Sunday, July 27, 2014

Truest statement of the week

To be clear, ISIS's take-over has been aided by Prime Minister Maliki’s malfeasance and incompetence. Maliki has disastrously failed to reconcile with key Sunni groups. Many -- including myself and Ranking Member Engel -- urged him to form a more inclusive government so that ISIS could not exploit legitimate Sunni grievances. Maliki has only proven himself to be a committed sectarian; certainly no statesman. It is time for Iraqis to move forward in forming a government that serves the interests of all Iraqis. 

-- House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce at Wednesday's Committee hearing.

Truest statement II

You know, this Committee has the jurisdiction over arm sales.  And my reticence to arms sales to Iraq has in some respects been proven true when in fact we've had much of our equipment abandoned and now in the hands of ISIS.  So unless you're going to give us a sense of where the security forces are at, moving forward, this Chair is not going to be willing to approve more arm sales so that they can be abandoned to go to the hands of those who we are seriously concerned about in terms of our own national security interests. 

--  Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez at Thursday's Committee hearing.

A note to 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?

US House Rep. Ed Royce.
Senator Robert Menedez. 
Because they don't know what the heck they're talking about.

Ava and C.I. examine some new changes in Chris Cuomo.

The US evacuated all diplomatic staff from Libya this weekend.  How safe are the US embassies.
We roundtable with your e-mail questions.

Films still not available. 
Dona reviews some basics. 
What we were listening to. 
Some shouldn't throw stones.  They really shouldn't. 
Mike and the gang pick the week's best. 

See you next week.


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

Editorial: Maybe some people shouldn't talk about Iraq?

To declare Iraq a mess would be to put it kindly.

To ignore Nouri al-Maliki's role in creating one crises after another would be sheer stupidity.

Last week, the threats against Iraqi Christians meant Iraq got a little more media attention than it did the week prior.

That wasn't always a good thing.

For example, in Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Senator Barbara Boxer called out "Iraqis" and "the Iraqi people" -- as opposed to Iraqi leaders.  In one 'those people' statement after another, she insisted that they did not honor the American sacrifice (a sacrifice most Iraqis did not ask to be made) and that 'those people' couldn't get their own act together.

We thought that was the low.

We were wrong.

At Pathos, Oklahoma legislator Rebecca Hamilton wrote a column which included:

What we have is a bunch of killers who’ve obviously gotten their arms from countries who are capable of making armaments, who are running around Iraq, engaging in mass murder as a quasi military tactic in another of those wars of civil destruction the region can’t seem to avoid. They are also killing every Christian in sight.
What we have is an on-going, real-time genocide of the Christians in Iraq.
We made this mess my friends. We pulled the Saddam Hussein stopper out of the bottle and now we’ve got something even worse. What we never considered, and what I hate to say and hope I’m wrong about, is that the only kind of government that can control these murderous mobs that run throughout society in this part of the world is a government that is under the thumb of a murderous dictator.

What a disgusting statement to make -- and couching it with you "hope I'm wrong about it" doesn't make it any less disgusting.

Boxer and Hamilton are lawmakers.  You'd think they'd take care to not come off so xenophobic and racist when discussing Iraqis.

As for Iraq needing "a murderous dictator"?

That's what they've had since 2006, Hamilton.  They've had Nouri al-Maliki since 2006.  It hasn't made things better.

More importantly, when has "a murderous dictator" -- in any part of the world -- been a good thing?

TV: When All Eyes Are On You

Chris Cuomo became the it boy of last week.  That's rarely a good thing.


The CNN star has done what Chelsea Clinton, Ron Reagan, Jenna Bush and so many others have failed to do: establish themselves in a prominent journalism career.  Maybe being spawn of the Oval Office is the hindrance?  Certainly Maria Shriver and Cokie Roberts proved the children of politicians could become big names in the world of broadcast journalism (Cuomo's father is former NY state Governor Mario Cuomo.)

The rise has had bumps from time to time and that's to be expected.

During a recent interview, Cuomo asked US House Rep. Mike Rogers to "shoot down" the rumors that the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane crash resulted from a missile (or missiles) being fired on the plane.

A number of people responded with mockery over the word choice.

For us, it's a wince.

Poor word choice that was completely expected in a media system that tries to 'weaponize' the language daily and the natural oops factor involved in live interviews.

It wasn't the end of the world, it wasn't shocking and it wasn't that big of a deal.

Among those running with it?  Comedy Central star Jon Stewart who does what a comedian does: Mock.

Speaking to Eric Wemple (Washington Post), Cuomo expressed his distaste for Stewart.

We like Jon.

That doesn't mean he's not above criticism.

And Chris certainly has the right to say whatever he wants.

But having the right to do something doesn't mean you should.

Chris told Wemple, "If it seems like I'm being disrespectful of Jon Stewart, it's only because I am. He's funny but he doesn't do the job we do and he shouldn't pretend he does."

Is that really appropriate?

When you consider Chris' position, are those remarks really appropriate?

In an interview in May with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, Chris Cuomo rightly noted that Sanders came off like a minimizer for the VA.

We applauded Chris pointing that out.

Was that our mistake?

Maybe so.

We saw it as Chris noting how -- in the midst of the VA scandal about veterans dying as they waited for medical appointments (a scandal CNN's reporting exposed) -- the man he was interviewing seemed uncomfortable standing with veterans and instead elected to carry water for the VA.

But maybe our applause and that of others confused Chris?

It possibly did because, of late, he's felt the need to offer more opinions than a Thomas Friedman column.

And it's only getting worse.  In fact, last week, he took part in CNN's worst on air moment in years.

Cuomo and Peter Lavelle had a cantankerous exchange on air.  We didn't think it was the end of the world but we did agree with Lavelle's take post-interview, "My take coming away from the interview was Cuomo conducted himself like a 'drama queen' appealing to emotions and probably his sense of moral justice.  However, emotions and any sense [of] moral justice are not substitutes for facts."

That is a path Chris seems unable to step off of these days.

Where he used to be able to construct logical arguments in interviews (especially see his work on ABC's 20/20), these days he instead repeatedly pulls out a righteous anger card.  It dumbs down the conversation and makes him come off more like a carny barker and less like a journalist.

Now that was bad but the next day brought far worse.

There was Chris, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira on CNN's New Day with Bob's Big Boy look alike Brian Stelter.  With all going on in the world -- Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza, etc. -- what was the topic for this segment?

Peter Lavelle.

They gushed over Chris and how Chris handled himself in the interview with Lavelle while Chris offered a blend of false modesty and insisting he would have been even tougher if it weren't for the satellite delay.

The four CNN employees used CNN airtime to praise CNN employee Chris and to attack RT and Peter Lavelle.

That alone was unethical and embarrassing.

Things got even worse.

It takes a lot of Ho-Hos to fill Selter's big belly so it was no surprise he brought up Fake Ass Liz Wahl to trash Lavelle and RT.  Wahl is the woman who tried to media event her way into fame but instead fell on her fake ass.  As  Macedonian Intl News Agency noted:

The recent on-air resignation by former RT news anchor Liz Wahl was just the latest stunt orchestrated by a neo-conservative think tank, according to a new investigative report shedding light on the group’s role in an ongoing Cold War revival campaign.
An extensive account of the days and minutes leading up to Wahl’s remarks and public denunciation of “propaganda” tactics during her news segment on March 5 by authors Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek via truthdig has revealed connections with the little known neoconservative think-tank Foreign Policy Initiative.

Stelter didn't mention that -- maybe he was munching between shots? -- but he did offer what a joke RT was -- an opinion the other three CNN employees agreed with.

This took up an entire segment on a CNN show not called Reliable Sources.

A supposed news program wasted an entire segment to attack one journalist and one news outlet and this was considered appropriate?

Chris Cuomo was blessed with very good looks.  Chelsea Clinton, Ron Reagan and Jenna Bush are also good looking.  Cuomo's rise was based on his work.  He had the chops.  He still does.  But more and more, he's moving away from news and towards attack commentary.

He could have been more.  Maybe he still can.

Safety and the US embassies

Today on ABC's This Week, Jonathan Karl declared, "It's an extraordinary move the president rarely makes completely shutting down a U.S. embassy and rushing the Americans inside to safety. That call was made in South Vietnam at the end of the war, in Somalia nearly two years before Blackhawk Down and just hours ago President Obama did it again ordering the evacuation of our embassy in Libya with a daring and dangerous military operation to evacuate the Americans there on the ground."

Libya is where terrorists attacked Americans on September 11, 2012 -- leaving US Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Sean Smith dead. Some testimony to Congress indicates the risks were taken because the US government was determined to establish a bigger and growing presence in Libya.

Right now, they have none.

Jim Miklaszewski, Courtney Kube and Elisha Fieldstadt (NBC News) explain:

American officials told NBC News that the 158 Americans, including 80 heavily armed U.S. Marines, left the embassy compound early Saturday in a caravan of SUV's and buses and drove west toward neighboring Tunisia.
Besides the Marines who were the embassy’s security force, the caravan was also protected overhead by two American F-16 fighter jets and unmanned drones that shadowed the group on their drive.         

For This Week, Terry Moran offered:

MORAN: As fighting increased in Tripoli, Ambassador Deborah Jones and her staffers were spirited out of the heavily fortified compound about 150 people, nearly half of them marines.
A convoy of armored SUVs, a surveillance drone flying above, two F-16 fighter jets patrolling nearby and at sea a destroyer ready to react.
Photos released by the Pentagon show U.S. marines on board Osprey aircraft ready to land if the convoy came under attack.

Pentagon spokesperson Rear Adm Jack Kirby declared Saturday, "The mission was conducted without incident, and the entire operation lasted approximately five hours."

The US has embassy staff around the world.  For us, the events in Libya made us think of Iraq and the US Embassy (and consulates) there.  

Raising the flag

Wednesday, the Defense Department's Elissa Slotkin appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and testified:

First, we have added forces to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq. The safety of U.S. citizens and personnel in Baghdad and throughout Iraq is our highest priority. The Department of Defense is meeting all requests from the Department of State for security support to US Embassy Baghdad. As described in the War Powers notifications we transmitted to Congress on June 16 and 26, DoD has sent a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST ), a Crisis Response Element (CRE), and additional military assets and personnel to reinforce security at our diplomatic facilities in Baghdad and the Baghdad International Airport.

Thursday, she and the State Department's Brett McGurk appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the following exchange took place:

Senator Barbara Boxer: Last question is: Are you confident we have adequate personnel on the ground to truly protect our embassy and the Americans in Baghdad?

Brett McGurk: Uh, Senator, yes.  We have moved in substantial assets both into the airport and also into the embassy.  Uhm, I was just there as late as [last] Thursday and we're confident that our defensive parameters and everything -- that our people will be safe.  Our Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security just visited Baghdad last week to do his own assessment.  We've also had teams on the ground from Centcom and this is an ongoing assessment.  And our intelligence assets have the entire everything all around the parameter of Baghdad, the airport and our embassy, very well covered so we're 

Senator Barbara Boxer: Okay.  Can you tell us how many people we have at the embassy or is that something that you don't want to discuss in open --

Brett McGurk:  We have total in Baghdad about-about 2500 now.

Both the State Department and the Defense Department made the administration's position clear to the Congress last week.  As far as the White House is concerned, all necessary precautions have been taken.  Hopefully, that is the case.

However, should events demonstrate that was not the case, the testimony administration officials provided will be especially worth recalling.


 Jim: E-mail roundtable time.  Remember our e-mail address is  Participating in our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; 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); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't): So let's dive in.  Kris e-mails to ask how many US troops Barack has sent into Iraq so far.  Anyone?

C.I.: I'll grab it.  Last week,  Felicia Schwartz (The Wall St. Journal) reported:

The Pentagon said 20 additional military advisers recently arrived in Iraq, bringing total U.S. military personnel there to 825. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said there are now 90 advisers working with Iraqi military forces, assessing their capabilities, and 160 Americans are assigned to joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil.

Elaine: And does anyone seem to care.  What was the number, C.I. made this point last week, 300? What was the number?

Jess: Yeah, C.I. noted the 825 contrasted with what Barack Obama declared June 19th,  "We have had advisors in Iraq through our embassy, and we’re prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors -- up to 300 -- to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward."

Elaine: Exactly.  Where is the anger over that?

Betty: It's really kind of creepy how Barbara Lee is.  Three times the number Barack said, basically.  And where's fake ass Babsie Lee?  Fondling Barack's nut sack, apparently.  She can't stand up, she can't stand for peace, she can't call Barack out.  She's an embarrassment.

Isaiah: The fakes and the frauds crawl around like cock roaches these days and I'd happily use a can of raid on the likes of Barbara Lee.  She doesn't care about peace, she doesn't care about putting US service members at risk.  All she cares about is defending War Hawk Barack.

Jim: I'd agree with that absolutely.  How many is the number that makes Americans care?  How many US service members sent into Iraq.

Ava: I think Elaine was right when she said earlier, back in the July 13th roundtable we did:

Jim: But Ty and I are both aware how much denial there is on the so-called left.  Morey e-mailed to ask "What's the magic number for troops Barack's sending to Iraq that makes people care?"  Anyone want to hazard a guess.

Elaine:  If one US service member dies in Iraq, that does the trick immediately.

Dona: I'd agree with that. And I wouldn't be surprised if that happened if we saw that Barack could be as crafty as Bully Boy Bush when it came to hiding coffins and preventing them from being photographed.

Wally: I wish I could disagree with Elaine -- both for what she said and what she didn't.  I think she chose her words intentionally in both cases -- meaning that unless a service member dies in Iraq, most will be willing to look the other way on Barack sending troops back in.  Did I read you wrong there?

Ava (Con't): So that would be the game changer.

Jim: Louise e-mailed to ask should Iraq be split into three independent regions: Kurds, Shia and Sunni?

Ruth: If that is what Iraqis want, then obviously that should happen.  But it is not something that should be imposed upon them.  For example, I am not bothered at all by the Kurds splitting off.  That is because the Kurdistan Regional Government is made up of people who represent the Kurds.  So that would be self-determination.  Other areas?  I am not so sure because I do not know that they are actually well represented in the Shi'ite community.  It seems that the bulk of Shi'ite leaders are people who were imposed upon Iraq by the US government -- people such as Nouri al-Maliki, the current thug and prime minister, who spent over two decades prior to the start of the 2003 US invasion out of the country but the US installed him as a leader.  With the Kurds, I have no concerns because their leaders represent them.  I would be concerned about the Shi'ites if they took up the call, I would be concerned whether the Shi'ite politicians were representing the Shi'ite people or not.  And by concerned, I mean concerned.  I do not mean, "Let's go to war!"  I just mean that as I watched the news reports, I would pay close attention and hope this what the Shia populace really wanted.

Jim: Okay.  The Sunnis were left out.

Ty: I'll jump in.  I think Ruth left them out for a reason.  They don't get listened to.  For over a year they engaged in peaceful protests and Nouri blew off their demands and had his forces attack them.  If the Sunnis tomorrow said they wanted to split off, I don't think anyone would doubt this was coming from the Sunni population.  That said, the Sunnis don't tend to get listened to and I can't imagine they'd be allowed to break off.  I'd hope that they'd have the same access that everyone else has; however, as long as Nouri's prime minister, that just isn't going to happen. 

Trina: I would agree with Ty and Rebecca -- sorry, with Ty and Ruth -- on that.  And we should point out that Iraq's borders were created for them nearly 100 years ago by colonial rule. Those rejecting the borders may have a valid reason.  If I could continue for a second on this topic, a friend asked me about this issue last month.  She had heard, on a radio program, that Iraqis wanted to split the country up into three semi-autonomous or autonomous areas.  However, the program had also told her that the Shi'ites in Iraq wanted to break off so that they could merge with Iran.  I told her that I doubted that very seriously.  In fact, that would probably put Iranian officials and Iraqi Shi'ite officials at odds.  They already continue their ongoing border dispute, for instance.  I was wondering if anyone else was hearing that aspect -- that Shi'ites in Iraq wanted to merge with Iran.

Wally: Nope.  And I agree with your logic on that, Trina.  There are disputes between the two Shi'ite groupings.  And Iraqi Shi'ites?  I don't see it happening.  I don't see them going to the effort to become their own region -- if they did -- only to then say, "Let's merge with Iran."

Jim: Trina, do you know the radio host that made the claim?

Trina: My friend gave the name but I didn't hear the program myself so I'd prefer not to name him.  He's a Libertarian -- not Scott Horton.

Cedric: I don't know who Trina's referring to but I do know that I hear more Iraq coverage on the radio these days and that a lot of the people I hear talking clearly do not know what they are talking about and do not appear to have even registered Iraq since December 2011.

Dona: Of course, that doesn't stop them from weighing in.

Cedric: No, it doesn't.  It never does.  

Marcia: And it never has.

Kat:  But I think our position here has always been, as Ruth expressed earlier, if the Iraqi people want this, that's what it is and what should be.  It can't be imposed from outside.  That was our position when this site started and it remains our position.  If the Iraqis decide to split their own country into three separate governments, that's fine.  But the US or anyone else imposing that on them is wrong.

Jim: Alright then.  Erich e-mails to ask why Stan didn't do a Friday movie review?

Stan: We have been in vacation mode and doing light blogging.  I recommend people see the film Lucy and I will review it; however, it's not an easy one to do.  This will require a spoiler alert so I've been waiting on it for that reason as well.  And, by the way, I'll be on light blogging this week as well because I'm doing a third week in California. 

Jim: Carlos e-mails, "Could you ask the Extant bloggers why they ignored Halle's show last week?"

Ann: Betty, Marcia and I blog about Halle Berry's Extant.  We try to blog the day after.  However, Betty wondered if we blogged about it the night before the new episode airs if that would build more excitement.  So we're blogging about last week's episode on Tuesday night.  The next night, the new episode will air.  It's just an experiment. 

Jim: Okay, I'm interrupting before Marcia speaks because a reader had a question for her and Rebecca.  Gail e-mailed asking if Marcia and Rebecca would be doing a summer read this summer?

Marcia: Yes.  We already read the book.  We thought about doing it on vacation -- last two weeks -- but weren't willing to dig that deep.  I'm thinking about staying another week but, even if we're on vacation one more week, if Rebecca wanted to do it, I think we could swing it.

Rebecca:  We probably could, I agree.  

Jim: And hopefully will but we need to cut this off now.  This is a rush transcript.  

We want it on BluRay

In The Spirit

Laser discs, DVDs, BluRays, et al.

It was supposed to mean so much for home entertainment.  Add in streaming and suddenly all must be right and true in the world.

Only it's not.

Many films -- good and great -- have not been issued as streams or BluRays or in any format. in the last five years.

Some did make it to VHS so you do have a shot at getting someone to do a transfer of the videotape to the

1) In The Spirit

2) Nasty Habits

3) Robert Altman's H.E.A.L.T.H.

4) Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie.

5) Robert Altman's Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

Those are only five films in need of a genuine release.


Amazon did offer streaming of In The Spirit (if you were smart, you purchased it then because it's not available now).  The Elaine May and Marlo Thomas comedy classic was a theatrical film.  The stream Amazon offered was a stream edited for basic cable TV -- swear words removed.

A remastered version of the five films above would be wonderful but we'd settle just for the theatrical versions.

If you don't know the five, you're being cheated.

Sandy Dennis is in two of the films.

In the Watergate satire (Nasty Habits) set in a convent, Sandy Dennis gives a gloriously loopy performance whereas she gives a more layered performance in the Robert Altman tragicom which finds her as a desperate character who has passed her child off as the son of James Dean.

Altman uses mirrors to expand a single set, to play with time frames and to create a sense of haunting.  Come Back To The Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean is an acting marvel (Sandy, Cher, Karen Black, Kathy Bates, etc.) but it's also a film that bends and alters the constraints of narrative.

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