Friday, December 31, 2021

Why the West Side Story remake flopped

My cousin Stan noted this week ("The weekend box office") that Stephen Spielberg is now in his late-Frank-Capra phase and that this impacted West Side Story. 

I think that's a good point.  Capra was a manipulative director and he got worse and worse and worse as his career went along. The films get more and more hollow and less and less inspiring.  Spielberg's a long, long way from JAWS.  Inspiration has left and all that remains is manipulation.

So that's problem one.

Problem two?

Anson Elgort.  He was so good in Baby Driver.  But what he's most famous for since that film?  From Wikipedia:

In June 2020, a woman on Twitter accused Elgort of sexually assaulting her in 2014, when she was seventeen and he was twenty.[63][64] He denied the allegation in an Instagram post, saying that he and the woman had had a "brief, legal and entirely consensual relationship".[65][66]

That's really not who you want to cast as a romantic male lead.  

Problem three?

Lack of star power.  A bunch of nobodies.

In 1961, the original film came out.  West Side Story, at that point, had been a huge hit on Broadway.  Jack Warner didn't say, "Let's put the Broadway cast on film!"  No.  He knew nobodies weren't going to cut it.  

Rita Moreno was an often photographed Latina actress (she'd had no real box office on her own and was better known for her cheesecake photos than for her films).  She was still better known than the Broadway cast.

But Jack Warner knew that the film needed a star.  Someone who people would pay money to see.  Natalie Wood was a big name.  She'd been a child star.  In 1955, she 'grew up' with Rebel Without A Cause and earned an Academy Award nomination.  She followed that with one popular film after another (and with the classic The Searchers).  West Side Story came out after her massive hit (and Academy Award nominated performance in) Splendor in the Grass.  West Side Story came out before her massive hit Gypsy.  

Natalie Wood was huge.  Where was the huge star that Spielberg cast in his remake?

No where to be found.

I'm not done with why the remake flopped.

There's one more reason: Natalie Wood.

Mary Wilson was a jealous bitch.  I wasn't sad at all when she died.  She'd spent decades complaining about Diana Ross.  It wasn't fair this or that over and over.  The two were in the Supremes (first with Florence Ballard and then with Cindy Birdsong).  This was unfair, that was unfair.  Whine, whine, whine.  

Reality, Mary was off partying while Diana was rehearsing.  Over and over.  Diana worked her ass off.  Reality, most of the hit singles by Diana Ross & the Supremes?  Mary didn't sing on them.  She'd wanted to skip sessions when she was having her affair with Tom Jones.  And Berry got a backing group to sing with Diana and no one noticed the difference.  After that, he said Diana's a pro and backup singers were able to record faster than Mary so just bring in the Andettes or whomever to sing on the songs because the recordings will go much faster.

Now Mary didn't sing backup on "Someday We'll Be Together," for example.  But bitch took the money, all her life she did.

How was that fair?

It never was but bitches only see others not their own actions.

Which brings us to 'lovely' Rita.

Rita was a real bitch.  In the last ten years or so, we could pretend she'd mellowed because we hoped she had.  But she didn't.  And when she started making meaningless comments about Natalie in the last two years?  Oh, hell no.

Bitch, don't front.


Rita hated Natalie Wood.  She spent her life trashing her.  She trashed her during the filming, she trashed her for years after.  She was rude and curt and mean to her on set.  She insulted Natalie to the cast over and over and called her an ''interloper'' who had stolen the role from the woman who played it on Broadway.  Now why would Rita do that?


Two reasons.  First, Rita was in the show on Broadway.  So she was projecting.


Second, she was a jealous bitch.


Rita was never a star.  Not on Broadway, not in film and not on TV.


She was a supporting actress.  When she was the 'leading female,' the female role wasn't the main role (think The Ritz).  


How much of a bitch is she?


When she won her Tony she had to gripe, on stage, that she wasn't a supporting actress -- she was still in a snit fit -- as she had won the award -- because she wasn't nominated in the lead category.


That's the griping little bitch that she was and that she is.


Rita thought she could rewrite history and pretend, to promote the reboot, that she was friends with Natalie and that she liked Natalie and blah, blah, blah.


Rita was a second string performer who was jealous of Natalie the entire time Natalie was alive and even after Natalie died.


Fans of the original movie (I am one) know the history and we didn't take to Rita trying to rewrite history and trying to present herself as something other than what she was.


Rita was a well known supporting actress.  She was not a lead.  She couldn't sell tickets and she couldn't get viewers to tune in as a lead.  She failed anytime she stepped into a leading role.  


Why?  She didn't have the quality needed to be a star.


 And now, as her life winds down, she's still lashing out at others for that reason.  That hideous documentary that Norman Lear made of her/  It's about a bitter woman.  Ava and C.I. reviewed it "TV: Xenophobia and racism alive and thriving thanks to PBS and Norman Lear."  They noted how she rewrote history in that.  And they're right but what stood out to me the most from watching it was how bitter she was.  She's bitter about her late husband.  She's bitter about Marlon Brando.  She's just a bitter woman with a chip on her shoulder and, no, that's not attractive.

And the more she speaks publicly, the more bitter she comes off.  

I like to picture the ghost of Natalie Wood smiling as Rita, trying to act as though she's the voice of West Side Story today instead ends up failing and the film she's promoting fails with her.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Thursday, December 30, 2021.  The Iraq War claims another American life, what was the rush to count the votes in the Iraq election when there's no rush for Parliament to hold its first session, the persecution of Julian Assange continues, and much more.

The death toll from the ongoing Iraq War is not really known.  THE LANCET did a study that used democragic measures -- accepted democgraphic measures -- to estimae the number of Iraqis killed and that ended up being trashed by jerks with Eichman level membership plans in the Bully Boy Bush fan club.  But I'm not even referring to counting Iraqi deaths.

The US death toll.  We've noted this before time and again that some US service members injured in the war make it home but still die of their wounds.  And the Pentagon doesn't include them in their count.  The laughable Iraq Casualty Count doesn't include them.  The numbers of Americans killed from the Iraq War isn't even counted correctly.

Remember that because there's another death. 

A West Michigan Marine who was paralyzed in Iraq died Monday at the age of 39 due to complications from his injury.

“He was an inspiration to all of us,” said Bill White, friend of Marine Cpl. Joshua Hoffman.

The Hastings resident was paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet while fighting in Iraq in 2007. 

“Shots rang out and they all hit the ground and so did Josh,” White said. “But Josh got shot through the back of his neck.”

Hoffman grew up in the Wayland area and joined the Marine Reserves in 2002, hoping to earn money for college. He planned to be a pilot.

He was part of the Grand Rapids-based Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. He was sent to Iraq’s Anbar province in October 2006, where he was attached to the battalion’s Weapons Company in Fallujah.

Cpl. Hoffman was hit in the early morning of Jan. 6, 2007, as he pursued an insurgent. The bullet entered his neck and exited his shoulder blade, shattering his upper spine.

Jake Tapper Tweets:

Cpl Hoffman was wounded in 2007 while serving in Fallujah, Iraq. He is survived by his parents and brothers. His biography and a video about him are at:
Quote Tweet
Homes For Our Troops
Homes For Our Troops extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Marine Cpl Joshua Hoffman, who passed away on Dec. 27, 2021. He was a valued member of the HFOT Family, and was an engaging friend who was focused on serving others. We will miss him greatly.

And Stephen Webber Tweets:

The Iraq War destroyed so much and continues to destroy so much.  There's no 'good' from that war.  uppet governments get installed and they don't serve the Iraqi people.  The government has access to billions each year due to oil revnues and yet poverty has increased in Iraq.  Graft and corruption make off with the money that should benefit the people.  And not only are they crooks, they're crooks who can't even stop being lazy.  January 9th.  That's when the Iraqi Parliament plans to hold its first session.  Elections were held October 10th.  The results were certified by the court this week.  

But, hey, sit on your lazy asses and keep doing nothing.  They have no Parliament.  It dissolved itself ahead of the October 10th elections.  It's disgusting to watch crooks who aren't just greedy but also incredibly lazy.

You got money?  You can do whatever you want as long as you fork it over to the corrupt government.  Destroy the country?  Oh, that doesn't matter as long as every official gets his or her bribe.

It’s 6 p.m. and the pink-tinged skies turn black above Agolan, a village on the outskirts of Erbil in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Thick plumes of smoke have begun to billow out of dozens of flaring towers, part of an oil refinery owned by an Iraqi energy company called the KAR Group. The towers are just about 150 feet from where 60-year-old Kamila Rashid stands on the front porch of her house. She looks squarely at the oil plant, which sits on what she says used to be her family’s land.

Rashid was born here, like her parents before her and her children after her. She says when KAR moved into the area, residents traded their land for KAR’s promise of jobs and reliable, less expensive electricity for the village. The land was handed over, Rashid says, but she maintains that KAR never provided the promised electricity or long-term jobs.

The towers, also called flare stacks, are used by oil refineries across the globe to burn the byproducts of oil extraction. Such flaring releases a menagerie of hazardous pollutants into the air, including soot, also known as black carbon. “The smoke coats our skin and homes with black soot,” says Rashid. Many villagers keep their windows shut and try to remain indoors whenever possible. 

Climate change is going to effect every country but projections note that Iraq will be one of the worst effected.  But, hey, sit on your lazy ass doing nothing.  

Why did you run for office to beging with?  Just wanted to be part of the corruption?

The election was October 10th, you've had plenty of time to rest after the election.  Instead of moving immediatlely to provide the Iraqi people with some form of funtioning government, they need two more weeks of vacation?  The campaigning was so difficult that they need three months after the election before their lazy asses can get to work?

Iraq’s sky now rains dust and pollutants. The land between the Tigris and the Euphrates no longer gets enough rain to save the country from droughts, which have devastated local communities and agricultural supply chains, spurring a tide of migration.

The situation has deteriorated rapidly over the past two decades, with Turkey and Iran restricting the flow of water via dams and other infrastructure. Water has effectively been transformed into a political tool, while sand and dust storms are becoming more frequent across Iraq; it has been estimated that the country could experience 300 such storms a year by 2023.

Today, as Iraq celebrates the centenary of its founding as a modern state, its ecosystem is on the verge of collapse. As water flows in rivers decline dramatically, Iraq is expected to become one of the world’s most water-stressed countries by 2040, with a forecasted rating of 4.6 out of 5, indicating extremely high stress. At the same time, Iraq is contributing to global warming, with the International Energy Agency reporting that the country accounts for around eight percent of world methane emissions.

Iraq’s environment ministry has acknowledged the ongoing climate crisis, which threatens to make Iraq unliveable over the next two decades due to excessive heat, drought, scarcity of water reserves, desertification and loss of biodiversity - all of which are wreaking havoc on food security chains.

 Oh well, the really corrupt already have homes outside of Iraq, so they'll just leave the country when things get too bad.  It's not like they ever cared about the Iraqi people, after all.  Tehir actions while in power made that perfectly clear.  If they're not going to work to improve the present lives of the Iraqi people, why should the corrupt worry about the future of the Iraqi people?

WHich brings us to the zaftig Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shi'ite cleric who never a mumu or caftan he didn't decide to buy on eof in each color.  Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) reports:

Iraqi populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr said on Wednesday his country will form a national government free of external influences after the ratification of election results that confirmed gains for the Shiite leader.

Mr Al Sadr's coalition secured 73 of the Parliament's 329 seats in the national elections, gaining more than any other party and up from 54 in 2018 polls.

“In the name of God ... a government of national unity, neither eastern nor western,” Mr Al Sadr said on Twitter after meeting with leaders of the Iraqi Co-ordination Framework, the umbrella group of Shiite parties contesting the election’s results.

The meeting with Shiite leaders included paramilitary leader Hadi Al Amiri, who leads the Fatah party, and Qais Al Khazali who is secretary general of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl Al Haq, and Falih Al Fayyadh, head of the government's Popular Mobilisation Commission.

We'll just note that Moqtada's name is used for a slum -- Sadr City.  In all of Moqtada's years of 'power,' he's never done a thing to improve conditions in Sadr City -- a subsection of Baghdad.  But why should he?  He doesn't live there.  He lives far away, in Najaf.  (That;s a roughly three hour drive from one to the other.)

Meanwhile, Julian Assange remains persecuted by the US government.

Despite global outrage, US President Joe Biden continues the persecution.  Helen Hernandez (OICANADIAN) notes:

Civil and governmental organizations, as well as personalities around the world, have rejected the ruling of the British Appeals Chamber in favor of the extradition to the United States of journalist Julian Assange.
The NGO Reporters Without Borders condemned the court’s decision, according to his secretary general, Christophe Deloire. “We defend this case because of its dangerous implications for the future of press freedom around the world. The time has come to end more than a decade of persecution, once and for all. It is time to release Assange, “added Deloire, who noted that the Wikileaks founder is being persecuted for his journalism.
[. . .]


The human rights organization International Amnesty (AI) called a “parody of justice” the decision of the High Court of London to authorize the extradition to the US of Assange. “It is a parody of justice … The court decided to accept the incorrect assurances of the United States that Assange would not be subjected to solitary confinement in a prison with harsh prison regime,” declared AI director for Europe, Nils Muiznieks.

The eventual extradition of Julian Assange to the United States jeopardizes the principles of media freedom, said a spokesman for the International Federation of Journalists. Assange’s extradition to the United States would endanger not only his life, but also the fundamental principles of freedom of the press. The association will support any effort by Assange’s legal team to challenge this court ruling, “the spokesperson said.

Julian exposed reality at a time when the US government and the US press had long been lying.  Vijay Prashad (CONSORTIUM NEWS) explains:

Two years later, Washington Post reporter David Finkel published The Good Soldiers, a book based on his time embedded in the 2-16 battalion.

Finkel was with the soldiers in the al-Amin al-Thaniyah neighbourhood when they heard the Apache helicopters in action. He defended the U.S. military, writing that “the Apache crew had followed the rules of engagement” and that “everyone had acted appropriately.” The soldiers, Finkel wrote, were “good soldiers, and the time had come for dinner.”

In his recounting, Finkel made it clear that he had watched a video of the incident, even as the U.S.  government denied its existence to Reuters and to human rights organizations.

On Jan. 5, 2010, Chelsea Manning, a U.S. soldier in Iraq, downloaded a tranche of documents and videos pertaining to the war onto compact discs and took them back with her to the United States.

On Feb. 21, 2010, Manning passed on the material related to Iraq to the WikiLeaks organization, which had been set up in 2006 by a group of engaged people led by an Australian national by the name of Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks and Assange went through the footage and published the full video from the Apache helicopters on their website under the title “Collateral Murder” on April 5, 2010.

In 2010, McCord told Wired’s Kim Zetter what he had witnessed:

“I have never seen anybody being shot by a 30-millimetre round before. It didn’t seem real, in the sense that it didn’t look like human beings. They were destroyed.”

In the van, McCord and the other soldiers found Sajad Mutashar (age 10) and Doaha Mutashar (age 5) badly injured; their father, Saleh was dead on the ground.

In the video, the pilot saw that there were children in the van; “Well,” he said callously,  “it’s their fault for bringing kids into a battle.” When WikiLeaks released the video, then 12-year-old Sajad Mutashar said, “I want to get our rights from the Americans who harmed us.”

His mother, Ahlam Abdelhussein Tuman, said, “I would like the American people and the whole world to understand what happened here in Iraq. We lost our country and our lives were destroyed.” They were met with silence. Sajad, who recovered partly from his injuries, was killed by a car bomb in Baghdad in March of 2021.

Robert Gibbs, press secretary for former U.S.  President Barack Obama, said in April 2010 that the events depicted in the video were “extremely tragic.”

But the cat was out of the bag. This video showed the world the actual character of the U.S. war on Iraq, which United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called illegal. 

The US government needs to be put on trial, not Julian Assange.

The following sites updated:

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Ghislaine Maxwell is now a felony convict

Have you been following the Gislaine Maxwell case?  Ann's "Jizzy Pants Maxwell found guilty on five of the six counts" went up this evening.  She's been covering the case for weeks.

I'm glad Ghislaine got convicted on five counts.  Wish it had been six, but I'll settle for five.  Not counting possible perjury convictions (that's a separate court case), she could be looking at 70 years behind bars.

Here's a video report.

This is from Deadline:

Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty today of five of the six felony counts brought against her related to her work and relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein died in jail in 2019. His death was ruled a suicide.

Maxwell, 60, was convicted today on the following charges:

  • Conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
  • Conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
  • Transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
  • Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors
  • Perjury related to testimony given in 2016

The Manhattan jury found Maxwell not guilty of enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.

She belongs in prison.  She had so much, born into wealth, no concerns about paying bills, the best life had to offer and she used that to harm children.  There is no excuse for her or for what she did.  At sentencing, she should make a statement of apology; however, the reports say she plans to appeal so I'm sure an admission of guilt on her part is not coming anytime soon.

\Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 Wednesday, December 29, 2021.  Does Iraq's Parliament plan to ever hold their first session, Julian Assange remains persecuted, and much more.

The persecution of Julian Assange, overseen by US President Joe Biden, continues.

Julian's crime?  Journalism.  Journalism that exposed War Crimes and other serious actions.  Joe Biden is ensuring he will be one of the most vile presidents when history is written.  Jeff Mackler (LA PROGRESSIVE) observes:

Yes, the persecution and threatened life imprisonment of Julian Assange is a threat against free speech and a free press. It is also a dire warning to all those who seek to tell the truth about U.S. wars of slaughter and genocide, including the ten-year war against Iraq conducted in the name of defending the U.S. against Saddam Hussein’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” The same with the U.S. war against Muammar Gaddafi’s non-existent threat to murder 50,000 people in Benghazi. These CIA and corporate media-created pretexts justified the murder of some 1.5 million Iraqis and the destruction of the infrastructures of Iraq and Libya.

Today, U.S. wars of intervention and conquest are accompanied by deadly sanction wars, Special Operation wars, drone wars, death squad assassination wars, etc., all funded by a bloated U.S. military budget that approaches the combined military expenditures of the entire rest of the world. The victims are most often the poor nations on earth who seek their right to self-determination, free from imperialist domination. Today’s U.S. deadly economic sanction wars are conducted against some 39 countries. In Venezuela alone, UN officials report a U.S. sanction death toll of 50,000. Similar horrors, including U.S. coups, embargos, blockades and U.S.-backed terror bombings perpetrated against the people of Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, as well more than a dozen African nations where U.S. troops are stationed.

Indeed, the list is longer. In a June 2021 letter to the U.S. Congress, President Biden admitted all of the countries where U.S. troops are waging war against groups opposed by the United States. According to the journal Conflict Management and Peace Science, the United States has 173,000 military troops engaged in conflicts in 159 other nations!

Truthtellers like Julian Assange frighten the imperial leaders of the U.S. “national security state,” a state power that, as Edward Snowden revealed, oversees an Orwellian system of total surveillance.

The world watches as Joe Biden uses the force of the US government to persecute Julian.  And as it happens, too many people remain silent.  Frank Ball (ECHO) notes, "The silence is deafening. Where are the Australian journalists who should be afraid of the latest development in the extradition case by the USA against Julian Assange?"  And the silence goes beyond journalists in Australia.   At SALON, Chris Hedges writes:

Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, is one of the very few establishment figures to denounce the judicial lynching of Julian Assange. Melzer's integrity and courage, for which he has been mercilessly attacked, stand in stark contrast to the widespread complicity of many human rights and press organizations, including PEN America, which has become a de facto subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee.

Those in power, as Noam Chomsky points out, divide the world into "worthy" and "unworthy" victims. They weep crocodile tears over the plight of Uyghur Muslims persecuted in China while demonizing and slaughtering Muslims in the Middle East. They decry press censorship in hostile states and collude with the press censorship and algorithms emanating from Silicon Valley in the United States. It is an old and insidious game, one practiced not to promote human rights or press freedom but to envelop these courtiers to power in a sanctimonious and cloying self-righteousness. PEN America can't say the words "Belarus," "Myanmar" or the Chinese tennis star "Peng Shuai" fast enough, while all but ignoring the most egregious assault on press freedom in our lifetime. 

PEN America only stopped accepting funding from the Israeli government — which routinely censors and jails Palestinian journalists and writers in Israel and the occupied West Bank — for the literary group's annual World Voices festival in New York in 2017 when more than 250 writers, poets and publishers, many members of PEN, signed an appeal calling on the CEO of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, to end the organization's partnership with the Israeli government. The signatories included Wallace ShawnAlice WalkerEileen Myles, Louise Erdrich, Russell Banks, Cornel WestJunot Díaz and Viet Thanh Nguyen. To stand up for Assange comes with a cost, as all moral imperatives do. And this is a cost the careerists and Democratic Party apparatchiks, who leverage corporate money and corporate backing to seize and deform these organizations into appendages of the ruling class, do not intend to pay.

PEN America is typical of the establishment hijacking of an organization that was founded and once run by writers, some of whom, including Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer, I knew. Nossel is a former corporate lawyer, listed as a "contributor" to the Federalist Society, who worked for McKinsey & Company and as vice president of U.S. business development for Bertelsmann. Nossel, who has had herself elevated to the position of CEO of PEN America, also worked under Hillary Clinton in the State Department, including on the task force assigned to respond to the WikiLeaks revelations. I withdrew from a scheduled speaking event at the 2013 World Voices Festival in New York and resigned from the organization, which that same year had given me its First Amendment Award, to protest Nossel's appointment. PEN Canada offered me membership, which I accepted.

Nossel and PEN America have stated that the prosecution of Assange raises "grave concerns" about press freedom and lauded the decision by a British court in January 2012 not to extradite Assange. Should Nossel and PEN America have not taken this stance on Assange, it would have left them in opposition to most PEN organizations around the world. PEN Centre Germany, for example, made Assange an honorary member. PEN International has called for all charges to be dropped against Assange.

But Nossel, at the same time, repeats every slanderous trope and lie used to discredit the WikiLeaks publisher who now faces extradition to the United States to potentially serve a 175-year sentence under the Espionage Act. She refuses to acknowledge that Assange is being persecuted because he carried out the most basic and important role of any publisher, making public documents that expose the multitudinous crimes and lies of empire. And I have not seen any direct appeals to the Biden administration on Assange's behalf from PEN America.

"Whether Assange is a journalist or WikiLeaks qualifies as a press outlet is immaterial to the counts set out here," Nossel has said. But as a lawyer who was a member of the State Department task force that responded to the WikiLeaks revelations, she understands it is not immaterial. The core argument behind the U.S. effort to extradite Assange revolves around denying him the status of a publisher or a journalist and denying WikiLeaks the status of a press publication. Nossel parrots the litany of false charges leveled against Assange, including that he endangered lives by not redacting documents, hacked into a government computer and meddled in the 2016 elections, all key points in the government's case against Assange. PEN America, under her direction, has sent out news briefs with headlines such as: "Security Reports Reveal How Assange Turned an Embassy into a Command Post for Election Meddling." The end result is that PEN America is helping to uncoil the rope to string up the WikiLeaks publisher, a gross betrayal of the core mission of PEN.

The US government plotted to assassinate Julian.  Even that reality doesn't seem to engage some people.  MRT notes:

In September, Yahoo News reported, citing dozens of unnamed former US government officials, that ex-CIA boss Mike Pompeo had planned to kidnap Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and possibly even kill him in 2017. There is a lot of truth in the explosive story, said Andy Müller-Maguhn, former spokesman for the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), on Tuesday at the remote Chaos Communication Congress (rC3). Individual parts of the report at the time, including an imminent escape of Assange with the help of Russia, were not correct.

The famous embassy resident should have been declared an Ecuadorian diplomat around Christmas 2017 in order to grant him freedom of travel and immunity, reported Müller-Maguhn. The US knew about the plan in detail and wanted to thwart it. A silver-gray Ford Focus as an undercover police vehicle and a van stood in front of the embassy for days.

Turning to Iraq, this is from last night's THE NEWSHOUR (PBS):

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The Iraqi Supreme Court ratified yesterday the results of the parliamentary elections which took place last October.

    One of the groups that disputed the election results is Kataib Hezbollah, a paramilitary organization which, alongside other Iran-backed groups, wants all U.S. military forces out of Iraq by the end of the year. Kataib Hezbollah is believed to be responsible for previous rocket and drone attacks on American forces, and is threatening to once again step up those operations should their demands for full withdrawal not be met.

    "NewsHour" special correspondent Simona Foltyn gained exclusive access to Kataib Hezbollah's bases near Iraq's border with Syria.

  • Simona Foltyn:

    This is the United States' principal adversary in Iraq, Brigade 46 of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces. But it's better known as Kataib Hezbollah, a powerful, secretive armed group with close ties to Iran.

    The "NewsHour" gained exclusive access to areas it controls near Iraq's border with Syria, just eighty miles from the Ayn Al Asad military base, which houses American troops still operating here to help the Iraqi government defeat ISIS remnants.

    But these fighters consider American forces here illegal and want them gone.

  • Hassan Ali, Soldier, Kataib Hezbollah (through translator):

    The 31st of December will be the last day for American troops in Iraq. If they don't leave voluntarily, they will leave by force. They will face the resistance factions and we will return to the year 2003.

  • Simona Foltyn:

    The resistance he's referring to is a secretive network of Iran-backed insurgent groups that mobilized to fight the United States following its 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    Kataib Hezbollah is part of the resistance, and, in 2009, the U.S. designated it a terror organization for targeting American forces and its Iraqi opponents. But, after the war with ISIS broke out in 2014, Kataib Hezbollah was folded into the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, an amalgamation of mostly Shia paramilitaries formed to fight ISIS.

    That means Kataib Hezbollah is now officially part of the Iraqi state. Still, these fighters see the United States as their enemy.

  • Hassan Ali (through translator):

    The Popular Mobilization Forces are against ISIS and against America at the same time. America is an occupier in Iraq, and we don't want occupation in our country.

  • Press declared 'king maker' Moqtada has had weeks and weeks to get it together.  Unable to do so in the past and still unable.  Farhad Alaaldin Tweets:

    The Sadrist Leader hosted some of the leaders of the Coordination Framework leaders in #Najaf No photos of the meeting were published, but a simple tweet by alSdir summarises the content Clearly no agreement was reached and both sides remain on their own path #Iraq

    Is Moqtada's failure thus far why Parliament has yet to convene?

    The election is certified.  Parliament is supposed to hold its first session now.  Among other things, the Parliament is required to name someone prime minister-designate in that first meeting.

    And, per the Constitution, a timetable attaches from that moment, the designate has 30 days to form a Cabinet or Parliament names a new prime minister-designate.  This won't be Moqtada.  He's not going for the post of prime minister.  

    The election was October 10th.  At the end of this week, we'll be in January.  The foot dragging needs to stop.

    ARAB WEEKLY offers:

    With the Federal Supreme Court’s ratification of the disputed election results, the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, now has to reckon with the need to strike deals with various political blocs in order to form the cabinet and run the government.

    To start with, he will have to quickly flesh out his ideas on the priorities of the new government and how it should work, now that he leads the largest bloc in the parliament. That bloc must build the required parliamentary alliances which will underlie the formation of the government.

    Iraqi political sources say that the leader of the Sadrist movement will face a real challenge with such alliances. They wonder if Sadr will be able to win the support of the Sunni, Kurdish and independent blocs without making the necessary concessions to achieve that goal. Another question, given his opposition to the quota system, will be if he is prepared to share portfolios with other blocs to satisfy supportive MPs.

    These sources said that it is not possible to talk about “forming a national majority government,” as advocated by Sadr, without providing sufficient guarantees to the parliamentarians who would be willing to back it. The most important guarantee would be ministerial portfolios for their blocs as well as positions and dividends for the parliamentarians themselves and their supporters. The sources say that speaking of a national majority government is just loose talk as long as Sadr and his bloc's representatives do not sit with representatives of the various other blocs and convince them to support the government. Without such meetings, he could lose everyone's support.

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