Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

I avoided the new "Sin City" in part because I only liked the first one and really didn't care for the second one.

I also avoided it because of the bad reviews.

But I saw it Labor Day.  The only thing that wasn't sold out.

We were the only people, in fact, in the theater -- my group of five.

And guess what?

It didn't suck.

In fact, it was a solid movie.

I would give it a thumbs up.

We did see it in 3-D.

I'm sure that made us enjoy the experience more.

But I really did forget about it being in 3-D around the time the snow flakes stopped at the start of the film.

There was not a bad performance in the film.

Especially high marks go to Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke and Josh Brolin.

But everyone was good.

There's some heavy violence and maybe that angered some critics.

But I really think what did it was when Jessica Alba cut her own face intentionally and repeatedly.

I was talking to a friend at work today and he specifically cited that scene as why he disliked the movie and this woman joined in saying she couldn't believe that someone "so pretty as that Jessica Alba would be taking broken glass to her face."

Regardless, I loved the movie and urge you to see it.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, September 2, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, cowardice continues (Barack's being tricked into doing bad things -- just like Ross on Friends!), bad things including sending more US troops into Iraq, Amnesty International thinks peace is achieved by being one-sided and silent when governments do wrong, Tony Blair wins an award, and much more (much worse?).

We spoke to one professor's three classes today and, after the second one, he asked, "Does this make you feel better or worse?"
He handed me a print out of Tom Engelhardt's "The Escalation Follies."  And the answer?
I'm so sick of this nonsense.
TE writes:
ISIS's urge was undoubtedly to bait the Obama administration into a significant intervention. And in that, it may prove successful. We are now, after all, watching a familiar version of the escalation follies at work in Washington. Obama and his top officials are clearly on the up escalator. In the Oval Office is a visibly reluctant president, who undoubtedly desires neither to intervene in a major way in Iraq (from which he proudly withdrew American troops in 2011 with their "heads held high"), nor in Syria (a place where he avoided sending in the bombers and missiles back in 2013).
Astounding.  If only we had thought to write about that!  Oh, wait, we did.  Some time ago.  Again, welcome to the party, food's all gone but if you ask my housekeeper she might be able to scare you up a sandwich.
The slow to the table nature wouldn't bother me if there was something of value.  Although I was the one who took all the flack for calling out the nonsense of 'The Baghdad Embassy would be flooded! We must bomb in Mosul to save the Embassy from flooding!'  I called it out the minute two friends (engineers) explained to me how the distance, the heat, the state of the ground, et al made Barack's claim impossible.  It was a lie (TE calls it "a lame cover story" -- oh, the bravery of the spineless).  Long after I took the heat for calling a lie what it was (a lie), TE shows up to offer "lame cover story."
But I could get over it gladly were it not for crap like this:
Five and a half years later, the president is once again under pressure and being criticized by assorted neocons, McCainites, and this time, it seems, the military high command evidently eager to be set loose yet one more time to take out barbarism globally—that is, to up the ante on a losing hand. As in 2009, so today, he's slowly but surely giving ground. By now, the process of "mission creep"—a term strongly rejected by the Obama administration—is well underway. 
Shorter Tom: "Mr. and Mrs. Obama, Barack Junior really wanted to go to the bathroom but we were in a hurry so he wet his pants."
That's really what he's saying: Barack is immature and not responsible for his own actions.
In my harshest criticism of Barack, I've never robbed him of his agency.  Maybe because I grasp that would be racism?
(It would be.)
Or maybe because as a feminist I realize the first step in stripping someone of power is arguing that they don't have any?
(Also true.)
Barack will do whatever he wants to do.
A large number of Americans favor single-payer, universal health care similar to what they have in Canada and other countries dubbed "first world countries."  (Iraq has this sort of health care, by the way.)  But that didn't force Barack into pushing that through Congress.  No, Americans were made prisoners of insurance companies -- sheer coincidence, you understand, that the insurance lobby had been big donors to his 2008 campaign.
Time and again, Barack does what he wants -- which is generally move further to the right.
So stop typing up your sexual fantasies of the maiden Barack spirited out the window of his bedroom, tossed over the shoulder of some kissy-faced brute.
They're insulting.  
Barack does what he wants to do.
TE and others repeatedly offer excuses not to be mad at Barack.  A flat out lie becomes "a lame cover story" and Barack's actions of war are things he really, cross TE's heart, didn't want to do.  So don't feel outrage, don't wonder if you should be in the streets.  

Barack is really, really like torn and stuff, he's like really, really not wanting to do this.  So, you feel me, cut him some slack.  Being president is like a really tough job and stuff.
Digging ditches is a tough job.  Scrubbing toilets is a tough job.  Raising kids is a tough job.
Giving four years of your life so you get pension and health care and you and your family get bodyguards for life?  So your wife gets her own pension because you were president?  
These and so many other perks don't go to ditch diggers.  Or maids.  Or stay-at-home parents, day care workers, nannies, etc. 
In addition to the fact that the job should be one of the greatest professional honors any American citizen could have.
So let's all stop supplicating and whining about 'poor Barack.'
He does what he wants to do.

So today what he wants to do is send more US troops into Iraq.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued the following statement tonight:
Today, the President authorized the Department of Defense to fulfill a Department of State request for approximately 350 additional U.S. military personnel to protect our diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad, Iraq. This action was taken at the recommendation of the Department of Defense after an extensive interagency review, and is part of the President’s commitment to protect our personnel and facilities in Iraq as we continue to support the Government of Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These additional forces will not serve in a combat role.
The President has made clear his commitment to doing whatever is required to provide the necessary security for U.S. personnel and facilities around the world. The request he approved today will allow some previously deployed military personnel to depart Iraq, while at the same time providing a more robust, sustainable security force for our personnel and facilities in Baghdad.
In addition to our efforts to protect our personnel, we will continue to support the Government of Iraq’s efforts to counter ISIL, which poses a threat not only to Iraq, but to the broader Middle East and U.S. personnel and interests in the region. The President will be consulting this week with NATO allies regarding additional actions to take against ISIL and to develop a broad-based international coalition to implement a comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners in the fight against ISIL. As part of this effort, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, and President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, Lisa Monaco, will be traveling separately to the region in the near-term to build a stronger regional partnership.
  Chelsea J. Carter and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) report, "The new troops will bring the number of American troops in Iraq to well over 1,000, with most serving either as diplomatic security or military advisers to Iraq's security forces."  Jamie Dupree (WSB Radio, Cox Media Group) adds, "The extra 350 military personnel would bring the total of American servicemembers in Iraq to around 1,300, acting in roles as military advisers or for protection of U.S. diplomats inside Iraq."  Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) offers, "Intentionally or not, Obama has effectively responded to Isis by signaling an intensification of the latest US war in Iraq. Obama has now launched 124 airstrikes against Isis since 8 August, while swearing not to introduce 'combat boots on the ground'."

For all the claims by the government -- repeated so often by the press -- that US troops are not in combat in Iraq, do you believe it?

If so, maybe you shouldn't.  Ford Sypher (Daily Beast) reports:

The role of American Special Operations Forces in Iraq has remained hidden even while the U.S. air war expands. As momentum against ISIS picks up, they may be emerging from the shadows. In a pitched battle on Monday, Kurdish Peshmerga, backed by American airpower and what appeared to be U.S. troops, struck at ISIS positions in the strategic crossroads of Zumar.
Scenes from Monday’s battle provide a tentative but valuable glimpse into the evolving role of special operations troops and how that might be playing out on the ground in Iraq.

The announcement comes as  Steven Sotloff has become the second American journalist killed by the Islamic State (James Foley was the first).  Sotoloff came up in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki:

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a lot of humor --


MS. PSAKI: -- happening in the front of the room today. (Laughter.)


MS. PSAKI: I think you can interview them – no, just kidding. Don’t worry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Unfortunately – yeah --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Unfortunately not a lot of humor right now. Have you seen this purported video of the beheading of Steven Sotloff?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we --

QUESTION: And if you have, are you in any position to confirm it?

MS. PSAKI: Let me share with you everything I can at this point in time. We’ve seen reports of a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen Steven Sotloff by ISIL. The intelligence community will work as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act taking the life of another innocent American citizen. Our hearts go out to the Sotloff family and we will provide more information as it becomes available.
I don’t have additional information at this point, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t – I mean, I don’t want to waste everyone’s time if you don’t – if you really don’t have anything else to say about this.

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t. Should we do just a couple and see --


MS. PSAKI: -- if there are other relevant – go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Well, I just wanted to ask you if you’ve determined the number of Americans that might be held by ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, as you know, we don’t get into specific numbers for the safety and security of individuals. We’ve said a few. That continues to be accurate.

QUESTION: Jen, what is your last information regarding Sotloff? Was he alive as of last week? What was your last information from him?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any other additional information to provide. Certainly understand the interest.
Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, you said you’ve seen reports. Does the U.S. Government actually have the video in its possession, or are you just citing media reports?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the video has been out there through many media outlets. That’s what I’m referring to.

QUESTION: Okay. So the authentication process has begun?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is obviously a process that would have to be undergone by our intelligence community. I don’t know if it’s officially started. But obviously, in any case, that would be happening rapidly.

QUESTION: Just one more on the logistic --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you know when you were made aware of this? Was it before this extremist monitoring group put it out, or do you know if the intel community was aware of it before then?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure there’s more I’m going to be able to say, Matt. I’m happy to take it and see if there’s more we can on that front.
Go ahead, James.

QUESTION: All right. I will defer to James.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Does the Obama Administration consider this an act of war?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly – I’m not going to put new labels on it, James. I would say we certainly consider this act, this reported act, the act of the killing of James Foley, as a horrific terrorist act that we certainly have – has helped – has not helped to, I should say – has been one of the motivating factors in the effort to undergo the creation of international coalition to address this threat.

QUESTION: So now we have on the books two American journalists beheaded by this group. Is there any doubt on your part or the part of this Administration that, in fact, the United States is at war with ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I want to be very careful here, just that we have not confirmed through the proper processes. And I just need to restate that as a U.S. – speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government. I know that wasn’t your intention.
I’m not going to, again, put new labels on it. I think it’s clear that we are concerned about the threat of ISIL to Western interests, to interests in the region. That’s why the Secretary, the President, Secretary Hagel are all going to be working every contact they have to continue to build a coalition to address this threat.

QUESTION: Will this event make any difference in our planning vis-a-vis airstrikes against ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of factors, as you know, that are taken into account, including the interests of the United States. And I’m not going to read out further what the President will be looking at, but certainly, we look at a range of factors as those decisions are made.

QUESTION: I just want to try to address this one more --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- one more way. A lot of Americans sit at home and they see Americans who are not even combatants but who are journalists being beheaded by this group overseas. And from a sort of common sense point of view, the average American will say to himself, “This group is at war with us. Why does our President or our Secretary of State not recognize that and say, ‘Indeed, we are at war with this group and we will destroy them’”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think first of all, James, our actions speak for our commitment to this. And this President has authorized more than a hundred strikes in Iraq, as has been confirmed by the Department of Defense. There are a range of reasons, but part of it is to take on the threat of ISIL. Part of the reason we are leading the effort – and the United States has done more than any country in the world, whether it’s humanitarian assistance or other military efforts to take on this threat in Iraq.
So I think any American sitting at home should sit and look at the actions that we’re taking. I don’t think it’s a useful exercise to go back and forth about new terms. What’s important is what we’re doing about it, and the President’s authorization, what the Secretary will be doing over the next couple of weeks, is action in that regard.

The conversation continued.  We'll try to note it here in a morning or afternoon entry tomorrow.

The White House announcement of Barack sending more US troops into Iraq also comes, Justin Sink and Amie Parnes (The Hill) report, as Democrats (such as Senator Bill Nelson and Senator Dianne Feinstein) and Republicans (such as House Rep Mike Rogers and House Rep Ed Royce) are calling for attacks on IS. 

War fever, Barack hopes you catch it!

Amnesty has.

Backing up.

On Monday, it was announced that the United Nations were sending investigators into Iraq.

To investigate the atrocities of the last four years?


Not too concerned about that.

They're going in for the more recent actions of the Islamic State.

Ian Black (Guardian) reports Iraq's Minister of Human Rights -- yeah, that's good for a chuckle -- Mohammed Shia al-Sudani told the UN Human Rights Council that he sees Islamic State members "oozing with barbarity."  Reuters quotes him calling IS "a terrorist monster" and notes of UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri:

Pansieri raised concerns that Iraqi government forces had also engaged in acts that may amount to war crimes. She said government-allied militias had opened fire on a mosque in Khanaqin district, northeast of Baghdad, killing 73 men and boys. 

Iraqi soldiers had shelled towns and carried out air strikes killing and injuring dozens of civilians, she added. 

But that didn't result in investigators.  Still, it's one more than anything Amnesty International has recognized.

The organization issued a lengthy press release which opens:

Fresh evidence uncovered by Amnesty International indicates that members of the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) have launched a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, carrying out war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions, against ethnic and religious minorities. 
A new briefing, Ethnic cleansing on historic scale: the Islamic State’s systematic targeting of minorities in northern Iraq, published today presents a series of hair-raising accounts from survivors of massacres who describe how dozens of men and boys in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq were rounded up by Islamic State fighters, bundled into pick-up trucks and taken to village outskirts to be massacred in groups or shot individually. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of women and children, along with scores of men, from the Yezidi minority have also been abducted since the Islamic State took control of the area. 
"The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser currently in northern in Iraq. 
“The Islamic State is carrying out despicable crimes and has transformed rural areas of Sinjar into blood-soaked killing fields in its brutal campaign to obliterate all trace of non- Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims.” 

When Iraqi troops set Sunnis on fire repeatedly in the last months -- videos have been all over the internet -- no one was too concerned.  Burned alive, no trial, no jury.

And not a peep from Amnesty.

Today, they offered a one-sided alert that, by pure accident I'm sure, just happens to promote war.

Human Rights Watch issued a press release today which included:

New evidence about executions carried out by the Islamic State (IS) in Tikrit after it seized the city in June 2014 triples the estimated death toll and shows additional execution sites, Human Rights Watch said today.

Information from a survivor and analysis of videos and satellite imagery has confirmed the existence of three more mass execution sites, bringing the total to five, and the number of dead to between 560 and 770 men, all or most of them apparently captured Iraqi army soldiers.
“Another piece of this gruesome puzzle has come into place, with many more executions now confirmed,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “The barbarity of the Islamic State violates the law and grossly offends the conscience.”

More space and we'd note HRW in full.  HRW has called out the Islamic State.  It's also called out the Iraqi government (such as in "Iraq: Civilian Toll of Government Airstrikes").  Unlike Amnesty, they haven't been one side, nor have they been frightened to call out a sitting government.

Amnesty?  They're just a dirty joke, aren't they?

Let's stay on the obscenity beat.  The laughable GQ magazine just became more so.  In England, the UK version handed out a ton of awards to men (and one to a reality TV celebrity female) including one to noted War Criminal Tony Blair for 'philanthropist of the year.'  A few onlookers may have been mistaken and thought Tones was accepting on behalf of Augusto Pinochet whose 2006 death prevented from attending.  Rumors abound that congratulatory telegrams flooded in from various noted despots and tyrant such as Manuel Noriega ("This is how we roll, my man!"), Islam Karimov ("Tony, however many you had to kill ahead of you on the list to take home the prize, it was worth it!  And I can get any Uzebekistan court to back me up on that!"), Dick Cheney ("Ain't nobody got waterboarded that didn't already have it coming!") and Nouri al-Maliki ("Tony, let's celebrate this, get together and kill some Sunnis!").  A dejected Amnesty International announced they had planned to name Tony philanthropist of the year but now that GQ had scooped them they'd probably give their award to Billy Joya. 

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