Thursday, September 22, 2022

Turner Classic Movies finally ended

I guess it was bound to happen.  Ted Turner created TCM and it started back in 1994.  It had a long run.

It was the place to go to watch classic films -- not just American classics either.  And they showed classic foreign films as well.  

Some classics I enjoyed catching on TCM?  Klute, Shampoo, All About Eve, Dead Ringer, Manhattan, To Be Or Not To  Be (with Carole Lombard), The Big Sleep, Harold & Maude, Some Like It Hot, Mahogany, Clash By Night, The Damned Don't Cry, Flamingo Road, Protocol, Blow Out, Hannah and Her Sisters, Manhattan Murder Mystery, The Thing Called Love, Best Friends (Goldie Hawn), Cause for Alarm, Pal Joey, Cat People (the original), Murder By Death, Gay Purree, I Could Gon Singing, The Harvey Girls, The Year of Living Dangerously, Mrs. Soffel, The Petrified Forest, Wanda, The Little Foxes, Alcie Adams, The Landlord,  Modern Times, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Letter, Little Nellie Kelly, Kismet, Gypsy, Strangers On A Train, Love With The Proper Stranger, Love Happy, Witness To Murder, Horror of Dracula, Purple Noon, Sullivan's Travels, I Married A Witch, The Player, The Blue Angel, The Third Man, The Night Of The Hunter, Hot Millions, Nothing Sacred (Carole Lombard), A Knife In The Water, For Me And My Gal, Summer Stock, Butley, Madame X, The Old Maid, Jezebel, Bunny Lake Is Missing, No Man Of Her Own, How To Marry A Millionaire, Robin and the 7 Hoods, Dinner At Eight, Comes A Horseman, Coming Home, Cat Ballou, Mark Of The Vampire, Vertigo, The Marriying Kind, The Postman Rings Twice (both the one with Lana Turner and the one with Jessica Lange), The Sisters, Sisters (Brian DePalma), Bells Are Ringing, What's Up Doc, Today We Live, Bringing Up Baby, Holiday (Cary Grant), The Maltese Falcon, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Can-Can, Out of the Past, Du Barry Was A Lady, Ninotchka, Harper, The Drowning Pool, Sunday In New York, Any Wednesday, Barefoot in the Park, Cactus Flower, The Young Girls of Rochefort, The Trial, Lover Come Back, Pillow Talk, Calamity Jane, Now Voyager, The Night of the Iguana, Green Dolphin Street, The Age of Innocence (Michelle Pfeiffer), Dangerous Liaisons (Michelle Pfeiffer), All That Jazz, Being There, Morning Gloria, California Suite, Annie Hall, The Producers, The Solid Gold Cadillac, Butterflies Are Free, Easter Parade, Julia, The Great Escape, On The Town, Tootsie, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Burnt Offerings, The Clock, Black Panthers (1968 documentary), Murder Most Foul, Murder She Said . . ., Night Moves, The Long Long Trailer (yes, there's a comma there but it would make it look like 2 movies instead of one), 1925's Body and Soul, Weekend,  No Way Out (1950), Balley of the Dolls, Sex and the Single Girl, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Lady Eve, Double Indemnity, The Way We Were, To Have And Have Not, Mildred Pierce, Humoresque, Red Headed Woman, Silver Streak, Twentieth Century, His Girl Friday, The Verdict, The Curse of Frankenstein, Boys' Night Out, Cool Hand Luke, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Cabaret, Night Watch, The China Syndrome, Splendor in the Grass, The Seven Year Itch, The Stranger, North By Northwest, Executive Suite, All Fall Down, The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971 documentary), The Lady From Shanghai, Melinda (1972), Topper, Mata Hari (1931), Our Modern Maidens, Gilda, A Life Of Her Own, Rock 'n' Roll High School, Bonnie and Clyde, A Night at the Opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, Stage Door, A Mighty Wind, Old Acquaintance, Born Yesterday, It Should Happen To You, Sweet Dreams (Jessica Lange), The Thin Man, Carmen Jones, Married to the Mob, Swing Shift, West Side Story (1981), The Last Picture Show, Agatha Christie's Muder on the Orient Express (1974), The Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night, Design for Living, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Send Me No Flowers, Key Largo, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Dean Martin: King of Cool (documentary), Best In Show, Overboard (Goldie Hawn), The Shop Around The Corner, In The Good Old Summertime, For Your Consideration, The Man Who Came To Dinner, Bell Book and Candle, Baby Boom, Desk Set, Christmas in Connecticut (1945), Moonstruck, Romancing the Stone, Ball of Fire, Les Diaboliques, The Late Show, L'Eclisse, Spirts of the Dead, Touch of Evil, Lady on a Train, Party Girl, Pinky, Enter Laughing, Funny Girl, Sparkle (1976), Sweet Charity, Pretty Maids all in a Row, The Star (Bette Davis), Sorry Wrong Number, In This Our Life, Dog Fight, The Iron Petticoat, She Done Him Wrong, A Woman's Face, Foul Play, Gilda Live, Decpetion, Dark Victory, Monterey Pop, The Blue Dahlia, A Man Called Adam, Marnie, Cabin In The Sky, Promise Her Anything, My Reputation, Penelope, Family Plot, Petulia, Inside Daisy Clover, Love With The Proper Stranger, A Stolen Life, The Glass Key . . .

Those are just some of the movies we have in our cloud from TCM.

They gave us many, many great films over the years. 

I guess I always knew it had to end some day.  

That day was September 22, 2022.

That's when Turner Classic Movies closed shop by showing Who's That Girl?  Yes, the Madonna film.  That bombed.  That has a 33% approval on Rotten Tomatoes.  A hideous move.  And it wasn't aired during their cult movie time period.  It ended right as prime time began this evening.

I'm going to miss you, TCM.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, September 22, 2022.  Words matter and so do meet-ups -- especially if meet-ups don't happen.

Starting with US President Joe Biden and his claim that the  pandemic is over, Abel Garcia (Las Vegas' KTNV) reports, "Dr. Ati Hakimi, A Local Primary Care Physician says she was shocked to hear the president says the pandemic has come to an end. [ . . .] Dr. Hakimi says although levels of COVID are low in Southern Nevada the virus is still spreading."  Chicago's NBC5 notes, "Chicago-area health experts say the pandemic is far from over as fall and winter approaches. The comments come in response to a statement from President Joe Biden, and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks a number of variants gaining steam as BA.5 begins to decline. "  Last night, Betty pointed out:

FORBES has a report that Joe Biden needs to read:

Omicron spawn BA.2.75, dubbed “Centaurus,” seemed like the COVID variant to watch this summer—one with the potential to wreak unprecedented havoc later in the year.

The World Health Organization announced in July it was tracking the concerning new variant, which had been identified in 10 countries, including the U.S., and was gaining ground against other transmissible strains of the virus like BA.5 in India.

But Centaurus is no longer a threat, Dr. Raj Rajnarayanan, assistant dean of research and associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology campus in Jonesboro, Ark., told Fortune.

Instead, one of its children, BA.2.75.2, has outcompeted it, eliminating Centaurus as a threat—but replacing it with a more formidable one.

It’s one to watch this fall, he says—for more reasons than one.

‘Extensive escape’

Among the concerning traits, BA.2.75.2’s spike protein binds to human cells tightly—better than any other variant so far, Rajnarayanan says. By doing so, it makes it more difficult for antibodies to successfully attack. And it’s picking up mutations that make it more similar to BA.5 and the deadly Delta variant of late 2021.

It’s just “a couple of mutations away from picking up increased transmission speed,” Rajnarayanan said.

To make matters worse, the new variant shows “extensive escape” ability, according to a new preprint paper released this week by researchers at the Imperial College in London and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. The paper has not yet been peer reviewed but has been widely cited by experts.

COVID deaths and infections continue to climb in the United States, with 400 people a day dying from the deadly SARS-CoV-2 virus and daily new infections averaging 60,000. Both figures are regarded as drastic undercounts since systematic daily reporting has been shut down in virtually every American state.

Yet President Joe Biden has continued to maintain his claim that “the pandemic is over,” despite the mounting deaths and widespread criticism of his comments by health experts. Biden first made the statement in an interview broadcast Sunday night on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.”

While walking with Biden through the expansive hall at the convention center in downtown Detroit hosting the North American International Auto Show, Scott Pelley of CBS News asked him, “Mr. President, [this is the] first Detroit auto show in three years. Is the pandemic over?”

Casually, Biden said, “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We are still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.” He added, “If you notice, no one is wearing a mask. Everyone seems to be in pretty good shape. I think it’s changing, and this is a perfect example of it.”

Biden’s own senior health officials, according to a report in Politico, only became aware of his comments from social media and headlines in the mainstream press leaving them in the lurch as they attempted to field questions about his remarks that reverberated across the world.

Amid commentaries by public health experts expressing surprise and even outrage at Biden’s remarks, the White House initially downplayed their significance. On Tuesday, speaking at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee with big-money contributors, Biden sought to backtrack, but only slightly.

Noting that “I got criticized for saying the pandemic is, quote, ‘over,’” he sought to modify his language, conceding that many were still dying, “But it basically is not where it was.”

He went on to blame the victims of his own policy of “living with the virus,” saying that the problem was not the ending of all social mitigation efforts, but the failure of individuals to get the necessary vaccinations. “Guess what?” he said, “Over 65 to 80 percent of the people who died, of the 5,000 dying never got their shot, never got their booster shot.”  

Joe's comments are news and they are news for a number of reasons.

Gaffe prone or not, Joe's a politician, it's all he's ever been, decade after decade.  So he shouldn't need a translator.  He said what he said.  

Then there's the fact that he was finally being interviewed by a TV journalist, something he avoids -- just as he avoids press briefings.  He's only done 17.  If he continues this pattern, he will have be the president with the least press briefings in our 'modern age' (going back to 1923).  He refuses to sit down for serious interviews -- late night comedy hosts are not journalists and they don't do serious interviews -- and he refuses to do press briefings.  He hides away. So when he says COVID is over in a sit-down interview, it's news.

It's news as well because this is COVID.  It's a pandemic, a worldwide one that's been going on for two years now.  That makes it news.

And it's should be huge news because it's out of the norm.

Anthony Fauci is an idiot.  He was always an idiot.  Many of us -- myself included -- indulged him in the early stages of the pandemic and that was a mistake.

He should have been called out.

When he refuses to own his mistakes today, that's on people like me who refused to call him out.  He's hiding his failures today by insisting that social media did this or did that.  

He's the one politicizing.

The reason he is so distrusted is because of himself and what he said and what he did.

He would reverse himself constantly.

And some of us -- me included -- wouldn't call him out.  Part of it was because we grasped that this was a learn-on-the-spot moment.  

But he made pronouncements and then he would walk them back, reverse them.  

He acts today as though that never happened.  It happened over and over.  And because he got a pass back then, he thinks he can pretend it never happened.

He is his problem, he has always been his problem.  He created non-stop problems with the public when Donald Trump was president.  Many noted that as the new president, Joe should immediately replace Fauci.  And he should have.

The public needed a break from Fauci.

Instead, Joe kept him and it was a rare week where the White House didn't have to defend him publicly.  When that happens over and over, the messenger is overwhelming the message and needs to be replaced.

The public trust and the message is too damn important to allow such a distraction.

That's reality.  This isn't a Democratic Party organ.  I'm not my wasting my time spinning and lying for any political party.  I mention that because two DNC officials called yesterday asking if I would please be kind.

No.  That's not my purpose, that's not my role.  But I did say I'd give them a tip here and I will.

Your party organ websites are failing you over and over.  They don't know what they're doing.  They call Hunter Biden's laptop "a nothingburger" long after the public is seriously concerned about it and the press admits it is for real.  They look like liars because that's what they are.

But they can't even handle a gift given to them.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem asked a state ethics board to dismiss a complaint against her without a public hearing and to seal off certain records, documents released Friday by the state’s Government Accountability Board show.

The Republican governor, who is widely seen as eyeing a 2024 White House bid, argued in an April motion that the state’s attorney general, a fellow Republican who filed the complaint, was out for political retribution and should be removed from the complaint. Noem had pushed former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to resign and later for his impeachment over his involvement in a fatal car crash.

The attorney general’s complaint was sparked by a report from The Associated Press last year that Noem had taken a hands-on role in a state agency. Shortly after the agency moved to deny her daughter, Kassidy Peters, a real estate appraiser license in July of 2020, Noem held a meeting with Peters and key decision-makers in her licensure. Days after the meeting, Peters signed an agreement that gave her another opportunity to meet the licensing requirements.

She acted unethically.  She didn't want a public hearing because the records are sealed and a public hearing would have revealed more.  She has presidential ambitions.  This should be hit on over and over so people know what's going on before she's mounting a presidential run.

In addition, you need to be calling out corruption.  She misused her position to help her own daughter.  Corruption needs to be called out and your operatives should be making her the face of corruption -- to tar and feather the GOP.

That's my in-kind donation and that's all you're going to get.

Joe Biden made idiotic and uncaring remarks.  He said what he said and he deserves the pushback he's getting.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi is in the United States.  Iraq's caretaker prime minister arrived for the UN meeting.  Joe Biden was at the UN yesterday.  He met with multiple leaders.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and French President Emmanuel Macron meet on the sidelines of the 77th #UNGA in New York 📸: AFP
رئيس مجلس الوزراء يلتقي، في نيويورك، رئيس وزراء دولة الكويت الشيخ أحمد نواف الأحمد الصباح، وأكد اللقاء أهمية توطيد التعاون على مختلف المستويات والصعد بين العراق والكويت، وزيادة التعاون الاقتصادي والاستثمار، وتفعيل اللجنة الوزارية العليا العراقية - الكويتية المشتركة.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mr. Mustafa Al-Kadhimi met today, Wednesday, the Prime Minister of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Ahmed Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York.
Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the UN summit in New York, discussing Iraq’s role “in achieving regional security and stability” – statement 📸: Kadhimi's office/Twitter
See one of him with Joe Biden?

Joe did meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.  The White House noted that meet up and the ones with UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, France's President Emmanuel Macron, South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol, and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (and, yes, someone let the White House know that the prime minister has a first name -- one that they left out repeatedly in their press release).  Here's the press briefing on his meet-ups:

Intercontinental New York Barclay
New York, New York

5:39 P.M. EDT
Q    Well, what were the President and President Macron speaking about?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  They spoke about Ukraine primarily.  And —
Q    Are you “Senior White House Official” or “Senior Administration”?  Just — sorry, for the —
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  “White House” is fine, I think.  Right?
WHITE HOUSE AIDE:  That’s fine. 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay.  They spoke about Ukraine primarily because of, obviously, the developments that happened overnight.  It was meant to be a very brief conversation, but, you know, just because there was a lot to cover and the two of them have the kind of relationship where they really dig in and explore, you know, the options available, the paths forward.  They each had — obviously, had a number of conversations over the last several weeks with different leaders, so they were comparing notes and also talking about what the path looks like for the weeks and months ahead. 
And then President Macron also talked to the President about his meeting yesterday with President Raisi and what his impressions were based on that about the JCPOA. 
So that’s basically what they talked about.
Q    Can you tell us a little bit more about the latter — about what the impressions are for JCPOA and (inaudible) deal?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I don’t want to get into, you know, the President Macron’s personal impressions of the meeting with President Raisi.  I think I have to leave that to him to do.  I can’t read that out secondhand. 
I would say that the — in both his meeting with Prime Minister Truss and with President Macron, it’s clear that the E3 and the United States are very much on the same page in terms of a clear and consistent message that, really, the ball is in Iran’s court, that there is a deal on the table and they should take it.
Q    The President got into this a bit in his speech about what Putin said about the reservists and nuclear war.  How do you interpret what Putin is doing?  Is it an act of desperation or what?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, what I said [redacted] is throwing together a sham referendum on three days’ notice and abandoning all pretense of legitimacy or seriousness is not exactly an act of confidence or strength.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  It is an act of weakness.
And declaring a mobilization and then refining the declaration of mobilization to try to have it both ways — on the one hand, indicate you’re calling a bunch of people up; on the other hand, saying we’re not calling too many people up — that also indicates a very pressurized environment in Russia. 
And the fact that he has to resort to something he clearly didn’t want to do is a reflection of the fact that his campaign in Ukraine is failing.  It’s failing to achieve the strategic objectives he set out.  And he is left with bad options, one of them being the one he’s chosen to pursue. 
And so, fundamentally, this is the result of Russia and Putin being in bad shape, not in good shape, when it comes to their military campaign in Ukraine. 
Q    But how concerned are you that, given that he’s in such bad shape, that he could, you know, do something more drastic, more — I mean, you know, is a frustrated Putin the more dangerous Putin?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Look, we have rested on two basic principles from the very beginning: One, we are going to provide material support to Ukraine — security support, economic support, humanitarian support — for as long as it takes, and we will not be deterred in doing so by anyone and certainly not by Putin.  Second, we are not looking to end up in a direct war with Russia.  And we, of course, are attentive to managing escalation in this conflict. 
We believe that we have been able to navigate those two basic lines for the last several months, and nothing about what’s happened in the last 24 hours changes either the President’s conviction to stick with Ukraine as long as it takes or for us to pay close attention to all the various scenarios that could unfold including escalation scenarios, and we are planning against those.  We are watching carefully to see for any signs of potential escalation.  And we are sending very clear and strong messages to Russia about the consequences of escalation. 
So, really, this is another episode in what has been a series of episodes over the course of this war where Putin has tried to rattle his saber, tried to scare us off, tried to make us think twice about our strategy.  He has not succeeded before; he won’t succeed now.  But that doesn’t mean that, you know, we’re blind to the dynamics that could relate to escalation and that we aren’t thinking carefully through, in close consultation with our allies and with the Ukrainians, how we would deal with that.
Q    Is there anything on that though that you’ve seen any signs that have changed your level of concerns of him doing something drastically imminent with either on nuclear or unconventional weapons?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We don’t see anything in terms of specific information, signals, or moves that would indicate that.  And we have heard him before wave around the nuclear card, and we heard it again in his speech today.  And, in fact, the language and formula he used today is quite similar to how he’s spoken before.
Q    Does the mobilization change anything on the battlefield in the near term?  Or does it take so long to call up and train any potential forces that it really doesn’t have an impact on the lay of the land right now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, there’s an obvious trade-off: The speed with which they move forces to the front will dictate the effectiveness of those forces.  If they go fast, it means they’re throwing a bunch of folks who have not had fresh training or integration into an effective joint force structure.  And the more they do to train and integrate, the longer it’s going to take. 
So this is a basic problem of arithmetic and time for Putin, and neither of them are really on his side right at the moment.
Q    Can you talk a little bit about the meeting with Liz Truss and, more specifically, how you would characterize the discussion about the Northern Ireland Protocol?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It was a candid discussion in which the Prime Minister laid out her view, and the President made very clear what he said publicly, which is that protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the Good Friday Agreement is a matter of bipartisan importance in the United States and a matter of personal importance to him as President.  And he was very clear about that. 
The Prime Minister read out to him her conversations of — on the subject with both Ursula von der Leyen and with the Taoiseach. 
And I think the two of them left understanding each other well.  And now we’ll see how things develop with respect to potential discussions between the UK and the EU on the protocol.
Q    Looping back to Russia for a moment, are you and your team inferring anything from the specific words that Vladimir Putin used this morning?  Like, “territory,” about — about “integrity.”  I can’t remember exactly, but he —
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  You mean talking about, “This is going to be Russian territory and…” —
Q    His, sort of, phraseology.  What do you think he meant by that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The Russian approach to this war has been quite legalistic from the beginning, and terming it a “special military operation” rather than a “war”; you know, trying to describe a casus belli rooted in these ridiculous, fanciful claims of genocide.  They’ve tried to construct legal rationales for basically everything they’ve done, and the world has seen through them: 141 votes at the General Assembly when he went in. 
So now we have a new construction even more farcical and fanciful than some of the previous ones, which is that, magically, these contested territories of Ukraine are going to vote in this thrown-together referendum and then be annexed into Russia.  And, oh, presto, now they’re part of sovereign Russian territory. 
That’s complete farce and absurdity on its face, and it’s not going to change dynamics on the ground with respect to Ukrainian operations.  It’s not going to change our support for Ukraine.  I think it will lead to different rhetoric and different legal framing from the Russian side.  But, fundamentally, the Russians need to understand that the United States, our allies and partners, and, frankly, the overwhelmingly vast majority of countries in the world, they’re not going to recognize any of this as legitimate. 
So we have confidence that the ploy he’s trying to undertake here is not ultimately going to succeed.
Q    But specifically though, do you think that what he’s saying is “If these areas join our country — Russia — through these referenda, and if you then tried — or if Ukraine or anyone tries to attack them, we can use non-conventional weapons for that”?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, I think you’d have to look back at his precise formula.  He didn’t say “non-conventional weapons” in that particular formula.  He said, “We can use all tools at our disposal,” which could imply what you say.  But I don’t think he used that exact phrase. 
Look, here’s how we look at it.  Think about his legal rationale when he started the war: He recognizes independent countries, then says Russia has a security obligation to defend those countries — a sort of bizarro Russian version of Article 5 for these sham republics.  That didn’t stop Ukraine from fighting on the territory of those two oblasts, Luhansk and Donetsk.  It hasn’t stopped them from retaking some territory in Luhansk and Donetsk. 
And so there is, in our view, one world — the fictitious Russian legal world — and then there’s the real world.  And the thing that is incumbent upon us is to ensure that as we work with the international community, the community of nations who signed up to the U.N. Charter, that the smallest number of countries possible even entertain the idea of recognizing this as legitimate.  We think that that number of countries will be vanishingly small, because —
And if you saw what China said today, they didn’t say, “Oh, hey, yeah, you know, it kind of makes sense.  It’d be interesting once they annex and it’s Russian territory.”  They said, “Hey, knock it off.  Ceasefire, please.” 
So — and if you look at what happened with the experience with Crimea and how recognition went with respect to Crimea and the international community and the vote in the General Assembly following that, we think that — we are confident that he will not be able to sell to the world some kind of credible argument that this actually is Russian territory.  And as a result, the play he’s running here is not going to succeed.
Q    Did you get the sense that the countries that were sitting on the fence when the U.N. held that vote, have they since come around?  Are you bringing them around to condemning Russia and acting, you know, in the way that you would like them to?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  You know, look, we’ve taken a position from the start that we are not going to — we were not going to come with a heavy hand on every country that abstained on the General Assembly vote.  We were going to let countries reach their own conclusions.  We were going to shape the arguments for them, and we were going to point out to them the reality of what was happening.
And if you heard the President’s speech today, it wasn’t hectoring or demanding of the world.  It was just a simple laydown of the truth and the facts.  And we think that that has borne fruit insofar as you are seeing increasing signs of countries that did abstain, to include countries like India speaking out in a different way, including directly in front of Putin.  And, you know, we’d like to see more than that, obviously, in the days ahead. 
But our focus is on ensuring, specifically on this question of these referendums and this potential annexation, that the world roundly rejects the notion that this is legitimate.  And we have every reason to believe, based on recent history and on the simple fact that it’s just so absurd and so counter to the U.N. Charter, that that’s how things will end up bearing out.
Q    This protest that we saw in Russia — I mean, I don’t know how widespread it is or how many number of people are involved, but what does that tell us about the situation inside Russia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think it’s too soon to tell.  You know, we’ve seen reports of protests in several cities, and we’ve seen the detention of individuals who participated in those protests. 
But, you know, this is the kind of fog-of-protest moment right now.  It’ll take a little while for us to really understand what the dynamics are in the street and then, of course, what the dynamics are among the various key stakeholders in Russia, whether it’s the business elite or the security services or others.  And that’s something we will continue to watch in the days ahead.
Q    On the Iranian drones — you know, as you guys were rolling out the intelligence you guys had on that, it seemed more about the desperation that the Russians were showing where they had to basically go to a pariah bazaar to pick up their weaponry.  But it seems that these drones are becoming useful tools in the fight for Russia.  There’s been a lot of reports about — I think we’ve seen some, like, HIMARS that were taken out by these drones.  How concerned are you guys about this as, you know, a good weapon for them? 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The United States has faced attacks from these one-way Iranian attack drones.  So if there was anybody suggesting these are not seriously lethal tools of war, I don’t know who that person is, but they clearly haven’t been paying attention with respect to the U.S. government. 
It still is an act of desperation insofar as they are stuck with Iran and other outlier states, in terms of getting weaponry, because China is not giving it to them, India is not giving it to them, Turkey is not giving it to them, et cetera. 
This is a serious weapon, just as the weapon it’s intended to replace, which is the precision-guided munitions that the Russians had depleted was a serious weapon.  And the logic behind what the Russians were trying to do — you know, get something precision-guided to be able to hold at-risk Ukrainian command and control and Ukrainian weapon systems is — you know, understandable logic. 
But we do not believe that — you know, that Russia can, through the acquisition of arms from Iran, you know, fundamentally alter its strategic circumstance on the battlefield. 
And so, it’s something we need to deal with at a tactical level, and we’re working with the Ukrainians to do that. 
One of the things that was in either the last PDA or the one before it — they’re coming so steadily now and with so much packed into them, and I can’t recall which — was a significant number of counter-UAS systems, which we’re providing to the Ukrainians so that they have countermeasures against these drones.
Q    On climate change, I don’t know if you saw that there’s been some news about David Malpass refusing to say whether or not he’s a climate change denier.  And there are some critics who are calling for him to step down from the World Bank and be replaced at the World Bank.  Any discussion on that at all yet?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ve only seen that secondhand, so I don’t want to comment on it until I get the chance to read the full account and also consult with colleagues who’ve obviously processed it to a greater extent than I have.  But I intend to do that in short order because it’s obviously — it obviously raises eyebrows.
Q    What do you think it’s going to mean for European unity on Ukraine and just, you know, U.S.-Italy relations if Meloni wins this weekend?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We will have to — whoever ends up as the new prime minister of Italy, the President will have to have an early conversation and then take measure of that person and make a determination about what it’s going to mean.  It’s a little hard to tell right now in the heat of a political campaign, without knowing how a coalition comes together, exactly what this is going to look like.  So I don’t want to predict or characterize because there’s so many uncertain variables. 
What I will say is this: We do not believe that, no matter how this turns out, Italy is somehow going to drop out of the Western coalition of countries supporting Ukraine, and I don’t think our key partners in Europe believe that either. 
So that doesn’t mean it’s going to be exactly the same as it was under Draghi.  But I think this kind of “sky is falling” narrative out there about the Italian election doesn’t square with our expectations of what’s likely to unfold. 
But more specific than that, I think it will be important to see how things play out, see how — whatever coalition comes together.  And then, I can tell you, the President will be eager to have an early and substantive conversation to try to ensure that the cohesion that’s been so important to the strategy in Ukraine remains steadfast.
Q    At the end of the Global Fund event, it looked like the President had a pull-aside.  Do you know anything about that?  Was — we’ve been hearing he was going to meet with the South Koreans today.  
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, he had an opportunity to engage with President Yoon.  And we’ll put out a readout of that at some point soon, as soon as we pull that together.
Q    Can you talk a little about the Philippine meeting tomorrow?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, this will be his first opportunity to meet with President Marcos.  He spoke with him briefly on the phone the night that he was elected, and we’ve had good engagement at senior levels of our Cabinet in the Philippines. 
And the President will be eager to talk to him about a range of issues, including obviously the state of the global economy and how it’s impacting the Philippines and how the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework can help us collectively improve the rules of the road in the Indo-Pacific.  They’ll talk about the South China Sea.  They’ll talk about the security relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines and the full breadth of issues in the alliance.
But it will be a good opportunity for a treaty ally of the United States with a new president who’s making his first trip to New York to have his first meeting with President Biden, who obviously has never had the opportunity to sit down with him before.  So we’re really looking forward to that discussion.
Q    Were the recent Chinese comments or lack of support for Russia’s moves part of the reason why the President went a little easier on China in his speech today than he normally does in these international settings?  He only spoke about China for, you know, 30 seconds or something — a minute.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, actually, I think if you look back at his remarks last year, I’m not sure that the word “China” appeared in his remarks.  It’d be worth taking a look at that, but I don’t believe that they did. 
The U.N. General Assembly is just a different kind of audience to address.  And so, everything he said is consistent with what he said before.  And the themes and the thrust of his commentary — whether it’s on the contrast on infrastructure or the contrast on values, the pushback on coercion, the embrace of freedom of navigation — that was all there, but the framing and method of argument in the speech was meant to try to explain the U.S. position in a way that he thought would be most effective with a diverse audience of countries from around the world. 
And he thought it was very important to say two things: One, we’re not seeking conflict or a new Cold War, and, two, we’re not asking countries to choose sides. 
But then he went on to say we’re unabashed that we think ours is the right vision for the world, and we want to make the case to the countries of the world to join us in trying to advance that vision. 
So the answer to your question is just: No, it’s not he went easier on China because of what they’re doing on Ukraine, or even that he went easier on China, per se.  It’s more: Getting up and making this speech about “U.S. versus China” we don’t think would advance the fundamental objective of, you know, how we’re trying to relate to all the other countries in the world, even on the question of U.S.-China competition, if that makes sense.
Q    When the President talks about UNSC reorganization or expansion —
Q    “Reform.”  I’m sorry.  And he said, “opening it up to Asian countries, to African countries” — did he — do you have a framework in mind?  How many countries?  What would that look like?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So we’ve had many conversations about what the framework would look like.  I would not say that we fixed on a precise formula, largely because this has got to be done in consultation with a lot of countries.  And, you know, there are challenges in figuring out what exactly does African representation look like; what does representation from Latin America and the Caribbean look like. 
You know, we have historically and continue to stand behind the idea that Germany, Japan, and India should be permanent members of the Security Council.  And then the question is: For the announcement today that the United States supports a Latin American and Caribbean country and an African representative, what exactly that looks like, we would want to work through. 
But I think him getting up and saying more non-permanent members and more permanent members, including with broad representation — that’s new.  That’s something an American President has not stood before the U.N. General Assembly and said before.  And it’s a good way to take us down a path towards ultimately getting reform. 
And the question now really is where do China and Russia land on this question, and then how do we deal with competing claims to regional representation from different actors — which, you know, has been a continuing issue with the whole question of Security Council reform and expansion for many years.
Q    Did you guys talk about Taiwan at all in either — I guess, in any of your discussions today?  With him and the leaders, did Taiwan come up?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes.  It came up in the conversation with both the UK and with France.  And I’m not actually sure — because I personally wasn’t present for the discussion with President Yoon — whether it came up yet or not.  So I’m waiting to get a readout on that. 
But, I mean, this is a significant issue — the potential for instability in the Taiwan Strait and what it could mean for security in the Indo-Pacific and for the global economy.  I mean, this is going to be an issue that the President talks about with, you know, allies and partners alike.
Q    Was there any discussion about joint or combined training exercises with Taiwan?
Q    Did Truss bring up this idea of seizing — of seize property — using that for reparations or to pay for the war?  Did that come up at all?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  That did not come up today.  They did have a discussion about what the long-term needs would be for Ukraine in terms of reconstruction. 
The Prime Minister made the point — and I don’t think I’m betraying any confidence by saying this — that only a fraction of Ukrainian schools are open right now and that, you know, this is a good individual example of the larger challenges facing the Ukrainian economy and Ukrainian society, even as they’re dealing with violence and war crimes and atrocities.  But they didn’t get into specific payment mechanisms, like the frozen assets. 
Q    Is that something that you think is doable?  Or is it problematic?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think that it has to be subject to an extremely careful review and examination and close consultation with all of the countries who would be implicated in it and by it.  And it is an area to proceed with extreme care.  And I guess I’ll leave it at that for now.
Q    Has the term “special relationship” officially been retired?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Oh, because it didn’t come up today?
Q    Yeah. 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No.  In fact, I’m quite certain we’ve used the term “special relationship” in the last couple of weeks — I hope.  If we haven’t —
Q    But the Brits don’t love it, right?
Q    Truss doesn’t like it. 
Q    Truss doesn’t like it. 
Q    Yeah.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I didn’t even know that.  Okay.  (Laughter.)
Q    She finds it a little bit demeaning.  Like, you know —
Q    Of them.
Q    She says she wishes Biden would stop using the phrase.
Q    Yes.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It’s not — I mean, Joe Bien didn’t invent the phrase.  I don’t und- — (laughter) —
Q    Winston Churchill did.  Right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I — well, you guys have just broken news to me.  I actually was not aware of that. 
So, I have no further comment — (laughter) — until I can, you know — what’s the phrase?  “We’ll shut it down until we can figure out what’s going on.”  (Laughter.)  Yeah, no, I’m just kidding. 
Q    But it doesn’t sound like she made any concessions today on this Good Friday — I mean, it — both sides remain where they were.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Here’s the way that I would characterize it: Is she, I think, sounded a constructive note about her engagements with both the European Union and the Republic of Ireland, and now we have to see where things go. 
This was not a set to or a digging in. 
Q    Fair enough. 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It was, you know, a suggestion that there should be able to be a way forward here.  And now we have to see whether that plays out.  I don’t mean we, the United States; I mean, we — the U.S., the UK, the EU, the Republic, the people of Northern Ireland.  This now has to — has to proceed.
Q    And then lastly, did he say no trade treaty between U.S. and UK if Good Friday gets blown up?
Q    Was there any consternation about the President’s recent remarks about Taiwan from either the French President or the UK Prime Minister?
Q    Or the South Korean leader?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, I don’t know, but I doubt it.  But I haven’t — like I said, I haven’t had a chance to get a readout from that conversation yet. 
Okay, thanks.  Thanks, guys. 
6:08 P.M. EDT 

Iraq is in turmoil.  Violence has increased.  The political stalemate continues -- they held elections October 10th and, almost a year later, still no prime minister, still no president, calls to dissolve the Parliament.

And Joe hasn't met with Mustafa?

The Senate has been repeatedly sending Joe letters about his apparent disinterest in Iraq -- letters US State Dept spokesperson Ned Price is forever insisting he knows nothing about on those rare times when the press asks him about them.

And now Mustafa was in the US and Joe didn't immediately move for a face-to-face?

We're winding down with this from WSWS:

Today, Thursday, September 22, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, UAW presidential candidate Will Lehman will participate in a debate against UAW President Ray Curry and bureaucrat Shawn Fein. The debate is organized by the court-appointed monitor overseeing the election as a result of the massive corruption scandal that has engulfed the UAW apparatus.

Lehman challenged Curry to debate him in a public statement issued last week, and Curry’s participation has since been confirmed by the Detroit News.

The debate will be streamed live at

In a statement to the World Socialist Web Site, Lehman explained what is at stake in the debate.

“I am eager to have the chance to present my program to the working class,” Lehman said. “We must break up the UAW apparatus and give power to the rank-and-file workers on the shop floor. This debate is a historic event. For the first time, a rank-and-file worker will be able to tell the UAW bureaucracy what we think of them.

“The UAW is not promoting this debate at all. It doesn’t want workers to know it is even happening. This isn’t surprising, considering the bureaucracy opposed the idea of direct elections in the first place. The only reason this debate is even happening is because the UAW leadership was convicted of robbing workers of our dues money and selling us out to the companies.

“I have received messages of support from workers across the country heading into the debate, urging me to confront the bureaucracy about the conditions we workers face, both in auto as well as health care, education and other sectors.

“Even though I was not given time off to prepare for the debate (I had to use one of my few personal days to attend the debate itself), I feel confident because I know I have the support of the rank and file.

“I encourage everyone to watch the debate, which begins at 6:00 p.m. and will last until 8:00 p.m. You can watch the debate live at”

The following sites updated:

No comments:

Post a Comment