Let me start by noting how it used to be. A holiday weekend meant a lot of new movies. Since the pandemic, we don't get that. Not volume and certainly not quality. If they really want people to be back at the movie theaters, they need to stop with their one big release a week.
One of my favorite days for films was Christmas Day 1994. We saw Robert Altman's READY TO WEAR -- a hilarious Kim Basinger, Julia Roberts and Tim Robbins in a nice supporting story, Teri Garr, Lauren Bacall, Tracey Ullman, Lili Taylor, Sophia Loren, Rupert Everett, Sally Kellerman, Harry Belafonte and Cher. It was flawed but it a genuine film with a real point of view. We saw Gillian Armstrong's LITTLE WOMEN with Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Christian Bale and Kirsten Dunst. And I.Q. with Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Walther Matthau which was a good comedy (not great). And so you don't think they held off everything for Christmas Day, that month also saw the release of NELL with Jodie Foster, DISCLOSURE with Demi Moore, SPEECHLESS with Michael Keaton and Geena Davis (a strong comedy), Nora Ephron's MIXED NUTS with Steve Martin, Parker Posey, Jon Stewart, Madeline Kahn (a comedy that I hated when I saw it, I have never seen it since and probably should rewatch it), LEGENDS OF THE FALL, Jim Carey's DUMB & DUMBER and so much more.
These days, it's just garbage.
THANKSGIVING is garbage. I thought it would be but my girlfriend had hopes so we saw it. The worst film I have seen all year long.
WISH, which I took my nephews and nieces to on Saturday, was actually good. If you're looking for a good animated film, see WISH.
NAPOLEON is good enough to restore your faith in films in 2023.
Ridley Scott's made a mesmerizing piece of art. Is it factual? I have no idea. I know nothing about Napoleon. But this was a film that held me from the first scene through the ending. It had power and scope and was everything Martin Scorsese's KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON wasn't. Ridley's not my favorite director. I prefer James Cameron and, yes, Martin Scorsese but Ridley is the one who delivered this year and then some. It's a visual marvel and the story grips you. I haven't been this impressed with a Ridley Scott film since GLADIATOR -- which I have never seen on TV because I saw it four times at the movies. I could see going back to watch NAPOLEON a few times more and Joaquin Phoenix should be an Academy Award nominee for his outstanding performance.
If you have NETFLIX, please go stream NYAD and RUSTIN. Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Courage -- momentary and otherwise" praised the films which is why I watched. They are more than worth streaming. Also please read Betty's "TV: Courage -- momentary and otherwise"
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
The rhetoric of ‘humanitarian pause’ is illustrative of a media disinformation campaign designed to affirm certain attitudes and stigmatize others. For instance, the Israeli pledge to resume the war after this brief interlude of relative calm rarely includes critical comments on the sinister nature of this commitment to reengage Hamas by recourse to genocidal warfare. In contrast, when released hostages report humane treatment by their captors this is either belittled or altogether ignored, whereas if released Palestinian prisoners were to make analogous comments about how they enjoyed Israeli prisons their words would be highlighted. We can only imagine the harsh response of Western media outlets to Russia’s participation in a comparable pause in the Ukraine War, dismissing any humanitarian pretensions by Moscow as cynical state propaganda.
Unless properly addressed the whole provenance of ‘humanitarian pause’ is misunderstood. Remember that Israel’s political leaders went ahead with such an alternative only when it was made clear that Israel had no intention of converting the pause into a longer-range ceasefire, to be followed by ‘day after’ negotiations as to the viability of continuing occupation and a new agreement as to governance arrangements for Hamas. Rather than sustaining their nationalist cult by dismissing Hamas as ‘terrorists’ the security of Israel might be enhanced by treating Hamas as a legitimate political entity, which although guilty of violations of international law, is far less guilty than Israel if a fair evaluation is made, and some account is taken of Hamas’ long-term ceasefire diplomacy is considered as a preferable security alternative.
In retrospect, I understand better the rationale behind this apparently genuine Hamas efforts, which I received first-hand evidence of due to extended conversations with Hamas leaders living in Doha and Cairo while I was UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories a decade ago. Israel could not take seriously what appeared to be beneficial from its security perspective of such Hamas initiatives or the 2002 Arab Peace Proposal issued in Mecca. Both Hamas and the Arab proposal conditioned peace on withdrawal from the Occupied Territory of the West Bank, which has long been in the gun sights of the settler wing of the Zionist Project, and consistently given priority over Israeli security by its leaders, long before Netanyahu’s Coalition made this unmistakably clear when it took over in January of 2023. Israel never accepted the internationally presumed notion that a Palestinian state would include the West Bank and have its capital in East Jerusalem.
It is this unwillingness to take account of the master/slave structure of prolonged occupation that gives a specious plausibility to both sides’ narratives embodying the delusion that Israel and Occupied Palestine are formally and existentially equal. Such narratives equate, or invert, the Hamas attack with the Israeli genocidal onslaught that followed, regarding the former as ‘barbaric’ while the latter is generally sympathetically described as Israel’s reasonable and necessary entitlement to defend itself. Variations of such themes are integral to the apologetics of former US mediating officials such as Dennis Roth or liberal Zionist casuists such as Thomas Friedman.
The Nation this week published a piece about Israel's genocidal war on the Gaza Strip that the Harvard Law Review
commissioned from a Palestinian scholar but then refused to run after
several days of internal debate, a nearly six-hour meeting, and a board
The essay—"The Ongoing Nakba: Towards a Legal Framework for Palestine," by Rabea Eghbariah, a human rights attorney and doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School—begins: "Genocide is a crime. It is a legal framework. It is unfolding in Gaza. And yet, the inertia of legal academia, especially in the United States, has been chilling."
The controversy over Eghbariah's own piece helps prove his point. In an email to Eghbariah and Harvard Law Review president Apsara Iyer, online chair Tascha Shahriari-Parsa, one of the editors who commissioned the blog article, called the bid to kill it an "unprecedented decision" by the academic journal's leadership.
The Interceptreported on that email and others from those involved:
"As online chairs, we have always had full discretion to solicit pieces for publication," Shahriari-Parsa wrote, informing Eghbariah that his piece would not be published despite following the agreed-upon procedure for blog essays. Shahriari-Parsa wrote that concerns had arisen about staffers being offended or harassed, but "a deliberate decision to censor your voice out of fear of backlash would be contrary to the values of academic freedom and uplifting marginalized voices in legal academia that our institution stands for."
Both Shahriari-Parsa and the other top online editor, Sabrina Ochoa, told The Intercept that they had never seen a piece face this level of scrutiny at the Law Review. Shahriari-Parsa could find no previous examples of other pieces pulled from publication after going through the standard editorial process.
In a statement, the Harvard Law Review said that it "has rigorous editorial processes governing how it solicits, evaluates, and determines when and whether to publish a piece. An intrinsic feature of these internal processes is the confidentiality of our 104 editors' perspectives and deliberations. Last week, the full body met and deliberated over whether to publish a particular blog piece that had been solicited by two editors. A substantial majority voted not to proceed with publication."
According to The Nation, 63% of editors who participated in the anonymous vote opposed publication.
"At a time when the Law Review was facing a public intimidation and harassment campaign, the journal's leadership intervened to stop publication," 25 editors said in a statement shared with The Nation and The Intercept. "The body of editors—none of whom are Palestinian—voted to sustain that decision."
"We are unaware of any other solicited piece that has been revoked by the Law Review in this way," they added. "This unprecedented decision threatens academic freedom and perpetuates the suppression of Palestinian voices. We dissent."
Eghbariah wrote in an email to an editor: "This is discrimination. Let's not dance around it—this is also outright censorship. It is dangerous and alarming."
It is also part of a broader trend identified by more than 1,700 lawyers and law students. In a letter to the American Bar Association last week, they noted "increasing instances of discrimination and censorship faced by Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Black, Indigenous, immigrant, and other communities within law schools, universities, law firms, and other corporate entities, particularly due to their expression of support for the Palestinian people."
In a post on X, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the start of the humanitarian pause and the entry of aid into Gaza, calling it a “step in the right direction”.
“But much more is needed,” he warned.
“We continue to call for a sustainable ceasefire to end further civilian suffering.”
Pro-Palestinian rallies have been going on for weeks across the country. The protests are dominated by young people.
That's not a surprise for Associate Professor Tanya Notley, who leads the Advancing Media Literacy research program at Western Sydney University.
"Young people who are really highly engaged with news are also more likely to be taking a range of civic actions in their communities, and on the issues that matter to them," the media academic said.
Once again, it is our western governments that have endorsed and supported Israel’s war of annihilation. And like the invasion of Iraq 20 years before, millions have taken to the streets to protest against a war launched in their name.
Gaza is also a war of narratives, of governments against their people, with western corporate media attempting to hold a line in favour of Israel’s legitimacy while millions in western countries are increasingly seeing the scales fall from their eyes.
Last week, a group of 50 people drove onto the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge during the morning rush hour and stopped their cars, throwing their car keys into the bay and blocking traffic for hours. “Fifteen protesters covered themselves in shrouds and laid down in front of vehicles to represent dead bodies in Gaza,” the New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, in Washington State on 7 November, hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators rallied at the Port of Tacoma to block a military supply vessel they believe was carrying weapons from the United States to Israel.
“We want a ceasefire now. We want people to stop getting murdered now. We want a real examination and action on US foreign policy and US funding to Israel,” said Wassim Hage, community outreach coordinator with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, an organiser of the Tacoma rally.
Other groups have blocked ports to prevent weapons shipments being loaded onto ships for Israel, in California, Belgium, Australia, and at a BAE arms factory in Kent, UK. This kind of direct action protest to block weapons shipments is spreading.
As our political elites give carte blanche support to Israel’s total war on the Gaza Strip’s 2.2 million Palestinians, global protests, including direct actions and sit-ins at major rail terminals from New York to London, are sweeping European and American cities.
The brief lull in Israel’s savage onslaught on the defenceless civilian population of Gaza scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. local time Thursday is widely being presented as a “ceasefire,” or at least a “humanitarian pause.”
Assuming the agreement is fulfilled, which is by no means assured, it will amount to little more than an operational pause in Israel’s military offensive to ethnically cleanse Gaza by carrying out a genocide against the Palestinian people.
The terms of the agreement, mediated by Qatar and the United States, include the release by Hamas of 50 women and children among the approximately 240 Israelis captured by Hamas fighters during the October 7 incursion into Israel. In return, Israel will release 150 Palestinian detainees, halt fighting in the Gaza Strip for four days, and permit 200 trucks carrying aid to enter the enclave each day. The number of Palestinian detainees being released is minuscule compared to the over 10,000 Palestinians held in detention by Israel under the most brutal conditions, including routine torture.
The agreement remains highly unstable, illustrated by the announcement late Wednesday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser that the release of the first hostages would be delayed by up to 24 hours and only take place Friday. During the four-day pause, Israel will refrain from operating aircraft and drones over southern Gaza, but in the north they will only do so during a short window between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. each day.
All Israeli ground forces will remain in place, ready to resume battle at a moment’s notice. As Netanyahu put it at a press conference Wednesday evening, “When the pause is done, we resume the war. It may be that we are forced to do so much earlier.” He also rejected any suggestion that the pause applied to Israel’s northern border, where the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have been striking Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon. Underlining the point, War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz told the same press conference, “What’s happening now in northern Gaza can also happen in southern Lebanon and Beirut.”
The United States has conducted two retaliatory airstrikes against Iraqi militias this week after ballistic missile attacks against America’s Al Asad Air Base, the latest in a troubling tit-for-tat between the U.S. and Iran-backed militias in the region that was triggered by the Israel-Hamas conflict.
CENTCOM appears to believe that the status quo of attack and reprisal with Iraqi militias is sustainable. There’s an assumption that Washington, Iran, and Iraq’s militias understand each other’s red lines. However, this assumption comes with a lot of risks.
The potential for one-upmanship between various Shi’a militias, each trying to prove they’re more hostile toward Americans than the others, is a concerning possibility. A deadly attack on U.S. troops could prompt the Biden administration to respond more forcefully, especially in an election year. What is the administration’s plan to manage escalation and prevent a larger regional war (with heavy U.S. involvement) if this were to occur?
While the timing and scale of the war in Gaza may have been unpredictable, it was always evident that the presence of scattered U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria posed a risk of escalating the U.S. into greater conflict in such an unpredictable region. That’s why I’ve long argued for rethinking America’s military posture in Iraq, including in new research this year exploring how Washington could conduct a phased withdrawal of troops and successfully recalibrate our approach to the country and region.
It is true that the presence of U.S. military advisors in Iraq helps maintain cohesion and a working relationship between competing factions of Iraq’s military. U.S. troops also offer critical capabilities in the fight to contain ISIS. But it is time for Washington to consider whether these benefits are outweighed by the risk of malign actors using U.S. troops to provoke a wider conflict – either intentionally or inadvertently.
While the risks of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq are apparent, the overall utility of their presence is unclear (particularly in deterring attacks on themselves). With each new day comes a fresh opportunity for crisis. It’s past time Washington grappled with the true costs and benefits of our military presence.
The Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fuad Hussein, confirmed on Wednesday that the recent US escalation is dangerous and violates the sovereignty of Iraq.
Hussein’s statements took place during his meeting with the US Ambassador to Iraq, Alina Romanowski, according to a statement cited by the Iraqi News Agency (INA).
The Iraqi Foreign Minister conveyed the government’s disapproval of the recent US strikes against sites belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces in the Babylon governorate’s Jurf Al-Nasr, without the Iraqi government’s knowledge.
Earlier on Wednesday, the spokesperson of the Iraqi government, Basem Al-Awadi, mentioned in a statement that the Iraqi government considers the recent escalation a dangerous step involving an unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
At least five people were killed in the early hours of Wednesday after PMF sites southwest of Baghdad were targeted by air strikes carried out by US forces.
The US press -- and US think tanks -- can lie all they want but the reality is that on Wednesday, the US government physically attacked the Iraqi military. And that's not just how the Iraqis see it -- which would be bad enough -- that's how it actually is. Tom O'Connor (NEWSWEEK) notes, "Iraq, considered by the United States to be a regional security partner, has strongly condemned President Joe Biden's decision to conduct airstrikes against militias accused of attacking U.S. forces in the country, warning that a cycle of unrest threatens to destabilize the nation." Julian Benocha (RUDAW) reports:
“We vehemently condemn the attack on Jurf al-Nasr, executed without the knowledge of Iraqi government agencies. This action is a blatant violation of sovereignty and an attempt to destabilize the security situation,” Basem al-Awadi, spokesperson for the Iraqi government, said in a statement.
The statement came hours after US warplanes struck pro-Iran fighters in Jurf al-Nasr (formerly Jurf al-Sakhar) in northern Babil province, around 60 kilometers southwest of Baghdad. Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi) confirmed to AFP that the strikes left eight fighters dead.
Wednesday’s strike came hours after the US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced its first retaliatory strike targeting Iran-backed groups in Iraq since the start of the attacks on American personnel in Iraq and Syria over Washington’s support for Israel in its war against Gaza. The first retaliatory strike resulted in “several enemy casualties,” according to CENTCOM.
“The Iraqi government is solely dedicated to enforcing the law and holding violators accountable, a prerogative exclusively within its purview. No party or foreign agency has the right to assume this role, as it contradicts Iraqi constitutional sovereignty and international law,” the government statement said, labeling the recent escalations as “a dangerous development.”
He further criticized the US-led global coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS) for steering away from its intended mission of supporting Iraqi armed forces in the fight against the jihadist group.
“The recent incident represents a clear violation of the coalition’s mission to combat [Arabic acronym for ISIS] on Iraqi soil,” the statement added.
Iraq? As we focus on the assault on Gaza, we mention Iraq, we do not focus on it. Cilia e-mailed asking if there was anything I felt we missed re: Iraq?
Yeah, Speaker of the House Mohammed al-Halbousi was removed from his post. By the country's Supreme Court. He was removed from office over an accusation that he forged the signature of MP Laith al-Dulaimi. The court removed al-Dulaimi from office as well.
The story we didn't have time for. I read over the Iraqi Constitution and there's nothing in there that gives the Federal Court the power to remove any MP from office. The Council of Representatives has the power to remove one of its members. But the Court has no say in that at all. They can't even arrest for a felony (in Iraq, forgery is a felony) without the permission of the Council of Representatives.
They've created a power for themselves that does not exist.
By removing both the accuser and the accused (al-Dulaimi and al-Halbousi), they've also made clear that they didn't determine guilt in the matter. Now they would have had to have had permission to do that from the Council. That's in the Constitution. So removing both the accuser and the accused? That makes no sense. One was telling the truth, one wasn't. I have no idea which.
But the Supreme Court has no power to remove a member from the Council -- Speaker or otherwise. This should could cause an outcry in Iraq for that reason. It should also alarm legal observers around the world.
The Supreme Court in Iraq now believes it can remove any member of Parliament. And no one got convicted, by the way. Grasp that as well. So anytime the Court doesn't like a member of Parliament or that members politics, it's now claiming it can remove the member. That is not how the government and its checks and balances are structured in the country's Constitution.