Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Forbes makes a (bad) list on actors

Forbes calls the following actors the most overpaid:

1. Adam Sandler
2. Johnny Depp
3. Ben Stiller
4. Ryan Reynolds
5. Tom Hanks
6. Will Ferrell
7. Channing Tatum
8. Denzel Washington
9. Sandra Bullock
10. Ben Affleck

They're basing that on a formula where they measure how many dollars they were paid versus how many dollars their films made at the box office.

What do I think?

First, confusion.

Johnny Depp's on the list for "Dark Shadows" and "The Lone Ranger."

This is Forbes' annual poll (which Sandler topped last year as well).

Neither of those movies came out this year.

Johnny's had bombs and I'm not pretending otherwise.

But if this is a yearly poll, it needs to focus on the year.

I was surprised to see Sandra Bullock on the list but then realized they're counting "All About Steve" (and the awful film she did with Tom Hanks that no one saw) against her.  Again, they need to focus on what was released in 2014 if this is a yearly poll.

(And I really loved "All About Steve."  I loved the movie and I thought she gave a very praise worthy performance in it.)

It's hard for me to take the list seriously if it's not going to just focus on its year. 

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, WikiLeaks' recent release notes the targeting of Moqtada al-Sadr's movement, the Iraqi military refuses to follow even the most basic orders of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Pope expresses concern for religious minorities, and much more.

Starting with WikiLeak's latest exposure.  Last week, they released a report the CIA prepared for US President Barack Obama.  The report, dated July 7, 2009, is entitled [PDF format warning]  "Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool" and is the CIA's flash-card style explanation to Barack of counterinsurgency and the value of killing.

The term they use is "High-Value Targeting" which they explain:

We define high-value targeting as focused operations against specific individuals or networks whose removal or marginalization should disproportionately degrade an insurgent group's effectiveness.  The criteria for designating high-value targets will vary according to factors such as the insurgent group's capabilities, structure, and leadership dynamics and the government's desired outcome. 

The biggest shock of the brief paper is how much they dumb it down -- apparently not expecting much of their intended audiences.

A few things emerge.

On Iraq, we learn that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr was smart to spend those long periods of time outside of Iraq -- the Sadr movement was targeted and, the report makes clear, not just by the United States, "The Iraqi Government has been using HVT efforts to eliminate irreconcilable Sadrist militant leaders and moderate the Sadrist movement. "

An outstanding arrest warrant was out on Moqtada al-Sadr and it was often noted, while he was in Iran, that one of the reasons he remained out of the country was that he suspected/feared Nouri al-Maliki would issue it to have him arrested.

Clearly concerns of being targeted by the government were valid ones.

Also clear, the CIA is a huge embarrassment when it comes to referencing,  "In Iraq, Jaysh Muhammad (JM) suffered a significant setback in late 2004 after British replacements in short succession, according to the Jordian General Intelligence Directorate."  You're the CIA and you're shoring up a point with "according to the Jordian General Intelligence Directorate"?

Then again, maybe that was another part of dumbing it down for the intended reader?

Also writing?  Joshua J. McElwee (National Catholic Reporter) notes:

Pope Francis has written a Christmas letter to the dwindling Christian community in the Middle East, offering his solidarity in what he calls their "enormous suffering" amid the horrific and sustained violence of the Islamic State militant group.
Issuing the almost 2,000-word letter in eight languages Tuesday, the pope also says that he wishes to visit the region and condemns continued arms trafficking there "in the strongest possible terms."

Arms trafficking sales are big business -- legal sales and illegal sales.  The leading legal arms trafficker to Iraq would appear to be the United States.  Doug Cameron (Nasdaq) reports:

U.S. government approvals for U.S. weapon sales to Iraq have nearly tripled this year to almost $15 billion, promising much-needed work for U.S. weapons factories if the proposed deals can overcome congressional concerns.
The slew of deals includes $3 billion in possible sales announced last week that still need to be approved by Congress and would boost sluggish U.S. demand for General Dynamics Corp.'s M1A1 Abrams tanks as well as Humvee armored cars produced by closely held AM General LLC.

And the US just keeps pouring weapons into Iraq.  Joe Pappalardo (Popular Mechanic) informs,  "The State Department just approved the sale of $3 billion in Humvees and M1A1 Abrams tanks to the Iraqi government, which is trying desperately to hang on to power in the fight against the well-equipped army of the Islamic State. (Congress still must approve the sale.) "

But apparently not every weapon will fit under the Christmas tree.  Middle East Monitor explains, "The United States officially informed the Iraqi government on Sunday night that it will not deliver the first batch of F-16 fighter jets to Baghdad, a senior official in the Iraqi defence ministry revealed yesterday."

This isn't the first postponement for the delivery.  In the past, when it wasn't delivered, the concern was the Iraqi government run by Nouri al-Maliki.  Currently, the reason being given is that the airports in Iraq are not secure enough and that the planes could therefore fall into the hands of the Islamic State or other groups in Iraq.  But it's very likekly that part of the concern remains -- even with a new prime minister -- the government itself.

Remember that possibility as Jeremy Bender (Business Insider) notes:

In August, Iraq's current Prime Minister, Haidar al-Abadi, took over leadership of the country. Seen as a potential reformer and an inclusive figure by the standards of the country's politics, the US believed that Abadi could have helped restore Iraq's national unity in fact of the ISIS assault. 
That has not happened so far and Abadi's attempts to unite Iraq have largely been ignored. According to Tim Arango of The New York Times, Abadi ordered Iraq's military and its allied Shiite militias to fly the Iraqi national flag instead of Shiite religious banners. Military commanders and soldiers have not heeded the order. 
This is a good place to remember Haidar's September 13th announcement that the bombings of civilians and residential neighborhoods in Falluja would cease.  He made the announcement and less than 24 hours, it was obvious the military would continue to bomb the neighborhoods.  So was Haidar telling the truth and, if so, is he just unable to control the military he's supposed to be commander in chief of?
It's a question we've been asking since September.  Sadly, no US news outlet has shown the slightest interest in the continued bombings.
While the US government has some (small) reservations about arming the Iraqi government with weapons, they have no concerns about sending US troops into Iraq.
Well, there's one concern.
That pesky American public.
They won't support it.
So Barack lies and promises that Americans won't be in combat.
But dropping bombs on Iraq?  Those are combat missions.
So then Barack and the White House insist no on the ground troops in combat.
And, of course, that's a lie as well.

Sunday, at Third, we wrote "Editorial: US troops fighting in Iraq" which noted that Bloomberg News became the first outlet to report on US forces on the ground in Iraq engaging in combat:

Bloomberg News' Zainab Fattah and Aziz Alwan report:

U.S. soldiers clashed with Islamic State militants, helping the Iraqi army repel attacks against the town of al-Baghdadi in the western Anbar province, Al Jazeera TV reported, as Kurdish forces advanced in the north.
The U.S. troops were from al-Assad military base, the biggest in Anbar, First Lieutenant Muneer al-Qoud from the Iraqi police said by phone.

When's Barack planning to get honest with the American people?

We could have well asked (and probably should have) when the rest of the US press planned to get honest with the American people?

The only one that's explored the topic since that editorial?


Bill Van Auken provided a substantial report on the issue which included:

All the claims that US forces are merely “trainers” and “advisers”—not combat troops—and only act in self defense amount to carefully crafted semantics designed to conceal the political fact that, three years after proclaiming an end to all US military operations in Iraq, the Obama administration has launched a new war in which US troops are once again carrying out combat operations.
The reports of US soldiers engaging in combat came as it was announced that the main element of the 1,500 more US troops that President Barack Obama ordered to Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the midterm elections will be drawn from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. One thousand paratroopers from the brigade are supposed to be deployed in January. They are in addition to a 250-member unit from the same brigade, whose deployment was announced in early December and is expected to begin by the end of the month. Each of these deployments is supposed to last for nine months.
In a statement released after the first deployment was announced, the brigade’s commander, Col. Curtis Buzzard, said those being sent were from a “well-led and highly trained unit with extremely talented and adaptable paratroopers. I know they are ready for any contingency and am confident they will accomplish the mission.”
The 82nd Airborne, which specializes in parachute assault operations, was among the main combat units used in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Its actions in Anbar province in the early days of the occupation included the April 2003 killing of 20 unarmed residents of Fallujah who had attempted to protest against the American troops occupying a local school. The massacre provoked popular resistance, which led to subsequent US sieges that demolished most of the city, killed thousands and reduced Fallujah’s population by at least 60 percent.

A lot of worthless bloggers still lie that McClatchy Newspapers told the truth during the lead up to the Iraq War and during its early years.

No, it did not.

That is a lie.

I'm sorry that so many are so damn stupid.

McClatchy Newspapers

The company dates its history to 1857.

And, yes, it was around in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and . . .

It did no ground breaking reporting.

It did nothing.

Just like today, it does nothing.

It's not reporting on US forces fighting in Iraq.

It's not reporting on anything to do with Iraq that the US government want you to know.

That's what the media -- including McClatchy -- did in 2002 and 2003 and . . .

Knight-Ridder was the newpaper chain that told the truth.

It is no more.

McClatchy bought it out in 2006.

Why give McClatchy credit when they did nothing.

And lying and pretending that they did allows McClatchy not just to have some undeserved credit but it leads people to believe if there was anything to know, McClatchy would cover it 'because they did before!'


McClatchy works overtime to offend no one in the government which is why it's prospered forever and a day as a dull paper for dull readers who never want to be challenged or jarred.

Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) reports:

A former aide to General David Petraeus warns that as the Pentagon prepares to send another 1,500 US troops to Iraq to help “destroy” the Islamic State fighters, there may be an even greater danger that forces face: Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
The power of these militias has been growing throughout the country this year after Iraqi security forces were unable to prevail – and in some cases shed their uniforms and ran – while battling Islamic State fighters.
The Shiite militias are well-trained, in many cases by Iranian military commanders, and battle-tested. During the height of the Iraq war, these militias were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US troops.

And they were supported by Nouri al-Maliki and if the new prime minister (al-Abadi) wants to reel them, he clearly lacks the ability to do so.

There's the pretense of 'change' in Iraq but nothing's really changing.  Some officials still have hope or at least pretend to for the public. The Deputy Prime Minister speaks to Manaf al-Obaidi (Asharq Al-Awsat):

Iraq’s National Guard project will go ahead, despite opposition from some domestic political parties, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Al-Mutlaq said.
In a broad-ranging interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Mutlaq criticized the time it is taking for Baghdad to establish a National Guard, part of a wider project to take the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) across Iraq’s various governorates.
“This [National Guard forces] must be established based on laws. The law establishing a National Guard must be issued by parliament, but until this time parliament has yet to put forward the draft bill for this to vote on. There are some parties that do not want this project to see the light of day,” Mutlaq said.

“These parties are well-known and want to ensure that these areas [of Iraq] remain under their control. They fear any new power emerging in the western areas of the country,” he added. 

Those words might carry more weight if Saleh didn't have his own problems (most pressing currently, charges of corruption being made against him by Members of Parliament).

Margaret Griffis ( counts 228 violent deaths in Iraq today.

Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  This is from Bacon's "Hard Winter For California Farm Workers" (New America Media):

In October in California's farm worker towns, the unemployment rate starts to rise as the harvests end.  In Coachella, not far from the wealth of Palm Springs, one of every eight workers has no job.  In Delano, where the United Farm Workers was born in the grape strike 50 years ago, it's one of every four, as it is in other small towns of the southern San Joaquin Valley.  On the coast in Santa Maria and Lompoc the rate is 13.8 and 15.5% respectively.  In the Imperial Valley, next to the Mexican border, the unemployment rate is over 26% in Brawley and Calexico.

This is a reality invisible to the state's urban dwellers.  Los Angeles has a high unemployment rate for a city, but it is still less than rural towns at 8.7%, or one of every twelve workers.  And in San Francisco and Berkeley the percent unemployed is 4.3 and 5.9 -- less than a quarter of the rate in Delano.

Then the winter really hits.  By February one of every three workers in Delano and Arvin is unemployed.  In Salinas it goes from October's one in ten to February's one in five.  Coachella is one in every six.  And in Brawley, Calexico, Lompoc and Santa Maria unemployment just never goes down.

Winter is the hard time, when the money made in the summer and fall has to keep the rent paid and kids fed while nothing is coming in.  With immigration papers workers can get a little unemployment insurance benefit, but with no papers workers can't collect it -- in fact, any benefit that requires a Social Security number is out of reach.  Everyone in this season can use a little work, but for undocumented people especially, even a few days of work make a lot of difference. 

bill van auken

bloomberg news

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