Thursday, February 19, 2015

Arrow (best episode of the season)

I would have loved to have seen Laurel fighting as Black Canary but even without that this was still the best episode of "Arrow" this season.

Oliver and Thea ended up back on the island where Slade was let out of his prison by Merlin who wanted to make Oliver a killer again.

Thea really held her own (as did the actress) and it was the first episode in a long time that really felt like Oliver and Thea were family.

They've lost their father, their mother, I don't even remember what happened to their step-father.

Thea's also Merlin's biological daughter so that means she lost her half-brother Tommy.

So it was good to see the two of them functioning as a family.

This was also the episode where she forced Oliver to stop hiding things from her.

So he told her about how Merlin drugged her and used her to kill Sarah.  (He also told her she couldn't tell Laurel.)

Thea was shocked to learn she'd killed Sarah and once they were off the island and back home they were surprised by Merlin and Thea told him she was no longer his daughter.

Laurel had some good scenes with her father.

But the best thing was seeing Tommy.

The only time the flashbacks have ever been worthwhile.

We got to see Tommy again (he died at the end of season one).  (Or maybe he didn't.  Be great if they brought him back.)

I didn't see Roy once which was another reason the episode was so great. :D

One thing I don't understand.

Slade throws Thea and Oliver into the prison on the island that Oliver had put him in (again, Merlin set him free).

In the prison, Oliver explains to Thea, is an unnamed baddie (I'm sure we'll find out about that later on) and the dead employee who was feeding the prisoners.

Thea and Oliver lock Slade in the prison and fly home.

Now Merlin did note that they needed to get some employees there.

But how's Slade and the other prisoner eating until then?

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, BBC News blows the whistle on the White House's big summit, US President Barack Obama continues to make everything about himself, US Secretary of State John Kerry tries to sound smart (but doesn't come off that way), State Dept Marie Harf continues to come under fire for her remarks (surprise: we defend her remarks), possible candidate for the GOP's presidential nomination Jeb Bush finds he does have to talk Iraq (including the past), and much more.

Andrew Buncombe and Michael Day (Independent) quote US President Barack Obama declaring today, "We are not at war with Islam."  Of course, yesterday speaking to the National Press Club, as Jason Ditz ( noted, Attorney General Eric Holder declared the US was "not in a time of war."  The full quote actually is, "Now we're not in a time of war, I understand that."

Let's there's Iraq, Afghanistan, The Drone War, still Libya . . .

What world is Eric Holder living in because it's not the rest of us occupy.

His statement is so astounding it could be key in a committal hearing.

But Eric need not worry because what is the current administration if not a living tribute and salute to John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces?

If Vice President Joe Biden isn't garnering attention for groping some man or woman, it's because one of the other members of the administration opened their mouth.

Today, at Barack's big summit, for example, there was John Kerry who appears bound and determined to end his career as a laughing stock.  Doubt it?

Secretary of State John Kerry:  We’re here for a simple, transcendent reason: To safeguard the future for our people, all of our citizens, and to safeguard it from people who slaughter children, innocent children in a Pakistani school; people who pin price tags on little girls in Iraq and sell them into slavery; people who put a devout Muslim from Jordan in a fiery cage for all to see; people who send young women into the markets in Nigeria with orders to blow themselves up; people who murder Jews in France and Christians in Egypt just because they belong to a different faith; people who execute a good and brave Japanese man because his government pledged humanitarian assistance -- I repeat humanitarian assistance -- to help the hurting and the homeless in the Middle East; people who kidnap a young woman from Arizona who perceived God in the eyes of the suffering and who dedicated her life to helping people in need in Syria. 

It's the sentence that never ends.

But long before he's left you gasping for breath, he's already made a complete ass out of himself.

"We're here for a simple, transcendent reason."

Are we here for a "simple reason" or for a "transcendent reason"?

Because, thing is, they're at odds.

It can't be both.

Does John know the English language?

Transcendent is mystical or spiritual or incomparable or peerless or unparalleled or unsurpassed or divine or . . .

None of that is simple.

As usual, John's efforts to try to come across erudite not only give them impression that he's stuffy but also that he's deeply stupid.

"Simple" said it all -- both for John Kerry and for the point he was trying to make.

But Mr. Fussy never can leave well enough alone, can he?

Barack's administration's become a lot like the weather -- if you don't like the current buffoon in the spotlight for whatever idiocy or faux pas just wait a few minutes and another member of the administration will take their place.

The embarrassing and multi-day summit the administration has staged is part of the buffoonery -- at least a response to it.

Barack's failure to join other world leaders in Paris for a Freedom March last January left him feeling a little pissy at the global criticism of his absence.  Which, "a former US intelligence official" tells Tara McKelvey (BBC News), is why the summit is taking place: "to tamp down criticism of Mr Obama for not being at the Paris march."  McKelvey reports:

Still the planning seems a bit chaotic. Invitations to the summit went out to foreign embassies on 29 January, a State Department official told me.
At an event at the Atlantic Council in Washington on the following day, European officials said they still weren't sure which minister would be appropriate to send to Washington.
Even those who are passionate about the goals of the summit - combating violent extremism - wonder about the optics - a term the Washington political class use to describe how an event is perceived.
One participant, a former State Department official, says there isn't enough time to coordinate ministers for public appearances - one of the main goals for this kind of event.

The Latin American Herald Tribune notes, "More than 50 countries since Tuesday have been participating in the summit in Washington and on Thursday many foreign and interior ministers will be on hand to share experiences of integration, education and police coordination in battling extremists."  Oriana Pawlyk (Military Times) notes one group that's not "actively" present: The Pentagon. Which might be a good thing for reasons we'll go into later.

Ian Hanchett ( notes US House Rep (and Iraq War veteran) Tulsi Gabbard appeared on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto and offered this take on the summit:

Unless you accurately identify who your enemy is, then you can’t come up with an effective strategy, a winning strategy to defeat that enemy. My concern here with the summit that’s happening right now in Washington is that it really is a diversion from what our real focus needs to be, and that focus is on this Islamic extremist threat that is posed not only to the United States and the American people, but around the world. From what we’ve heard so far, the administration is really claiming that the motivation or the — the thing that’s fueling this terrorism, around the world, is something that has to do with poverty, has to do with a lack of jobs, or lack of access to education, really a materialistic motivation. And therefore, they are proposing that the solution must be to alleviate poverty around the world, to continue this failed Bush and Obama policy of nation building. The danger here is, again, that you’re not identifying the threat, and you’re not identifying the fact that they are not fueled by a materialistic motivation, it’s actually a theological, this radical Islamic ideology that is allowing them to continue to recruit, that is allowing them to continue to grow in strength and really that’s really fueling these horrific terrorist activities around the world.

You can agree with Gabbard's points or not.  I largely disagree with her (on ways to combat IS) but what's she stated, she's stated clearly which puts her miles ahead of Barack.

Speaking at the close of today's summit, he declared, "My point is this:  As Americans, we are strong and we are resilient."

Anytime you deliver 13 long, rambling sentences and then have to offer "My point is," you've failed as a public speaker.  In a speech, you make your "point" immediately and then develop it.

Here's Barack at his worst, at his most preening and at his most dangerous:

Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy.  They try to portray themselves as religious leaders -- holy warriors in defense of Islam.  That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the “Islamic State.”  And they propagate the notion that America -- and the West, generally -- is at war with Islam.  That’s how they recruit.  That’s how they try to radicalize young people.  We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.  Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek.  They are not religious leaders -- they’re terrorists.  (Applause.)  And we are not at war with Islam.  We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.  (Applause.)

Most will miss it.

They missed as Iraq slid into one political crises after another and the Islamic State was able to enter the country and grab a foothold.

We didn't miss it.

And we don't miss the embarrassment in Barack's remarks above.

First on the name "Islamic State."  When the Weather Underground dubbed themselves that, they weren't claiming they controlled the weather or spoke for the four elements.

If that's confusing to Barack he could ask 'just a guy in my neighborhood' Bill Ayers.  Weren't they just at MSNBC host Alex Wagner's wedding this past summer?  Of course, Bill Ayers is a useless little bitch -- arm candy that went sour over the years.  Bernardine Dohrn is the thinker (and the doer) in that couple and always has been.  But, with help from Bernardine, even Bill could probably clarify that point for Barack.

Second, and this is the important part, Barack's not a Muslim.

This has been stated and stated repeatedly.  So much so that some, over the years (Naomi Klein, for example) have noted that the denials come off insulting -- as though there's something wrong with Islam or being a Muslim.

Any religion has degrees.

For example, categories of Judaism in the United States today would include Chasidic, Orthodox, Reform and Conservative.

There are many examples of violent wings of religion in the US.  You have a strand of Christianity who believe its acceptable to kill doctors and blow up clinics where abortions are performed.  You have a semi-lighter strand that doesn't believe in carrying those activities out themselves but does believe in applauding them.

Religion's a complex issue and people can easily get their feelings hurt -- rational people as well as radicals who may or may not resort to violence.

Which is why religion needs to be spoken of carefully.

Barack's not a Muslim.

Why is he speaking?

He claims there's no US war on Islam.

But if you ask people around the world, you'd find a significant number disagree.

Some would point out that Islam has been the chief characteristic for the wars the US has carried out since 2001.

Does that mean the US government is at war with or declared war on Islam?

It doesn't have to.

I don't personally believe that the US government is making a point to go after a religion.  I do feel they're making a point to go after resources but that's an argument for another day.

Whether you agree with the perception or not, that the US is at war with Islam, you need to be aware the perception is out there.

And while a number of us are aware Barack never knows when to shut his mouth and feels the whole world needs him uncesnored on Knaye West, the Superbowl, this and that, the reality is that his inflated ego does a lot of harm.

Today, he decided to speak on behalf of Muslims.

And he's not a Muslim.

How do you think that plays in the Middle East?

The man who's bombing Iraq, the man whose drones are killing civilians in Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere, this man declared today -- this non-Muslim -- what is and isn't Islam, what is and isn't the proper practice.

How do you think that plays out?

There's a good chance that Barack put his big foot in his big mouth yet again and only did more damage.

Last week, we noted the words of Rania Al-Abdullah, Queen of Jordan.  In far less words than Barack used, she made similar points.  But she has standing.  She is a member of the region.  She is a Muslim.

She has standing.

She's not an outsider finger-pointing.

The White House and the State Dept failed to highlight the very important speech -- which was news in the Arab world -- that she gave.  They were too busy focusing on bombs but, clearly, Barack's speech writer(s) did study Rania Al-Abdullah's speech.

I'm not really seeing how a foreigner and non-Muslim telling the world what Islam is and isn't scores points.  I do see how it might antagonize and how it might backfire.

Barack's become the White man that wants to discuss racism as long as he can dictate the terms and define the boundaries.  Maybe it's his 'typical White person' grandma rubbing off on him?

I have no idea.

But when you're already dropping bombs on Muslims -- civilians as well as your so-called targets -- maybe you don't also get the right to speak for them or to define their religion to the world?

And maybe when you attempt either, you only inflame and anger people who might have been on the fence.  Maybe your refusal to give Muslims the basic respect they deserve only serves to radicalize others?

Last week, we covered the Queen of Jordan's speech in two snapshots because it was so important and so needed.  Again, clearly Barack's speechwriter(s) agreed with that assessment.

But while we covered it, the State Dept refused to even acknowledge it -- the same for the White House.

For this summit to have had any value, the White House should have invited Rainia Al-Abdullah to speak.

Instead of hearing from someone with personal experience and wisdom, Barack wanted to show boat.

I hope his ego got fed because nothing was accomplished with his remarks other than portraying the President of the United States as someone who would lecture Muslims and 'explain' to them what Islam really is about.

In addition, someone should clarify to the White House speech writers that a laundry list is not a speech.  And that for this function, the flourishes should have been kept to a minimum and the focus should have been on what can be done.

The White House speech writers may be paid to listen to Barack drone on but the international audience wasn't.

He needs to make his main points and do so quickly.

Barack wasn't the only one getting attention for a speech today.

There was also Jeb Bush who we were just noting in yesterday's snapshot -- specifically how he couldn't avoid the subject of Iraq -- even in part.

Stephen Collinson (CNN) observes:

Democrats are vowing to tether him to the controversial decisions of his brother, President George W. Bush, who they blame for starting a war in Iraq on false pretenses and for presiding over a disastrous occupation that cost trillions of dollars, thousands of U.S. and Iraqi lives and destabilized the region.
The challenges of addressing his family's foreign policy legacy are clear to Bush, who is already trying to defuse them.
"I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make," Bush said Wednesday. "But I am my own man -- and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences."

Igor Bobic (Huffington Post) reports:

"There were mistakes in Iraq for sure," the likely presidential candidate said in a Q&A session at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "Using the intelligence capability that everybody embraced about weapons of mass destruction turns out to not be accurate. Not creating an environment of security after the successful taking out of [Iraqi dictator Saddam] Hussein was a mistake because Iraqis wanted security more than anything else."
"But my brother's administration, through the surge, which was one of the most heroic acts of courage politically that any president's done because there was no support for this, it was hugely successful, it created a stability when the new president came in," he added.

That talking point can be defeated very easily.

It can also be addressed stupidly which is probably how my side (the left) will handle it.

They will insist that the 'surge' was a failure and blah blah blah.

And in doing so they will anger military families and military members and veterans who rightly know that the US military succeeded with the 'surge.'

They did everything they were tasked to do, everything they were trained to do.

But Bully Boy Bush insisted the 'surge' had to take place to allow the political issues in Iraq to be resolved.

Don't we love how Oval Office occupants pretend to care about the political issues in Iraq?

At any rate, Bully Boy Bush had given Nouri al-Maliki (forever thug and then-prime minister) a set of benchmarks to meet so he could show progress in Iraq to the US Congress.

The 'surge' was supposed to provide the room, the space, for the political to be dealt with.

The US military did not fail in the 'surge.'

The White House failed.

Bully Boy Bush failed.

American troops risked their lives -- some lost their lives during the surge -- and did so to provide space for political solutions.

But none came, no political solutions came.

And that White House -- just like the current one -- just accepted it.

Didn't use the diplomatic tool box to force political movement.

Bully Boy Bush sent thousand of US troops into Iraq for the 'surge' and then failed to follow up on what the 'surge' was supposed to allow time for.

That's how you talk about the 'surge' because it's reality.

It's also how you talk about it if you're interested in pulling in voters as opposed to just preaching to your own tiny church.

Jeb could craft a winning response (I'm not here to help a Bush) that would tamp down briefly on criticism -- it wouldn't be a political response, it would be a personal one and he and his team can ponder that on their own.

But note how AP opens their coverage of Jeb's remarks today:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday there can be no diplomacy with Islamic State militants, but only a U.S.-led coalition of Middle Eastern countries committed to "tightening the noose and taking them out."

And that's why he can't avoid Iraq or his brother's actions with regards to Iraq.

He wants to suggest what needs to take place.

Most Americans -- as the polls demonstrate -- believe the Iraq War was a mistake.

He can't suggest future movement and be credible without acknowledging serious mistakes.

It's been noted by many Democratic observers that Hillary can't run on Barack and win.  There's not enough political support in the country for that.  Most -- check the polls -- have felt for some time now that the country was headed in the wrong direction -- on the economy and other factors.

She's going to have to distance herself if she runs for the DNC nomination.  Jeb and Hillary both are going to have to distance themselves if they want to win the White House.

Sadly, these are the two who appear to be the 'hope' for America at this point.

In yesterday's snapshot, we noted State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf and Jen Psaki and this lead to an e-mail from Newsbusters about Geoffrey Dickens' analysis of the lack of coverage on Harf's remarks from the networks.

I have no problem noting that item or linking to it.

But from the e-mail, it's clear I wasn't clear.

I think it's karma that Marie's being mocked.

I think it's fitting.

But not because I think she said something crazy.  This is also where I disagree with US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard who we noted much, much earlier.

Marie's right: Jobs are needed in Iraq.  (And she meant Syria as well but our focus is Iraq.)

Marie's comments weren't crazy.  Not to me.

That Newsbusters finds them so is not surprising, they look at the world from a different angle and that's good and it's good that we are all aware of that angle because we can toss things around in our minds and see what we back up and believe in.

For me, that's Marie's comments.

Her failure as spokesperson to note this in all the months since June go to why she deserves to be made fun of.

She hasn't done her job.

In fairness to her, and to Jen Psaki, the State Dept hasn't done its job.  John Kerry confused himself with Secretary of Defense and Barack has stupidly allowed that to take place -- even encouraged it.

In June, Barack noted the only solution for Iraq was a political solution, not a military one.

A political one involves jobs.

Iraq has a very young population and it has a very unemployed population.

I think we pitched, for three years, that Nouri needed to stop importing nurses from other countries and start educating Iraqis to take these positions.  Nouri finally seized on it after the April elections when he was desperate for a third term.

Iraq has all of these foreigners pouring into the country to do various jobs (and a number of them are victimized -- but that's another story).  This shouldn't be happening when Iraq's unemployment rate is in the double digits.

Marie is correct: Jobs are needed.

There are many other issues that could also help -- this is the political solution that Barack can talk about but apparently never order anyone in the administration to work on.

'They just need jobs' is an oversimplification.  It's not what Marie Harf meant.  She was attempting to speak -- no one ever gets a chance to speak clearly when they're opposite motor mouth Chris Matthews -- about the landscape of changes that could make a huge difference in Iraq.

She's taken a lot of flack for her remarks.

And I don't shed a tear because she and the State Dept should have been selling this all along.  They wait over half a year after Barack's given his 'political solution required' speech (which was a strong one, by the way) to attempt to expand on it.

So that's on them.

Lastly, Margaret Griffis ( counts 194 violent deaths in Iraq today.

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