Saturday, December 19, 2020

Remembering Laura Nyro

Alan Merrill is credited as the co-writer of "I Love Rock and Roll" (he claims full credit).  He talks, in the clip below, about Laura Nyro.


He explains, "I was actually in the living room when she got the call from John Phillips to do" Monterey Pop. "We loved the Mamas and the Papas so we were all panicked because she'd never done a gig."  

And here's a 1989 interview Laura did with Ed Sciaky where she gets to correct some of the p.r. nonsense over the years (she laughs when told about promotional material for her first album claiming she began writing songs at the age of 11).

She puts writing and singing over performing in the interview.  I was surprised to learn that when she did begin writing music, she was writing it on the piano and on guitar -- and on guitar.  I never picture her with a guitar, I always picture her at a piano.

Jordan Hoffman (TIMES OF ISRAEL) wrote about Laura this year:

Laura Nyro was 20 years old when she went into the studio to record and co-produce her second album. Brian Wilson was a relative Methuselah at 23-24 when he made “Pet Sounds.”

Okay, it isn’t a competition, but these two masterpieces of baroque late-’60s pop are, in my opinion, of equal caliber (and I won’t come out and give the reason why Wilson is a household name and Nyro isn’t, but let’s just say it rhymes with “drexism.”)

“Eli and the Thirteenth Confession” is a sprawling, thick novel of gorgeous melodies and rich orchestration. One minute it’s Nyro alone at her piano, the next there’s a full horn section in the middle of a funky groove. She mixes Latin jazz, orchestral strings and her singing ranges from gruff rhythms to operatic high notes. Sometimes in the same song. It’s simply impossible to categorize this album. Folkies liked it and musical theater people liked it. It’s a one of a kind that’s never really been repeated.

And here's Jim Farber writing about Laura:

The singer considered her performance at the breakthrough Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 awkward, making her reluctant to play live. At the same time, the show made an impression on an important observer. A young David Geffen saw her and became smitten. He lobbied to become her manager, easing out her earlier handler, Mogull. Nyro became the budding mogul's first project. Geffen immediately connected her to Clive Davis, then the pasha of Columbia Records. Davis had been to Monterey as well, inspiring him sign another key female star of the '60s: Janis Joplin.

The fabled story of Nyro's audition for Davis underscores the intimacy of her style. In Davis' first memoir he wrote that, when she played for him, she insisted on turning off every light in the room save one—a beam from a television set positioned next to her piano. Bathed in the cathode ray, Nyro performed songs that would end up on her Columbia debut, 'Eli and the Thirteenth Confession', in 1968.

The performance epitomized the star's keen sense of dynamics. In many songs, Nyro's voice broke the silence like a spotlight falling on a darkened stage. Slowly, and quietly, piano chords would make their way around the voice, as if waiting for guidance. For minutes, vocal and keyboard would amble on until, fitfully, they erupted with spirit. The singing, then, turned exuberant, the piano playing orgasmic until, together, they formed a melody that couldn't be more winning or true. The result presented a bold irony: Nyro's songs were at once embraceable and elusive, easy and hard.

Her songs came to full bloom on 'Eli,' which appeared in March of 1968, graced by a unusual bit of packaging. Nyro insisted that the lyric sheet be perfumed. The recording found Nyro fully owning her operatic vocals, while the arrangements (co-created with Charlie Calello) didn't skimp on eccentric flourishes. Once again, the album yielded hits for others, including "Eli's Coming," a Top Ten smash for Three Dog Night, "Sweet Blindness," a No. 13 score for the Fifth Dimension and "Stone Soul Picnic," which the same group soared to No. 3.  While the essential songs had as much pop appeal as compositions of the era by Jimmy Webb or Holland-Dozier-Holland, in the context of Nyro's album they dove deeper. They coalesced into a full musical, mapping out Nyro's greatest loves, hopes and fears.

While the album only inched to No. 181 by Billboard's album tally, it had a profound influence on other artists. A young Todd Rundgren sought Nyro out, impressing her enough for the star to offer him a position as her band leader. He declined, since he had just signed a contract for his band The Nazz, whose first single "Hello It's Me," bears an obvious resemblance to Nyro's style. Several years later, Elton John introduced a sound that bore its own debt to Nyro's. Rickie Lee Jones also took influence from her, evident in her unusual approach to pace and her will to let her songs evolve.

And here's one of my favorite Laura Nyro songs "To A Child."

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

 Friday, December 18, 2020.  Joe Biden's made the case for a special prosecutor to be assigned to investigate Hunter Biden -- congratulations, Joe, you never know when to keep your mouth shut.

Does Joe Biden not realize that he needs to shut his damn mouth?  We need to word it that way because he just doesn't get it.  He has been elected President of the United States.  His son Hunter Biden is under federal investigation.  Is Joe actively working to get a special prosecutor appointed?

He needs to shut up about his precious candy-ass spoiled son.  Hunter is under federal investigation.  Joe is about to be the head of the federal government.  He does not need to make any comments on Hunter.

Hunter is corrupt as hell and his actions have been outrageous but Joe has claimed over and over to have no knowledge of this business deal or that business deal.  

He has insisted that there was no conflict of interest.  Clearly there was.  But all of that nonsense?  That was before he was elected president.

He is now going to be President of the United States.  That's a powerful position -- probably one of the most powerful in the world -- some would argue that it's the most powerful in the world.

As the head of the federal government, his only position has to be: There is an investigation taking place that will determine whether anything criminal took place or not.  

That is the only position that the President of the United States can have.  

That would be true if Hunter Tylo was under investigation and Joe was commenting on her.  It is even more true when it is his own son that is under investigation.

He is the head of the federal government now.  He cannot be doing this.

He's claiming that he will make sure to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

He can't even do that before he's sworn in.

Federal agents are investigating his son.  He is going to be the head of the federal government.  His only position is that the investigation will go forward and conclude whatever it does.  

If he wants to defend Hunter, he can pass the torch to Kamala Harris and let her be sworn in as president.  Then he can make whatever comments about his son he wants.

But defending Hunter publicly while government workers are investigating him?

No, that's a clear conflict of interest.

And Joe's statements and his inability to grasp that?  They demand a special prosecutor.

Is anyone else making this argument?  Or is the entire system cowed and silenced?

I'm not out on a limb on this.  I saw the news right before I got on the treadmill this morning (these snapshots are dictated) and I was appalled   He's stated publicly that he will avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and then he goes on a comedy show to take softball questions and defend his son?  

No, it's not allowed.  

"But it's his son!"

Not only does it not matter, it's that stinking thinking that led everyone to this point to begin with. 

Where are the editorials calling for a wall between Joe and Hunter?  For the incoming President of the United States to stop trying to influence a federal investigation with his public remarks?

Joe's inability to conduct himself ethically?  Not a surprise but a clear argument -- and a strong one -- for a special prosecutor.

The notion of a special prosecutor has been floated for a few weeks now.  I didn't weigh in or have an opinion one way or another.  If others wanted to make that argument, I was happy to look over them (when I had the time -- haven't thus far) but it wasn't a pressing issue to me either way.  That doesn't mean it wasn't an important issue, it means my plate was already full and it had not been an issue for me at that point.

But then Joe goes on Stephen Colbert's show and launches a defense o Hunter?

Seeing the reports on that this morning and grasping that he's the incoming president?  Yeah, we need a special prosecutor.  Joe's big mouth gets him into trouble yet again.  We are all supposed to be equal in the eyes of justice in the US.  No, it doesn't work that way in reality, but that is the goal.  And we are not equal when the boss of the federal government can't stop declaring that those working under him will determine that his son is innocent.  He's trying to influence the investigation with his remarks.

A special prosecutor is needed.  The only thing that would make me back off from that stance -- make me back off, I'm not speaking for anyone else calling for a special prosecutor -- would be Joe stating he had made a mistake in commenting and that he wouldn't comment any further on an active investigation.  

We are aware of that phrase, right?  How many times did Barack Obama's White House make that statement?

I have no idea whether Donald Trump's White House ever made that statement.  I didn't consider them a standard bearer.  But Barack's White House -- often even Barack himself -- would state repeatedly that they could not comment on an active investigation.


Because Barack was the head of the government and his remarks, as president, or even the remarks of his staff could be seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of an investigation.  

That would be an abuse of power.

Joe's not even in the White House and he's already using the power that people of America have placed in him for his own personal gain -- to protect his corrupt son.  

The press needs to stop playing games and start doing their damn job.  You have an incoming president publicly interfering with an ongoing investigation by going on entertainment talk shows to defend his son.  

I noted yesterday that "Dr" Jill doesn't have that title now.  She is the First Lady.  It was good enough for Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.  We do grasp, don't we, that either Michelle or Hillary could have pulled a Jill and said, "I want to be called Barrister Obama or Barrister Clinton" because both women were attorneys.  They had law degrees.  First Lady is the title that the American people are paying for.  If it's not good enough for Jill, she needs to announce that she's not going to occupy the East Wing and she'll pay for any office space she needs out of her own pocket as well as for any staffing needs she has out of her own pocket.  But while she's assuming the role of First Lady, she needs to stop acting like the title is beneath her.

She is not better than Michelle Obama.  (Do we want to get honest about the conflict between those two women for eight years?)  She is not better than Hillary Clinton.  She's not better than Laura Bush, Rosalyn Carter (a great First Lady), Betty Ford, Jaqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Mamie Eisenhower, etc.

She is assuming that office and she needs to start demonstrating some pride in.  Failure to do so is not only spitting on all the women who came before, it's also spiting on the American people and I'm tired of it.

If she wants to expand the role of First Lady, do so.  Rosalyn did, Eleanor Roosevelt did.  Hillary Clinton did.  And the office is better for all their efforts.  I think you could make the argument that Nancy Reagen expanded it as well.  Good for her.  

Let Jill dedicate herself to education or whatever she wants.  But while Joe is President, Jill is First Lady and she and her cult need to get a perspective real damn quick.  I'm not in the mood.  These are not royalty, these are America's servants.  And I'll be happy to bring the whole Biden family back down to earth. 

They're not even in the White House and already they're demonstrating contempt for the offices they will hold.  

I like to tell the following story because (a) I loved Ann Richards and (b) because she was right as she so often is.  It was January 1993.  It was the inauguration of Bill Clinton to his first term as President of the United States.  A number of us were standing around -- I believe Barbra Streisand knows this story because she was present as well.  A man rushes up to Ann excitedly.  She was Governor of Texas at the time.  He identifies himself as being from Texas, tells her what a great job she's doing and calls her "Queen Ann."  Ann had been very friendly up to that point.  At that point, Ann's smile vanished and she got deadly serious.  "Sir," she informed the man, "I am an elected official, elected to serve the state of Texas and that is one of the greatest honors that I or anyone else could have.  I am not a queen nor would I want to be a queen.  What I want is for the people of Texas to look back years from now and say, 'Ann Richards did a solid job serving us.'  This is the United States of America."

Ann was right but she usually was right.  And we really miss out on someone with that kind of dedication and that kind of common sense and, honestly, that kind of love for her country and the people in it.

It is past time for Joe and Jill Biden to start taking the trust that has been placed in them seriously and stop all their nonsense and start addressing the needs of the American people, the people they are supposed to be serving. 

This morning UNDP Iraq Tweeted the following:

Don’t forget to complete our short survey on how UNDP #Iraq can improve engagement with #women and #girls through social media! Survey closes Dec 26.
UNAMI and 5 others

That's a real issue.  Where's Joe's concern for the women and girls of Iraq? The ones whose lives his support for the illegal war destroyed?  Where's that?  

Do we need to be Rev Jesse Jackson's son and launch into a tirade about Joe crying for Hunter but he never cried for the Iraqi people or the survivors of Hurricane Katrina or . . 

Professor Guy Burton Tweets about another real issue:

There's little mention of the social protests and demands in Iraq and how they should guide US policy. Instead, it's all about regional politics and ties to Iran. If this is how US policy develops, then disappointing.

 Indeed.  At COUNTERPUNCH, Louis Yako shares the stories of internally displaced persons he met in Iraq:

While observing one of the discussions in a big cold “classroom” in the camp, one young man, Baha, caught my attention while eloquently sharing his thoughts on the importance of public speaking. He talked about how Iraqi young people can only make changes in their society by learning to boldly express themselves. “We need courage. Courage is the key word here – we can’t change the reality of our country if we don’t learn how to communicate and have genuine dialogues with each other.” As participants continued to debate what makes a good “public speaker”, Baha said that, in a sense, even singers and actors can be public speakers because they deliver and make public statements. Their art and creative works are a form of public speaking. He later told me that he greatly appreciated the different views expressed by others. He said that there is something meaningful in discussing with people who see things differently. “That is the only way you learn new ideas and perspectives,” he added.

During one of the session breaks, Baha lit a cigarette and approached me to introduce himself. He is a 24-year young man who highly values education. He wishes to become a teacher at a high school or a university one day. “I am currently studying geography at the University of Duhok. Despite the harsh reality of living in this camp. I insist on finishing my education and becoming a teacher one day,” he said enthusiastically. I asked whether he is enjoying the discussions so far and what drove him to join the program in the first place. Baha said that engaging in a dialogue with his peers is very important for him for two big reasons: “First, I want to become bolder in speaking in front of people.” I asked about the other reason. He went on, “The other thing for me – and am sure for many young participants in the room – is that life in the camp is very harsh and it can be painfully boring and monotonous for young people. You have no idea how stifling it is for a young person to be confined here one year after another.” For Baha, attending these sessions can really make a difference by debating and interacting with each other. “It might be a trivial point for an outsider, but when you are cooped up in a tent in a camp as we are, attending such sessions is a great release. It is a treat, indeed,” he said.

I asked Baha to share more about the harshness and the confinement of living in a camp. “I have been here for five years now. Can you imagine how long and exhausting that is? I fell in love, got engaged, got married, and now have two children. All of this happened here in this camp!” I asked him how it feels to go through all these big life events in the camp, “you first think it is temporary and it will end soon. But years go by and you must live. It is sad for me that my children are ‘camp children’, but I must live my reality. I can’t afford living in denial.” A sad pause followed. I broke the silence by asking about his children. He shared, “my son is three years old and my daughter is so cute – she is just eight months old,” he said with a more cheerful tone as he pulled out his phone to show me their pictures. I said that it must be hard to accept what is supposed to be a short-term condition to become a long term one. “Many people had to painfully come to terms with the fact that they are here to stay for a long time. I will give you an example, many people have been fighting to replace the tents they live in with brick structures. This is a sign of permanency. As it stands, these tents are very dangerous in cases of fire. Many people have died in tent fires. One case happened just here. The mother, in total fear and confusion, rushed inside the tent to fetch her baby whom she thought was in the cradle. She pulled the cradle quickly and ran outside only to find out that the baby wasn’t actually in the cradle.”  Baha thinks that it is unfair not to allow camp residents to erect brick structures to further protect themselves. He said that the tents are unbearably cold in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer. “The rules – I don’t know who came up with them – state that you can’t erect any walls or anything higher than 20 centimeters around your tent.” Baha was frustrated with those who made the rules in the IDP camps. For him, they do not realize how hard it is for displaced people to be there for such long periods of time.

When the session ended, Baha approached me again. He lit another cigarette and started sharing some reflections from the second part of the session. Soon after, another female participant approached me to say hello. Ramzia, a 22-year old female from the same session, shared that she really believes that breaking the fear of expressing oneself in public is very important for today’s youth in Iraq, especially for women. She then went on to tell me why she is interested in engaging in debates and dialogues with other young people in the camp, despite knowing that some male attendees “are narrow-minded and may gossip about girls later.” When I asked her about her dreams and future plans, Ramzia said: “I wish I had the chance to complete my studies. I quit school at 9th grade – since we came to the camp after ISIS invaded our city. In Shingal [aka Sinjar], my brother was the biggest inspiration for me. He loved books and studying, and he really had a big impact on me. When he died in a car accident and we were forced to come to the camp shortly after, I lost all hope and interest in life altogether. I realize now that I must somehow reignite my passion for learning. For young women in our society, if we don’t study, we are expected to get married. I don’t want to marry yet. I am too young and want to experience life. I feel that a program focusing on debates and dialogue is helping me reconnect with my passion for learning with all these discussions. I hope that, in the end, it will help me have the courage to study on my own and take the exam I need to go back to school and compensate for the lost years in the camp.”

The themes of the lost time and being out of place are recurring and consistent in many stories of young people forced to live in IDP camps. Many young people I met with had two primary wishes: some wished to find any chance to leave Iraq (most dreamed about going to Germany). Others wished Iraq would be back as it was before. These two wishes seem contradictory at first glance. Yet, with some pondering, it seems to me these wishes capture the lack of security and stability. In that sense, they are two sides of the same coin in that they represent the lack of security and stability. The desire to leave the country signifies the yearning to build a home in a safe and secure place, despite all the difficulties and humiliation that come with moving to another country as a refugee.  Another recurring theme I noticed when speaking with young men and women at the camp is their insistence to live life, despite all the alienating forces and dirty geopolitical games that forced them into IDP camps in the first place.

The internally displaced are getting even more displaced now as the Iraqi government is moving to shut down all the camps for the displaced.  (The KRG is not currently shutting down the displacement camps in their region.)  That's only going to get worse as corruption has robbed Iraq of so much of its wealth.  AFP 'covers' the economic crisis in every way you can while at the same time avoiding the issue of corruption:

A year of economic agony for pandemic-hit and oil-reliant Iraq is drawing to a close, but a draft 2021 budget involving a hefty currency devaluation could bring more pain for citizens.

Officials who prepared the document told AFP their goal was to aim for "survival" solutions after an unprecedented fiscal crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse in the price of oil.

Iraq, which relies on oil sales to finance 90 percent of its budget, projects that its economy has shrunk by 11 percent this year, while poverty doubles to 40 percent of the country's 40 million residents.

A slew of measures included in the 2021 budget draft, to be discussed at an extraordinary weekend cabinet session, are an attempt to offer a remedy. 

ALJAZEERA reports:

A leaked draft of Iraq’s state budget sent Iraqis into a panic on Thursday as it confirmed the government’s intentions to devalue the national currency, the Iraqi dinar, and cut salaries to cope with the impacts of a severe economic crisis.

Discussions about devaluating the Iraqi dinar, which has been pegged to the dollar for decades, have been going on for weeks as the government worked to finalise the 2021 budget. The draft law, which has to go through a parliament vote first, gives an anticipated exchange rate of 1,450 Iraqi dinars for the dollar — a significant drop from the central bank’s current official rate of approximately 1,182 dinars for $1.

We noted recently that, per a friend with Amnesty UK, Amnesty was working on a report about the ongoing disappearances in Iraq.  We're still waiting on that, Amnesty.  In the meantime, Belkis Wille (Human Rights Watch) has tackled the issue:

Since I started covering Iraq for Human Rights Watch in 2016, enforced disappearances have been one of my main areas of research because, sadly, they are common. So I was heartened when Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, shortly after taking office in May, made public commitments to investigate and punish enforced disappearances. Those commitments included a new mechanism to locate victims of enforced disappearances. 

But seven months later, his government has precious little to show for these promises, and disappearances have continued

Take the case of Arshad Heibat Fakhry. According to his brother, a group of unidentified armed men arrested Fakhry, 31, and a government minister’s nephew on November 20, at 10:30 p.m. from the Ishtar Hotel in Baghdad. On November 22, a local newspaper reported the two men had been arrested, without specifying who had arrested them, for organizing a “masonic party” and for possessing half a kilo of heroin. His brother told Human Rights Watch that every official they have spoken to about the case alleged instead that Fakhry had organized a party for the LGBT community and had been in possession of drugs - both allegations the brother said are not true. 

His brother said he spoke to the other man arrested with Fakhry, who was released on November 22. That man told him he didn’t know who had arrested them or where they had been held, and that he was blindfolded and brought to his uncle’s ministerial office and released there without any further information. 

Since November 20, Fakhry’s family has visited the offices of five different security agencies and spoken to numerous political party leaders and high-ranking government officials, but every official they go to tells them they have no information on Fakhry’s whereabouts. 

If Prime Minister al-Kadhimi commitments are genuine, and a new mechanism has been created to address enforced disappearances, then that body should urgently contact Fakhry’s family and help them locate him. The government should also prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Failure to do either can only suggest to Iraqis that this government’s commitments are like the human rights commitments of so many former Iraqi governments - just words, nothing more. 

The following sites updated:

Thursday, December 17, 2020



What a great concert.  Dionne Warwick really is a one of a kind legend.  

 I wish NETFLIX or someone would give her a special. 


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

 Thursday, Decembet 17, 2020.  So much to cover -- Andrew Cuomo, Jill Biden, Joe and Hunter and Iraq.

A lot to deal with this morning.  First, Jonathan Turley writes:

There remains a blackout on the sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo by most major media outlets. Putting aside the striking lack of interest in comparison to the allegations raised against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the controversy from that confirmation fight could raise difficult questions for Cuomo who not only insisted that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford must be believed but demanded that Kavanaugh take a polygraph examination.  It is not clear if Cuomo will now follow his own standard and take a polygraph examination arranged by others.

During the Kavanaugh hearing, various Democratic leaders publicly insisted that “women must be believed” when raising sexual harassment allegations and declared Kavanaugh guilty before either he or Ford actually testified. Senator [Masie] Hirono publicly stated that Kavanaugh was not even entitled to any presumption of innocence. Indeed, Hirono insisted that men needed to “just shut up” and accept the allegations.

The view that “women must be believed” changed the minute that Joe Biden was accused of sexual assault and then refused to allow the review of his papers held under seal at the University of Delaware. Suddenly, figures like Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer insisted that they believed Biden without any review such papers or even speaking with the alleged victim (a former Biden staffer).  Ethics experts like Richard Painter attacked those who suggested that the accuser might be telling the truth as endangering the election.  Others like Rep. Iihan Omar, Linda Hirschman, and Lisa Bloom found an even more startling resolution: they stated that Biden was clearly a rapist, but they would still vote for him.

The allegations raised by former [Cuomo] aide Lindsey Boylan are notably easier to confirm. She stated “Yes, [Cuomo] sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched. I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks. Or would it be both in the same conversation? This was the way for years.”

These are not allegations that are decades old with few, if any, witnesses.  Boylan worked for the governor’s administration from 2015 to 2018 and says that there were many witnesses. Notably, the Kavanaugh hearing was in 2018.

I was not aware of this until last night when I saw Turley's writing on the topic.  I then posted:

  • ALBANY JUST IN: Cuomo responds to SEXUAL HARASSMENT allegation
  • Andrew Cuomo tipped as attorney-general pick as sexual harassment allegations loom

  • That's a video of him denying the allegations and a video of SKY NEWS reporting on the allegations.  

    This site does not exist to cover for my friends nor do I want to look the other way.  I like Andrew and have found him to be a good person.  But that's my dealings with him.  If Lindsey Boylan had another interaction, she has every right to speak about it.  She is making an allegation and I do support everyone's right to do so.  I have never stated "believe all women" or "believe all survivors."  I do not support that belief.  We are thinking creatures with analytical skills.  

    There are people who have come forward with assault, harassment or rape charges that I have believed and there are ones that I haven't believed.  Unless the accuser makes some crazy statement that harms survivors (like the idiot who said rape was "sexy" while claiming she was raped), I'm not here to tear you down even if I don't believe you.

    I hope the allegations aren't true.  But someone has made the allegation and she deserves to be heard.  

    We started with that so I wouldn't be accused of playing favorites or ignoring a serious topic.  Jill Biden's name has rarely appeared here.  We made it through eight years without noting her once and did so because I know Jill.  I'd like to make it through the next four years without mentioning her.  If we praise her, we have to hold her accountable.  If I don't note her here and there's some issue (as with Andrew above) I have to cover it or be a hypocrite.

    But there are some issues that need to be addressed -- chiefly her role and Hunter Biden.

    Let's start with her role.  She is not "Dr. Jill Biden."  She is First Lady Jill Biden.

    We need to prepare for the day of a First Gentleman.  It will be coming before you know it.  If it is, for example, some spouse of David Petraeus, he will not be "Gen Petraeus."  That's no longer the office he will be occupying.  

    Jill's a smart person.  She doesn't need the "Dr" to prove that.  More to the point, Michelle Obama is smart.  The title of "First Lady" was just fine then.  It was fine with Hillary Clinton.  Both Michelle and Hillary held law degrees and they could practice law.  Despite the massive stupidity of Whoop Goldberg, Jill is not a medical doctor.  She has a phd in education.  Even if she was a medical doctor -- Howard Dean's wife, for example, Judith Dean, once you become First Lady, that is your title.  I was all for Judith going by Dr Dean in the campaign but had Howard been elected president, her medical degree had nothing to do with the office of First Lady and that would have been her title.

    It's an office.  The spouse isn't elected individually but they are part of the election.  Jill walked out on stage after stage -- many more than Joe did after the pandemic struck.  She campaigned for the office.  

    She now holds the office.  Her title is First Lady.  The same title that Michelle held, that Hillary held, that Nancy Reagan, Rosalyn Carter, Betty Ford, Pat Nixon, Laura Bush, etc  have held.  She has a staff now, that we pay for as taxpayers, she has offices in the White House that we also pay for.  We are not paying for "Doctor of Education."  We are paying for First Lady.  If that's not good enough for her or for some of her supporters, they need to examine their own latent sexism and ask why?

    We've addressed this issue before in many ways including noting David Petraeus was not "Gen" when he served as Director of the CIA.  His title then was "Director."  And if that wasn't good enough for him, he shouldn't have accepted the job.  If "First Lady" isn't good enough, then the person should have talked their spouse out of running.

    Hunter Biden.

    If Jill would not comment on anything to do with Hunter other than with regards to him as a child (Jill raised him), I'd be fine with that and she'd be on solid ground.  I don't mean "When Hunter was 12 . . ."  I mean, if she shares the same boring tales that any of us who are parents share about our children, that's fine.  But if she starts injecting herself into the legal aspects -- as she did on the campaign trail -- then reporters could and should press her for comments about his legal situation.

    As First Lady, her role now, I am fine with her avoiding the topic of Hunter's legal mess.  But if she starts getting into that now to defend him or whatever, she is opening the door and it is a valid question for the press to pursue.

    If she wants to wall herself off from that, fine by me.  But she cannot have it both ways.  She cannot attack those raising questions or insist that Hunter is innocent and not respond when the press has questions on this topic.  Better to just wall it off and be consistent.  Better to reply, "I'm happy to talk about seeing him with his latest child and how happy they looked but I'm not going to discuss any legal issues or any allegations."  


    Joe does not have the same luxury.  It is his name that Hunter traded on.  And, so sorry to inform him, but "Dad of Hunter" is no longer his title.  He wanted to be the President of the United States.  His little baby Hunter falls down the list of priorities over the next four years.

    He will not be in the White House to protect Hunter.  If it even appears that he's attempting that, he should be censured (at the very least).  That would be an abuse of the office.

    Hunter.  Yesterday, I saw a video where someone (I'm being kind) wanted to talk about Hunter's latest mess.  And the man felt the need to say (paraphrasing), 'Look, I don't care about this either.  There are more important things to talk about."

    No, they're aren't and that remark was shameful.

    Did the person mean it?  I hope they just said it because of all the attacks if you speak of Hunter and reality.  

    But the guy said it and it needs to be called out (and next time when he says we will name and shame).  Corruption.  That's what we're talking about.  And corruption always needs to be called out.  We noted the idiot -- just like her pill popping mother -- who wanted to whine that Ivanka Trump has done similar things in the last four years.  And we noted this isn't an either/or.  You can call both out.  You can prosecute both.  And you should.

    Hunter's corruption goes back decades.  

    There need to be consequences.

    To say that it doesn't matter?  Oh, okay.  So there are things that matter if it's your average citizen but then if you're the child of a powerful politician, it doesn't?  So we have a two-tier justice system?  

    To say that it doesn't matter?  That's to say that corruption doesn't matter.  I don't agree with that.  I don't support that and I don't believe most Americans do.

    Ending government corruption may not be 'sexy' but many have tried to tackle it -- some have even made it a lifelong pursuit.  And to imply that this is a minor or unimportant or trivial issue is to lie to yourself and to others.  Corruption is wrong.  

    And Joe's mouthed words about the appearance of conflict.  That is the standard for elected officials -- they are to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.  

    If Joe can't do that, he doesn't need to be president.

    And idiots like Chuck Rosenberg going on MSNBC should be ashamed of themselves.  It's not the time?  Then when is the time, you liar?  If anything, it's way past time. 

    And let's be clear that unemployed Americans aren't getting $400,000 or more in corrupt deals.  But we can look the other way for Joe Biden's son?  No.  Especially not while Americans are suffering.

    Here's KDKA's Andy Sheehan reporting on the story.

    In Iraq, things are getting worse.  Another protester assassinated, liquor stores bombed and now, ALJAZEERA reports, a professor assassinated:

    The gunman fled the scene immediately after shooting al-Sharifi at Al-Manara University College, sources said.

    In a statement, IHCHR warned of the return of a “series of assassinations” targeting Iraqi academics and university professors, and called on the government to create legislation to protect them.

    The commission warned that if the state continues to fail to protect them, many revered academics would have no option but to leave the country at a time when Iraq needs to rebuild.

    The gunman fled the scene immediately after shooting al-Sharifi at Al-Manara University College, sources said.

    In a statement, IHCHR warned of the return of a “series of assassinations” targeting Iraqi academics and university professors, and called on the government to create legislation to protect them.

    The commission warned that if the state continues to fail to protect them, many revered academics would have no option but to leave the country at a time when Iraq needs to rebuild.

    The brain drain.  It's taken place in waves throughout the ongoing Iraq War as professors, technocrats, doctors and nurses have been targeted.  Again, while few are noticing, things are getting worse in Iraq.  Don't tell the Kenny Pollards of the world who are too busy pimping for Mustafa al-Kadhimi the way that they once pimped for the illegal war.

    There brain drains elsewhere -- specifically in the mind of the jerk who Tweeted this:

    I am not against women joining military, they are brave and patriotic as any Male soldier. I am concerned about sexual assault, rape by enemy soldiers in case they are captured during war! Even US women soldiers had to face it during iraq & Afghanistan!

    If you were concerned, you'd be informed and you're not.  No "US women soldiers had to face" being assaulted "by enemy soldiers" in Iraq or Afghanistan.  The women in the military who were assaulted, whether it was Suzanne Swift or anyone else, were assaulted by their peers, by US troops.  Excuse me, by their peers or by their superiors -- "command rape" is the term that the ongoing wars has popularized. 

    The reactionaries are always pretend to care but they never care enough to know what they're talking about.

    The following sites updated:

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020

    Dr. Flowers is right

     Dr. Margaret Flowers has an important column about Medicare For All:

    The United States has reached a severe crisis point and the next few months will determine how we address it. The COVID-19 pandemic is raging across the country and some areas are struggling to provide enough hospital beds and staff to care for people. The recession is deepening as unemployment benefits and the moratorium on evictions run out. Yet, members of Congress cannot even agree to pass a weak version of the CARES Act they passed last March when the situation was less serious.

    This is our moment. This is the time to make demands that the government take action to address the people’s needs. Even the most ‘progressive’ members in Congress  have shown they are unwilling to do more than talk about the crisis. They refuse to use what little power they have to confront their leadership. It is up to us to bring the crisis to members of Congress and demand immediate action.

    The minor economic recovery that occurred over the summer when businesses started to open back up has faltered. The real number of unemployed people rose in November as hundreds of thousands of people stopped looking for work. On top of that, the crises have gone on for so long that businesses, especially restaurants, are scaling back or closing making the job losses permanent. In fact, 110,000 restaurants have gone out of business this year.

    Bill Quigley provides some “tragic facts” about the crisis. Without Congressional action, 87 million workers will lose their sick leave, 30 million people will face eviction and 12 million people will lose their unemployment benefits by the end of the month. The student loan deferment is also set to expire.

    Hunger and poverty are rising with 50 million people, including 1 in 4 children, lacking food security. The number of children who are homeless, 1.5 million, is at a record high. And fewer students are applying for college.

    Unemployment, homelessness and hunger put people at risk of poor health and death from COVID-19 and other causes. It is all connected and there are obvious solutions to these crises. The problem is that Congress is refusing to act.

    Sarah Lazare points out that Congress had no trouble approving a $740 billion budget for the Pentagon on December 2. She writes, “That we can find the mon­ey for war but not for coro­n­avirus relief expos­es the moral rot at the cen­ter of U.S. pol­i­tics, a rot that must be dug out and expunged if we are to get through this crisis.”

    This week, Congress agreed to a one week extension of funding to keep the government open and to give them more time to agree to a COVID-19 relief package. The package currently being discussed is much smaller, just over $900 billion, than the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed by the House last May. It would give $300/week in unemployment benefits for 18 weeks and extend the two pandemic unemployment programs, one that targets gig and self-employed workers and the other that extends unemployment benefits. It would provide some funding to small businesses and local and state governments as well as funding for vaccines and health care. It will also extend the eviction moratorium and student loan deferment, give funds to schools and increase food stamps. It will not provide direct payments to people.

    We need to demand more and that our Congress stop serving the interests of everyone but We The People.  From the column:

    One demand that is getting a lot of attention is National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA). The Congressional Budge Office came out with a report this week that found NIMA would save $650 billion a year in administrative costs. If it included long term care, it would still save $300 billion. There is a NIMA bill in the House that is pretty good, HR 1384, introduced by Pramila Jayapal.

    Jimmy Dore is calling on so-called progressive Democrats who champion NIMA to demand a vote on HR 1384, which has 115 co-sponsors, by threatening not to support Pelosi for Speaker of the House if she refuses. The Democrats will have a slim majority in the House next year, so even if as few as 15 members had the courage to do this, they could force a vote. This would expose whether the Democrats who have run on NIMA and won really mean it. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is the largest caucus in the House. They have the power to stop legislation, but to date, they have refused to use that power.

    If there were ever a time to demand NIMA, it is now. At least 14 million more people have lost their health insurance this year, bringing us to similar numbers of uninsured people as there were in 2009 when the health reform process took place. But, sadly, it doesn’t look good. Even the “Squad” in Congress is refusing to go against Pelosi.

    This needs to happen.  We need to know who is on our side in this struggle and who is going to stab us in the back.

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

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020.  The US government destroyed the lives of girls and women in Iraq and the US government has done nothing to repair the damage.

    "Identity politics.'' Some on the left keep hissing that.  You wonder if they have a brain -- one capable of learning and expanding.  No this or that woman brought into Joe Biden's administration is probably not going to do anything for the country just because of gender.  The glass barrier has been broken regarding press secretaries and heads of cabinet -- and Kamala Harris just broke the glass ceiling on the vice president.  That really just leaves the office of president.  And that will be broken at some point.  Conditions for women in the US are not great.  But they are better than in many countries and there are role models -- good ones, not corporate whores -- for young girls throughout the country.  


    The British ambassador in Iraq, Stephen Hickey, visited Najaf on Tuesday and affirmed his country's support for Iraq.

    Hickey visited the holy city at the invitation of al-Rafidain Center for Dialogue, where he delivered a lecture on relations between Iraq and Britain.

    During his visit, Hickey discussed with seniors officials ways to enhance relations between the two countries and assured Iraq of international financial support to conduct the elections next June.

    Speaking during a news conference Hickey said: "I am sure there will be financial support via the United Nations to conduct these elections and it is important that there be monitoring by the United Nations of these elections."

    Stephen Hickey is the UK ambassador to Iraq.  All of UK's ambassadors to Iraq have been men.  Does it matter?  The same is true of the US.

    The US destroyed the rights of women in Iraq.  Iraqi women have had to fight for their rights and did so against the extremists that the US government backed.  Ava and I met with members of Barack Obama's transition team in late November of 2008.  We explained that (a) there are qualified women who can be the ambassador to Iraq -- we provided examples, including Ann Wright but also women who wouldn't be so 'controversial' to centrist Barack.  We explained that (b) women's roles in Iraq had been reduced and that it would be a plus for Iraq if a woman had a powerful role.  We got nods and agreement and, after each meeting, we'd look at each other and say, "They're not going to do a damn thing."  And they didn't.

    Barack did nothing.  Ryan Crocker was in office when Barack was sworn in.  Barack then nominated: Chris Hill, James Jeffrey, Brett McGurk, Robert S. Beecroft, Stuart E. Jones and Douglas Silliman. All but Brett McGurk was confirmed.  We were lucky to have friends in the Senate, Democrats, who would say hell no to Brett.  What is acceptable in the US doesn't help women in Iraq.  Meaning, his being married and having affairs in Iraq, leaving his wife finally to marry a woman who left her husband?  No, that man could not be an ambassador in the regressive and restrictive Iraq that the US government created.  Any Iraqi woman visiting or working for the US Embassy in Iraq would have a target on her back.  This is a country that has 'honor' killings -- where women are killed for various 'disgraces' -- like being raped, or marrying the 'wrong' man or whatever they've done that has offended the sensibilities of those who would rob women of every right that they have.  These people stood up to Barack and he had to tell Brett that the post just wasn't going to be his.

    But look at that list.  In eight years, he nominated six people and all six were men.  There were, in Barack's mind (Joe Biden's too), no women who could handle the duties of being an ambassador.

    Now in the US, the net effect is that we just realize how stupid and sexist our leaders are.

    But putting a woman in that position could have helped women and girls in Iraq.  In Iraq, that isn't 'identity politics.'  This is about providing a role model, this is about making men who aren't necessarly wanting to interact with women learn that they have to do so.

    It would have made a difference.

    If you're wondering, there were five other US ambassadors to Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion.  John Negroponte was the first, next came Zalmay Khalizad and then Ryan Crocker.  Those were under Bully Boy Bush.  We've covered the five Barack got confirmed (and six nominated).  Donald Trump has had two if you count acting ambassador Joey R. Hood.  He was replaced with Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller.

    The US is responsible for the destruction of the rights of women in Iraq.  So is the UK and Australia -- the three main leaders of the illegal war.  Today, Australia's Ministry for Foreign Affairs issued the following:

    Ambassador to Iraq

    • Media release
    16 December 2020

    Today I announce the appointment of Ms Paula Ganly as Australia’s next Ambassador to Iraq.

    Australia and Iraq have a long history of partnership and cooperation. We stood by Iraq during the Da’esh conflict and continue to work with the Government of Iraq to build a more stable and secure country.

    Together with New Zealand, Australian Defence Force personnel have trained more than 47,000 Iraqi security force personnel since early 2015. We have assisted Iraq’s recovery through our $100 million humanitarian and stabilisation assistance package. Australia’s aid package focuses on assisting vulnerable Iraqis, particularly women, girls and people living with disabilities.

    With more than 67,000 Australians born in Iraq, our personal ties are strong.

    Ms Ganly is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and was most recently the Executive Director, Diplomatic Academy. Her career reflects a wealth of experience in diplomatic security, consular policy and ministerial support, having worked in DFAT and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

    She has previously served overseas in London, Beijing, Hong Kong, Prague, Seoul, Dhaka and Caracas.

    I thank outgoing Ambassador Joanne Loundes for her contributions to advancing Australia’s interests in Iraq since 2018.

    \She will be Australia's ninth ambassador to Iraq since the start of the illegal war and the second women -- as the release notes, Joanne Loundes is who Ganly is replacing.  Australia has now found two qualified women but the US can't find one.

    UNAMI is the United Nations mission in Iraq.  It is headed by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative.  There have been seven of them since the start of the illegal war.  Only one, the current one, has been a woman.  Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert since November 1, 2018.  

    The US and UK have done nothing to make up for the hell they created for Iraqi women and girls.  Let's remember that just a few years back, the Parliament was trying to pass a law to allow men -- grown men -- to marry girls as young as nine.  Let's remember that they have 'trial marriages' that leave women with a scarlet letter but don't harm the man if the man opts out of the pretend marriage.  

    No woman could ever do worse as US Ambassador to Iraq than Chris Hill.  And certainly, many, many women are immensely qualified for the post.  And whomever is picked -- man or woman -- will only implement policy -- they won't make it.  They might argue for or advocate for something but, in the end, they're just implementing policy.  So why can't it be a woman?

    And why hasn't the US government made a real effort to help women in Iraq.

    Iraq, the land of widows and orphans.  That's thanks to the US-led war.

    Illya Tsukanov (SPUTNIK) reports:

    The United States first used depleted uranium (DU) ammunition against Iraq during the Gulf War of 1990-1991, and then again during the 2003 invasion. According to available estimates, the US contaminated Iraq with at least 2,320 tonnes of the highly toxic substance, with DU affecting both American servicemen and Iraq’s civilian population.

    Baghdad will be filing a case against the United States with European courts over Washington’s use of DU weapons, Iraq’s al-Maalomah News Agency has reported, citing Hatif al-Rikabi, an adviser to the Iraqi parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

    Speaking to the news agency on Sunday, al-Rikabi indicated that he would be filing suits in courts in Sweden and Germany over alleged major US crimes, including the use of depleted uranium munitions.

    That's damage caused by the US government.  There is other damage the US government caused.  MEMO reports:

    Three separate simultaneous bombs targeted liquor stores west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, causing material damages, the Iraqi security media cell said.

    The Iraqi Defence Ministry's Media Cell said in a statement that an unknown group calling itself Ahl Al-Ma'rouf targeted the stores on Monday night using improvised explosive devices or IEDs.

    According to the statement, a fourth bomb attached to a civilian car has exploded in a neighbourhood in western Baghdad, causing material damage.

    Local media circulated a statement issued by the group calling on the security forces deployed in the vicinity of liquor stores and nightclubs to withdraw from the areas ahead of the areas being targeted.

    So three stores are no more.  Probably stores run by Iraqi Christians since they were alcohol stores.  The radical mob is back and ready to terrorize Iraq.  How?  The US didn't just coddle them, it put their people in charge.  Nouri al-Maliki, forever thug and former prime minister.  That was due to the US and he's part of the thuggery (and the corruption).  

    Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) provides context on the latest bombing:

    Six days earlier, Iraqi security forces dismantled an explosive device near a liquor store in the upscale district of al-Mansour, which is located far from the influence of armed groups.

    A group calling itself People of the Good issued a statement on Dec. 14, calling on Iraqi security forces to stay away from liquor shops. "After the number of security forces increased to protect these stores, we call on them to move away from them, because we will continue targeting them until the land of Baghdad is cleared of their filth," the group said.

    People of the Good is one of the unknown groups that appeared recently; it is widely believed to be affiliated with Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah.

    AFP notes, "Over the past two months, at least 14 alcohol shops across the city have been firebombed in the middle of the night or just before dawn, with three simultaneous attacks in different districts Monday night alone."   The climate is not good in Iraq.  DAILY SABAH reports:

    An Iraqi anti-government protester was shot dead in east Baghdad by masked gunmen on Tuesday evening, according to a security source, a medic and an activist network.

    Salah al-Iraqi was well-known for his active role in the rallies that erupted in Iraq's capital and the Shiite-majority south last year, slamming the government as corrupt, inefficient and beholden to neighboring Iran.

    Iraqi was killed in the capital's Baghdad al-Jadida district, according to a medic, a security source and the Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM), a collection of activists who reported on the protests and their aftermath.

    Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) explains:

    Prior to his death on Tuesday, Al-Iraqi urged the Iraqi people to not sit down and watch injustice. “The free die, while the cowards rule,” he said in a Facebook post

    Social media videos show Al-Iraqi’s coffin being carried by a crowd of mourning and chanting protestors.

    Al-Iraqi is not the first activist involved in the protests to be assassinated.

    Nearly 560 protesters and security force members have been killed since October 2019, according to data provided in July by Hisham Dawoud, advisor to Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

    Iraqi security analyst and Rudaw columnist Husham al-Hashimi was assassinated in July by unknown armed groups in Baghdad, with many accusing Iran-backed militias of being behind his death. Despite Kadhimi’s promise to hunt down the killers, no one has been arrested over his death. 

    Two high-profile activists in Basra were brazenly killed in the span of a single week in August. 

    Back to a previous topic, Tahsin Qasim (RUDAW) reports:

    A hundred Shingal (Sinjar) women will become police as part of the recent Erbil-Baghdad security and administration agreement for the disputed area, according to Shingal mayor Mahma Khalil.

    As part of the deal’s new armed force to be created from the local population, Yazidi women in Shingal will serve as police for the first time ever.

    “I have registered my name for the Shingal police force. It has been my dream to hold a gun someday, to defend my country, and become police,” Halaa Jardo, an applicant to the new force.

    Many of those expected to take up the role survived horrors under the Islamic State (ISIS).

    That is good news but the KRG region has always led on this issue.  Both the Barzanis and Talibanis, for example, have had strong women in prominent roles.  Those are the two political dynasties in Iraq.

    Iraq's ceremonial president Barham Salih Tweeted the following a few days ago:

    at Climate Ambition Summit 2020: Iraq is moving into a new, greener era. Iraq will promote renewable energies, reduce carbon emissions and work on the Iraqi response to #ParisAgreement, with focus on role of youth and women in development. #ClimateAction

    He is also a Kurd.  The Kurds have led on this issue and we've noted this.  But where is the US?  Something as simple as naming a woman to be ambassador to Iraq is just too much for our so-called leaders.

    New content at THIRD:

    The following sites updated: