite his presence at the scene.
Reports emerged on December 11 of another two activists – one a well-known environmentalist – who have gone missing.

The Iraqi government needs to start protecting its citizens, by ending its own security force’s unlawful violence against protesters, and taking effective action against the groups now attacking them. This means taking urgent action to find anyone abducted by these groups, and arresting and prosecuting anyone responsible for murder and other crimes. Otherwise, the death toll will continue to climb, and Iraq’s next prime minister and cabinet will face a Herculean task in restoring the rule of law.

The following sites updated:

  • Wednesday, December 11, 2019

    Am I really agreeing with Donald Trump Jr.

    Sorry, but I'm about to agree with Donald Trump Jr.  From HUFFINGTON POST:

     President Donald Trump’s eldest son was not happy with Time magazine for selecting teen climate activist Greta Thunberg as 2019 Person of the Year.

    Donald Trump Jr. denounced the choice of the 16-year-old as a “marketing gimmick” that failed to honor “the Hong Kong Protesters fighting for their lives and freedoms.”


    “How dare you?” he asked in a tweet.

    While I object, I don't object to Greta for the reasons he does.  I object to Greta because she's 16.  How do you top that?  You're the person of the year chosen by a major, world wide magazine at 16.  Unless you become a world leader or find a cure for some disease, how do you ever top that.

    I'm happy for her that she has the honor.  But I'm unhappy that she's 16 and that's an honor that most people are never going to top.

    It makes me nervous like it makes me nervous when there's a focus on a child actor that seems excessive.  They're children.  (Sidebar, I applaud Ava and C.I. for their decision not to review the acting of child actors.) 

    I worry that, 30 years from now, this decision doesn't bring Greta joy.  It's a lot to put on a child.

    I would strongly recommend that TIME never again pick a child.  I don't know that I'd even pick a young adult.  It's just so much to put on someone's shoulders.

    Look at Debra Sweet, for example.  She was a child when she took on Richard Nixon and got press attention and, pretty much, to this day, she's made that how she defines herself.  It's kind of sad.  (If you're unfamiliar with Debra Sweet, she's with the group WORLD CAN'T WAIT.)

    Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Wednesday, December 11, 2019.  No Christmas tree in Baghdad Plaza this year and much more.

    Starting in the United States where the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination continues and War Hawk Joe Biden continues to stumble.  Ella Nilsen (VOX) reports:

    Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign is confident it can do the improbable: win the Democratic nomination for president without winning Iowa and New Hampshire.
    “We’ve long felt that one of our unique advantages is that we have multiple paths to the nomination, and I’m not sure anybody else can say that right now,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager Pete Kavanaugh told Vox.
    The path rests on winning the Obama coalition of nonwhite voters; many older black voters in particular have so far signaled their loyalty to Biden. Though they’ve been campaigning and organizing in Iowa and New Hampshire, the former vice president’s campaign says faltering there wouldn’t be a death knell. Their paths hinge on strong showings in the more diverse early states of Nevada and South Carolina, and riding that energy into delegate-rich Super Tuesday on March 3. Pointing to the southern states of North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia, Kavanaugh said, “Places like that we think we could have a really profound advantage.”
    “We strongly believe — and have consistently said — that no single state is a must-win,” he added.

    Political experts in the early states disagree, saying that taken together, Iowa and New Hampshire are indeed must-wins.

    They are must win and we've talked about this (for weeks now).  If Joe loses Iowa, it's a hit and his support dips.  That's only more true if he were to lose Iowa and New Hampshire.  And when we talk about that, we're talking about the support from voters.

    However, money, money, money . . .

    Money, money, money...
    Money makes the trees come down
    It makes mountains into molehills
    Big money kicks the wide wide world around.

    -- "This Place," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album SHINE

    Money, money, money.  Joe's making an effort in Iowa and it's cost him -- financially.  If he loses Iowa watch some of his funding dry up.  If he loses Iowa and New Hampshire, even more dries up.  Can Joe's campaign stay afloat if he loses both?

    "Joe Biden needs to grow up."  So argues John Krull (GOSHEN NEWS) about the 77-year-old temper tantrum throwing Joe:

    The former vice president and current candidate for president indulged in a temper tantrum with an Iowa voter the other day. The voter said Biden and his son Hunter had been “selling access” to the White House when the younger Biden served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company.
    Joe Biden flared.
    “You’re a damn liar, man,” he said to the 83-year-old Iowa farmer.
    Worse, the former vice president continued to defend his snappish response to the man long after his anger should have cooled. He kept telling interviewers the man was lying and that he was entitled to unload on an ordinary citizen who had the temerity to question him.
    In the first place, the farmer may not have had every fact straight, but it’s unlikely that he was lying. He is a Democrat, one who said afterward that he was going to vote for whoever the party’s nominee is — even if it’s Biden.
    But that is beside the point.

    Biden’s little fit of pique demonstrated that he doesn’t grasp that a lot of people — many of them Democrats and independents — have a problem with his son’s work with Burisma. The fact that he was paid $50,000 per month to do not much work raises questions. That the younger Biden had scant qualifications other than his last name to fill such a position only makes things worse.

    Joe's got a lot of negatives.  One of them?  He's reminding people of other candidates who didn't end up president.  Tyler MacDonald (THE INQUISITR) reports:

    Democratic presidential candidate and frontrunner Joe Biden recently released a campaign ad that attacks Donald Trump as “erratic” and “unstable,” painting the former vice president as someone offering the “strong,” “steady,” and “stable” leadership the United States needs. The ad was quickly derided by progressive commentator Kyle Kulinski, who suggested that it was following in the footsteps of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential bid against Trump.
    “It’s like the Biden campaign studied Hillary’s failed campaign and said: ‘ok, lets try that again!’, it calls Trump ‘unstable’ and ‘erratic’, and Biden ‘experienced,'” he tweeted. “Hillary was experienced and Trump was erratic & unstable in 2016 and he won. ‘Trump bad’ is a losing strategy!”
    Kulinski continued to blast the ad’s focus on attacking Trump, suggesting that it isn’t “creative, interesting or inspiring.”

    Ava and I noted this with Tom Steyer's ads -- you need to tell the people what you will do.  Your obsession with Donald Trump just makes him stronger.  What are you going to do to make the lives of Americans better?  Instead, you make your ads all about Donald Trump, suggesting you're good at envy but not good at planning for the future.

    Joe's being endorsed by Kate Miller.  Not the actress.  So who?  A little speck from the center-world.  Born in 1952, she is a bit young to be a Joe Biden supporter.  But her lifetime of nonsense makes her the perfect foil.  VOTE SMART notes of Kate, "Kate Miller refused to tell citizens where she stands on any of the issues addressed in the 2012 Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests from Vote Smart, national media, and prominent political leaders."

    Meanwhile the Joe Clone, his mini-me, Tiny Pete continues to underwhelm despite the avalanche of easy press he's been receiving for two months now.  Rebecca Morin (USA TODAY) notes:

    South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg hasn't seen his recent surge in early-state polls translate to national polls. He is at 9% in Tuesday's Quinnipiac Poll, but was in second place at 16% in last month's poll.

    Tiny Pete and War Hawk Joe are two birds of a feather.  Thankfully, there are alternatives.  Sarah Lazare (IN THESE TIMES) reports:

    Following publication of this piece, a Senate spokesperson for Elizabeth Warren contacted In These Times with the following comment: “I just saw your piece on the NDAA. She does not support this level of defense funding and does not plan to vote in favor of the NDAA.”
    Warren then tweeted the following remarks: “The Pentagon’s budget has been too large for too long. I cannot support a defense bill that’s a $738 billion Christmas present to giant defense contractors & undermines our values and security.”
    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only 2020 presidential hopeful who has pledged to vote against—and loudly denounced—the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020, a $738 billion military spending bill that would mark a $22 billion increase over last year. The other frontrunner in the Senate, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is tasked with negotiating the contents of the bill, but has so far remained silent on how she will vote. None of the other Democratic presidential candidates in Congress—Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)—have indicated their voting intention, either.

    The initial House version of the NDAA included certain restrictions on how military spending could be used, including measures prohibiting the allocation of funds to an unauthorized war with Iran and stopping U.S. military support for the war on Yemen. But a new compromise bill, released Monday, strips these out. While the compromise offers some concessions, such as paid parental leave for some federal workers, peace campaigners characterize it as a win for the Right. The House and Senate are expected to vote as soon as this week on the bill, which includes authorization for Trump’s proposed “space force” as part of the compromise.

    On Bernie Sanders, Beatrice Adler-Bolton (JACOBIN) offers:

    To live in the United States as a person with disabilities is to encounter daily acts of abuse and oppression. Working disabled people can legally be paid less than $1 an hour under federal law, an appalling exemption to already inadequate minimum-wage standards. Disabled people on Social Security Income (SSI) must report any income, including gifts, every month to maintain meager amounts of coverage, and can lose their benefits by marrying. We are more likely to be poor, and more likely to become homeless — more than 40 percent of homeless people are disabled.
    For the first time in awhile, several of the candidates in the Democratic presidential primary have outlined proposals to address this. Last month, Julián Castro made a big splash by releasing a platform that, among other things, would scrap discriminatory wage laws and allow disabled SSI recipients to wed without penalty. Even Pete Buttigieg, in a long document brimming with 1990s-style Clintonite rhetoric, has laid out an agenda to take the disabled community on a glide path to equality.
    But there’s only one candidate with a comprehensive set of policies that would directly enhance the lives of disabled people in the United States: Senator Bernie Sanders.
    Disability rights issues are woven directly into the proposals of almost every single policy document the campaign has released to date. The Sanders campaign clearly understands that disability is not simply a set of special interests to be siloed off, but a common aspect of everyday life affecting a key group of people that US policy routinely degrades, diminishes, and often oppresses.

    Housing is a disability issue. Labor is a disability issue. Health care is a disability issue. Disabled people are on the front lines of climate change. And the agenda that Sanders is advancing not only recognizes that all of these issues greatly affect disabled people; it recognizes that no program or policy is good enough if it does not work for the most marginalized among us — the disabled very much included.

    Read on for specifics (and note these are the same issues that Hilda was raising in last week and this week's HILDA'S MIX).

    Turning to Iraq, Samya Kulab (AP) reports:

    The Christmas tree in the middle of a central Baghdad plaza occupied by anti-government protesters is bare, save for portraits of those killed under fire from security forces. A tribute, the demonstrators explained, to a recent decision by Iraq’s Christians to call off seasonal festivities to honor the losses.
    Leaders of Iraq’s Christians unanimously cancelled Christmas-related celebrations in solidarity with the protest movement — but the aims of their stance go deeper than tinsel and fairy lights. Slogans of a united Iraq free of sectarianism resonate deeply within the community, which since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein has fearfully observed its diminishing influence amid growing Shiite-dominated politics shaping state affairs. The Christians have also left Iraq in huge numbers over the years, after being targeted by militant Sunni groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

    War Hawk Joe has still not been asked about the months of turmoil in Iraq by the press covering his campaign.  Bonnie Kristian (REASON) points out:

    After months of deadly, large-scale grassroots protests demanding reform in Baghdad, Iraqi, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi announced his intent to resign and the country's parliament approved his resignation. In the protests, about 400 demonstrators, mostly young and unarmed, have been killed by Iraqi security forces; another 8,000 have been injured; and about a dozen security forces have also died in clashes with a violent minority of protesters. Today, it is unsettled who will become the new head of government.
    It is unlikely to be a question easily resolved. The demonstrators' complaints are extensive, including state corruption and incompetence, unemployment and economic stagnation, and a perception of foreign influence over domestic politics, notably from Iran. More important than these specific issues, however, is the protesters' overarching critique of the governance structure in Baghdad—a structure shaped by Washington's nation-building efforts after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. That dissatisfaction makes this political unrest a fresh and urgent impetus to end American military intervention in Iraq once and for all.
    U.S. exit could signal a move toward meaningful reforms the Iraqi people want. It would also be a boon for the American people, bringing closure to a misguided military intervention that has proven costly and counterproductive to U.S. security.
    It is commonplace in U.S. politics to hear of the "end" of the Iraq War under former President Obama, but it is an odd end to a war which leaves thousands of occupying troops in place. The Trump administration began this year with more than 5,000 boots on the ground in Iraq, and, since then, added to their number after reshuffling U.S. forces in Syria. It has been nearly three years since Baghdad declared victory over the Islamic State—whose rise occasioned a growing U.S. footprint in Iraq beginning in 2014. In those years, Washington has ignored repeated Iraqi calls for withdrawal of all foreign militaries, as well as recent insistence from Baghdad that American forces relocated from Syria cannot stay.

    Meanwhile Reporters Without Borders notes:

    Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by the growing dangers for journalists in Iraq, where the latest fatal victim was Ahmad Muhanna, a photographer who was shot in the back by unidentified gunmen while covering protests in Baghdad’s Al-Khilani Square on 6 December.

    Muhanna was the third journalist to be murdered since a major wave of anti-government protests began in Iraq on 1 October. His death triggered an outcry on social networks.

    The first journalist to be killed was Hisham Fares Al-Aadhami, a freelance photographer who was fatally shot in the chest by an irregular militia member while covering the protests in Al-Khilani Square on 4 October

    The other fatal victim was Amjed Al-Dahamat, a writer and citizen-journalist who, according to the information obtained by RSF, was shot by unidentified gunmen near his home in the southeastern province of Maysan on 7 November.

    “Rarely have Iraqi journalists been so exposed to danger and so vulnerable,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “It is unacceptable that reporters in the field should be killed simply for having a camera or video camera. The Iraqi authorities must thoroughly investigate these clearly deliberate murders in order to identify those responsible.”

    On the same day that Muhanna was murdered, another freelance photographer, Zaid Al-Khafaji, was kidnapped from his home on his return from covering the protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. CCTV camera footage show men entering his home prior to his disappearance.

    He was the second journalist to be abducted in recent weeks. The first was Muhammad Al-Shamari, a member of the Iraqi Observatory for Press Freedoms, who was kidnapped on 17 November and was released the next day.

    Iraq is ranked 156th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

    The following sites updated: