Tuesday, February 2, 2021

TV Talk



That's Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "DiFi Ethics."

Okay, new content went up at THIRD today:




The TV piece, the WSWS piece and the KINDLE UNLIMITED interview with me were all done by Ava and C.I.  And I invited them to do a brief TV talk with me here.  Ava and C.I. cover TV for THIRD.  Correct me if I'm wrong on this, you didn't want to cover TV?


Ava: Right.  The site started in January of 2005.  We didn't see the point in covering TV.  Jim did.  Jim especially but probably everyone.  Back then, Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and I were in college and as Jim pointed out, easily two-thirds of the people in our classes were watching TV and talking about it.  Everything was group pieces the first edition -- including TV.  C.I. and I were sort of off to the side making silly remarks.  We did that for the first few weeks and Jim will tell you -- and noted in real time -- that the readers were responding to this.  So the others kind of turned it over to us.  And I don't know exactly when that was.  I could tell you if I looked at the stuff.  But sometime in February, Jim noted that we -- C.I. and I -- were doing the TV pieces.  They were getting compliments and Jim wanted to be clear who was writing them.


Well you two do a wonderful job and I agree with Dona who has stressed for over 10 years now that Ava and C.I. have created a body of work.  You two really have.  Is it intimidating?


C.I.: If we think about it.  We don't think about.  We keep our heads down and focus. If Jim starts talking page views, it'll intimidate us.  We don't want to know.  And we don't try to top ourselves.  If we feel like we've written something really good, we're going to try to cover something completely different the next week.  Expectations?  We don't want them.  


You have stated that you are presenting a feminist take.  Over and over, you have stated that.  And that's because?


Ava: Feminism is not one view.  It's many views.  We're presenting our view and there are other views out there.


You started covering TV in 2005.  It's 16 years later.  A lot has changed.  What's the big change?


Ava: Streaming for sure.  As late as 2014, my younger sister moved into a new area and everyone was telling her about cable and which one to use and when she said she wasn't getting cable, they looked at her like she was crazy.  She said she had NETFLIX and HULU PLUS -- which didn't have live TV at that time -- and AMAZON PRIME.  What did she need cable for?  And people who lived around her thought she was crazy or something.  Almost seven years later and no one would bat an eye at her statement, not with YOUTUBE TV and HULU PLUS LIVE.



So far this year, you two covered the streaming services in "TV: The big ripoffs" and "TV: AMAZON wins the race to the bottom."  I want to be sure people have read those two.  What about The Water Cooler Set?  You don't see yourselves as part of that.


C.I.: We don't.  When we started and we would talk about representation -- gender, race -- we would be told that wasn't important -- be told that by critics paid to cover TV for this or that outlet.  I don't think anyone of them would make that statement today.  But we're not part of the nonsense.  It's a big circle-jerk that celebrates any sexist piece of entertainment.  We had problems with Louis CK, for example.  And we warned people.  He was far too in love with, for example, the f-word -- the slur for gay men.  That should have been an issue but instead you had Terry Gross giggling and embracing him.  By the same token, there was a fall TV season not all that long ago where a network offered one new program after another and not one of them had a female lead.  We're the only ones who noted that.  And we have to wonder how do you miss that?   We're not trying to be cool or liked or part of The Water Cooler Set.  


You really have led on so many topics -- long before others were worried about White voices doing ethnic and racial characters on TV shows, you were raising the issue.


Ava: You know, if it's SOUTH PARK and it's two people doing voices -- which I think was a thing at one point, I'm not going to care.  But when you have an entire cast doing voices and the African-American character is voiced by a White man, for example, I am going to say what's going on here?  


Where would you rank a la carte viewing?  My aunt asked me about that?


Ava: Well it's got a term today but it did occur before.  We had DVRs and before that we had VCRs.  People have been watching according to their schedule for some time.  It is more common today but it's been going on for awhile now.


C.I.: Agreed.  And binging has as well.  You could record or buy on videocassette, DVD or BluRay your favorite show -- GOLDEN GIRLS, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, etc -- and binge on it.  And LIFETIME used to offer non-stop episodes of shows when they'd first start airing on LIFETIME -- shows like ABC's CHINA BEACH --but where binging is news is that NETFLIX, to cite one example, now posts brand new, never seen before episodes of a show that you can binge.


That's a good point.  I don't like binging.  I don't have that kind of time most days.  I was glad season two of THE BOYS unfolded a week at a time.  THE BOYS was a good show, do you see much off the network that you would praise?


Ava: Sure.  The networks still have strong content though -- you love PRODIGAL SON and that's a strong show that happens to be on FOX.  THE CW's CHARMED is a strong show -- and fastly becoming a stronger show than the original.  AMAZON's had THE BOYS and SIX SCENES IN CRISIS and other shows.  NETFLIX has had HOUSE OF CARDS, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, SENSE8, GRACE AND FRANKIE, LUPIN and so much more.  There's a lot out there.


Sometimes it seems that way, sometimes it really doesn't.


C.I.: Well, is that more recent? Reason I'm asking is COVID left pretty much everyone but NETFLIX short handed.  NETFLIX delivered.  HBO can't even deliver -- they're supposed to have a new film every Saturday night and they've done that since the 90s but recent weeks have offered KILL BILL and, last Saturday, Brenden Fraiser's THE MUMMY.  PEACOCK never should have started last July when they were obviously not ready and had no original content worth sharing.  It remains the worst streaming service.  AMAZON had some stuff to offer and NETFLIX was on its normal footing -- and has already announced it plans to do the same this year.  But you had networks that barely offered anything last fall. 

I think that has a lot to do with it.  Last fall, TV did nothing to urge us to feel normal with their programming and with so many home-quarantining you'd think the networks would have tried to offer more.  You two covered this with "TV: Can anything be worse than fall 2020?" and it really wasn't like fall.  I want to wind down by jumping over to books and the interviews you are doing each week with us about the books.  So why the interviews?

Ava: Sometimes when you write a review, there's more that you could have said or would have said with more time so one thing is to make sure everyone's got a chance to share what they wanted to.  The other thing we're going for is that we're trying to make sure we're also grading the service -- KINDLE UNLIMITED -- because it does come with a price tag.  Is it worth it?  Each week, we get to explore that and readers can judge for themselves based on the observations.  

C.I.: Well said.  Also true, the community wants more book coverage and that's a way to offer more.  

Okay, well I thank you both so much.

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



 Tuesday, February 2, 2021.  How to solve the problem of the many displaced in Iraq?  Just evict them, close the camps and pretend like you addressed the issue.

At the end of October, we noted:

It's amazing how the western press misreports.  Earlier this week, it was 'concern' for the people in camps -- the displaced in Iraq.  Supposedly, everyone, including the UN was concerned.  I ignored the story because it felt false on the face of it.  And it was.  DAR ADDUSTOUR gives you the truth about this 'concern' that western media left out.  The 'concern' is only that they exist.  The 'concern' doesn't translate into finding homes for the displaced or meeting the needs of the displaced.  What the 'concern' means, DAR ADDUSTOUR reports is that the camp in Baquba, the sole camp for the displaced, will be closed in five weeks.  150 families will be evicted from the camp.  Where are they to go?  No one cares.  Certainly, no one in the western press cares because they couldn't take a moment from acting as a megaphone to tell you what was really going on.  Again, just on the face of it, it was obvious that there was no 'concern' for the displaced.  

And the concern for the displaced still remains a minor key with few bothering to note it.  An exception?

Kelley B. Vlahos:  Entire city blocks are just rubble now in places like Mosul.  And these people have no homes to go back to.  A lot of them face persecution when they get back because either they were tied to ISIS or their family were tied or there was some connection to Sunni radicals who did not denounce ISIS at the time so there's a lot of social dynamics going on that prevent some of these people from going home.  And then there are people who had children at the camps and those children are not considered Iraqi citizens because either they had the children during the so-called caliphate so Iraq is not recognizing those children as Iraqis so they don't qualify for any of the assistance that the government -- even if the government could be providing any livable assistance, these children wouldn't qualify.  So you have this real damaged part of the population that numbers about a million right now who can't go home and, you know, frankly the Iraqi government can't afford to rebuild these cities like Mosul because they just don't have the budget for it.

Kelley was speaking to Scott Horton on his THE SCOTT HORTON SHOW.

They may not have money today due to COVID but they did have money.  COVID didn't hit until February 2020.  

As we noted in Friday's snapshot:

There are many problems with what Kullab wrote -- not reported, typed.  Including where did the reconstruction money go?  

Recently, the last seven or so months, the Iraqi government has claimed (lied) that they diverted it to COVID relief.  Again, that's a lie.  But if they had diverted it, it still wouldn't explain where all the money was prior to the COVID emerging on the world stage in February of last year.  Mosul should have been rebuilt long ago and it is an example of the ongoing corruption of the Iraqi government that continues year after year, regardless of which coward who fled Iraq is installed as prime minister.  

In 2020, AFP noted, "Iraq gathered $30 billion in pledges from international donors in Kuwait in 2018 to rebuild, but virtually none of the funds have been disbursed."  30 billion.  And yet no real rebuilding -- the rebuilding that has taken place has been done by the United Nations.

$30 billion.  Wasted.  A corrupt government that pockets the money -- over and over, we see this.


Hobbled by corruption, ineffective intelligence, and festering sectarianism ignored if not inflamed by the Shitte administration of then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (Washington’s man in Baghdad), the U.S.-trained Iraqi military didn’t stand a chance. As the United States was preparing to leave in 2009, then-Gen. Ray Odierno said the Iraqi forces were “ready” to take on their own security. In 2014, as ISIS raced across Iraq like a cancer, they fled. Several divisions “evaporated,” with 60 out of 243 battalions unaccounted for, all equipment lost. 

“ISIS took 40 percent of the country. Some of these cities were completely destroyed,” said Kadhim, noting that much of the real destruction came when the areas were later liberated in 2017 by Iraqi forces with the help of U.S. airpower and Iranian militias. At its peak, ISIS territory included the provinces of Mosul, Anbar, Saladin, as well as major portions of Kirkuk and swaths of outer Baghdad. Entire religious sects like the Yazidis in Northwestern Iraq were massacred, kidnapped, sold, and blown to the mountain winds like sand.

 “You’re talking about cities that are no longer habitable,” some, like Mosul still have unaccounted-for bodies lying under rubble, IEDs and unexploded ordnance still dotting the urban landscape, said Kadhim. There are booby traps everywhere. Reporter Mizer Kamel, writing in October, was overwhelmed by the apocalyptic scene in Mosul, two years after the city’s “liberation” from ISIS.

At one point he entered a house that served as an ISIS headquarters, with several families — a total of 64 people — living there during the central government’s fight to retake the city in 2017. Two missiles had hit the home at one point, igniting oil barrels stored in the basement. Men, women, and children were set on fire, their screams heard for two hours before an eerie silence. The injured had been taken away by ISIS, a neighbor told Kamel, who spotted human bones in the remains of the building. Some 50 bodies were never recovered.

“[Neighbourhood] residents, without exception, speak of the heavy psychological toll on their mental and physical health due to the unrecovered bodies under the rubble,” Kamel writes. “The house has become a health hazard, a breeding ground for stray dogs and a den for snakes, scorpions and insects.”

He said 80 percent of old Mosul was “wrecked” with many residential neighborhoods completely flattened. “Al-Shahwan (district) feels like a Second World War movie set. The destruction is terrifying, with torched cars piled up on tons of rubble, wreckage from destroyed houses, and skeletal human remains.”

There is no where for these people to go.  Mustafa al-Kadhimi, prime minister of Iraq, is attempting to push the problem off on others, not to solve it.  Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim (WASHINGTON POST) report

Prime Minister Mustafa al- ­Kadhimi has promised to resolve the displacement crisis by closing Iraq’s camps and finding ways to reintegrate their residents into wider society.

But the pace of recent camp closures has alarmed humanitarian groups, which say that residents are often not given enough warning — what used to be months’ notice is now a matter of days — leaving them unable to find safe harbor and, in some cases, forcing them to sleep on roadsides or on rooftops in the rain.

On Monday, authorities began gradually vacating the Jeddah 5 displacement camp in Nineveh province. Residents said security forces had entered the facility, home to 7,000 people, and told families uprooted from three villages in the province to leave or be ejected.

Most of Iraq’s displaced are women and children. More than a dozen camps are still open in Iraq’s semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, housing 182,000 people.

“They told me to leave with dignity or be dragged from my tent,” said one man in Jeddah 5, reached by phone and speaking on the condition of anonymity because he feared retribution from security forces if he was known to have spoken to a journalist.

Smoke and mirrors from the failed and corrupt Mustafa.  He'll declare the crisis ended by closing the camps.  The crisis is not ended, it's just pushed off on cities.  He's an abject failure and he should be called out on the world stage for evicting people from a displacement camp when they remain displaced.  The Iraqi government wasted $30 billion of funds the world gave it to address the issue by rebuilding.  They elected not to do so.  It was more important that the billions go into the pockets of corrupt officials.  Now Iraq is shutting down the camps.  

Shereena Qazi and Kareem Botane (ALJAZEERA) report:

Activists and aid groups on the ground, who wished to remain anonymous, said on Monday that the Ministry of Displacement and Migration had instructed the camp mukhtars – men who often serve as heads of their communities – to inform all families from Tal Abta, al-Mahalabiya and al-Jaban districts to depart immediately.

The Iraqi government decided to close IDP camps last October and has since been pressuring IDPs to return to their homes in other parts of Iraq. But aid groups say those areas lack basic infrastructure and the homes refugees fled have still not been rebuilt since the territorial defeat of ISIL in 2017.

In November, humanitarian agencies raised concerns about the government’s decision. Refugees are also afraid that their old neighbours might assume that they are associated with ISIL and kill them for that.

That is true, by the middle of November, there were a few mute cries from humanitarian agencies.  And that's really all there was.  The minute the press started promoting the story in the last week of October, they were doing so with a lie, they were acting as though this was good news and failing to point out that there was no place for the displaced to go.  That's how we got here.  That's why these people are being evicted.

I'm looking around at the Twitter feeds of various people with humanitarian agencies.  I don't see Iraq.  I see many places and many issues -- including facial recognition technology -- but I don't see Iraq and the displaced.  They picked the ball up late and then they dropped it and forgot it.

And this isn't just Mustafa's failure.  The US government has given a ton of US tax payer dollars to Iraq.  Where's the accountability and what's the plan?  That's the type of question Jen Psaki needs to be asked.  She's got her binder with her, in case she hasn't paid attention to Iraq since her days at the US State Dept -- where she'd always have to flip to Iraq in her binder if she was asked a question about the country on a day that there wasn't a bombing.  In her binder

In her binder, she'll find this statement to the UN Security Council from the US Mission to the United Nations' Rodney Hunter last Friday:

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 29, 2021


Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you so much. And thank you to SRSG Gamba, as well, and Under-Secretary-General Voronkov, for your remarks today. This is such an important issue, and we’re really glad to be focusing on it today.

Ambassador Ilyassov, thank you in particular for sharing your country’s experiences with us during your briefing: we applaud the efforts made by Kazakhstan to repatriate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate more than 600 foreign terrorist fighters and their associated family members from Syria and Iraq. We especially commend your focus on meeting the needs of returned children, including psychosocial recovery, and efforts to prevent their stigmatization.

The current situation we face – with more than 8,000 children of foreign terrorist fighters residing in camps in Syria and Iraq – is not tenable. The international community can and we must do more. We cannot continue to let these children languish in overcrowded environments where they suffer from inadequate shelter, food, sanitation, educational opportunities, and health care.

We acknowledge that this is a complex humanitarian and security issue made even more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic; we also understand that repatriation efforts must be handled with sensitivity and with each child’s best interest as the paramount consideration.

To address these challenges, states must first take responsibility for their citizens who engage in and support terrorism, including by repatriating, prosecuting, rehabilitating, and reintegrating their nationals who have traveled to conflict zones, as is appropriate.

States must also repatriate their most vulnerable citizens – children – from these conflict zones. The United States, for our part, has repatriated 28 Americans, including 16 children, from Syria and Iraq. Repatriation is not only the best security solution to prevent these fighters from returning to the battlefield – it’s also the right thing to do morally to prevent an already dire humanitarian condition from deteriorating further.

I’d like to take a quick moment just to stress a few key principles that must shape any efforts to repatriate children from conflict zones. First, we remind states that we must treat children formerly associated with ISIS primarily as victims.

Second, it is of the utmost importance that any effort to repatriate foreign terrorist fighters and their family members are undertaken in compliance with states’ obligations under international law – including international humanitarian law – as applicable, and that states respect the principle of non-refoulement.

Third, every child has the right to acquire a nationality, and states should seek to prevent their nationals and the children of their nationals from being deemed as stateless. Children moved to or born in conflict zones should be provided immediate adjudication of their citizenship status and provided all of the appropriate civil documentation necessary for their travel and access to healthcare, education, and other basic services.

Without this needed documentation, as we all know, children can become invisible to responders and be excluded from receiving family tracing and reunification services, child protection assistance, or the ability to participate in civil registration and vital statistics systems.

Along these lines, Mr. Chair, the Biden-Harris Administration believes that children should not be separated from their parents or caregivers whenever possible. If family preservation or reunification cannot support the safety and well-being of a child, other family care options that are in the best interest of the child should be made available. And finally, we must recognize that children are not a monolithic group, and that our rehabilitation and reintegration programs must account for different needs and capacities based on gender, age, and other factors.

As today’s briefers have mentioned, the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters has not ended with the territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. We see foreign terrorist fighters travelling with their families to join ISIS affiliates around the world, including in the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa. But there is hope, as demonstrated by the decisions of Kazakhstan, North Macedonia, the Maldives, Kosovo, Italy, Bosnia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, France, Finland, Germany, Ukraine, and others who have repatriated their citizens. Where there is the political will, we can overcome even the most difficult challenges together.

To conclude, Mr. Chair, the United States will continue to invest in preventive and responsive programming to protect children who have not yet been repatriated from conflict zones from violence and abuse. The United States sees the work of SRSG Gamba’s office, the UN monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict, and UNICEF as critical in this regard, and we welcome the SRSG’s ongoing engagement in Syria. As UNICEF’s largest donor, the United States calls on other states to join our partnership with UNICEF and other multilateral organizations by increasing your contributions so we can better leverage their expertise and capabilities in responding to the needs of children in conflict.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.


Maybe she can expand on that?

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