Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 in film (Ann and Stan)

 Ann and Stan back with with our annual look at film.

First some good news, we don't have to list 8 awful films of the year.  We thought we'd have to do that.  Because this wasn't a good year in film.  So we prepared ourselves for explaining how Brad Pitt is not now -- and, as Betty noted -- really has never been box office.  How many flops before the now gruesome looking man gets sent to supporting roles -- on TV sitcoms!  He could never act but he used to be something to look at -- before all the drinking showed up on his face and waistline.  BABYLON is his failure.  He's featured more than anyone else in the trailer -- including in his underwear which, as late as 2014, might have sold some tickets but now he just looks like a paunchy, jowly, elderly actor

Second, we fought.  The year was better than we realized and we came up with 15 films worthy of praise and whittling that down to ten involved a lot of arguing.  We hope our list inspires you -- to nod in agreement, to shout, "You're full of s**t!"  Films should inspire the imagination and we should be passionate about them.

These are our picks.


This south Korean movie is a syfy classic though for many people, they'll need to discover it first.  Twists and turns, the most amazing visuals, it's the foreign film even subtitle-haters could embrace.


Hey, Julia Roberts, pay attention, this is how you make a romantic comedy.  Sandra Bullock is a romance author who ends up forced to promote her latest novel which means appearing with Channing Tatum -- the model for the cover of her books.  She loathes him.  She does not respect him.  She accidentally pulls off his long, blond wig at a book tour event.  Despite feeling nothing but disdain for Channing, he can see the hurt in her (she's become a widow) and the good in her.  When she gets kidnapped by a delightful Daniel Radcliffe and taken out of the country, Channing is off to find her.  Find her, not rescue her.  Sandra's not playing a victim and she's very much in charge of her own life -- much to the regret of her social media manager Patti Harrison.  Thrills and chills ensue, with lots of laughter and some real heat between the co-stars.  Tap Julia on the shoulder, tell her to turn around, we want to be sure she hears this part.  Channing is attractive, Julia.  People want to see him.  No one wants to see George Queenie anymore.  He'd be lucky to get a TV role thse days what with the bad plastic surgery and the increasingly mincing manner.  We thought AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS breaking your string of 100 million dollar films (domestically) would have demonstrated to you that uggos like John Cusack don't sell tickets -- not for blockbusters.  You pulled your weight, Julia, and then some, but you needed a sexually attractive male cast opposite for you to drive TICKET TO PARADISe to $100 million in North America.  Sandra drove LOST CITY to that point.  We noted it in real time.  When everyone was talking about the 'low' opening weekend, we were telling you the film was a hit and that Sandra's fans turn out week after week.  One of us (Stan) noted the film passed 4100 million before DEADLINE finally woke up and took notice and wrote their own story many, many days after.


This was the best action film of the year.  And it was perfectly cast: Mark Wahlberg, Tom Holland, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabriell and Rudy Pankow.  Everything worked in this film -- which so rarely happens.  Reviewers didn't like it?  Wah.  They missed out.  


7) TAR 

Reviewers liked TAR.  We did as well.  Cate Blanchette has rightly won raves.  We hope she has an Academy Award nomination coming and we hope that Todd Field does as well.  We'd also love to see Todd act again.  His line delivery in SLEEP WITH ME, when his wife is calling him and he says that sometimes you start to hate the sound of your own name?  Perfection.  It's that sort of nailing the moment that probably explains best why he's one of our least productive film directors but one of our finest.


Superhero films throughout 2022 -- and there were many -- repeatedly disappointed.  BLACK ADAM offered much more than an origin storyline even if so many missed it.  Will be kind and not note the 'professional writer' who, just this week, wanted you to know about how the superheroes sent to the area were not a good thing for the people -- but seemed unaware that this was picking up on the critique made in BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE but also that the film also criticized the Australian military that had been sent in prior to the superheroes.  Everyone gives a remarkable performance in the film but let us especially note Dwayne Johnson and Sarah Shahi.


This is the second foreign film on our list.  Amitabh Reza Chowdhury directs this Bangladesh film about Naima who puts aside her dreams of being a painter to bring money home for her family now struggling due to her father's illness.  She dresses as a boy and uses her father's rickshaw to bring money in.  But does she have to sacrifice everything in order to save her family?  This is very moving film.  


Michelle Yeoh should be walking home with the Academy Award for Best Actress.  (By the way, read Ava and C.I. on the prospect of eliminating the Best Actress Academy Award.)  She's not the only one who seems a sure winner.  We'd argue Sally Field should be winning Best Supporting Actress for SPOILER ALERT.  It's a good movie, but Sally is the best thing in it.  Michelle is amazing in EEAAO but she's not the best thing in it.  Equally strong is the directing and the writing and the rest of the members of the cast.  She's the cherry on top, if you like, but she's delivering a first rate performance in a first rate film.  This film has action and, more important, thought.  


THE CATHERINE TATE SHOW was a very hilarious sketch comedy series.  One of Tate's characters was Nan.  Who?  Jamie's grandmother who always seem so sweet until she opens her mouth.  When not launching into hateful remarks, she's telling anyone who will listen that her straight grandson is gay.  Nan is a nightmare.  Tate and Mathew Horne return as Nan and Jamie.  She wants to go on holiday but Jamie thinks she needs to see the sister she stopped talking to decades ago (the sister stole the man Nan was in love with) because the sister is dying.  A road trip ensues, not the one Nan planned on and revelations that emerge were certainly not what Nan planned on.  Watch Nan dazzle and take over a nightclub, watch her be pursued for terrorism, it's a hilarious road film, probably the best since PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE. 


James Cameron returns with an amazing film.  AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is a great sequel but it is so much more than that.  If you are one of the few people who did not see the original AVATAR, you can still follow along with the second film.  The visuals are stunning and the film is thought provoking -- especially with regards to our relationship with the world around us and with the inhabitants -- not just people, but the entire environment.  Amazing actions scenes.  Amazing everything.  It could easily have topped our list.  But there was a movie that said even more.

And the champ?


This was a hilarious comedy and the strongest romantic storyline of the year.  As a community, we loved this film:


    Before it moved to streaming, C.I. promoted the film daily at THE COMMON ILLS.

    We did that because it is a great film.  

    But, as C.I. noted early on, there was a backlash to the film.  And a backlash by people who didn't know what they were talking about with regards to the film.  But they did know that they hated gay people, they did know that they loathed the LGBTQ community.  

    As Ava and C.I. would explain in "BROS: An American Film Classic (Ava and C.I.):"

    BROS.  It was supposed to be just a film but it became so much more.

    [. . .]

    Our response that Monday was anger.  We were appalled by the box office -- and we knew it was going to be low.  But we were appalled because, over and over, the LGBTQ+ community was there throughout 2022 -- lifting others up and sharing the stage.  That included on that awful NETFLIX special we called out, the supposed PRIDE special, which let Sandra Bernhard take the stage to address . . . abortion.   When ROE was killed by Clary Thomas and others on the illegitimate court, the LGBTQ+ community could have been silent.

    Outside of rape, it's not really a pressing issue for that community.  If a lesbian is pregnant, outside of rape, it's pretty much because she wants to be, for example. 

    But they didn't take a pass.  As a community, they came out strong and loud about the death of ROE.

    And where's the straight community been all year long?

    Jonathan Turley?  Our legal expert?  He's said that LGBTQ+s have nothing to fear from this court and that despite Clarry Thomas noting in his concurring opinion in DOBBS that the same right to privacy the Court denies exists for ROE also does not exist for marriage equality or, for that matter, anal sex.  

    Jonathan wants you to know that the Court will never, ever, go after these two issues.  This is the same Turley who wanted you to know that the Court would not overturn Roe in 2022.  So, forgive us, we're not really believing Jonathan Turley these days.



    Help us out -- which one of them has done a program -- a full segment -- on how DOBBS could threaten the LGBTQ+ community?

    Answer: None of them.

    Gay activists and gay celebrities did not go silent about reproductive rights after DOBBS was issued.  but we can't say the same for the straight community, can we?

    And it was apparently too much for our community to get it off its lazy ass and go to the movies and see BROS. It was just too much for us.  Buying a ticket and all.  

    Billy's right to be offended.  Time and again, we expect every community to serve us but we don't appear to want to return the favor.

    While we refused, as a community, to support BROS, the right-wing was very happy to use the box office as a referendum on gay rights.  Did you miss that as well?

    When the LGBTQ+ community is under attack, we took a pass and fed the right-wing.  

    America doesn't like gays, that's what the right-wing is taking from BROS.  

    Thank you, to our fellow straights, for doing your part to oppress.

    That's all you did.  You're rather see some crappy movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis who, let's be honest, wants you to now care about trans people because of her daughter but when asked -- by a Howard Stern personality -- about the rumors that she was born intersex, Jamie screamed and snarled that children were present (she was promoting her children's book) and "How dare you!"


    Apparently, that video has vanished from the internet so we will go with the closest approximation of that moment, Derek from THE CATHERINE TATE SHOW.

    And some thought Jamie Lee couldn't do comedy.  (Here's a post with the video of Jamie Lee losing it and responding, "How dare you!")

    After that was published, the only YOUTUBE program that bothered to cover the attacks on the LGBTQ+ community was REVOLUTIONARY BLACKOUt which devoted two episodes to the topic.

    This despite the fact that so much hatred was being aimed at the LGBTQ+ community.  And BROS is aware of it.  As Ava and C.I. pointed out this month, the issues raised in The House Oversight and Reform Committee's hearing on  "The Rise of Anti-LGBTQI+ Extremism and Violence in the United States" were covered in the film.  

    These events just add to the importance of a film that was already ground breaking and already hilarious.  It's our pick for the film of 2022.

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

    Friday, December 30, 2022.   REUTERS lies for Moqtada again, ISIS remains active in Iraq (as CENTCOM admits), a former prime minister denies abuse allegations made by THE WASHINGTON POST, Glenn Greenwald and that Mother Tucker Carlson continue their "Bad Bromance" and much more.

    2022 is not over but it is winding down.  In his last column for the year, Jeffrey St. Clair (COUNTERPUNCH) looks back at the year and notes many things including:

    + Glenn Greenwald’s insta-column posted soon after the Buffalo massacre is one of his most revolting. It read less as a defense of his pal Tucker Carlson than a “manifesto-by-proxy” of Glenn’s own rancid views on immigration…

    + After Greenwald’s full-throated defense of Replacement Theory, you wonder how much longer he’ll have any utility at all to the rightwing roosts he’s been perching on for years, where he was only useful because they portrayed him as a left-winger attacking the Left. Now he’s clearly just another reactionary craving the spotlight to air his writhing knot of grievances. But Glenn’s not nearly as entertaining as the 100-proofers Marjorie Taylor Greene, Dan Bongino or Gregg Gutfeld. More & more, his airplay on Fox will be “replaced” by Gabbard.

    [. . .]

    + Five minutes after Paul Gosar (Bigot-AZ) claimed that the Ulvade mass murderer was a “transsexual leftist illegal alien”, Glenn is lamenting to his soul(less)mate Tucker Carlson how the left is politicizing the shooting…


    It's been quite a year for Glenn.  Not one of accomplishment.  He hasn't accomplished anything in 2022.  He's Tweeted.  He's rolled dogged -- not raw dogged -- with his buddy Tucker Carlson providing cover for Tucker to hide behind as Tucker continues to attack the LGBTQ+ community.  Glenn did that in college too -- he chuckled at anti-gay 'jokes' and cozied up to the anti-gay people.  made him feel cool in his acid washed jeans and he liked being the token.

    It's a difficult time for him now.  His husband could die at any moment, for example.  Glenn's decided that instead of hanging around the hospital -- the way, say Debbie Harry did when Chris Stein got ill -- a boy's just got to Tweet and start a new daily talk show.  He's so Jules in ST. ELMO'S FIRE, oh-oh.

    Apparently, Glenn does believe in some sacrficie -- hair and make up staff are non-existent on his show and we get to see how ugly Glenn's face really is when no one can put powder on him.  

    But he's being remembered this year.  For example:

    Glenn Greenwald and that Mother Tucker, the bromance of 2022.  Picture this, indeed.

    Over to Iraq . . . 

    Eve Ottenberg (COUNTERPUNCH) observes:

    The American republic morphed well over a century ago into an empire of many endless wars. With U.S. troops still in Syria, Iraq, Somalia and numerous African countries, with over 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and a war budget of roughly one trillion dollars a year, it’s no surprise that one of our main exports is weapons and that arms merchants call the shots in Washington. Presidents come and go, but the wars don’t: they drag on. And when a president does manage to extract the country from one of these military quagmires, as Biden did in Afghanistan, he gets nothing but grief. 

    Troops remain everywhere.  And there's been no ending to the Iraq War.   Eve asks a question and then provides the sad truth:

    How long will U.S. soldiers remain in Iraq and Syria? Let’s just say that at the current rate of political change, if your grandchildren enlist, they could wind up there. The only real hope is that another president will do there what Biden did in Afghanistan, though maybe without the sanctions

    Need more proof that the war drags on?  CENTCOM is claiming they killed 700 members of ISIS in Iraq and Syria this year.  No, the year's not over yet but they made the announcement yesterday.  Maybe ISIS told CE NTCOM that they were  taking off today and tomorrow?  Here's the CENTCOM release:

    Dec. 29, 2022
    Release Number 20221229-1

    TAMPA, Fla. – Throughout 2022, US Central Command and partner forces conducted hundreds of operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These operations degraded ISIS and removed a cadre of senior leaders from the battlefield, to include the emir of ISIS and dozens of regional leaders as well as hundreds of fighters. All these operations were part of the mission to degrade the terror group’s ability to direct and inspire destabilizing attacks in the region and globally, to include against the US homeland.

    During calendar year 2022, CENTCOM conducted 313 total operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria as follows:

     In Syria:

     108 partnered operations
     14 US unilateral operations
     215 ISIS operatives detained
     466 ISIS operatives killed

     In Iraq:
     191 partnered operations
     159 ISIS operatives detained
     At least 220 ISIS operatives killed

    These operations were conducted under the authority of the CENTCOM commander, who retains authority for operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and under the command of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. No US forces were injured or killed in these operations. Our local partners—the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces—have and continue to play a critical role ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS.

    One year ago this month, the US security relationship with Iraq fully transitioning to a role of advising, assisting, and enabling Iraqi Security Forces. Iraqi Security Forces are now leading successful unilateral offensive operations at the brigade level and making impressive strides in combined arms operations.

    “Over the past year, Iraqi Security Forces demonstrated an ability to continue operations to degrade ISIS, to aggressively pursue the terror group in Iraq, and to improve security and stability within Iraq,” said General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, CENTCOM commander. “Today, they display a high level of competence, professionalism, and progress in leading tactical operations, but there is still much work to be done.”

    “In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to display the will, skill, and ability to aggressively root out ISIS leaders and fighters,” Kurilla continued.

    “The emerging, reliable and steady ability of our Iraqi and Syrian partner forces to conduct unilateral operations to capture and kill ISIS leaders allows us to maintain steady pressure on the ISIS network,” said Major General Matt McFarlane, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.

    ISIS maintains malign intentions regarding the al-Hol Displacement Camp and the more than two dozen detention centers in Syria secured by the Syrian Democratic Forces. ISIS also maintains the desire to strike outside of the region and continues to work with affiliates around the globe, most significantly in Afghanistan and Africa.

    “CENTCOM sees ISIS in three categories,” said Kurilla. “First, ISIS at large. This is the current generation of ISIS leaders and operatives we are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria. While we have significantly degraded its capability, the vile ideology remains unconstrained. We must continue to pressure ISIS through our partnered operations.”

    “The second category is ISIS in detention. There is a literal ‘ISIS army’ in detention in Iraq and Syria. There are, today, more than 10,000 ISIS leaders and fighters in detention facilities throughout Syria and more than 20,000 ISIS leaders and fighters in detention facilities in Iraq.” The January 2022 ISIS prison breakout in Al-Hasakah, Syria is a reminder of the risk imposed by these prisons. The ensuing fight to contain the breakout resulted in more than 420 ISIS killed and more than 120 partnered forced killed.

    “Finally,” Kurilla continued, “we have the potential next generation of ISIS. These are the more than 25,000 children in the al-Hol camp who are in danger. These children in the camp are prime targets for ISIS radicalization. The international community must work together to remove these children from this environment by repatriating them to their countries or communities of origin while improving conditions in the camp.”

    “CENTCOM remains focused on supporting these security forces as they diligently work to improve conditions at the camp. However, the only viable long-term solution remains the successful repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the camp residents back to their country of origin.”

    The mission to defeat ISIS will continue in 2023 as CENTCOM and its Coalition partners remain committed to the enduring defeat of the terror group in order to maintain and enhance global security, stability, and human rights.

    “We are committed and, more importantly, our partners in Iraq and Syria are committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said McFarlane.

    As we have said over and over, since the White House and Iraq insisted in 2014 that ISIS was vanquished, ISIS has not gone away.

    A terrorist group carries out activies to strike fear.  It really doesn't occupy and control land.  ISIS, however, did manage to do that.  All that 2014 accomplished was freeing Mosul and other areas from ISIS' control.  They remain active.  We were laughing at SKY NEWS' realization of that fact earlier this year.  ISIS hasn't gone away.  

    And you don't 'defeat' terrorism with military measures.  You defeat it by overturning the conditions that allowed to breed to begin with.

    Military measures?  That's like setting off a fogger in a room your house or aparment.  That just sends the bugs to another room.  That's all military measures do as well.  

    Despite the fact that ISIS continues to terrorize, the Iraqi government is (again) moving to shut down camps where displaced Iraqis have taken shelter.  ANADOLU AGENCY reports that the plan is to shut them down over the next six months:


    Iraqi Immigration and Displacement Minister Ivan Faik Jabro stressed that as part of the government's 2023 planning, the camps will be closed in about six months and migrants sent back to their homes.

    He noted that other ministries will also support the project and necessary positive living conditions will be provided to migrants where they will return.

    Jabro emphasized that the infrastructure of places belonging to immigrants that became unusable during [the] terror group attacks should be re-zoned.

    "Infrastructure, water, electricity and municipal services should be provided in the immigrants’ areas as soon as possible,” said Jabro. “In the next six months, the relevant ministries must definitely fulfill their duties.

    So it will be taken of?  Great.  Now the took the school project, right?  What's that?  They put it on hold:

    Iraq is pushing ahead with plans to build 1,000 schools under an agreement with Chinese companies but the project is delayed by the war in Ukraine, an official has said. 

    Chinese firms agreed to construct the schools in Iraq’s 15 governorates under their 2019 oil-for-projects accord which stipulates supplying companies from China with crude oil in exchange for projects they undertake in Iraq. 

    The project to build 1,000 schools has achieved “good execution rates” but there are obstacles, said Nazim Hameedi, School Projects Director at the Iraqi Cabinet Secretariat. 

    “These obstacles include land allocation and logistics problems…most of these obstacles have been tackled except for funding from the executing companies due to the war in Ukraine…as a result Iraqi firms undertaking such projects for their Chinese  partners are trying to seek domestic loans to complete these projects,” Hameedi told Aliqtisad News. 

    They're "pushing ahead with plan" even though "the project is delayed."  What great spin for a project that's been dragging on since 2019.  Doesn't instill trust that, after the kick the refugees out of the camps, the places for these displaced Iraqis to live will actually have been built.

    These stalled and never completed projects go to the extreme corruption in Iraq.  Robert Tollast and Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) report:

    In October, Iraq’s acting finance minister Ihsan Jabbar shocked the world by announcing an investigation into $2.5 billion that had gone missing from Iraq’s General Commission for Taxes, a department in the Ministry of Finance. It was described as the heist of the century.

    The money had been given to five shell companies set up last year and investigations are ongoing, but experts tell The National that while several political parties have been implicated, senior officials are unlikely to be punished.

    Earlier this month, it was alleged that attempts to toughen anti-corruption efforts by former prime minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi ended in a series of raids against rivals resulting in the death of one suspect under torture.

    New Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani has placed a former intelligence chief and Iran-linked enforcer in a new anti-corruption team, while the new head of the country's biggest anti-corruption body is close to the Iran-linked Badr Organisation, stirring fears of more purges that do little to get to the root of the problem.

    “If you look at the people in positions linked to the organisations where the theft happened, or those reported to be involved, you get a lot of political actors. From the Popular Mobilisation Forces [a largely Iran-backed militia force] to [former prime minister Mustafa Al] Kadhimi to [Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al] Halbousi to the Sadrists. It's unlikely that such a big theft went on without a major player taking a cut,” says Hamza, a consultant in Iraq who used to work for the main government auditing body. His name has been withheld for security reasons.

    Mustafa?  Earlier this month, Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim (WASHINGTON POST) reported:

    Kadhimi, who left office in October, came to power in 2020 after mass anti-corruption demonstrations felled his predecessor. His government’s high-profile campaign to tackle graft in one of the world’s most corrupt countries drew widespread international encouragement.

    Central to the effort was a series of highly publicized night raids in late 2020 on the homes of public figures accused of corruption, conducted under the authority of the Permanent Committee to Investigate Corruption and Significant Crimes, better known as Committee 29. The architect of the raids was Lt. Gen. Ahmed Taha Hashim, or Abu Ragheef, who became known in Iraq as the “night visitor.”

    But what happened to the men behind closed doors was far darker: a return to the ugly old tactics of a security establishment whose abuses Kadhimi had vowed to address. In more than two dozen interviews — including five men detained by the committee, nine family members who had relatives imprisoned, and 11 Iraqi and Western officials who tracked the committee’s work — a picture emerges of a process marked by abuse and humiliation, more focused on obtaining signatures for pre-written confessions than on accountability for corrupt acts.

    Those interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters or, in the case of detainees and their families, to protect their safety.

    “It was every kind of torture,” one former detainee recalled. “Electricity, choking me with plastic bags, hanging me from the ceiling by my hands. They stripped us naked and grabbed at the parts of our body underneath.”

    In at least one case, a former senior official, Qassim Hamoud Mansour, died in the hospital after being arrested by the committee. Photographs provided to The Post by his family appear to show that a number of teeth had been knocked out, and there were signs of blunt trauma on his forehead.

    Allegations that the process was riddled with abuse became an open secret among diplomats in Baghdad last year. But the international community did little to follow up on the claims and the prime minister’s office downplayed the allegations, according to officials with knowledge of the issue. Although a parliamentary committee first revealed the torture allegations in 2021 and Iraqi media have raised the issue sporadically, this is the fullest attempt yet to investigate the claims and document the scale of the abuse.

    Mustafa has responded.  Chenar Chalak (RUDAW) reports:

     Iraq’s former Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Wednesday responded to the allegations of torture and extortion committed by an anti-corruption committee during his tenure, saying that the accusations lack “legal evidence” and that the committee had operated “in accordance with judicial rulings.”

    A nine-month investigation by the Washington Post earlier this month concluded that Iraq’s Permanent Committee to Investigate Corruption and Significant Crimes, also known as Committee 29, had used extreme methods of torture, including sexual violence, to extract pre-written confessions from former Iraqi officials and businessmen. The report relies on interviews with several of the detainees, their family members, as well as Iraqi and Western officials.

    In his first remarks since the publication of the article, Kadhimi stated that, during his time in office, he had always worked towards upholding human rights and preventing the “reoccurrence of any violations” in the interrogation process, adding that a report from the Attorney General at the end of 2021 stated that the committee had “adhered to all international standards of Human Rights.”

    Mustafa, no one believes your lies.  Most outlets aren't even taking the time to note that two days ago -- two days -- you denied the allegations.  Bark, guilty dog, bark.

    As the year winds down, Reporters Without Borders looks at violence aimed at journalists around the world.  They note that over the last two decades (2003 to 2022), approximately 80 journalists have been killed a year for a total of 1668.  And they note:

    During the past two decades, 80% of the media fatalities have occurred in 15 countries. The two countries with the highest death tolls are Iraq and Syria, with a combined total of 578 journalists killed in the past 20 years, or more than a third of the worldwide total. They are followed by Afghanistan, Yemen and Palestine. Africa has not been spared, with Somalia coming next.

    Sadly, there's no journalistic bravery at REUTERS these days.  That explains their latest tongue batch of cult leader and killer Moqtada al-Sadr.  "Now here are some scenes from the next episode of MOQTADA AL-SADR, MOQTADA AL-SADR," the article seems to say.  To their credit, they do note that he flopped as a 'kingmaker.'  But, before we praise them for that, two things.  First, his failure as a kingmaker is hard to deny at this late date.  Second, they were among the biggest of those pimping the lie -- starting in October of 2021 -- that he was a kingmaker.

    While they were pimping that claim, we were scoffing and disputing it.  A year later?  

    They want to lie that Moqtada has left politics -- since August.  Really?  From December 3rd:

    Need more reality?  Moqtada al-Sadr is scum of the earth.  He leads a cult and, over the years, the US press has decided to go soft on him and present as a leader (he's not) and a kingmaker (never) instead of as the cheap ass thug he actually is.  He's flaunting his true colors again.  Daniel Stewart (360 NEWS) notes:

    "I vow to confront homosexuality or the LGBTQ community through ethical, peaceful and religious means, against this violation of the innate characteristics on which humanity is built," according to a statement accompanied by his signature and posted on Twitter by his spokesman Salé Mohamed al Iraqi.

    The cleric has reiterated his message by calling for the creation of an abolition of the alleged law of homosexuality in Iraq because "it cannot be a door to generalize this affliction".

    In reality, homosexuality has been legal in Iraq for 20 years because the country does not have a law explicitly criminalizing it.

    However, it does have a regulation prohibiting "immodest acts," probably the one Al Sadr was referring to, which Human Rights Watch has described as a "vague provision that could be used to target minorities."


    Poor, dumb and uneducated Moqtada.  He can never by a religious leader above 'cleric' because he doesn't have the background and couldn't get it even when he ran off to Iran in 2007.  Poor idiot Moqtada.

    And, please don't forget, that two years ago, he explained 'the gay' caused other things as well:


    And maybe those who've been stupid enough to promote Moqtada over the last three years could wake up to reality?

    All that stuff we noted above?  REUTERS never reported on it.  They are a news agency.  Moqtada has spent the last three years demonizing Iraq's LGBTQ+ community (something he began doing in the '00s) and REUTERS has never, ever felt the need to comment on that.  They've given him one tongue bath after another. In December, he announced he was confronting gays and that's not political, REUTERS?  What a joke that outlet has become.  And, remember, I say that as someone who publicly called them out here when they installed a CIA agent in Iraq as a reporter.  That was right after Barack Obama became president.  The 'reporter' made no (journalistic) mark at REUTERS and, in fact, did such a bad job that the cover of 'reporter' hasn't been used by the agent since.  You'd think that would be REUTERS worst moment in Iraq, however, the tongue bath that they continue to give to Moqtada puts the knowing employment of the CIA agent to shame.  (To be clear, some at REUTERS told me in real time that it wasn't known the 'reporter' was CIA until after being hired and deployed to Iraq.  Regardless, the 'reporter' was enployed for a long time after everyone knew about it.)

    As for Moqtada, it's a shame he can't live in the US where he could be best buddies with Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor-Greene and do things in front of the camera with Mother Tucker Carlson.  Or live in Brazil where Glenn Greenwald could be his bodyguard -- the Kevin to Moqtada's Whitney.


    The following sites updated:

    Thursday, December 29, 2022

    Big Ask regarding James Cameron's AVATAR

    VARIETY and others are noting (I noted it yesterday) that AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER has crossed the one billion dollars in ticket sales.

    I loved the movie.  I'm seeing it on Friday because my girlfriend agreed to see it again.  I can't stop talking about the film.  

    If you're reading this and you loved the film too, I got a big ask: Please go see it again.


    It's Thursday, December 29th.  We have today and Friday and Saturday.  And then it's 2023.  If we turn out for AVATAR over the next three days, we can make it the 2022 film that sold the most tickets instead of Grandpa Cruise's nonsense.  AVATAR is an actual film that moves you.  It deserves to be the number one film of the year.  

    It will make more money than Grandpa Cruise trying to pretend he's not 60 and can still do an action film.  By the middle of next month, it'll have sold more tickets.  But I'd really love to see AVATAR, in these last days of the year, outsell GRANDPOP'S OLD GUMS: MAVERICK.


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

    Wednesday, December 28, 2022.  As Joe Biden continues to persecute Julian Assange, the cries around the world to free Julian grow stronger. 

    Starting with this from WSWS:

    On December 2, Deanna “Violet” Coco was jailed for briefly holding up one lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge on April 13 to protest governments’ refusal to halt climate change.

    In a serious attack on basic democratic rights, Coco was initially sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment, with at least eight months without parole, and denied bail. She was the first to be sentenced under laws introduced by the New South Wales (NSW) state Liberal-National government to impose fines of up to $22,000 and jail terms of up to two years for protests on roads, rail lines, tunnels, bridges and industrial estates.

    NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet personally hailed the ruling, stating that protestors who “put our way of life at risk … should have the book thrown at them and that’s pleasing to see.” Echoing Perrottet, NSW Labor Party leader Chris Minns said he did not regret supporting the new laws. Labor governments in other states have adopted similar anti-protest laws, explicitly designed to protect business interests.

    Coco appealed her sentence and was subsequently released on bail on December 13. At least a dozen other activists face imprisonment under the laws. One spent nearly four weeks in prison before being bailed on charges of organising protests after a massive police raid on a rural property near Sydney. WSWS reporters spoke with Coco last week about her protest and the precedent set by her jailing. 

    [. . .]

    WSWS: You’ve previously mentioned your support for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Could you speak about what you think of his persecution and the connection with these laws?

    VC: Julian Assange is a hero. WikiLeaks was a brave act of exposing the truth. It is clear he is being made an example of. It’s unjust. Julian needs to be brought home now.

    It’s very concerning when people doing the right thing face state repression. There have been three other climate protestors in Australia jailed for peaceful protests this year. They were sentenced to three months’ jail, and they got out on bail. People need to be really careful about what is going on in Australia right now. Tim Curry and Max Cerny were jailed for disrupting Port Botany, under disrupting infrastructure laws. Andrew George was sentenced to three months for invading a football field and setting off a flare. I was really shocked.

    This is also a global trend, with 20 activists being held in remand prison in the UK for five weeks now. This was for discussing organising a protest on a zoom call.

    We cannot let this scare us into inaction though because climate breakdown will be way worse than anything they can throw at us, and we have so little time left to make a difference, that we must act now.

    WSWS: In 2010 when the persecution of Assange began, we said that this was going to be used as a precedent. The attack on Assange was not just on him or even WikiLeaks but any journalists, or any workers who wished to oppose the trade union bureaucracy, or the companies, or the government and that the implications of this would be felt all around the world.

    VC: It’s true, people have warned me not to stand up against the ruling class because they have a monopoly on violence and dominance. It’s easy for them to commit such an attack on our freedom, or worse... However, it’s just too important of an issue to be silent. Also, remember, we are stronger together. 

    US President Joe Biden continues to persecute Julian and, for those who've forgotten, Julian's 'crime' was revealing the realities of Iraq -- Chelsea Manning was a whistle-blower who leaked the information to Julian.  WIKILEAKS then published the Iraq War Logs.  And many outlets used the publication to publish reports of their own.  For example, THE GUARDIAN published many articles based on The Iraq War Logs.  Jonathan Steele, David Leigh and Nick Davies offered, on October 22, 2012:

    A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.
    Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

    The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.
    The new logs detail how:
    US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.

    A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
    More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.

    The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent deat

    The Biden administration has been saying all the right things lately about respecting a free and vigorous press, after four years of relentless media-bashing and legal assaults under Donald Trump.

    The attorney general, Merrick Garland, has even put in place expanded protections for journalists this fall, saying that “a free and independent press is vital to the functioning of our democracy”.

    But the biggest test of Biden’s commitment remains imprisoned in a jail cell in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been held since 2019 while facing prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act, a century-old statute that has never been used before for publishing classified information.

    Whether the US justice department continues to pursue the Trump-era charges against the notorious leaker, whose group put out secret information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, American diplomacy and internal Democratic politics before the 2016 election, will go a long way toward determining whether the current administration intends to make good on its pledges to protect the press.

    Now Biden is facing a re-energized push, both inside the United States and overseas, to drop Assange’s protracted prosecution.

    Is part of that push a former prime minister of Australia?  Matthew Knott (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD) reports:

    Supporters of Julian Assange have welcomed Kevin Rudd’s appointment as Australia’s ambassador to the United States, saying they are hopeful he will use the position to press the Biden administration to drop espionage charges against the WikiLeaks founder.

    Assange remains in London’s Belmarsh prison in London as he fights a US attempt to extradite him to face charges over the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents and diplomatic cables relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    As far back as 2010, when he was serving as foreign minister, Rudd had insisted that the US government and whoever leaked the documents should be held responsible for the disclosure rather than Assange.

    In a 2019 letter to the Bring Julian Assange Home Queensland Network, Rudd said Assange would pay an “unacceptable” and “disproportionate” price if he was extradited to the US.

    Rudd said he could not see the difference between Assange’s actions and the editors of American media outlets who reported the material, adding that the US had failed to secure classified information appropriately.

    “The result was the mass leaking of sensitive diplomatic cables, including some that caused me some political discomfort at the time,” he wrote.

    “However, an effective life sentence is an unacceptable and disproportionate price to pay. I would therefore oppose his extradition.”

    Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appointed Rudd to the nation’s most prestigious diplomatic posting on Tuesday, saying he would “conduct himself in a way that brings great credit to Australia”.

    Anton Nilsson (CRIKEY) points out, "Julian Assange’s family is feeling cautiously optimistic about the appointment of Kevin Rudd a Australia’s US ambassador. Rudd has vocally supported the jailed Wikileaks founder despite being humiliated by some of the material he published."

    On June 17, 2022, the United Kingdom approved Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States to face charges, primarily under the nation’s Espionage Act, for releasing US government records that revealed the US military committed war crimes against civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the killing of two Reuters journalists. If found guilty, Assange faces a jail term of up to 175 years.

    The IFJ is gravely concerned about the impact of Assange’s continued detention on media freedom and the rights of all journalists globally. The US pursuit of Assange against the public’s right to know poses a grave threat to the fundamental tenets of democracy, which are becoming increasingly fragile worldwide. Irrespective of personal views on Assange, his extradition will have a chilling effect, with all journalists and media workers at risk.

    The case sets a dangerous precedent that members of the media, in any country, can now be targeted by governments, anywhere in the world, to answer for publishing information in the public interest. 

    Wikileaks was awarded the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism in 2011, an annual prize to reward excellence in Australian journalism, in recognition of the impact of WikiLeaks’ actions on public interest journalism by assisting whistle-blowers to tell their stories. Whistle-blowers have since been utilised by other media outlets to expose global tax avoidance schemes, among other stories. 

    The sentence of Chelsea Manning, who collaborated with Assange to release the contentious material, was commuted by President Barack Obama. None of WikiLeaks’ media partners have been charged in any US government legal proceeding because of their collaboration with Assange. Aside from the dire implications for press freedom, there is also no legal criterion for Assange’s extradition and charges.

    The IFJ is calling on the United States government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and allow him to return home to be with his wife and children. The IFJ is also calling on all media unions, press freedom organisations and journalists to urge governments to actively work to secure Assange’s release. #FreeAssangeNOW

    U.S. persecution of Assange horrifies the world. Brazil’s president-elect Luis Inacio Lula da Silva urged on November 29 that Assange be freed from his “unjust imprisonment,” which would mean that this abomination, this so-called legal case should be dropped. Colombian president Gustavo Petro met with Wikileaks and pledged on social media November 22 to “ask President Biden…not to charge a journalist just for telling the truth.” The leaders of Venezuela and Nicaragua have also called for freeing Assange. Previously, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador on two occasions petitioned Biden on Assange’s behalf. Even Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese on November 30 urged the U.S. to stop its chase of Canberra’s citizen, Assange.

    This may be the most significant plea, because Australia is an ally that almost never bucks the U.S., while the other aforementioned countries are all headed by leftists, to whom Washington might be disinclined to listen. So something could well be in the wind. But still, Albanese’s request could be met with the same resounding silence as greeted those of the Latin American leaders. Following in Trump’s footsteps, Biden has so far enabled the atrocious abuse heaped on the Wikileaks founder by the U.S. government, so it is unlikely these protests from mere heads of state will deter him from letting that obscenity under which Assange is charged, the Espionage Act, run its course. Fortunately, Assange has taken action to get his unjust treatment heard in another venue. On December 2, he filed an appeal against the decision to extradite him to the U.S. And he filed it in the European Court of Human Rights. His supporters eagerly await the verdict, even if the Exceptional Empire ignores one that contradicts its wishes.

    Joe Biden,  the world is watching you.  This will determine your legacy.  Will history remember you as someone who supported democracy, the public's right to know and a free press?  Or will history see you as just another huge disappointment, a liar who mouthed a bunch of meaningless words but never provided any real leadership?

    Turning to Iraq, THE ARAB WEEKLY notes:

    Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa al-Sudani is facing pressure from forces within the Coordination Framework to reconsider his country’s strategic agreement with the United States, at a time when he needs good relations with the US administration and wants to avoid unnecessary turbulence with Washington.

    At the same time,  he must take into consideration the position of the Coordination Framework, a coalition of pro-Iranian formations providing him with political support especially in parliament,

    Iraq and the United States signed a strategic framework agreement in 2008, which included a number of provisions regulating the presence of US forces in the country, as well as bolstering cooperation in economic, cultural and political fields.

    And then there's ISIS which also isn't going anywhere.  It was not vanquished in 2014.  The terrorist organization remains in Iraq continuing to stage attacks. SKY NEWS stumbles into reality this week as they slack-jawed observe, "While it no longer controls vast swathes of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State remains a threat and will seek to spring 10,000 of its fighters from Syrian prisons in 2023, experts say."  This as RUDAW notes:

    A spokesperson for the Iraqi army on Monday revealed that they had killed over 200 Islamic State (ISIS) fighters only in 2022.

    Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji, spokesperson for the Joint Operations Command, told Rudaw on Monday that “the number of ISIS fighters in Iraq is low and those existing are Iraqis." He added that the group has exploited the security gas between the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in disputed areas.

    The following sites updated: