Friday, July 9, 2021


BLACK WIDOW has finally been released.  It stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow.  Johansson plays Black Widow for the ninth and, presumably, final time.  (I'm counting the brief scene in the end credits of CAPTAIN MARVEL.)

She's played her in the Avengers films, in two Captain America films and one Iron Man film and, again, in one scene in CAPTAIN MARVEL.  In the last Avengers film, Black Widow died.  So BLACK WIDOW takes place earlier -- in the time after CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and before AVENGERS INFINITY WAR.  

So everyone in the Avengers except Natasha and Captain America has been arrested -- these two are on the run.  Captain America gets mentioned many times in the film but he's never in the film.

The film revolves around the notion that there are multiple Black Widows -- they were created as part of an assassination squad for Russia.  In the 90s, child Natasha and her 'sister' Yelena (Florence Pugh) are living with their 'parents' in Ohio.  But Melina (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei (David Harbour) are not really their parents.  All four are Russians, sent by Russia.  They aren't related.  Natasha grasps that but Yelena's much younger and doesn't.  As we meet them, they have to flee the US and return -- with various material they got from spying -- to Russia.

We see an adult Yelena who is tracking a rouge Black Widow with the help of other Black Widows but Yelena gets sprayed and the gas clears her mind and allows her to learn that the unit is controlled and they have been denied free will.

By this point, Natasha is wanted by the US government and is getting help from Rick Mason -- a fancy black market supplier (and, in the comics, one of Natasha's boyfriends, but not in the movie).  O.T. Fagbenle plays Mason and he only has a few scenes but he's very good in them and the film should have worked in a scene or two more for him.

Natasha and Yelena have to save the other Black Widows.  

It's a good movie and much, much better than I expected.

I think there were some good action sequences -- the best involving a prison break out.  

I recommend it strongly.  Watch the scene in the middle of the end credits and wonder if Yelena's going to pop up in Jeremey Renner's HAWKEYE series.  (You'll see why I wonder when you see who she's speaking with in that scene at Natasha's grave.)

You can see the film at a theater or, if you have DISNEY+, for $29.99.

I don't know what to call that second option -- rental?  You have access to stream it until October something when it will join DISNEY+.  But from the time you pay that amount until then, you can watch the film as many times as you want.  So if we're calling this a rental, it's a little different than an AMAZON PRIME rental.


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

 Friday, July 9, 2021.  In Iraq, what options are on the table?  In the US, will military 'justice' ever get the reform it clearly needs?

Just days ago (July 1st), FOREIGN POLICY was insisting that US President Joe Biden was "quietly" attempting "to end the 'forever wars'."  Now?   It's wondering if Iraq could be the "thorn" in aging lion Joe's paw.

They don't know the half of it.

Barack Obama?  Donald Trump?  Neither voted for the Iraq War.  Both claimed opposition for it and support for it -- in 2004, self-promoting during the Democratic convention, Barack told THE NEW YORK TIMES that if he had been in the Senate, he wasn't sure if he would have voted for the Iraq War -- but neither was a member of Congress.

They could shirk responsibility to a degree -- and both did -- to more than a degree.

Joe Biden?

Senator for Life Joe Biden voted for it.  He used his position to silence criticism of the war before it started and for many years after it started.


Joe is in the unique position of now presiding over a war that he helped start when he was in Congress.  No, that's not very common -- in part because past wars usually had an end date of some sort.

The Iraq War?  This part of the war began in 2003 and it's already 18 years later.

Joe came into the White House with more experience than anyone before him.  Much, much more than Hillary Clinton who was laughably claimed to have been the most experienced candidate ever.

From January of 1973 to January of 2009, Joe served in the US Senate.  He then served as Vice President of the United States from January 2009 through January 2017.

All those years of experience don't appear to have mattered much.

On Iraq?

He launched an air strike on militias there at the end of last month.  It was in response to threats and repeat attacks on US forces and interests in Iraq.  While some pretended outrage -- and tried to pretend they knew the law -- they really weren't able to ask the bigger question of what happens after?

The air strike didn't stop the violence -- just look at the attacks this week which have increased and left at least two US service members injured -- and wasn't that the supposed reason for them?

It wasn't a smart move.  

Jared Szuba (AL-MONITOR) notes:

Pentagon officials are monitoring the situations in Iraq and Syria with “great concern” after at least five rocket and drone attacks targeted sites used by US personnel in the two countries this week.

“You’ve seen us retaliate appropriately when that safety and security has been threatened,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday.

Three rockets landed near the US Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone on Thursday in the latest such incident. No one was reported to have been hurt, but Wednesday two US military personnel were left with what officials described as minor injuries after some 14 rockets slammed into al-Asad Airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province.

The spate of attacks comes just over a week after President Biden authorized precision airstrikes against Iran-linked militia positions in Iraq and Syria for the second time during his presidency. The strikes, which killed four militia members, were designed to end the tit-for-tat violence. They have so far failed to do so.

Their failure is one reason that Joe's now insisting he needs to analyze the situation instead of immediately bombing again as some Democrat leaders in Congress are insisting he do.  (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been most vocal demanding a response in her communication with the White House.)

Joe's reluctant to just repeat the same action and he should be.

It failed.

He should be reluctant because what is the Iraq War for the US government but repeating one failed action after another without ever learning.

Can Joe learn?  I would assume so.

But it's worth pointing out that his "experience" didn't provide him with what so many promised.

Maybe at some point in the future, we can address what qualifies as "experience" and what "experience" is actually helpful to have?

We probably can't learn that lesson.  We're too eager to be lied to.

"You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you all those pretty lies, all those pretty lies," Joni Mitchell wrote and sang on "The Last Time I Saw Richard" -- from the classic BLUE which turned fifty this year.

So we delude ourselves when people lie to us and claim, for example, "He was a community organizer!!!!"  Did he accomplish anything in that role?  "He was a community organizer!!!!"  So basically Barack signed in and out equipment at the local Y and we fell for the notion that he had the experience required to negotiate with Congress.  We lost that bet.


There are other responses than bomb and bomb again.

And the US has more pull than most want to admit.  But they buy into so many lies -- willfully -- like pretending Mustafa al-Kadhimi, in his role as prime minister of Iraq, is actually objecting to the bombing in June because Mustafa issued a statement.  He's the prime minister of Iraq.  If he wanted US troops out, he could exercise the clause in the agreement.  He refuses to do so.

MEMO reports:

The US Ambassador to Iraq has said that his country will provide $27 million to help Iraq to tackle financial crime. Matthew Tueller explained yesterday that this is part of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for the country.

"We announced a programme under which the United States of America will provide an amount of $27 million in support for UNDP in the field of training and rehabilitating the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council, legal bodies and concerned parties for the purpose of confronting financial crimes, so that these bodies can protect the Iraqi financial side and confront corruption," said Tueller at the launch ceremony in Baghdad yesterday.

Again, the US has pull in Iraq.  And there are diplomatic measures that could be taken.  

As Joe takes a moment to figure out what to do next, hopefully, he will consider all options and not just bomb-and-hope-it-works-differently-this-time.

Turning to the US military, earlier this week, Ann focused on the verdict in a 2017 shooting:

Do you care about gun control? What I do not understand is why there is always a push for more laws. Seems to me that the problem is more that the laws aren't enforced. Case in point, Davin Kelley. No, not the actress. This is the man who shot up the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017. He left 25 people dead another 20 injured.

He never should have had a gun. He was in the military and was 'convicted' while in the Air Force. But military justice thinks it's above the law. So they didn't follow the law, the US military didn't. Though he was convicted of a violent crime by 'military justice' -- domestic violence -- the Air Force did not turn the conviction over to the FBI. Had they done so, he wouldn't have been allowed to have a gun. That was my 'opinion.' Today, that became the way it is because a court ruled. AP reports:


 A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Air Force is mostly responsible for a former serviceman killing more than two dozen people at a Texas church in 2017 because it failed to submit his criminal history into a database, which should have prevented him from purchasing firearms.
U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez in San Antonio wrote in a ruling signed Wednesday that the Air Force was “60% responsible" for the deaths and injuries at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. The attack remains the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

So if the military had done their job, the terror might not have taken place. They should pay for this, they should be financially liable. And this should make us grasp that military burying convictions for rape and domestic abuse in the ranks is a danger to our society.  

That shooting might not have taken place if the US military had done their job.  But that's military 'justice' -- a system that's above the law and lets commanders determine what does and doesn't get punished.  You commit a crime, it needs to go to the civilian courts.  There is no military 'justice.'

Jonathan Turley noted:

Judge Rodriguez found that Kelley was 40 percent responsible for the shooting while the U.S. government was 60 percent responsible.

The failure to enter the data allowed Kelley to make four separate firearm purchases in preparation for his attack. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) showed Kelley as eligible to buy such firearms despite his 2012 conviction by a general court martial of domestic assault on his wife and child. That should have made him ineligible.

The ruling of liability is a major victory for those who want tougher gun enforcement. Such a judgment against a federal agency is exceptionally rare.

The ruling is proof that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is correct to fight for real reform and real justice when it comes to the US military.

She has been fighting that fight for some time. Yesterday, her office issued the following:

July 08, 2021

ICYMI: Congressional Black Caucus Endorses The Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement And Increasing Prevention Act

Comprehensive Legislation Would Advance Racial Justice And Protect Survivors

In case you missed it, yesterday, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) formally endorsed the Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, which would reform the military justice system by moving the decision to prosecute serious crimes in the military from the chain of command to trained military prosecutors. The Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act is the House companion to Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA), which has 66 co-sponsors. 

In addition to tackling the serious issue of sexual assault in the military and holding service members accountable for their crimes, the legislation would address systemic barriers to justice for service members of color. Black and Hispanic service members are more likely than white members to be tried in general and special courts-martial in all military services, and Black service members are up to two and a half times as likely to face disciplinary action as their fellow white service members. While 43% of our service members are people of color, only two of the 46 most senior admirals and generals are Black. Moving prosecution decisions to professionals could help to reduce this bias. 

See below for quotes from members of the CBC:

“The brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces deserve a system that protects survivors of sexual assault. I am proud to join my House and Senate colleagues in endorsing this critical piece of legislation that will help address the epidemic of military sexual assault while also dismantling the many barriers that prevent servicemembers from attaining justice.” - Senator Cory Booker 

“Our military justice system is failing servicemembers of color and survivors of sexual assault. The young women and men who wear the uniform and protect our country deserve a system that provides fairness and equal justice. Our military connects our communities, that’s why this fight is critical to our broader efforts reforming and transforming our broader justice system for all Americans.” - Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04)

“We must not forget Vanessa Guillén. Her story gained national attention from my colleagues and people across the country, who were outraged and protested in her honor. The time is now to pass legislation that will reform the military justice system and prosecute egregious crimes like the one that led to her death. As Chair of the CBC, I will ensure that we focus on the neglectful treatment of servicemembers of color and survivors of sexual assault. The Congressional Black Caucus, will stay focused on closing the longstanding racial inequities in our country and, as the conscience of the Congress we will keep fighting for justice.” - CBC Chairwoman Joyce Beatty  

“The murder of Vanessa Guillén shocked the nation and exposed the long-standing failures of our military justice system to protect servicemembers of color and survivors of sexual assault,” said Congressman Horsford. “The Congressional Black Caucus is honored to use our power and our message to push for the passage of this bipartisan legislation, which will make important reforms to reduce bias in our military justice system, stamp out sexual harassment and assault, and ensure that survivors can receive the justice they deserve. We need to create a culture in our military and its justice system that protects all those who answer the call to serve and reflects our values. We owe it to our servicemembers to get this done.” - CBC First Vice-Chair Steven Horsford

“Vanessa Guillén’s tragic death has been a call to action for the country regarding what must be done to protect our young soldiers from harassment and sexual assault, especially because women soldiers and soldiers of color face disproportionate punishment, as well as service-wide disparities in the way their cases are handled. While nothing can bring Vanessa back, we must do all we can to provide justice and accountability. The Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act will do this by reforming the military justice system by removing the decision to prosecute serious crimes in the military from the chain of command. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill, and I will continue to use my role on the Armed Services Committee to continue to fight for equal rights under the law for all servicemembers.” - Congressman Marc Veasey

“The Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act is a crucial step to ensure that our government and our military are stepping up to protect the brave servicemembers, women, and people of color who step up to protect and defend us every day. We must honor SPC Guillén with action by reforming our military justice system to better uphold our values and making the changes that survivors of sexual assault have been calling for.” - Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland

The following sites updated:

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