Sunday, August 17, 2014

TV: Spoiler alert

Spoiler alert: Money matters.

It matters so much it's the title of a weekly radio show -- oops another radio show.  It's the title of two radio shows. Wait, another one.  Okay, it's the title of a lot of things which only demonstrates how much it matters.

Sometimes governments waste money, sometimes entertainment programs do.

Let's start with entertainment.  The Killing started out on AMC and kicked off with so much promise.  The only promise that held steady?  The strong acting by and chemistry between Mireille Enos (Sarah Linden) and Joel Kinnaman (Stephen Holder).  Playing the lead detectives investigating the killing(s) in a very dark show, Enos and Kinnaman were especially needed to keep the viewers involved.

Some episodes worked, some didn't.  It wasn't surprising that AMC cancelled the show after season two.  It may have been surprising when the decision was revoked but it wasn't surprising when AMC again cancelled it after the third season concluded.

For all of its promise, the show had problems.

Netflix did a solid for the show's loyal viewers by announcing they would back a fourth season of six episodes to tie up the storylines.

Season four is actually the best season of the show.

Working with less episodes may have forced them to focus more and so much was cut out to keep the focus sharp.

Working with less money put an end to the non-stop night location shoots -- thank heavens.

The show was dark enough in terms of mood without all the I-can-barely-see-a-thing-in-this-outdoor-shoot-but-it-must-be-art-right?


It was indulgence.

They didn't need to light the scenes like this was an MGM musical but they needed to do something.  Film noir, for example, makes use of shadow and light.  Season three, the cinematography and lighting were especially poor and indicated little forethought and planning (you have to really plan the shots with film noir).

With a much smaller budget, night shoots for season four were largely limited to a chase through the woods involving gun fire.

While night time was out, there were many more daytime location shoots and all that sunlight worked very well to fit the mood of the final season where Sarah and Stephen were waking up to realities about their professions and realities about their personal lives while concealed elements in a past case were emerging.

It's a case where a limited budget forced creativity.

This was also the best scripted season with only one groaner, when Sarah and Colonel Margaret Rayne (Joan Allen delivering a strong performance) were forced to go through a scene in which awakard dialogue noted their similarities -- even though audiences caught that message without the on-the-nose dialogue.

The acting was strong throughout.

And that's not just Joan Allen.  A doctor treating a cadet and keeping Sarah and Stephen away from him, made a huge impression and only after her scene was over did it hit us, "That was Patti Smith!"

There were so many pleasant surprises throughout.

And this was a case where a tight budget forced additional creativity.

"US war planes and armed drones are hitting . . .," Lynn Berry declared on Weekend Express (HLN) about the bombings falling near the Mosul dam and reminding us that the runway budget of one of the most expensive wars in American history continues.

At this point, the Iraq War is the Heaven's Gate of wars and could likely bring down the United States the way that Michael Cimino box office disaster brought down United Artists.

Berry explained the bombing was taking place to 'save' Iraqis because IS [Islamic State] had control of it and they could seriously harm Iraq by destroying the dam and releasing the water.  The US government, Berry explained, was "afraid it [the dam] could rupture, the result would be disastrous" leading to "flooding all the way to Baghdad."

So the US was bombing the area . . . to take back the dam . . . because bombing would not cause any risk of the dam rupturing?

Like a summer action film, the plot falls apart if you examine it.

The dam issue (or damn issue) was discussed on CBS' Face The Nation today:

SCHIEFFER: And we will be coming back to you.
We want to go now to that other big story we're monitoring, the tense situation in Northern Iraq, where U.S. warplanes opened a new campaign against the ISIS terrorists who captured a key dam in Mosul that is a crucial asset in the region.
CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata is in Irbil this morning.
Charlie, what is the latest?

CHARLIE D'AGATA, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Bob. Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers that we spoke to today said that they are closing in on the dam and that ISIS militants have even started withdrawing from villages near the dam or at least repositioning themselves. Those forces are being backed by U.S. airstrikes.
The U.S. military has confirmed that nine airstrikes were conducted in the vicinity of the dam using both drones and fighter jets. Now, the dam itself has been under control of ISIS militants for almost two weeks now. It not only controls the power, water and electricity in Northern Iraq, but blowing it up or opening the floodgates could cause catastrophic flooding to nearby Mosul that would also reach as far as Baghdad.
Now, once again, Peshmerga fighters say that they're advancing. They are running into resistance. And they estimate between 400 and 500 ISIS militants may still be around the dam itself.

SCHIEFFER: Charlie, what more can you tell us abut this reported massacre of Yazidis in a nearby village?

D'AGATA: Well, Bob, we're getting various accounts on the death toll there. Somewhere between 80 and 350 men may have been massacred.
But it apparently took place on Friday, reportedly took place on Friday in the village of Kocho. Kurdish officials say that the men were told -- Yazidi men were told to convert to Islam or die. And when they refused, they were summarily executed.
We're also hearing a number of women and children may have been abducted. As many as 1,000 may have been abducted by ISIS militants. What is clear is, there are still Yazidi villages that are still under siege, despite tens of thousands of Yazidis that were able to flee the fighting late last week.

SCHIEFFER: All right, well, Charlie, be careful. Thank you.

Mosul, Tal Afar, Falluja . . .  Terry Moran ticked them off Sunday morning (ABC's This Week) as he declared "more than a third of Iraq is now under ISIS control."  Terry was 'reporting' from Iraq (Kurdistan Region).  ABC News finally got one of their own into the country.  Apparently, Moran was having to do a lot of catching up which is why he used "ISIS" when most outlets, following AFP's lead, have moved towards "IS."

Terry's visit to Iraq was its own personal disaster.

He got 'reactions' from Yazidis to the violence said to have been inflicted by IS.


He visited a refugee camp and spoke to people suffering there.  "We showed him pictures of the atrocities," Moran said as proud of himself as a cat that kills a field mouse and drops it on the front porch.

No thought was given to telling the story of these Yazidi refugees -- or any other refugees in the camp.  But ambulance chaser Moran did rush through the camp looking for people he could quote.

Martha Raddatz was again filling in as host of the program and she wanted Moran to "tell us the difference between these airstrikes" and the earlier ones the US launched last week.

"This is different," Moran responded.  "This is moving on beyond helping people."

What was he speaking of, this difference?

Bombing IS near a Mosul dam was not part of the defined mission.

Thursday, for example, US President Barack Obama declared:

Last week, I authorized two limited missions:  protecting our people and facilities inside of Iraq, and a humanitarian operation to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians stranded on a mountain.
A week ago, we assessed that many thousands of Yezidi men, women and children had abandoned their possessions to take refuge on Mount Sinjar in a desperate attempt to avoid slaughter.  We also knew that ISIL terrorists were killing and enslaving Yezidi civilians in their custody, and laying siege to the mountain. Without food or water, they faced a terrible choice -- starve on the mountain, or be slaughtered on the ground.  That’s when America came to help.
Over the last week, the U.S. military conducted humanitarian air drops every night –- delivering more than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of fresh water.  We were joined in that effort by the United Kingdom, and other allies pledged support. Our military was able to successfully strike ISIL targets around the mountain, which improved conditions for civilians to evacuate the mountain safely.
Yesterday, a small team of Americans -– military and civilian -– completed their review of the conditions on the mountain.  They found that food and water have been reaching those in need, and that thousands of people have been evacuating safely each and every night.  The civilians who remain continue to leave, aided by Kurdish forces and Yezidis who are helping to facilitate the safe passage of their families.  So the bottom line is, is that the situation on the mountain has greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts.
Because of the skill and professionalism of our military –- and the generosity of our people –- we broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar; we helped vulnerable people reach safety; and we helped save many innocent lives.  Because of these efforts, we do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain, and it’s unlikely that we’re going to need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain. 

Martha Raddatz also spoke to retired Colonel Steve Ganyard who noted the change, pointing out Barack was moving away from his declaration that "these strikes will only be based on humanitarian purposes and to protect American people" in Iraq.

This move took place as some noted that Barack hadn't really finished his job of 'humanitarian' help for the Yazidis despite his claim that "we helped vulnerable people reach safety."  For example, Adam Lee (The Guardian) pointed out today,  "Though American airstrikes and Kurdish militia cleared a way for 20,000 to escape, others remain trapped and in need of help." And, again, we've already quoted Charlie D'Agata stating, "What is clear is, there are still Yazidi villages that are still under siege, despite tens of thousands of Yazidis that were able to flee the fighting late last week."

Despite risking charges of failing to complete his stated mission, Barack expanded into new terrain with the bombings this weekend.

This expansion received criticism -- not for getting the US further into the war it never really left but for what was seen as an aimless and unfocused quality.

On ABC's This Week, US House Representatives and Iraq War veterans Adam Kinzinger and Tulsi Gabbard both expressed disappointment and dismay.  We'll note the from Gabbard:

Martha, I think it's important as we talk about whether or not there should be troops or exactly what tactical strategy should be used moving forward we're missing a critical question here, which is what is our mission? What is the United States' mission. What are we trying to accomplish here?  You know, Adam and I both enlisted, joined the military after 9/11 because we heard our nation's leaders say after that attack that we would go and take out these Islamic extremists wherever they are. We would fight against those who are waging war against the United States.  That stated mission after 9/11 has been lost. And as Steve mentioned earlier, and as we heard from White House officials last week, they said, and I quote, these airstrikes are not an authorization of a broad based counter terrorism campaign against ISIS, end of quote.  So if our mission is not to take out the Islamic extremists who continue to threaten and wage war against us, then I think we've got a real problem here. If we focus on that mission, which I think we should, then we can look at what are the tactics that we need to take them out. 

Retired Colonel Steve Ganyard insisted Radditz, "The White House has no stated strategy against ISIS itself."

No strategy except possibly to beat the war drums and attempt to scare up support for further US involvement in the Iraq War.  Face The Nation saw Schiffer quoting an unnamed US official another news outlet had spoken to -- so this was third hand 'corroboration'?

SCHIEFFER: Let me quote something to you. A senior U.S. official is quoted as telling Yahoo! News that ISIL is now -- and this is the quote -- "the most potent military force of any terrorist group in the world right now."
I would like to know, do you agree with that? And how do you rate right now the threat that terrorism poses to the United States as to say where we were before 9/11?

ROGERS: And the difference here is that, before 9/11, there were single-level threat streams coming into the United States, some pretty serious. Obviously, they got in and conducted the attacks on 9/11.
Now you have multiple organizations, all al Qaeda-minded, trying to accomplish the same thing. So ISIL has said that they want to take the people who have Western passports. And, remember, they are flooding into this country. Thousands of individuals now signing up with ISIL to fight their jihad in Syria and Iraq have Western passports. That's what's so dangerous about this.

And, of course, US House Representative Mike Rogers has never been one to resist fear bait.

Rogers has always been willing to go to war -- with logic and common sense.

IS is in Iraq.  Many see IS as the leading rebel element in Syria.

SCHIEFFER: Well, we know of Hillary Clinton's famously argument -- famously arguing that we should have been aiding these rebels in Syria.
Should we now begin to aid them? Should the United States start to play a role there that we're not playing?

ROGERS: We should absolutely play a role there.

Yes, that is Rogers' concept of 'logic' -- fight them in Iraq and then, in bordering Syria, supply them with aid and weapons.

Retired Colonel Steve Ganyard Tweeted Friday:

And in that Tweet, you have not only the issue of how IS is being armed (by the US indirectly) but how the out of control financial cost of the Iraq War continues to rip into the US treasury.  Once was time no one thought the USSR could go bankrupt and close shop, why now would we assume the threat doesn't exist for the US as well?

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