Sunday, August 26, 2012

Truest statement of the week

Barack Obama did win in 2008 running on a platform more liberal than the one he has pursued in the interim. Perhaps he couldn't move any farther left on immigration or health care and stay viable. But on national security, executive power, and civil-liberties issues, he campaigned and won handily repudiating Bush-era policies, only to govern to the "right" of the Bush Administration.
There wasn't a political imperative to do so. And I'm tired of that truth being obscured.
If liberals are going express horror at the GOP agenda as they enthusiastically support Obama's reelection, it's time for them to own his policies and stop trying to blame them on George W. Bush, or intransigent Republicans, or the financial crisis, or corporate campaign donations, or the desire to compromise, or an electorate that wasn't ready for the allegedly "knighted" Obama.
Barack Obama wasn't pressured to be executioner-in-chief. He asserted himself as arbiter of which human beings to kill without trial, at times far from any battlefield, sometimes without even knowing their identities. He decided to limit congressional oversight and totally exclude the judiciary.
House Speaker John Boehner didn't define militants as all men of military age that American drones kill. The Obama Administration did that.
Voters didn't clamor for an unprecedented war on whistleblowers. The Obama Administration decided to wage it.
An intransigent Congress didn't force the Obama Administration to make frequent use of the state-secrets privilege, or to keep Bradley Manning in solitary confinement, or to keep secret the legal memo that outlines the theory behind his extrajudicial assassination of American citizens.
No one made Obama violate the War Powers Resolution in Libya.

--  Conor Friedersdorf, "Liberals Need to Start Holding Obama Responsible for His Policies" (The Atlantic).

Truest statement of the week II

The great tragedy of the Obama era, is that his presence has had the effect of shutting down progressive – and, most dramatically, Black – opposition to the prevailing order. This does not happen by the magic of charisma. Political operatives identified with the Left work diligently to maintain such silence – people like Fletcher and Davidson, who are once again guarding the left flank for Obama, whose great legacy has been to create vast political space for Wall Street and the Pentagon, with a minimum of resistance from white progressives, Blacks and the rest of the Democratic base.
That’s why we at BAR call Obama the more effective evil.

--  Glen Ford, "Fletcherism and Fakery: Guarding Obama’s Left Flank" (Black Agenda Report).

A note for our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Conor of The Atlantic.
Another truest for Glen Ford. 
The US government really picks some losers, doesn't it?
Ava and C.I. offer a look at the media in a variety of forms.  (I could say a lot more but everyone's tired and wanting to crash and Dona said, "Jim, make it brief.")
This is a really great feature.  I didn't have a lot of faith in it being that, to be honest.  We'd contacted both Ms. and Women's Media Center and both didn't offer an official statement.  So I felt like this issue would be a waste.  I'm glad I was wrong.

Jess turned in this rare solo piece.  Don't you wish he'd offer a solo article more often.  (His last one was back in March.)

Has Pringles got a low-cal chip for you.

It's enough to make you roll your eyes.

It's rare when someone unknowingly but convincingly provides an indictment against their own industry.

A respot of a press release from Ros-Lehtinen's office.

A repost from Workers World.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.

Again, Dona asked me to keep it brief.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: All dead end roads lead to Nouri

 I see Ba'athists


US Vice President Joe Biden spoke in West Bloomfield last week and met with Iraqi Christians.  The Arab American News observes, "The Obama Administration has been condemned for not doing enough to protect Iraq’s minorities."  The administration hasn't done anything to protect any Iraqi other than Nouri al-Maliki.

Last week, AEI's Max Boot (Commentary) offered:

A great deal of that success [in Iraq] has been undone, alas, by two bad decisions made by President Obama: First the decision to back a coalition headed by Nouri al Maliki in forming a government even after Maliki finished second in the 2010 election. If the U.S. had gone all out to support the winning slate, led by Ayad Allawi, the result might well have been a government in Baghdad far less amenable to Iranian influence than the current one.
This initial mistake was made much worse by Obama's failure to negotiate an accord to allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq past 2011.

We disagree that there was 'success' in Iraq but things certainly do get worse month after month.

In 2010, the White House backed Nouri for a second term even though the Iraqis didn't.  But their wants and their votes were tossed aside by the White House.  They backed Nouri.  And they backed him in his 8 month political stalemate.  And they got him a second term by lying to the political blocs.

Everyone tosses in something, they told the blocs.  You make the concession that Nouri gets a second term and then he gives you . . .

And it was negotiated and written up in what the US government swore was a binding contract.  The leaders of the political blocs, including Nouri, signed off on the Erbil Agreement.  Nouri used it to get his second term.  And then he tossed it aside.

And the US never says a word.

The ongoing political stalemate in Iraq?

They pretend they don't know what it's about.

The Sunni-Shi'ite, et al alliance that is Iraqiya is calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.  The Kurds are calling for  a return to the Erbil Agreement.  Shi'ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.

And the US government plays dumb, pretending it's a puzzler why the various blocs can't sit down and solve the current stalemate.

Why the White House backed Nouri to begin with is a question that will plague historians for decades.  He'd already had one term -- thanks to the Bush administration -- and accomplished nothing. Half-way into his second term, it appears he will do even worse.

At least in his first term he had a Minister of Interior and a Minister of Defense.

He's never had those this go round. Or a Minister of National Security.  He's left the posts empty so that he could control them.

He was supposed to have nominated people for those posts and had the nominees confirmed by the Parliament.  That was back in December of 2010.

All this time later, he can't name nominees.

And people want to pretend that the increased violence or lack of progress is the result of something other than Nouri's inability to provide leadership?
Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "I See Ba'athists."

TV: Distractions passed off as news

Last week, when we were speaking to a group about the ongoing wars, a woman stood up and explained that she watches her local news and the network evening news but still feels like she's being left uninformed.  We think she had a solid point but we would say she (and others) are more distracted and misled by what passes for news on television.


On any given night, viewers are regularly and repeatedly misinformed and distracted.  Take Tuesday when US General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left Afghanistan and traveled to Iraq where he met with, among others, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and with the US Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq which, RTT reported, "More than 225 U.S. troops, seven Defense Department civilians, 530 security assistance team members and more than 4,000 contracted personnel are currently in the office at the Iraqi government's invitation."

And of course the US has stationed 15,000 US troops in Kuwait.  Add in that the Iraqi press was full of reports that al-Maliki and Dempsey discussed not just Syria and weapons but also sending US troops back into Iraq.

So surely this dominated the Tuesday network evening news, right?


The two stories that dominated Tuesday night's news?  First, the networks continued their wall-to-wall coverage of idiotic remarks by a man attempting to win a seat in the US Senate -- remarks that had been made three days prior and had already been over-covered by the national press -- over-covered to the point of saturation.  Second story dominating the 'news'? Rosie O'Donnell's revelation on Twitter that she'd had a heart attack.


Not mentioned.  In fact, Brian Williams (NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams) had Dempsey leaving Afghanistan to return to the United States -- which is worse than silence, it's a mistake.

There were other silences.

Saturday, Arthur Brisbane, public editor for The New York Times, had his farewell column published online, "Success and Risk as The Times Transforms" and he noted that "a kind of political and cultural progressivism -- for lack of a better term -- that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times."

We shuddered thinking of the explosion Bob Somerby will have online later this week over the column.  Remembering Somerby's July 24th assault on the first New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent when Okrent asserted that the paper was "a liberal newspaper," we pictured circular talking points and little logic.

Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The New York Times who wrote the takedown on Clarence Thomas with Jane Mayer back in the 90s, insisted to POLITICO on Saturday that Brisbane was incorrect and making "sweeping conclusions."   She spoke to the cesspool POLITICO because she knew it's basically a Hollywood gossip column for DC.  No one rebuts you, no one facts you, they just type up what you said and pretend they reported.

Abramson's disagreement with Brisbane was similar to one the two had last September when Abramson told the public editor, "And I am pretty scrupulous about when we apply our investigative firepower to politicians that we do not do it in a way that favors one way of thinking or one party over the other."

Real news outlets would be aware of that earlier exchange.  They'd also want to ask Jill Abramson about last month's report, by Lizette Alvarez, on strip clubs in Tampa where the GOP convention will be held.  It was a smarmy little piece of crap that didn't deserve to be published -- that's before you bring a stripped with an alleged likeness to a famous female politician.  Where is the similar report on Charlotte?

Charlotte, North Carolina is where the Democratic National Convention will take place.  How well known is Charlotte for its strip joints?  In October of 2008, Ron Hart (Yahoo! Contributor Network) reported, "Whether you are in Charlotte, North Caroline for work, for pleasure, or are a native, you will have no shortage of options when it comes to strip joints."  He went on to rank the top seven strip clubs in the city.  NUDITY WARNING BEFORE NEXT LINK, and The Ultimate Strip Club List notes 16 'happening' strip clubs in Charlotte.

So someone needs to ask Jill Abramson exactly which reporter she's going to have covering strip clubs in Charlotte since she's so scrupulous that the paper never "favors one way of thinking or one party over the other"?

While you hold your breath for that day that's never coming, prepare for Somerby to spend forever and a day ripping Brisbane apart.

Bob Somerby's a media critic.  He's often an accurate media critic.  Often.  Not always.  No one is.  He also has a set of bias.  For example, being friends with Matthew Cooper (formerly of Time magazine) meant that he savaged Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame and repeatedly called Wilson a liar.  He never disclosed to his readers that he and Cooper were friends.  Cooper, of course, knew that Scooter Libby leaked to the press that Valerie Plame was CIA.  Cooper had a lot to hide.  We're sure it was just coincidence that led Bob Somerby to attack Plame's husband Joe Wilson as a liar.  (Joe Wilson's not a liar.  Joe Wilson told the truth.  Matthew Cooper is and was a joke.)

Another bias is that he can only aim so high.  Unlike many critics, he does go after a few of the high prized voices of the left.  A few.  But he drops to the floor like a bad can of ravioli when it comes to calling out Barack.

Over and over lately, Somerby has repeatedly called out the lie that Mitt Romney's released tax returns are insufficient when compared to other nominees.  Here he is August 15th calling out Debbie Wasserman Schultz for insisting Romney wasn't doing what others had done:

In 2008, Candidate McCain released two years of tax returns.  His wife released no full returns, although the family's extensive wealth was contained in her returns.  Candidate Palin also released two years of tax returns.
McCain released two years of tax returns. Is there any chance that Wasserman Schultz still didn't know that fact?

Here he is August 17th, calling out TV gadfly Lawrence O'Donnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the same thing:

Surely Reid understands that Candidate McCain released only two years of tax returns, just as Candidate Romney is doing.  Candidate Palin also released only two years of returns.

We can go on and on with one link after another where Bob Somerby repeatedly calls out people repeating the lie.  But, funny thing, on Monday it got repeated again.  On Tuesday there was nothing but silence from Bob Somerby.  Strange because Monday, Barack Obama held a White House press conference.  Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reported on it and noted that Barack raised Romney's tax returns.  From the official White House transcript of that press briefing, here's Barack:

 And when it comes to releasing taxes, that's a precedent that was set decades ago, including by Governor Romney's father.  And for us to say that it makes sense to release your tax returns, as I did, as John McCain did, as Bill Clinton did, as the two President Bushes did, I don't think is in any way out of bounds. 
I think that is what the American people would rightly expect -- is a sense that, particularly when we're going to be having a huge debate about how we reform our tax code and how we pay for the government that we need, I think people want to know that everybody has been playing by the same rules, including people who are seeking the highest office in the land.  This is not an entitlement, being President of the United States.  This is a privilege.  And we've got to put ourselves before the American people to make our case.

Not a word from Bob Somerby on Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  Or Thursday.  Or Friday.  Or Saturday.  Again, when it's Barack, he drops to the ground like a bad can of ravioli. 

This week, he'll most likely focus on Brisbane as he continues to refuse to call out Barack's lie.  We will get no, "Surely Obama understands . . ."  It's strange because Chris Hayes got called out by Bob . . . for not repeating the lie.  (Lawrence O'Donnell, in one of his many verbal eruptions, repeated it while Chris was his guest and Chris did not correct him.  Chris ignored the remark and that led to a finger-wagging from Bob Somerby.)

Bob Somerby is probably one of the MVPs of media criticism but even he will only go so far.

Which is too bad because when a president repeats a lie, it's a lot more important than when some MSNBC desk jockey repeats it.  When a president repeats a lie, the stenographers rush to circulate it.  Truth tellers should be calling it out.

You have no truth tellers on TV.  Each side backs hires that pimp their point of view, not voices that tell truths.  The 'news' is a sewer and a public menace.

 And truth telling is a dangerous practice.  We thought about that last week as we caught Suits (USA Network) and saw Jessica (Gina Torres) fire Harvey's legal secretary Donna (Sarah).  Donna's the heart and soul of the firm and you can't imagine how it could exist without her.  But last week she still got fired.  The whole world is Donna.  In charge of a small domain but forever at risk of losing it at any moment.  That's true even of Jessica who's battling to make sure Daniel doesn't take over the firm.

It's that risk of losing it all, that risk of leaving what you know for the unknown, that ensures that so many toe the line and keep their mouths shuts and never tell the truth.  It makes for an ill-served public and makes for a dying democracy.

Women Win When Women Run: The conversation Roseanne and Jill are inspiring

 roseanne cindy

The banner above features Roseanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan, There are two presidential tickets where the candidates are both women: Roseanne Barr has the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party and her running mate is Cindy Sheehan and   Jill Stein has the Green Party's presidential nomination and her running mate is Cheri Honkala.

Two strong women leading two presidential tickets, two feminists with running mates who are also women?  That should be catnip to the feminist press.

Instead, it's treated as if it's something to be hidden away by Ms. magazine and Women's Media Center.  In Women's Media Center's report entitled [PDF format warning] "Media Guide to Gender Neutrality:"

Name It. Change It. is a nonpartisan joint project of the Women's Media Center and She Should Run.  We work to identify, prevent, and end sexist media coverage of federal and gubernatorial women candidates, elected politicians, and high-profile public officials of all races.  We monitor coverage by all members of the press -- from bloggers to radio hosts to television pundits.  Our goal, to quote Katie Couric, is to "make sexism as repugnant as racism." 
Widespread sexism in the media is one of the top problems facing women.  

Guess what, silence is sexism.  Silence is oppression.  Rendering someone invisible has long been a tool of the patriarchy.

So imagine our surprise that Ms. and WMC seem to think they can call out others for sexism but they can continue it at their own websites.

Last week, a petition was started [by Rebecca, to hear C.I. tell it; by Rebecca and C.I. to hear Rebecca tell it] calling on WMC and Ms. to cover the two presidential campaigns.  With little attention and no effort to advance the petition from outside the community, it's already gathered over 200 signatures.

More important than the signatures are the comments.

People like Bonnie Pierce of Georgia argue, "Supporting the right of women to run for office means demanding the coverage a campaign needs."  Or Oregon's Dana Deitrich offering, "Rejecting the duopoly sounds like feminism to me!"

Over and over, solid points are made like Jeanne van den Hurk of South Carolina explaining, "Please give some serious attention to women in politics! Never mind that it's the 21st century - women are still 'invisible' or at most 'tokens' in politics today.  This has to change.  You can be part of this change.  Seek out [the] women who represent the underdogs and give them attention!"

Some had questions like New York's Robert Rizzuto who wondered, "GLORIA [Steinem] WHERE ARE YOU?  How can a magazine supposedly by women for women not cover the women running for president??" California's Rosa Hernandez asked, "If the feminist press will not support the feminist women, why does it exist?"  Texas' Brenda West wanted to know, "If we can't count on feminist press to cover women who run for president, what does that say about the feminist press?"

Some signed and offered who they were supporting like Jill Stein supporters Alison Bragg, Larry Franks, Heather Kropf, Mary Gage, Charity Wells, Natalie Means and Marilyn Crawford ; or Roseanne Barr supporters like Irv Sutley, Lauren Smith and Toni Morgan.

Throughout the petition -- and there are many strong comments we don't have room to quote here -- a dialogue is taking place.  A slogan making its way through the comments: Women win when women run.

It's about the 99 and the 1 percent for California's Laura Wells.  It's about many things and many issues.  And two women -- Roseanne Barr and Jill Stein -- are inspiring this dialogue, a dialogue that Ms. or WMC could be leading on about women, politics, democracy, ownership, history and so much more.

Could be leading on.

Instead they're silent.

Their silence doesn't stop the conversation, it just means yet again they're not part of the conversation.  Their loss.

Vegetarian's Lament (Jess)


When you're a vegetarian, you often make concessions.  A busy day with limited lunch possibilities may indeed mean fries.  There may be no salad option on the menu and there may be no chance of going elsewhere.   Like most vegetarians, I make concessions and accept a lot I shouldn't have to.

In the last few months, however, I have been repeatedly ticked off by one experience I keep having at so-called 'family' businesses.  You may order from a menu, you may go through a line but the basics are that for $8,99 or so, you get two small servings of vegetables and a large serving of meat -- maybe a chicken breast and another piece of chicken (like a leg or wing), or some ribs.

If you're a vegetarian, you know the drill, you ask for a third vegetable.  So they give you a little cup of a third vegetable and then they still charge you $9.99.

Let's be really honest here, those green beans they serve?  From a can.  Oversalted in the cooking.  Those mashed potatoes?  Instant.  You're third vegetable most likely came from a can as well.  And those little servings which are either half a cup or one cup of vegetables cost them probably $2.50 -- maybe a little more than that since some are very heavy on the salt.

They're not making a profit off of us, they're gouging us.

And let's point out something else to those lovely 'family' restaurants: Lettuce is more than iceberg and lettuce you serve isn't supposed to be brown.  Here's another tip, iceberg lettuce and a slice of tomato isn't a salad, isn't a salad, it's a garnish.  You've "dressed up" the plate, you've "framed" the plate, you've "plated" the food but unless we've suddenly dropped back to 1939, you have not made a salad.

I'm a vegetarian and have been all my life.  Our numbers are increasing.  In addition, there are people who aren't vegetarians but choose to eat an all vegetable lunch to cut calories or to diet.  By ripping off customers and providing them with such awful offerings, these restaurants are only hurting themselves.  When Wendy's has two different meatless salads on their value menu, people aren't going to keep paying $9.99 for three small servings of over-salted canned vegetables for long.  They'll simply stop visiting your place of business.

From the TESR Test Kitchen

In our Test Kitchen research, we've discovered many things.  Such as people like Lean Cousine aren't really into diet foods or they would be reducing the crust in their 'diet' pizzas.  We've also discovered that there really aren't great choices for potato chips if you're concerned about calories.

Or so we thought.  Until now, the best out there was the Special K chips (crackers) which were small and, were they regular size, about 15 would be 110 calories -- as opposed to 150 calories for 15 non 'diet' potato chips.

Like we said "until now."

Pringles to the rescue.  Skip the "Reduced" Pringles line.  The calorie reduction doesn't even justify the line.  Instead grab the Pringles Light.  There are three flavors currently: Original, Sour Cream & Onion and BBQ.

 1 pringles

15 chips of any of the three flavors adds up to 70 calories.  And there are six servings in the canister so that's 420 calories should you pig out.  You're not planning on pigging out but, should you, you won't have to spiral into a tunnel of hate.

The taste?

BBQ Light pretty much tastes like BBQ regular.  Sour Cream and Onion has a slight difference.  Original Light is where you'll really notice the difference.  It's less salty than Original regular and also a little lighter.  But it does taste good.

If you know the Lays Light brand, you know the only other chip with similar calories.  Unlike the Lays Light brand, the Pringles Light brand actually tastes like chips.  (We are all big fans of regular Lays chips, FYI, and like them better than regular Pringles; however, we can't stand Lays Light.)

There's this thing called timing

NASA's land rover Curiosity has captured the attention of many Americans and, wouldn't you know it, there's no toy.  Kids are interested in there's no toy.  If NASA were Paramount, a whole floor of offices would be empty right now as a result of this failure to offer a tie-in.

In grocery stores this weekend, many of us saw something new.  We were as we planned the issue and we think Trina was the first to toss it out but most of us were able to say we'd seen it too, the new display.

Have you seen it at your grocery store?


It's the 2012 Kellog's Team USA cereal!  Big display in stores now! . . . after the Olympics are over.

When the sexism is front and center

Comic books are frequently considered sexist for any number of reasons.  One of the most cited is the big breasted female characters.  As comic book lovers, we don't get upset over the well endowed chests on women any more than we would by the well endowed chests on the men.  We realize that both are idealized versions -- probably child-like ways of seeing and that probably intentionally taps into something in adults.

But sexism is real and it exists.  You can find it in a variety of comic book titles every month.  Sometimes it may be slightly hidden, sometimes it may be hard to ignore.  Rarely, however, it is as plain as it is in Vincent Giarrano's Comics Crash Course.

comics crash course'

Born November 17, 1960, Vincent Giarrano has penciled and inked for a number of comic book titles.  In his 2004 how-to book, he may or may not impart the wisdom needed for a career in comics but he certainly and repeatedly unintentionally reveals how sexism works.

For example?  Page 25 explains "muscles change shape as you move" which seems plain enough except the muscles are all men's.  Pages 26 and 27 gets to women and offers such 'insight' as "For constructing your females use round shapes and graceful curves."  While page 25 has you concerned with muscles and action, these two pages on women have you concerned with how to "pose" and the women walk and recline with hands bent down at the wrist.  You're told that you can add shoulder blades but no muscles because shoulder blades "are one of the few things that you can add to a woman's back that won't make it look ugly."  And to underscore the whole women-are-there-to-be-decoration, you're told, "Look at clothing catalogs to find different photos of women and pick up tips about how they carry themselves."

Right, why bother looking at photos of women athletes when you can grab cheesecake shots?

Page 29 tells you how to draw men's eyes and women's eyes. In which one are you advised on how "to make eyes look sexy."

And on and on it goes, page after page.  Men do and women are there to look attractive (actually, they look available -- see especially page 41) and women are regularly called "girls" -- even on page 54 when he's writing of a woman who modeled for face photos.

Rarely will you find sexism flaunted so publicly.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen writes Leon Panetta

US House Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following Friday:

In Letter to Secretary Panetta, Secretary Geithner, Ros-Lehtinen Requests Details of Iran's Involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan

Asks What Obama Administration, Iraqi and Afghan Governments are Doing to Counter Tehran's Efforts

Friday, August 24, 2012
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner requesting details on Iran’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chairman Ros-Lehtinen also is asking the Administration for information on the Iraqi and Afghan governments’ actions in addressing the Iranian regime’s attempts to gain influence within these countries. For a signed copy of the letter, please click here. Text of the letter follows:

Dear Secretary Panetta and Secretary Geithner:

I am writing to raise concerns about Iranian attempts to circumvent U.S., European Union, and other bilateral and multilateral sanctions through use of the financial sectors of Iraq and Afghanistan, and about what the Administration is doing or considering doing to counter these efforts effectively.

As described in two New York Times articles over the past week, and on the heels of the recent Treasury designation of the Elaf Islamic Bank in Baghdad, the Iranian regime is trying to access the financial sectors of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the energy sector of Iraq, to provide Tehran with crucial foreign currency reserves at a time when sanctions are having an effect.

Reports indicate that the Elaf Islamic Bank is still allowed to participate in the Iraq Central Bank’s daily auction, at which commercial banks can sell Iraqi dinars and buy United States dollars. These auctions are a crucial pathway for Iranian access to the international financial system. As Iran seeks to bolster its reserves of dollars and other convertible foreign currency to stabilize its exchange rates and pay for imports, the Iraqi government reportedly not only allows companies and individuals to circumvent the sanctions but also does not enforce penalties for non-compliance.

Further, the status of joint Iraqi-Iranian oil fields raises potential sanctionable upstream activities, which are particularly concerning given reports that some Iranian oil is finding its way to Iraqi ports for export.

A similar potential challenge to sanctions implementation and enforcement exists with Afghanistan. Kabul and Kandahar are now reportedly being utilized as financial centers through which the Iranian regime can circumvent sanctions. According to press reports, Afghan money traders said they were told this month by American officials not to conduct business with Arian Bank, an Afghan bank owned by two Iranian banks, because the Iranian regime was using Arian to move cash in and out of Afghanistan. Given longstanding difficulties encountered by the U.S. and other responsible nations with Afghanistan’s widespread corruption and lack of financial controls, I am concerned not only that Afghanistan could be transformed into a mechanism used by the Iranian regime to circumvent sanctions, but that such an arrangement could inadvertently provide Tehran greater leverage over the Afghan government.

Accordingly, I would appreciate if you would provide the following information (which, given its potential sensitivity, may be transmitted in classified form):
  • the overarching U.S. strategy to address these Iranian efforts to evade sanctions;
  • what actions the U.S., our allies, and the Iraqi and Afghan governments are taking to counter such sanctions evasion;
  • whether the Administration will condition security cooperation with Iraq and Afghanistan on such activities with the Iranian regime;
  • which Iraqi and Afghan banks, or other financial institutions, maintain correspondent accounts with designated Iranian banks or their affiliates;
  • a determination as to whether joint Iranian-Iraqi oil fields are sanctionable under the Iran Sanctions Act; and
  • an analysis of the impact of Iran’s use of Iraqi and Afghan financial institutions on the effectiveness of bilateral and multilateral sanctions regimes.
Given the U.S. investment of blood and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is vital that the Iraqi and Afghan governments cooperate with the U.S. and other responsible nations to address the Iranian threat. Failure to cooperate should be met with a reconsideration of bilateral security arrangements.
Thank you in advance for your assistance. I look forward to receiving your response. 

Support Syria against U.S. -NATO! (Workers World)

Repost from Workers World:

Support Syria against U.S.-NATO!

Each week brings U.S. imperialism closer to direct military intervention in Syria with the aim of overthrowing the government of President Bashir al-Assad and crushing Syria’s independence and sovereignty. Up to now Washington has avoided direct intervention, working instead with its NATO allies through Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to fund and arm the reactionary opposition to Assad and the Syrian people.
The latest comments by President Barack Obama brings Washington another step closer to direct intervention. Obama’s propaganda pretext was something used before by U.S. presidents. He charged Syria with possessing chemical weapons. Obama also said if the U.S. saw chemical weapons moved around or being used that would be a “red line,” meaning an excuse for direct intervention. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has also threatened to intervene to keep these alleged chemical weapons from “falling into the wrong hands.”
This is just a rehash of George W. Bush’s 2002-2003 pretext for invading Iraq: the country’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction,” which were never found. The truth was different then and is different now. For strategic reasons involving the targeting of Iran and the control of energy resources in the Middle East, U.S. imperialism aims to replace the independent Syrian government with a client state, weakening Iran and the Hezbollah resistance movement in Lebanon. So far the U.S. and its allies have used proxy fighters to destroy the cohesiveness of the Syrian state and wreck its economic infrastructure, as they did Libya in 2011.
Contradicting Obama’s 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, the Obama-Clinton-Pentagon gang has waged war no less aggressively than Bush. Some say the new administration’s wars are “smarter,” since, to avoid U.S. casualties, they use proxies and air war, especially drones, and a divide-and-conquer strategy, instead of massive occupations. They kill civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia as well as Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.
For Syria they use oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Qatar to fund the aggression, Turkey to coordinate the logistics of weapon delivery, and they exacerbate Shiite-Sunni differences and Iranian-Arab differences to pursue the war. The administration even risks strengthening al-Qaida and similar groups. With Saudi funds and guns, these groups play an increasingly more important role in Syria’s civil war. They have little or no support among Syrians, and the Assad government has every right to attempt to eliminate them.
The irony of Clinton’s argument is that after Washington has promoted these reactionary forces, she says the Pentagon must intervene to keep them from seizing chemical weapons from the Assad government. More imperialist lies!
For months now whatever honest opposition to the Assad government that may have existed within Syrian society has been completely pushed aside by imperialist stooges and reactionaries, armed killers that can tear Syria apart. Anti-war and anti-imperialist forces within the NATO countries have an obligation to fight to stop the imperialist intervention and to support the defeat of the reactionary anti-Assad killers.
At the upcoming protests at the Republic and Democratic National Conventions in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., U.S. activists should raise demands that the imperialists get their hands off Syria! n

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This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"Start blaming the media, stop blaming the people" -- most requested highlight by readers of this site.

"Peach, Tomato and Avocado Salad in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers an easy, no-cook recipe.

"Cracker, shut up" -- Betty breaks it down for the racist-adjacent White screaming "racist!" at others.

"Two themes from the e-mails" -- Elaine with a few tips.
"Idiot of the week Matthew Rothschild" -- Mike picks last week's idiot.

"THIS JUST IN! NOW HE PISSES OFF THE SWISS!"  and "Swiss Miss, his instant conflict" -- is there anyone Barry O won't piss off in his bid for a second term?
 "Chris Floyd is a F**KING Ass" -- Trina calls out a pig.

"Is the CDC trying to be offensive?" and  "2 men, 2 women" -- Betty and Ann ponder the CDC.
"Phyllis Diller" -- Kat remembers Phyllis Diller.

"Book talk" -- Stan offers book talk.

"The sad Mayer (not John)" -- Elaine with a press critique.
"West Nile basics" -- Ruth continues her West Nile coverage.
"He lets another fat cat walk"  -- Mike notes Barack let's another one walk.

"Damed if he doesn't try to put an 'I' in team!" and "THIS JUST IN! HE ALWAYS PUTS HIMSELF 1ST!"   -- Cedric and Wally on the vanity of Barack.

"Everything Bully Is Barack Again" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"so much crap," "Ticks me off"  and "People are sick of it" -- some thoughts from Rebecca, Ruth and Kat.
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