Donald Trump doesn't have much to point to for his four years as president. He would be smart to pardon Ed Snowden and Julian Assange. That would allow him to have something to be praised for. Don't think there's going to be much else. Alan MacLeoud (MPN) writes:
Amid mounting speculation that President Trump is about to announce a list of presidential pardons, calls for — and against — NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s name to be included are growing louder.
In November, as is customary, Donald Trump pardoned a turkey for Thanksgiving. Now, in the lame duck session of his presidency, he appears to be making a customary list of people to pardon as well. Influential and well-connected publication Axios reported, in a scandalized tone, that he is planning to hand out pardons “like Christmas gifts” to “every person who ever talked to [him].” In August, the president was asked about Snowden specifically, responding by saying that, “I’m going to take a very good look at it. I’ve seen people that are very conservative and very liberal and they agree on the same issue…I’m going to take a look at that very strongly.”
Now, a host of figures are calling in unison for Trump to follow through on the proposal. “President Trump is listening to the many of us who are urging him to pardon Snowden. It’s the right thing to do,” Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz said yesterday. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul agreed, slamming former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in the process. “Clapper brazenly lied to Congress denying that the Deep State was spying on all Americans. Snowden simply revealed Clapper’s lies and exposed unconstitutional spying. He deserves a pardon from Donald Trump,” he wrote. Those calls were joined by a number of voices on the left, including former Green Party vice-presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka, who said, “I support pardons for Snowden, Assange and especially Chelsea Manning. All exposed the criminality of the Bush-Obama/Biden period.” The American Civil Liberties Union, who have previously described Snowden as a “patriot,” concurred, stating, “Edward Snowden blew the whistle on illegal government activity kept secret for years. Our democracy is better off because of him.”
Donald Trump needs to pardon Ed Snowden for two reasons. First, it is the right thing to do. Second, Trump needs to have some action he can point to with pride.
This is 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:
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.
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.
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: