Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The box office

Weekend box office via THENUMBERS.COM:

1NBirds of Prey (And th…Warner Bros.$33,010,017 4,236 $7,793$33,010,0171
2(1)Bad Boys For LifeSony Pict…$12,011,355-32%3,530-175$3,403$166,333,5624
5(5)Jumanji: The Next LevelSony Pict…$5,556,679-7%2,729-216$2,036$298,487,0909
6(6)The GentlemenSTX Enter…$4,215,491-25%2,557-118$1,649$26,887,4723
7(4)Gretel & HanselUnited Ar…$3,580,332-42%3,007n/c$1,191$11,604,5722
8(8)Little WomenSony Pict…$2,376,044-23%1,805-496$1,316$102,724,1877
9(7)Star Wars: The Rise o…Walt Disney$2,313,348-28%1,746-456$1,325$510,634,8268
10(11)Knives OutLionsgate$2,297,647-11%1,443-112$1,592$158,889,29711

Biggest news?  I'd argue it was KNIVES OUT going back into the top ten with $2.2 million.

This happened as KNIVES OUT was offered for streaming the same weekend.

So even with it available for purchase and rental at AMAZON on Friday (I purchased it Friday), the film still sold enough tickets to hop back into the top ten.

Other big news?  Martin Lawrence and Will Smith can still deliever.  That film's going to make $200 million before it's all over.  Maybe Will can learn something from it -- something Kevin Hart needs to learn as well?  Which is we're tired of African-American men playing plaything sidekick to White actors -- that's every Kevin Hart film of late.  It's also what destroyed Jamie Foxx's film career.

You can be equals, you can be enemies.  But we're tired of making an African-American man a star and having him turn around and play idiot for some White guy -- even if it's Dwayne Johnson.

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

Monday, February 10, 2020.  Moqtada al-Sadr is mocked in Iraq and we look at Friday's Democratic Party debate where Tom Steyer argued he can't win a general election and Joe Biden lied multiple times.

Starting in the US where the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination continues.  Last week, on Monday, Iowa held their caucus.  There is still no winner.  AP won't declare one and, yesterday, NBC NEWS noted that they wouldn't either: "NBC News is not calling a winner in the first-in-the-nation contest, and the NBC News Decision Desk is not making any independent delegate allocations at this time."

The Iowa caucus is a failure and an embarrassment for the Democratic Party.  There is no excuse for the results not being transparent and clear seven days after the caucus.  Their inability to get it together should result in an immediate reshuffling for 2024.  This is beyond nonsense.  They had one job to do and they failed.  There should be consequences.

As it stands, New Hampshire holds their primary -- the first of the season -- tomorrow.  Any real lift a candidate could have been provided via the Iowa results is gone.

Friday night, seven of the candidates seeking the party's nomination gathered for a debate in New Hampshire (ABC broadcast the debate): Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, Tiny Pete, Joe Biden and Andrew Yang.  We're using this transcript for all quotes.

The big takeaway?

One person eliminated themselves during the debate.

Tom Steyer:  So, I did start the Need to Impeach movement in October of 2017. And my father was one of the people who prosecuted the Nazi war criminals after World War II. And that’s part of the reason I started it. Because when you see something really wrong in the United States, you’re supposed to stand up against it, and fight against it.

Tom has every right to be proud of what his father did and he should talk about it.  However what he did above was politically stupid and, yes, suicidal.

If the point is to bring in as many votes as possible in the general election, Tom just pushed away a ton of voters.

Let's say you're historically ignorant and/or crazy and you honestly think Donald Trump is Hitler -- you still don't say it when you're hoping to run for president.  Donald Trump has lost some support since 2016.  That portion of the electorate can be peeled off.  But they're not going to vote Democrat if the nominee is someone saying, "You voted in Hitler!"  That's beyond stupid and Tom's demonstrated yet again that all the money in the world can't buy a single ounce of common sense.

Unlike Tom Steyer, Bernie Sanders is looking at the general election.

Bernie Sanders:  Now, second of all, in terms of Republicans, let me say that in my own great state of Vermont, if my memory is correct, Amy [Klobuchar], I got 25% of the Republican vote. And in fact, there were periods when I was in the House of Representatives, a number of years where I passed more amendments on the floor of the House in a bipartisan way than any other member of the House and that is when you bring people together on an issue. There are many conservative Republicans, for example, who are concerned about civil liberties, at least they used to be concerned about civil liberties. There are Republicans, as you know, who are concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs. There are ways that we can work with Republicans on issues where we have a common basis.

Donald Trump killed a terrorist with a drone strike.  I don't have a problem with the death of a terrorist, I do have a problem with drone strikes.  (They are not precise and we need to stop pretending that they are.)  The man in question not only killed Americans (which co-moderator David Muir noted in the debate), he also killed Sunnis and was part of the ethnic cleansing.  In addition, he was part of the targeting of Iraqi gays and those suspected of being gay.

When the strike was brought up by David, Joe Biden elected to grandstand.  Anyone else have a problem with the below answer?

Joe Biden: And secondly, you saw what happened when that air raid, when those missiles were fired from Iran into Iraq at Al-Assad Airbase, 64 of our heroes were wounded. I don’t know what I would’ve done if my son were still there. I would have been so damn angry. I don’t know what I would’ve done. But here’s what happened, they had received traumatic brain injury. What did the president say? He said, “headaches,” “not bad,” “Headaches, that’s all they are.” This guy doesn’t deserve to be commander- in-chief for one more day.

He doesn't know what he would have done if his son was still there.  Not the crack head, Deadbeat Dad Hunter Biden.  He's referring to his son Beau.  He doesn't know he would have done if his son was still in Iraq and had suffered TBI last month?

I think for one thing, he'd be down on his knees thanking whomever his personal savior is that his son was alive (Beau died in 2015).

More to the point, he's saying Donald Trump's actions resulted in 64 cases of TBI.

TBI is known as the signature wound of the Iraq War.

As many as 23% of Iraq War veterans may have TBI.  From the VA's Office of Research and Development:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury." In addition, service members and Veterans potentially have the additional exposures to blast, both from combat and from training.
After a TBI and depending on the severity, the person may experience a change in consciousness that can range from becoming dazed and confused to loss of consciousness. The person may also have a loss of memory for the time immediately before or after the event that caused the injury.
Due to improved diagnostics and increased vigilance, there are now more accurate statistics on military TBI rates than in the past. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) reported more than 408,000 TBIs among U.S. service members worldwide between 2000 and early 2019. The majority of those TBIs were classified as mild. TBI and its associated co-morbidities are also a significant cause of disability outside of military settings, most often as the result of assaults, falls, automobile accidents, or sports injuries.
TBI can include a range of comorbidities, from headaches, irritability, and sleep disorders to memory problems, slower thinking, and depression. These symptoms often lead to long-term mental and physical health problems that impair Veterans' employment and family relationships, and their reintegration into their communities.
The severity of the TBI is determined at the time of the injury and is based on evidence of a positive computed tomography (CT) scan (evidence of brain bleeding, bruising, or swelling), the length of the loss or alteration of consciousness, the length of memory loss, and how responsive the individual was after the injury.
Most TBI injuries are considered mild, but even mild cases can involve serious long-term effects on areas such as thinking ability, memory, mood, and focus. Other symptoms may include headaches, endocrine, vision, and hearing problems.
Mild TBI (mTBI), also known as concussion, is usually more difficult to identify than severe TBI, because there may be no observable head injury, even on imaging, and because some of the symptoms are similar to symptoms from other problems that also follow combat trauma, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
While most people with mTBI have symptoms that resolve within hours, days, or weeks, a minority may experience persistent symptoms that last for several months or longer.
Treatment typically includes a mix of cognitive, physical, speech, and occupational therapy, along with medication to control specific symptoms such as headaches or anxiety.
Another often overlooked factor is the lifetime accumulation of TBI events. Having multiple mTBIs has been associated with greater risk of psychological health conditions. The association with neurodegenerative disease and repetitive mTBI has been a frequent topic in the news media, and there is some evidence in epidemiological studies (studies that use clinical diagnostic codes and/or health records) of a link between the two.

Joe is whining about 64 having TBI when the Iraq War has already produced over 200,000 cases of TBI.  People should be mad, Joe argues, at Donald Trump for the 64 but, apparently, not mad at Joe for the over 200,000?  Remember, no matter who he blames for his vote, Joe Biden voted for the Iraq War.

Joe Biden: (56:21)
I made a mistake and I said it 14 years ago. I trusted George Bush to keep his word. He said he was not going to go into Iraq. He said he was only using this to unite the United Nations to insist we get inspectors in to see what Saddam was doing. When we got elected, the president turned to me with the entire security apparatus and said, “Joe, I want you to organize getting 156,000 troops out of Iraq.” I did that. I did that.

You made a mistake and thousands of Americans died as a result.  You made a mistake and over a million Iraqis died as a result.

How dare you stand up onstage blaming someone else for your vote.  And to claim that the village idiot, Bully Boy Bush, tricked you doesn't speak well for your mental capacities.

Joe can't stop lying.  Andrew Kaczynski (CNN) fact checks Joe:

As the US War in Iraq continued to unravel in the spring of 2004, then-Sen. Joe Biden delivered a commencement speech at the University of Delaware where he addressed the original decision to go to war.
"Let me tell you what I see with Iraq," Biden told the graduates. "We had to go into Iraq, not because Saddam (Hussein) was part of Al Qaeda, there was no evidence of that, not because he possessed nuclear weapons or because he posed an imminent threat to the United States, there was no evidence of that."
"The legitimate reason for going into Iraq, was he violated every single commitment he made and warranted being taken down. And the international community and us had a right to respond."
His speech more than a year after the war began reveals how Biden continued to stand by the decision to invade Iraq and his vote to authorize President George W. Bush to do so, even as some of his Democratic colleagues began to turn against the war. The comment is one several examples found during a CNN KFile review of Biden's speeches and television appearances between 2003 and 2006 where he defended or explained his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq.
    That vote has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks as Biden's 2020 rivals have sought to use it as an attack on the former vice president's foreign policy judgment. Biden has sought to recast his 2002 vote, and, at Tuesday's debate, Biden repeated his false claim that he opposed the war in Iraq immediately after it began.

    Sami Husseini (COMMON DREAMS) adds:

    But that is only the tip of the iceberg. His full remarks to Brookings—which you can view here—contain numerous and brazen pro-war falsehoods, with Biden claiming that Saddam Hussein "violated every commitment that he made. He played cat and mouse with the weapons inspectors. He failed to account for the huge gaps in weapons declarations that were documented by U.N. weapons inspectors and submitted by them to the U.N. Security Council in 1998, and every nation in that Council believed he possessed those weapons at that time. He refused to abide by any conditions."
    It's a pack of lies. The Iraqi government released a massive amount of information in 2002, it agreed to allow the UN weapons inspectors in well before the Congressional vote that authorized war—a vote that Biden has claimed was justified in order to give Bush a stronger hand in getting inspectors into Iraq. Additionally, the prior weapons inspection regime, UNSCOM, was ended in 1998 not because Saddam Hussein kicked them out, but because Bill Clinton ordered them withdrawn on the eve of his scheduled impeachment vote to make way for the Desert Fox bombing campaign.
    It's remarkably fitting that the Biden camp has put out Kerry on this issue since Kerry's falsifications regarding Iraq are remarkably similar to Biden's. Kerry might be the only Democratic senator whose record helped the Iraq war as much as Biden's. This notably led to his contortions during the 2004 presidential campaign when he was the Democratic Party nominee ultimately defeated by Bush.

    When I questioned Kerry in 2011 about his vote for the Iraq invasion, he claimed that he "didn't vote for the Iraq war." Kerry said, "I voted to give the president authority that he misused and abused. And from the moment he used it, I opposed that." That's another lie.
    Kerry actually attacked the notion of a withdrawal from Iraq at that point, even saying in December of 2003: "I fear that in the run-up to the 2004 election the administration is considering what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy"—effectively taking a position even more militaristic than Bush. Also see a CNN headline from August 2004 titled: "Kerry stands by 'yes' vote on Iraq war."
    Also remarkable is just how little scrutiny Biden has gotten for his role in the Iraq invasion. Sanders has mostly criticized Biden's vote, but Biden was also chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been criticized by leading analysts and weapons inspectors for the hearings he presided over that led to war. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), viewed by many as an antiwar candidate, has outright let Biden off the hook.
    At a debate last year, Gabbard said of Biden: "He was wrong—he said he was wrong." Thus, Biden may be positioned to become the Democratic nominee—and face Trump in the general election—with minimal scrutiny for his major role in the worst policy decision of our lifetimes. 
    But let's be clear, he will likely be in a worse position to take on Trump's phony "America First" isolationism than even Hillary Clinton was in 2016.

    Back to the debate, here's Bernie responding to Joe:

    Bernie Sanders: (01:00:24)
    Let me say this if I might, like Joe and others, I also heard the arguments in terms of the war in Iraq from Bush, from Cheney, from John Bolton, from the whole administration. I listened very carefully and I concluded that they were lying through their teeth. And I not only voted against that war, but I help lead the opposition. And it saddens me so much. If you hear what I said, it’s on YouTube, my fears about all the destabilization that would take place by the US invading Iraq. It’s sad to me that, that is what happened.

    Bernie Sanders: (01:01:04)
    But let me just pick up on a point that Tom made, which is absolutely right. Trump wants to build a wall around America. The problem is if we are going to deal with issues like climate change, not only do we in America have to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry, we have to lead the entire world. This is not an American issue. It’s a global issue. We got to bring China and Russia and Brazil and Pakistan and India and every major country on earth into the fight against climate change.

    Bernie Sanders: (01:01:38)
    And here is my dream, maybe it’s a radical dream, but maybe just may be given the crisis of climate change, the world can understand that instead of spending $1.8 trillion dollars a year collectively on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change.

    War was also addressed elsewhere in the debate.

    David Muir: (50:02)
    We were on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent months and the generals told us that the US needs some US presence on the ground, US special forces some presence to go after ISIS and the terrorists. If your commander-in-chief, would you listen to the generals or do they fall into the category of the generals you’ve mentioned before?

    Elizabeth Warren: (50:19)
    No. Look, I sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee, so I get the briefings from the generals on a regular basis. I’ve been to Afghanistan, to Iraq. I’ve been to Jordan. I’ve been throughout the region. I’ve been there with John McCain. I’ve been there with Lindsey Graham to ask the hard questions about what’s happening, to ask our generals, to ask their generals to ask people who are on the ground. And the bottom line is, nobody sees a solution to this war. Nobody can describe what winning looks like. All they can describe is endless war.

    Elizabeth Warren: (50:52)
    And I realized there are people on this debate stage who are willing to say, yeah, we’ll leave our troops there for five more years, for 10 more years. Lindsey Graham has said he’s willing to leave troops for 100 more years. And yet, what has all these years of war brought us? Right now, the Afghan Government controls less than 60% of the land. People don’t have faith in it. It’s a corrupt government. The opium trade is higher than ever.

    Elizabeth Warren: (51:20)
    Look, we sent our troops in and they did their best. They were there for us, but we need to be there for them. And that means, not send our troops to do work that cannot be solved militarily. It is time to bring our combat troops home. It is time to stop this endless war in Afghanistan.

    David Muir: (51:41)
    Senator Warren, I want to press you on this. You just said, “combat troops.”

    Elizabeth Warren: (51:45)

    David Muir: (51:45)
    So if the generals came to you and said, we need US Special Forces, some footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan, would you listen? Would you leave them?

    Elizabeth Warren: (51:53)
    So I want to hear the plan, not just a, we need it now, we need it for the next day, we need it for the six months. And I want to know where our allies are. We all have an interest in dealing with terrorism and controlling terrorism, but that means it can’t just be the United States waging endless war. That does not make us safer. It does not make the region safer. It does not make the world safer. We should work with our allies in managing terrorism, but we need to end this war in Afghanistan. We cannot wait five more years, or 10 more years, or until we turn the corner 10 more times. We need to bring our combat troops home.

    If the press had paid attention, these remarks by Joe Biden would have been the big news out of the debate.

    Joe Biden: [. . .] I was a single dad for five years. It’s not as hard as being a single mom and I had help from my sisters in the audience and others, but the fact is that I think we have to focus on what is at stake here.  These aren’t someone else’s children. They’re all our children. They’re the kite strings that lift our national ambitions, they really are. They lift our national ambitions aloft. We have an overwhelming interest, overwhelming interest in seeing to it they do well. You know, 24 out of every 100 students in school today, from grade school to high school, are Latino. What are we going to do? Walk away from that? Many of them come from homes that are poor, very poor. That’s why I invest so much time and energy in preschool. That’s why if I only have $1 to spend, I spend it equipping the child before they get into school in the early day, than after and we talk about all those kids out there that are going to be graduating.

    Rather strange remarks, aren't they, coming from Joe Biden?  This month, his Deadbeat Dad son Hunter is finally paying court-ordered child support for his 18-month-old child.

    It's a very minor sum, even the judge admits that, because of the fact that Hunter (a) insists he's bankrupt (as he rents a mini-mansion in Ben Affleck's neighborhood and tools around in a rented Porsche) and (b) refuses to turn financial documents over to the court.

    The hypocrisy in Joe Biden's remarks would have provided enough copy for a months worth of Jimmy Breslin columns back in the day.  But today's timid tabbies have been declawed and they rush to look the other way even when a politician tells a blatant lie.

    In Iraq, the people enjoy exposing liars.

    Iraqis are mocking Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr online by wearing hijabs and drawing on mustaches after he called for gender segregation at protests. See the full story here:



    Thug Moqtada has gone from a movement leader to mockery in one month.  He thought he could do Iran's bidding and have Iraqis applaud him.  No.  No.

    As much as the US government has destroyed Iraq, they cannot destroy Iraqi national pride.  It will always triumph.  And they don't like a cowardly stooge who betrays his own country to do the bidding of the Iranian government.

    Moqtada's lucky to be hiding in Iran currently.  He probably thinks this will blow over but self-inflicted wounds rarely go away.

    Lawk Ghafuri (RUDAW) reports:

    Protesters who claim they were threatened and tortured by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s armed militiamen in Baghdad are fleeing to Erbil to avoid being jailed under Iraq’s counterterrorism law.

    Ibrahim al-Jabiry, the head of Sadr’s office in Baghdad, has strongly rejected the accusations of torture.

    Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam militia, known as the ‘blue hats’ for their distinctive headwear, had been participating in Iraq’s nationwide anti-government protests to protect the movement from armed pro-government factions.

    The blue hats were an essential part of the movement since it began on October 1 last year. However, on January 24, Sadr ordered them to withdraw as he threw his support behind the new prime minister designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi.

    As a result, Iraqi security forces and pro-government militias attack the protesters in Baghdad and other southern and central cities, burning their tents and abducting activists.

    In early February, the blue hats returned to Tahrir Square to rejoin the movement after Sadr appeared to flip in the protesters’ favor once more.

    Now it appears the blue hats are attempting to seize control of the movement, occupying public spaces previously held by the protesters, including the iconic ‘Turkish Restaurant’ tower next to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

    Muthana*, 26 and from Kirkuk, was among the protesters occupying the Turkish Restaurant. He told Rudaw English on Friday that he and two other protesters guarding the tower had received death threats from Sadrists after refusing to let them issue a statement from its public platform on February 1.

    The blue hats returned to the Turkish Restaurant later the same day and took it by force.

    The unfinished building overlooking Tahrir Square had been held by the protesters for several months, becoming an icon of the movement, decorated with slogans demanding jobs, services, an end to corruption, and the overthrow of the post-2003 political order.

    “Me and two other protesters were responsible for the stage at the Turkish Restaurant, where protesters would releases statement, and prevented the Sadrists from giving a partisan statement on February 1,” Muthana said. 

    Moqtada has destroyed his own legacy.

    🇮🇶 : We are alarmed at the escalation of violence in Najaf where supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr allegedly shot dead anti-Government demonstrators.

    🔴 We reiterate our call on the Government to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters at all times.


    Iraq: massive protests against Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shia leader

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