Friday, March 19, 2021

Liza and Sharon

 So Liza Minnelli had a virtual birthday party.  VARIETY reports:

A year to the day since Broadway shuttered, Liza Minnelli celebrated her 75th birthday — but not over post-show drinks with Joan Collins, in a limo in Paris with John Waters, or at her childhood home with Shirley MacLaine.

Memories like those abounded in “A Love Letter to Liza,” a benefit for the Actors Fund on Friday night, meant as a birthday tribute to Minnelli. Joined by the likes of Nathan Lane, Ben Vereen, Barbra Streisand, Carol Burnett, John Kander, Waters, MacLaine, Joan Collins, Neil Meron, Michael Feinstein and Lily Tomlin, stars gathered, performed and wished ‘Liza with a Z’ well.

In other celeb news, I try to like Sharon Stone.  I try.  Stories like this make it really hard to do so.  She's back to the well on BASIC INSTINCT.  She's whining again about the crotch shot.  She knew where the camera was.  But she's written a book -- is she going to claim to have cured herself of cancer as she did back in the late 90s? -- and she goes over the film and how she slapped the director when she say the dailies and how wrong it was and then explored her options and she could have had it pulled but in the end she didn't because it was "right" for the movie.  

Then why are you complaining?  

You did it.  You saw it.  You were mad but you decided it would stay in the film.  Why are you complaning?

An honest book would find her taking responsibility for BASIC INSTINCT 2 -- her last shot at being a film star.  Because it was a sequel, it had built-in interest.  She wasted that interest by making not just a disgusting and boring film.

She wasted it by refusing to grasp she needed a sexy co-star.

SLIVER was not a hit because of Tom Berringer.  It was a hit because people wanted to see her roll around with William Baldwin.  

She had two major male co-stars (Hugh Dancy played a minor role, he was not her co-star).  And those men left every woman in the audience drier than the Sahara.  

That's on Sharon.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 Thursday, March 18, 2021.  The 18th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War looms.

The 18th anniversary of the start of the on-going Iraq War approaches.  THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS notes:

On March 18, 2003: The Winnipeg Free Press reported that U.S. president George W. Bush declared Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had 48 hours to leave the country in exile or the U.S. and its allies would invade. Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien said Canada would not join the looming war in Iraq because the offensive did not have UN approval; his declaration in the House of Commons was met with a standing ovation.

Reverend Bill Armstrong (LARGS AND MILLPORT WEEKLY NEWS) reflects on that time period:


Have you ever joined a protest march, or written a tetchy letter to a newspaper, or even surprised your friends by standing out from the crowd, taking a stance which may seem to be out of character?

Many years ago, and for the first time in my life, I did such a thing when I joined the march in Glasgow against the impending war in Iraq; I was joined by one of my elders who was similarly concerned. The memory was stirred by the Pope’s recent visit to Iraq. 

The route was from George Square in the city, ending in a rally outside the SECC. No doubt the march had been arranged for that day and place when the then leader of the Labour Party, Tony Blair, was due to address the Labour Party Conference. The chant rose that he should come out and meet the protesters, but he escaped by another way; and the rest is history. 

In a few days, March 21st, someone born after the Iraq War began will be old enough to servce in the US miliary in Iraq.  The war is still going.  Bully Boy Bush and Congress started it, Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Congress continued it and today Joe Biden and the Congress keep it going still. 

At MILITARY.COM,  Retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis offers:                                

The U.S. military rushed thousands of combat troops to the Middle East in 1990 to prevent Saddam Hussein from capturing Saudi oil fields and disrupting global oil supplies. More than 30 years and two major land wars later, we're still there -- and still with no plan or strategy to leave.

[. . .]

In a February interview, Lt. Gen. Paul Calvert, commander of American Forces in Iraq and Syria, said that, based on conversations with Iraqi leaders and government officials, "There's a significant amount of concern in terms of the possibilities of an internal Shia civil war between those that are aligned to Iran [and] those that are Shia nationalist."

In fact, added British Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Copsey, unless the Iraqi government "comes up with a proper strategy to deal with them, in five years' time, it could end up tearing the country apart."

I fear that the default answer out of Washington -- whether senior uniformed leaders or elected officials -- will be that U.S. troops "have" to stay in Iraq to stabilize the situation.

As was patently obvious during my 2016 visit -- and as these two generals confirm is still the case -- the political and military fundamentals in Iraq remain hopelessly arrayed against a peaceful end to the fighting. It didn't matter that U.S. troops kept fighting alongside Iraq for the past five years, and it won't matter if they stay the next five years. The result will be the same: continued instability. The good news for Americans, however, is that we don't need to "solve" Iraq's problems to guarantee our security.

There is still no exit strategy just continued war and occupation all these years later.  

There is also still no functional government in Iraq.  MEME reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said on Tuesday that the country needs an open, transparent and responsible dialogue to stop the cycle of harsh days.

A government statement noted that Al-Kadhimi had received representatives from Halabja on the 33rd anniversary of the chemical weapons attack carried out on the city by Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Our people have shared harsh and sad days, not only during the dictatorial regime, but also in subsequent periods" said Al-Kadhimi. "The pain must stop. The future of our people must be better than their past, and the responsibility for this transformation lies on our shoulders."

The Iraqi premier explained that the proposed national dialogue initiative is the essence of this hope. He called last week for a national dialogue that includes political and youth forces as well as those representing protesters.

Meet Iraq's AOC, Mustafa al-Kadhimi.  He thinks a dialogue needs to be started.  Isn't that his job?  And the ongoing protests, which started in the fall of 2019, the protesters have been attempting that dialogue.  Their thanks for that?  Being beaten, being kidnapped and being killed.  By Iraqi security forces.  And with each public death, Mustafa offers a public tut-tut but never actually does anything and the violence against the protesters continue.  So his call for a dialogue is as laubhable as everything else he's done (said, actually, he doesn't do much of anything).

A long with the ongoing protests, new ones spring up.  Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) reports:

Security forces in Sulaimani fired live ammunition to disperse school students protesting in front of the education directorate’s headquarters on Thursday morning, witnesses have told Rudaw.  

Grade 12 students gathered in front of the directorate’s building for the fourth day in a row, a protesting student told Rudaw’s Horvan Rafaat. Protesters are calling for various reforms, including their pre-exam study period to be reverted to 40 days, after it was reduced to 28. 

“What we want is that the 40 days that was reduced to 28 be changed back to 40, and the amount of subject included in exams to be reduced,” Dabin Ibrahim, a protesting student told Rafaat on Wednesday.

Security forces fired into the sky as students attempted to break into the building, several students reported.

A land of orphans and widows, that's what the war left Iraq.

Baghdad, 18 March 2021 - Under the auspices of the Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers in Baghdad, a conference was held under the title “Displaced Women in Liberated Areas (Challenges and Solutions)”. In the presence of the Minister of Migrations and Displacement (MoMD) and with the participation of a number of international organizations, UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes and various ministries' representatives attendees discussed ways of support to displaced women to return to their areas of origin by setting up their own programs in line with MoMD’s plan. Here is the video message by the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq/Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ms. Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, to the participants of the conference.

The oil rich country continues to see money pour in but it gets lost before it can get to the people (corruption).  ALJAZEERA reports on the Parliament's budget process.

In other news, Sandy Rashty (THE JC) reports:

One of the last Jews living in Iraq has died aged 61.

Dhafar Fouad Eliyahu, a leading orthopaedic doctor at the al-Wasiti hospital in Baghdad, died in the capital on Sunday. There are now believed to be only three Iraqi Jews still in Baghdad.

Iraqis paid tribute to the doctor, a former student at Baghdad’s Jewish school, Frank Iny, who used to provide free medical care to people who could not afford to pay.

According to former classmates now living in London, Dr Eliyahu was highly-academic and could recite textbooks “word by word”.


Edwin Shuker, a Jew born in Baghdad now living in London, wrote about Eliyahou on Facebook:

“Thafer was an orthopedic surgeon, who served Iraq with skills and loyalty to the very last day of his life,” Shuker wrote. “Thafer worked under the most challenging of conditions, especially during the long years of war and sanctions. He continued to treat patients in the state hospitals knowing that many of them were not able to pay towards the treatment but always received each and everyone, with a broad smile and a warm welcome. His modesty was legendary and he will be sorely missed.”

Let's note this  from Restore The Fourth:

The PATRIOT Act's most invasive provisions expired on March 15th, 2020, but some lawmakers and bureaucrats want to bring back this invasive surveillance law so the government can spy on our phone calls, text messages, emails, and Internet history … without a warrant. We can’t let that happen.

Click here to tell your members of Congress to protect everyone in America from invasive government surveillance like the PATRIOT Act.

For years, the US government used the PATRIOT Act to spy on hundreds of millions of Americans, including journalists,1 whistleblowers,2 and protesters.3 They told us this massive surveillance program was necessary to keep us safe from terrorism, but internal review boards found that the government’s spying failed to identify or prevent a single terrorist attack.4 And yet lawmakers continued to renew the PATRIOT Act over and over again.

Thankfully, Congress finally let the most invasive provisions of the PATRIOT Act expire last year, and we’re all safer because of it. But some politicians and government officials have begun openly attacking our privacy rights once again. They’re likely to try to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act, or create a new law to allow them to spy on us. We have to stop them.

Click here to urge your members of Congress to protect our privacy and reject any attempt to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act!

Thanks for all you do,

Alex Marthews, Restore The Fourth

[1] The Intercept

[2] CNN

[3] Brennan Center

[4] Vox

We'll wind down with this from Glenn Greenwald (SUBSTACK):

Journalists with the largest and most influential media outlets disseminated an outright and quite significant lie on Tuesday to hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, on Twitter. While some of them were shamed into acknowledging the falsity of their claim, many refused to, causing it to continue to spread up until this very moment. It is well worth examining how they function because this is how they deceive the public again and again, and it is why public trust in their pronouncements has justifiably plummeted.

The lie they told involved claims of Russian involvement in the procurement of Hunter Biden’s laptop. In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, The New York Post obtained that laptop and published a series of articles about the Biden family’s business dealings in Ukraine, China and elsewhere. In response, Twitter banned the posting of any links to that reporting and locked The Post out of its Twitter account for close to two weeks, while Facebook, through a long-time Democratic operative, announced that it would algorithmically suppress the reporting.

The excuse used by those social media companies for censoring this reporting was the same invoked by media outlets to justify their refusal to report the contents of these documents: namely, that the materials were “Russian disinformation.” That claim of “Russian disinformation” was concocted by a group of several dozen former CIA officials and other operatives of the intelligence community devoted to defeating Trump. Immediately after The Post published its first story about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine that traded on his influence with his father, these career spies and propagandists, led by Obama CIA Director and serial liar John Brennan, published a letter asserting that the appearance of these Biden documents “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”

News outlets uncritically hyped this claim as fact even though these security state operatives themselves admitted: “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails…are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement -- just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.” Even though this claim came from trained liars who, with uncharacteristic candor, acknowledged that they did not “have evidence” for their claim, media outlets uncritically ratified this assertion.

This was a topic I discussed extensively in October when I announced my resignation from The Intercept after senior editors — for the first time in seven years — violated the contractual prohibition on editorial interference in my journalism by demanding I significantly alter my reporting about these documents by removing the sections that reflected negatively on Biden. What I found particularly galling about their pretense that they have such high-level and rigorous editorial standards — standards they claimed, for the first time ever, that my article failed to meet — was that a mere week prior to their censorship of my article, they published an article by a different journalist which, at a media outlet we created with the explicit purpose of treating government claims with skepticism, instead treated the CIA’s claims of “Russian disinformation” as fact. Even worse, when they quoted the CIA’s letter, they omitted the part where even those intelligence agents acknowledged that they had no evidence for their assertion. From The Intercept on October 21:

Their latest falsehood once again involves Biden, Ukraine, and a laptop mysteriously discovered in a computer repair shop and passed to the New York Post, thanks to Trump crony Rudy Giuliani….. The U.S. intelligence community had previously warned the White House that Giuliani has been the target of a Russian intelligence operation to disseminate disinformation about Biden, and the FBI has been investigating whether the strange story about the Biden laptop is part of a Russian disinformation campaign. This week, a group of former intelligence officials issued a letter saying that the Giuliani laptop story has the classic trademarks of Russian disinformation.

Oh my, marvel at those extremely rigorous editorial standards: regurgitating serious accusations from ex-CIA operatives without bothering to note that they were unaccompanied by evidence and that even those agents admitted they had none. But, as they usually do these days, The Intercept had plenty of company in the corporate media. 

ADDED: I meant for the video below to be included today.  We'll also include it tomorrow but, if it's not included today, I'll forget it.

The following sites updated:

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Why no one watched the Grammys

The Grammys crashed and burned.  The lowest ever.  And no one really wants to talk about why in the press.  It's part of a trend.  And it's been happening for some time.

It has to do with pompous people.  At awards shows.

Now most Americans are find with Richard Gere or Susan Sarandon saying something about Tibet or AIDS or whatever.  Those are issues.  

What changed?  We moved from issues to slamming one side.  I've never voted Republican in my life and never will.  But I wasn't cheering Meryl Streep and those other idiots as they used their platform to whore for the Democratic Party.

It was alienating and had nothing to do with the arts.

The awards shows were out of control.  And it wasn't just the acceptance speeches.  It was the opening 'jokes,' it was the 'commentary' being provided between awards, etc.

The entire shows became partisan.

We don't watch, for example, The Oscars to see our voting choices validated.  

Well some people do.  A very small number of people juding by the ratings.

The other reason the Grammys were hit so hard?  Trevor Noah.

He's known for being partisan.  Into the way people are already tried of partisan crap you toss in him?  He's not Ellen DeGeneres.  He's not Nick Kroll.  

There's also the fact that he's not funny.  COVID has exposed that.  Without a studio audience, we were left with his mincing and mugging falling so flat.  He does not have good timing and all he does is pop his eyes and raise his voice over and over.  He's predictable and not funny.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 Wednesday, March 17, 2021.  Protests continue in IRaq, while a protest is planned Friday in NYC, Tara Reade talks about assault, and much more.

Starting in the US where 2020's Green Party ticket of Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker spoke with Tara Reade last night.  Tara has made credible charges of assault against Joe Biden (I believe her) and she is the author of LEFT OUT: WHERE THE TRUTH DOESN'T FIT IN.

Tara Reade: Today two thins happened that were really quite stunning.  It was revealed what [NY Governor Andrew] Cuomo's people were trying to do to one of the accusers, Lindsey Boylan, who was brave enough to come forward -- to try to smear her publicly and that's been revealed so there's an article about that, about the tactics used.  And, for me, a wonderful thing happened for a change.  Ryan Grim from THE INTERCEPT was on RISING and basically went after THE NEW YORK TIMES for misreportng and accusing me of lying about my education credentials which I did not do.  And he basically laid out what happened to me and called out THE NEW YORK TIMES for class-shaming me.  

Ryan Grim's a joke.  What was done to Tara was done to others in presidential campaigns and if you're not aware of that prepare for it to happen again and again.  On the Democratic Party side, they silence someone who comes forward by having a Democratic Party member in office announce an investigation or charges against someone.  Now these never bear out -- not even when Beau Biden executed the trick in 2008.  But they do serve to silence the critic and send the media scurrying.

A real reporter would have been on the phone every week asking, "What's the status of the investigation?"  There was no ongoing investigation, it was fake from the start.  And it was over long ago and could have been reported but no one wanted to because they were trying to fix an election.

Ryan wasn't the one who found Tara's mother's call-in to THE LARRY KING SHOW, please remember.  He's had everything delivered to him and all he's done is write badly on any number of topics.

Equally true, Ryan's not only a joke as a reporter, he's a dirty word to the Green Party after his most recent sliming.  I understand her gratitude -- any port in the storm? -- towards Ryan but I know those comments will result in e-mails so I'm heading them off right now.

I'm glad Tara's doing interviews and I hope it's getting the word out on the issues and also on her new book.  But I'm not going to set aside my media critique.  Ryan did a lousy job reporting on Tara from day one.  He also walked away when the story got too hot.  He should have been hammering away and instead he folded.  Then, months after the election, he wants to play 'brave reporter'?  I'm not going to help him lie.  

Other thoughts?  Masculinity is not toxic but there can be toxic masculinity.  It's something that needs to be noted because that term is misunderstood.  By the same token, alpha-male?  Oh, honey, really?  Do you even know which community spent the last years popularizing that term?  Now you're going to try to take it from the gay male community with no acknowledgment and redefine it as something bad and try to trace it back to Rome (that's not Tara*)?  Somewhere around that nonsense, I decided life's too short and stopped streaming.  

[Added: "that's not Tara" seems pretty clear to me that I'm saying Tara's not the one who was offering that nonsense.  I was being kind and not naming the woman who did offer it.  Since I've had to add a note let me make one more comment:  Don't sideline Howie.  He's a co-interviewer.  Tara brings him into the conversation -- and good for her -- but he should have been brought in earlier.  He's a co-host and it's not as though the other two women -- again, that does not refer to Tara -- aren't really offering anything of value.  They're just talking about a movie -- REVENGE OF THE NERDS -- without any understanding at all -- I can go into that if I have to -- and they're talking in these sweeping generalities that have nothing to do with what is going on right now in the world with assault and rape.  That's why I compared it to the soggiest of ecofeminism -- not all ecofeminism has me rolling my eyes.  Tara was a good guest.  I would've liked to have heard more from her.]

It is cultural appropriation [redefining alpha male], please note.  No community has utilized that term more than the male gay community.  They've used it, they've defined it, they have a cottage porn industry built up around their definition of the term.  

A serious conversation on the topic needs to include specifics and not be built around sweeping generalities with (misunderstood) buzz words.  I don't need your 'drunk history' version of the history of humankind to understand assault and rape.  This should have been a hard hitting, serious discussion but it meandered off into the sort of squishy nonsense and claims that I would associate with the worst of eco-feminism and Harlequin Romance novels.

Before I pulled the plug, Tara was armed with specifics and with facts and figures and maybe if they'd just spoken to her it would have been a lively and informed discussion. Her discussing how she was treated by the press and relating it to the attacks on Lindsay right now were illuminating.  But instead, this was like that awful Winter Soldier panel IVAW staged on 'assault' where no one on the panel was assaulted but you got to hear a woman saying that she got drunk at a bar and danced with her commanding officer and she realizes now that this was assault.  It may have been something but for those of us who have been assaulted it didn't seem to reach the level of assault -- though bad judgement would certainly be a term that could be applied.  

Let's get back to the real world where protests take place.  Sohali Obaid Tweets:

Mass protests in #Basra in protest to the kidnappings and assassinations of activists and protesters in #Iraq.
0:06 / 0:14

In Manhattan this Friday, a protest against the war will take place:

Join us next Fri, 3.19 @ 3:30-5 PM for the 18th anniversary of the U.S. war in Iraq. We will be demonstrating against endless U.S. wars on Manhattan Bridge Plaza during rush hour. For more information, call 718-768-7306 #antiwar #peace #bannuclear #iraqwar #protest #resistwar

In other Iraq news,  THE TIMES OF ISRAEL reports:

The last Jewish doctor in Iraq and one of the few remaining Jews in its capital, Baghdad, has died at the age of 61, reports said Tuesday.

Dr. Thafer Eliyahu, an orthopedic doctor at Wasiti Hospital, has been nicknamed “the doctor of the poor” since he treated those who couldn’t afford the costs for free, according to Israel’s Kan public broadcaster and Washington Post Iraq correspondent Mustafa Salim.   

During the Gulf War of 2003, he continued to see sick and injured patients even as bombings continued overhead, Kan reported.

Kan said Eliyahu died on Monday of a heart attack, citing a journalist in Baghdad. However, Salim wrote on Twitter that the cause of death was a sudden stroke. 

Iraq has been the host of many religions -- in the past and presently.  ALJAZEERA reports on the Mandaeans .

New content at THIRD:

The following sites updated: