Anime Movie Review: ‘Weathering With You’ Global Warming and a Negative Outlook – 23 Jan 2020

Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai

In mid-January, movie theaters in the United States, Canada, the UK and elsewhere began screening the new Japanese animated film Weathering With You, which was released in Japan last July.

The film has been selected as the Japanese entry for the Best International Feature Film award at the 92nd Academy Awards. It is the third anime film in history to receive four Annie Award nominations (prizes awarded annually by the Los Angeles branch of the International Animated Film Association), the other two being Spirited Away (2001) and Millennium Actress (2001).

Weathering With You, written and directed by Makoto Shinkai (Your Name), is set in modern Tokyo, during a summer of record-breaking rainfall. The central protagonist is a high school freshman named Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo), a runaway who arrives in Tokyo and lives on the streets until he finds employment working for a small publishing company. One of his tasks is to help investigate urban legends relating to the unusual weather.

Weathering with You

Circumstances bring Hodaka into contact with a teenaged girl named Hina (Nana Mori), who they discover is a “sunshine girl” (a playful pun on Japanese pop culture) who through prayer can make the sun shine temporarily in her location. Hodaka and Hina, both leading a precarious existence, put together a business selling Hina’s unique powers and are able to make money by bringing sunlight to markets, birthday parties and other such events.

Over time, Hina discovers that her body is gradually turning into water and evaporating the more she prays. This is reminiscent, it seems, of a legendary weather maiden, who can control the weather, but ultimately serves as a sacrifice to bring sunshine to her people. Hina decides to sacrifice herself, through prayer, to eradicate the nasty weather plaguing Tokyo, which subsides. However, Hodaka, through a romantic impulse, enters the spirit world and brings her back, leaving the city in a permanent state of inundation, including a sea level increase of dozens of meters.

From a technical standpoint, Weathering With You is breathtaking and beautiful, especially when viewed on a large screen. The detail and care given to the characters and settings, as well as more complicated elements like raindrops and storm clouds show what those with tremendous talent can do given the latest technological achievements. The artists were able to depict Tokyo as a contradictory place that contains some picturesque neighborhoods, but also others dangerous, dirty and vile.

Nana Mori (voice actor) in Weathering with You

With his technically higher-quality features, Shinkai is a rising star in Japanese animation, on his way perhaps to becoming a new Hayao Miyazaki (born 1941), the legendary filmmaker and animator (The Castle of Cagliostro, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, The Wind Rises).

In fact, many members of Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki’s famous studio, joined Shinkai to create his latest films. Prior to the release of this latest film, the director and writer was best known for writing and directing Your Name (2016), currently the highest-grossing anime film of all time.

Shinkai’s films generally have revolved around teenage romance coupled with loss. In 5 Centimeters per Second (2007), he told a tale about two teenagers who drift apart after one relocates to another prefecture. His Your Name (2016) recounts the story of a teenaged couple who somehow switch bodies across time and space and slowly fall in love with one another.

Weathering With You is aimed more at a general audience, and, while it does contain some romantic elements, its main themes have more to do with the dangers of climate change and the fortunes of impoverished children. Hina, who is a minor, has quit school to work illegally on the streets to take care of her little brother after they lose their mother the previous year. She confronts the harsh reality of part-time wage labor and the danger of sex trafficking as she struggles to survive.

Kotaro Daigo (voice actor) in Weathering with You

In an interview with Shinkai that followed the first US screenings, he explained that he purposefully depicted the weather as very violent and dangerous in this film. There are many scenes where Tokyo is flooded with rainwater. People walk around in ankle-deep and even knee-deep water, and underground apartments become completely flooded. This is intentionally placed in juxtaposition to weather as something that is beautiful, which is usually how seasons are depicted in Japanese animation. Shinkai points out that weather has today become something that Japanese people have to prepare for and fear.

Shinkai should be lauded for depicting such a new critical element of Japanese life in his film, yet the main weakness is that rather than depicting the extreme weather conditions as being the result of human-induced climate change and the capitalist profit system, the storms and dangerous rainfall are imbued with a supernatural malevolence. Unbeknownst to the rest of the population, the reason the rain continues to fall on Tokyo and increase the sea level to devastating heights is due to the decisions of a young girl with mystical powers and the selfish desires of a single boy in love.

The effects of humans upon the environment are generally downplayed. During the epilogue to the main drama, Hodaka speaks to an elderly woman who assures him that, in centuries past, Tokyo was just a bay filled with water—just as it had become by the end of this film—and that what they are seeing is just nature moving through its fluctuating periods that far outstretch the lives of humans. One character during the story points out that the perception of weather events “in recorded history” are short-sighted and do not account for the long geological history of which humans are but a blip.

One could look at Weathering with You as an allegory, one in which the teenaged runaway, who appears to come from an affluent family, sacrifices the safety and well-being of millions of people for his own selfish interests. However, the final point seems to be that humans do not really impact that heavily upon nature and that nature is more powerful and beyond the control of humans—something to be worshiped and revered rather than meddled with directly.

This is very much in line with much of Japanese film and television, entangled with Shintoism and various other forms of animism and which dwell on how “natural” forces and spirits play on everyday human life. Emotional problems, especially of youngsters, are expressed physically through supernatural means to provide morality tales for an adolescent audience. The remarkable artistry and technological prowess notwithstanding, this is a pretty miserable perspective at this moment in history, fatalistic, resigned and unable to confront harsh social reality in the face.

Trump’s Iraqi Katyusha Conundrum – by William Walter Kay – 23 Jan 2020

Katyusha 2

Katyushas are short-range, unguided artillery rockets typically fired in salvos from truck-mounted launch-tubes. Iraq’s insurgents deploy three types.

The smallest is 107 millimeters in diameter and 1 meter long. Its 19 kilogram weight includes an 8 kg high-explosive, shrapnel-bearing warhead. The 107mm is often fired from a 12-tube launcher, however, infantry-portable single-tube tripods are common. An experienced crew with a standardized weapon can hit a 400 X 400 meter target from 8 kilometers away. During the Vietnam War the US Army considered the 107mm to be their adversaries’ most formidable weapon.

The 122mm ‘Grad’ Katyusha is 3 meters long and weighs 75 kg. Its warhead spans a third of its length and weighs 18 kg. It has a 20-kilometer range and a 30-meter lethal radius.

220mm Katyushas hurl 100 kg warheads 30 kilometers.

Katyushas have advantages over mortars. They deliver the same payload twice the distance and they fire multiple ordnance more rapidly. The globally ubiquitous BM-21 Grad fires forty 122mm rockets in three minutes. Reloading takes 10 minutes. Thus, Katyushas excel at “shoot-and-scoot” operations. As well, Katyushas’ flat trajectories permit line-of-sight attacks and their 700 meter-per-second velocities provide unique anti-building potential.

After helping suppress the ISIS-led insurgency (2014-17) US forces defaulted to their previous occupation plan. Central to this program are segregated compounds situated inside Iraqi Armed Forces bases. These installations, always near airstrips, contain mere hundreds (not thousands) of US and Coalition troops who ride herd over the Iraqi Army whilst grooming and directing Iraq’s 15,000-strong Special Forces.

Embassies and consulates are integral to the occupation. The sprawling US Embassy compound dominates Baghdad’s fortified “Green Zone” which also houses Coalition partners’ embassies, and the headquarters of the many NGOs insinuated throughout Iraqi society.

The occupation facilitates local activities of American and European businesses. These require office blocks, oil-field infrastructure; and, gated communities for imported talent.

Pre-2011 Americans relied on bases containing thousands of troops. These were remotely located and allocated substantial resources to thwart indirect (mortar and rocket) attacks through: counter-artillery, drone surveillance, and fighting patrols. Despite this, indirect fire inflicted 3,000 casualties (including 211 fatalities) on American forces; many occurring inside ‘secure’ bases.

The US-led Coalition’s current archipelago of military, diplomatic, intelligence, business and NGO installations are ill-equipped to defend themselves against indirect fire. Proximity to cities makes them sitting ducks.

In September 2018 persons unknown began targeting US installations with Katyushas. This list chronicles these attacks.* (A dozen mortar attacks are not listed; Katyushas being the weapon of choice.)

  1. September 8, 2018 – four rockets (three 107mms and one 122mm) fall near the Green Zone.
  2. September 8, 2018 – two salvos of 107mms land near the US Consulate beside Basra Airport.
  3. September 28, 2018 – three 107mms are fired at the Basra Consulate; two land on site.
  4. December 27, 2018 – two 107mms are fired at Al-Asad Airbase (160 kilometers west of Baghdad) during Trump’s visit.
  5. February 2, 2019 – an attack on Al-Asad Airbase is aborted. Three ready-to-launch 122mms are captured.
  6. February 12, 2019 – three 107mms hit Q-West Airfield (an off-the-books base south of Mosul).
  7. May 1, 2019 – two 107mms hit Camp Al-Taji: a ‘training’ institute, 40 kilometers north of Baghdad.
  8. May 19, 2019 – two rockets land near the US Embassy.
  9. June 10, 2019 – rocket attack on Camp Al-Taji.
  10. June 12, 2019 – rocket attack on a “northern air base” starts a fire.
  11. June 13, 2019 – rocket attack on Nineveh Command Headquarters (Mosul Presidential Palace).
  12. June 14, 2019 – a rocket lands near the US Embassy.
  13. June 17, 2019 – three rockets hit Camp Al-Taji.
  14. June 18, 2019 – Nineveh HQ is attacked by two 122mms; one hits, one misses.
  15. June 19, 2019 – rockets strike a gated community outside Basra (home to Exxon staff).
  16. September 23, 2019 – two rockets hit the Green Zone; one lands near the US Embassy.
  17. October 30, 2019 – two rockets hit the Green Zone, killing an Iraqi soldier.
  18. November 8, 2019 – seventeen rockets target Q-West Airfield.
  19. November 17, 2019 – rockets hit the Green Zone.
  20. November 29, 2019 – a rocket hits the Green Zone.
  21. December 3, 2019 – Al-Asad Airbase is “rocked” by five 122mms.
  22. December 5, 2019 – five 107mms hit Balad Airbase (80 kilometers north of Baghdad).
  23. December 6, 2019 – a 240mm rocket lands near Baghdad Airport (then housing a US base).
  24. December 9, 2019 – four 240mms strike Baghdad Airport killing 2, and wounding 5, Iraqi soldiers.
  25. December 11, 2019 – two 240mms land outside Baghdad Airport.
  26. December 27, 2019 – thirty-six 107mms hammer K1 Base (15 kilometers northwest of Kirkuk); killing an American translator and wounding several US troops.
  27. December 29, 2019 – four rockets hit Camp Al-Taji.
  28. December 29, 2019 – five rockets hit Al-Asad Airbase.
  29. January 4, 2020 – two rockets hit Balad Airbase.
  30. January 4, 2020 – several rockets hit the Green Zone. One lands near the US Embassy; another closes a major street.
  31. January 5, 2020 – six rockets are fired at the Green Zone; three hit the target.
  32. January 8, 2020 – two rockets hit the Green Zone.
  33. January 12, 2020 – eight rockets hit Balad Airbase, wounding several Iraqi soldiers.
  34. January 14, 2020 – a five-rocket attack on Camp Al-Taji.
  35. January 20, 2020 – three rockets hit Green Zone. They were fired from Al Zafraniya (15 kilometers away).

Attacks are becoming more frequent and are trending toward bigger rockets and higher volume salvos.

The insurgents’ strategy is working. Katyusha attacks shuttered the US Basra Consulate in September 2018. Attacks in May and June 2019 forced Exxon to evacuate much of its foreign staff. Throughout 2019 the US State Department extracted personnel and the Defense Department consolidated bases into more secure facilities. By late 2019 US authorities were begging Iraqis for help whilst threatening retaliation.

The last straw came December 27 when the barrage onto K1 Base killed an American translator. The US responded with airstrikes on five Kata’ib Hezbollah bases (90 casualties) and with the January 3 assassination of Iranian General Soleimani. (The decision to assassinate Soleimani – in the event of an American fatality – was made June 24, 2019 following a week of near daily Katyusha attacks.)

While Iran and Iran’s Iraqi allies are blamed for these attacks; this is dubious. Reportage following attacks invariably drops the phrase “no one claimed responsibility” – which is notable because perpetrators often boast of such achievements. Ten years ago, when Kata’ib Hezbollah targeted US facilities with “lob bombs” (improvised rockets), they posted videos of their handiwork. They deny involvement in these recent attacks as do other Iranian-linked militias.

The reportage often describes the attacks as “mysterious” or as a “whodunit.” Authors relay US intelligence theories of Iranian involvement …without evidence.

On several occasions insurgents abandoned launchers and/or launch vehicles after the attack, often with fail-to-launch rockets inside. Investigators also possess fragments of successfully fired rockets. Tellingly, US officials, renowned for straining at gnats for evidence of Iranian complicity, do not utilize this material to incriminate Tehran.

The launchers themselves are obviously manufactured by local artisans. Moreover, an article from Kurdistan24 describes the rockets as “locally made.” Even globalist-militarist instrumentalities like the Washington Institute, Long War Journal, and Center for Strategic and International Studies concede some Katyushas are manufactured in Iraq.

Iraq has a burgeoning steel industry and, due to the calamities of the past 20 years, an enormous scrap metal industry. Katyushas’ cardinal virtue is their simplicity.

Circa 2014 twelve countries hosted non-state armed groups that deployed Katyushas. (Post-2014 Yemen’s Houthis joined this list, then outdid the pack in innovation and output.)

During the 2003-11 era Iraqi insurgents looted Katyushas from local arsenals. Other Katyushas came from Iran (officially or via the black market) and possibly from any of 32 other countries manufacturing them. Experts bemoan the difficulty of determining a rocket’s origin.

Circa 2008 Iraqi artisans manufactured a variety of launchers. A 2009 raid in Maysan Governorate discovered 107mm, 122mm and 220mm rail launchers; and 1,700 carjacks. (Jacks were affixed to the bottoms of stationary tripods to permit changes in launch angle.) Insurgents developed creative mobile launch platforms i.e. inside ice cream trucks or towed behind motorcycles etc. They debuted remote control triggers and GPS reconnaissance.

Circa 2011 poor quality of locally acquired rockets compelled insurgents to continue to rely on imports. The insurgents were, however, manufacturing “lob bomb” rockets and anti-armor mines; although Iran stood accused of being their sole supplier.

Post-2011 insurgents honed their craft. Remember: Hamas, operating inside Gaza with a tiny fraction of the resources of Iraq’s insurgents, manufactures crude Katyushas.

Prime suspects in the Katyusha campaign are not pro-Iranian militias; but rather the milieu around Mahdi Army successor, the Promise Day Brigades (PDB). This political tendency, nominally led by Moqtada al-Sadr, is concentrated in Iraq’s densely populated central and southern regions, but boasts a militant contingent in Mosul. This milieu overlaps the Saairun Alliance which includes Iraq’s far left; who carry their own legacy of armed struggle.

The insurgency’s Von Braun might be Jawad al-Tulaybani. An Iran-Iraq War veteran, al-Tulaybani possesses 40 years of combat rocketry experience. A war wound left him partially disabled. He appeared on US radar in 2008 after masterminding a barrage that wounded 15 US soldiers.

The org-chart of the Saairun/PDB/al-Sadr movement remains obscured. Notably, on January 8, 2020 al-Sadr counseled refrain from military actions. Four Katyusha attacks happened since.

What is clear is that this general political tendency is not particularly beholden to Iran. They appear nonsectarian, if not secularist, and they advance a left-nationalist agenda. Prior to the 2018 election (wherein Saairun emerged as the most popular bloc) Iran’s Foreign Minister warned Iran would never tolerate an Iraq run by “liberals and communists” – meaning Saairun.

Then again, Trump’s thrill kill of Soleimani (and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units’ Deputy Commander) completely reshuffled the deck, creating unprecedented unity amongst hitherto rivals.

As Katyushas veto pacification efforts, US forces return to square one. They must retreat to sprawling, remotely situated camps equipped to suppress indirect fire. This, however, means surrendering Iraq’s political theater to adversaries who will marshal Iraqi Government resources against them.

Katyushas are driving the Trump Administration’s Iraq policy. Prisoners of groupthink they react by doubling-down on the Big Lie that Iraq’s national liberation movement consists only of “Iranian terrorists.” In reality, their most effective opponents are as indigenous and legitimate as the French Resistance.


*Note on Sources

Data came from scanning 1,000 articles then parsing several dozen of them. Preference went to state media: i.e. Voice of America, Al Jazeera, Xinhua et al; although Military Times and Kurdistan-24 proved germane. Rogue Rocketeers: Artillery Rockets and Armed Groups (Small Arms Survey, Geneva Switzerland, 2014) is a must-read. Data on the first 7 Katyusha attacks was lifted without corroboration from Michael Knights’ Responding to Iranian Harassment of U.S. Facilities in Iraq (Washington Institute, May 21, 2019). As Knights is the only analyst to grasp the seriousness of the Katyusha attacks. His reports are a trove. Being intimately connected to US and Israeli intelligence, he slavishly relays the anti-Iran party line.

Major attacks generate scores of reports. Lesser attacks are mentioned only in passing. Some articles tally the attacks but the numbers do not jibe. Certain attacks go unreported. Probably, 50+ mortar and Katyusha attacks hit US facilities between September 8, 2018 and January 14, 2020.

William Walter Kay is a researcher and writer from Canada. His most recent book is From Malthus to Mifepristone: A Primer on the Population Control Movement.

Making Sense of Russia’s New Cabinet – by Gilbert Doctorow – 23 Jan 2020

viking chess

Tuesday evening, 21 January, the composition of Russia’s new cabinet was announced to the nation and the world. Russian state television was caught as unawares as any of us in the broad public when the names of the departing ministers, the names and biographical details of arriving ministers and the few changes in reporting lines were released to the wire services. Their correspondents hastened to find Duma members, think tank celebrities and others whom they hoped could make sense of the changes for their viewers.

Eventually, late in the night, a picture emerged of what the latest seismic wave in Russian politics means. I will try to present the generalities here. I will not go into detailed examination of each minister, because such micro-investigation is neither my specialty, nor is it likely to interest an international readership for whom ‘which way the wind is blowing’ is quite sufficient.

Of course, in the past week, even the contours of political change have appeared inscrutable to Western media who could only fall back on the assumptions that whatever Putin is up to cannot be good. Hence, the flurry of articles following Mr. Putin’s address to the bicameral legislature a week ago which sought to portray the constitutional changes he promised as serving only one purpose: to perpetuate his dominance and control over Russian politics after his presidential term ends in 2024. That was so despite the fact that nothing whatsoever in his proposed reforms would facilitate the stated objective and despite the fact that the changes, which diminish his power when implemented, would come four years before he has to relinquish his office.

However, even the harshest critics of Russia and Putin are beginning to change their minds.

The New York Times’ “Morning Briefing” today told its online subscribers:


On social media, our correspondent writes from Moscow, Russian political analysts “have put forward so many different theories that they paint a picture of a nation in collective befuddlement.”

Case in point: Mr. Putin’s announcement prompted a string of high-level resignations and unexpected appointments. Yet the new cabinet, announced on Tuesday, includes the most prominent members of the last one.

Background: Many analysts initially thought that the constitutional changes were intended to allow Mr. Putin, 67, to take up a powerful role when his second presidential term expires in 2024. Now they aren’t so sure.


Chapeau! This is one of the rare instances when the editors of The New York Times have followed the facts to an inconvenient truth about Putin and Russia – and have shared with their readership what they found.

Surely the confusion in the minds of the Russian public, as well as domestic and foreign political observers, over how to understand all the changes and prospective changes in Russia’s federal government was not by accident, but by design. The intention of Mr. Putin and of Sergei Kiriyenko, his close assistant in these reforms within his presidential administration, was surely to conflate two very different political disruptions: first, the introduction of constitutional reforms that rebalance the power sharing between executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government; and second, the change of cabinet to remove ineffectual and unpopular ministers, to bring in fresh blood from among the most successful administrative and technical talent operating at the higher levels of the federal government and groomed for succession these past several years. Both very separate measures share one common feature: to lay the groundwork for the Duma elections scheduled to be held in September 2021. They will likely generate more excitement in the public and will be more consequential than would otherwise be the case.

As for the proposed constitutional changes, I believe they serve a very clearly defined purpose: to prepare Russia for the post-Putin era by introducing checks and balances that will prevent any one branch of government, meaning the executive, from ‘running away with the show’ and changing the vector of Russia’s development and its orientation in the world as the result of the unforeseeable popularity and electoral victory by a candidate to the presidency put up by the Opposition, or even by factions within the Ruling Party and other ‘Duma parties’ in 2024 and thereafter.

Commentators have often speculated on whom Putin was grooming as his successor. We now have the answer: no one. And this is a wise approach to the issue, because no one in Russia would be capable of filling the shoes of Vladimir Putin, who is a once in a hundred years political phenomenon. And so the shoes to be filled in 2024 and thereafter have been downsized via the power sharing provisions of the proposed constitutional reforms.

Now let us turn our attention to the new cabinet of ministers which Mr. Putin convened and welcomed last night.

In the past few days, many have asked why Putin prompted Dimitri Medvedev and his ministers to resign a week ago. One of my fellow panelists in a Turkish international English television (TRT World) program yesterday devoted to Putin’s announced reforms offered the explanation that Medvedev was, in effect, forced out because he is so unpopular in the country. See here.

Indeed, unpopular he was, but that is not a new development. Rather, I believe the fate of Dimitri Medvedev and his cabinet was decided in the presidential administration back in December when the weak results on implementation of the president’s high priority National Projects during 2019 came in and when it also became clear that GDP growth during the year had been anemic, trailing rather than matching or exceeding global trends. A government shakeup was already in the cards from that moment.

Medvedev’s loss of popularity in the past couple of years also surely may be attributed to the focused attacks directed at him by the anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, who uncovered compromising material relating to the prime minister’s personal wealth and also to the unseemly abuse of rights to government transport and other resources by his wife. Nonetheless, his being sidelined at present does not necessarily exclude his return to positions of power in the future.

It must be remembered that during his tenure as president, Medvedev showed himself to be the most outgoing, the most friendly to the West of all Russian and Soviet heads of state in the last hundred years or more. It was a very regrettable mistake by Western leaders that his initiative to begin talks on revising the security architecture of Europe was spurned, and that he was intentionally misled about NATO intentions in Libya when the UN, with Russian support, voted to allow military intervention for humanitarian purposes.

Personal unpopularity or battle fatigue may explain the decision not to reappoint several members of the outgoing cabinet. The first rule pertains to Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky, who is guilty of graphomania and has been filling a whole library shelf with his overly nationalistic and simplistic histories while in office. Moreover, he got embroiled in quite controversial issues of what is permitted as artistic expression, making many enemies.

Then there was the non-reappointment of Vitaly Mutko who had been the Sports Minister until 2016 and carried all the baggage of Russia’s shame over doping, of its strained relations with FIFA. Mutko had been ‘kicked upstairs’ to a deputy premiership more for the sake of defying Western allegations against him than because of any personal merit justifying his new position. Clearly it was time to move on and reward others more worthy. As for Minister of Health Dr. Veronika Skvortsova, who was omnipresent in the country overseeing a vast reform program to bring quality health care to the rural population and also raise the level of diagnosis and early treatment for cardiovascular and oncological illnesses everywhere, the best guess is that she was simply worn down by the task and needed to pass the baton to someone else.

In my two essays on the planned constitutional reforms over the past week, I expressed the optimistic hope that President Putin would use the occasion of appointing a new cabinet to take the first step towards power sharing with the Duma. Specifically, I suggested that he might bring into the cabinet parliamentarians from the minority parties in the Duma, allotting to them portfolios in the more innocent domains such as labor, social welfare and culture, in effect forming a coalition government and thereby consolidating the Russian political landscape.

Reviewing the list of new ministers in the incoming cabinet, it is clear that quite the opposite has happened: the cabinet has been de-politicized. To be sure, nearly all members of the cabinet are members of the United Russia party. But they are what we may call just card-carrying members, whereas the former prime minister Dimitri Medvedev was and remains the head of United Russia.

The new cabinet members are concentrated in the ‘economic block’ and in the ‘social block’ of ministries, the two areas that rank very high in the fulfillment of President Putin’s pledges to the nation to raise living standards through fulfillment of his National Projects. They are what the Russians call хозяйственники or управленцы, which we may translate as highly competent managers with proven success in getting things done. Technocrats, by another name. One or two come from the administration of Moscow mayor Sobyanin, who oversees the country’s most successful municipality. One or two come from among the Prime Minister’s former colleagues in the Federal Tax Service, which is a model of technological innovation and efficiency.

At the same time, the most experienced and successful ministers from the Medvedev cabinet have been kept on in their posts. In particular, I point to Anton Siluanov at Finance, Sergei Lavrov at the Foreign Ministry, Sergei Shoigu at Defense, Alexander Novak at Energy. While Siluanov has been stripped of his rank as first deputy prime minister, he received moral compensation by being assigned the additional responsibility for State Property. I explain Siluanov’s removal from the deputy prime minister list as resulting from the ambitions of PM Mikhail Mishustin, who is himself a very experienced financial expert, to have free hands in this domain.

Now we will have to wait till just after the September 2021 Duma elections to see to what extent Mr. Putin intends to bring the lower house of parliament into the middle of national policy making by granting them seats in the cabinet.


Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2017. Reprinted with permission from his blog.

Little Women: The movie adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s famed work

Directed by Greta Gerwig; written by Gerwig, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), is the latest and a generally conscientious film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same title about four sisters and their parents during the Civil War era, the first part of which was published in 1868.

There have now been seven films based on the deservedly beloved book (including versions directed by George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy and Gillian Armstrong, featuring—among others—Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst), and it has been serialized on television at least half a dozen more times. There also have been stage, opera and musical adaptations.

Little Women was immediately popular and has never gone out of print, although Alcott by all accounts rather grudgingly wrote her “book for girls,” a genre she described as “moral pap.” Her work has been translated into more than 50 languages.

Little Women

The film and novel are principally set in Concord, Massachusetts, now a Boston suburb. In the mid-19th century, Concord, the site of the opening shots of the American Revolutionary War, was home to an illustrious group of writers and thinkers, including, at one point or another, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and Alcott herself. Other nearby residents and contemporaries included Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell and Horace Mann.

Alcott lived in Concord as a child, and later as a young woman. Her father, the transcendentalist Bronson Alcott, a complicated, often frustrated man, was a pioneer in progressive education and a fervent Abolitionist. Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller and Julia Ward Howe were all family friends and occasionally Louisa’s instructors. The Alcott family had little money and moved frequently, 22 times in 30 years. Louisa was the second of four daughters. Little Women is a fictional, somewhat idealized portrait of her family and life in Concord.

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and their mother, Margaret (or “Marmee”) March, are trying to make do while the girls’ father, Robert, is off with Union Army as a chaplain. The family is poor, although they have one wealthy relative, the irascible Aunt March.

Jo (short for Josephine) is tomboyish and “wild,” Meg beautiful and primarily interested in domestic bliss, Beth kind and gentle, while Amy aspires to be a painter and tends to act selfishly, impulsively. Their relationships and exchanges make up the bulk of the novel and many of its more realistic, enduring moments.

Eliza Scanlen in Little Women

Gerwig has created a framework for her film version. Her Little Women begins in 1868 in New York City, with Jo March (Saoirse Ronan), now a teacher, endeavoring to get a story published by Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts), an editor of sensational material.

After a few other sequences set in 1868, including one involving Jo’s youngest sister, Amy (Florence Pugh), on a trip to Paris with her great-aunt where she meets a childhood friend, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), who is drinking too much and generally misbehaving after being rejected by Jo, the film returns seven years in time, to 1861.

Gerwig includes in her film a number of the novel’s well-known episodes. One of the opening sequences takes place on Christmas Day. Mrs. March (Laura Dern) asks her daughters, assembled at the breakfast table anticipating a rare feast, to give up their meal to a poor, German immigrant family that lives nearby. They agree, pay a visit to the family, and are eventually rewarded when a rich neighbor, Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper), Laurie’s grandfather, provides them with an even greater repast.

After Amy is not allowed one evening to attend the theater with Jo and Laurie, she burns her elder sister’s writings, an apparently unforgiveable act. The following day, Amy, desperate to make amends, falls through the ice on a pond chasing after her sister and Laurie, and they are forced to act quickly to save her life.

Florence Pugh in Little Women

Mr. March (Bob Odenkirk) falls ill in Washington, D.C., and to help her mother finance a trip there, Jo cuts off her “abundant hair” (a “chestnut mane” in the novel) and sells it to a barber for $25. She assumes an “indifferent” air in front of her assembled family, but later, in a sweet and authentic moment, relapses into more reasonable adolescent girl behavior, as the book has it: “‘My… My hair!’ burst out poor Jo, trying vainly to smother her emotion in the pillow.”

Mr. Laurence, having lost a daughter, makes available to Beth, who loves music, the piano in his large house. She has the happiest moments of her life playing the instrument. The goodhearted girl continues to visit the impoverished family on her own, while her sisters only make excuses, and falls ill from scarlet fever as a result (based on the illness and death of Alcott’s sister Lizzie, who contracted the disease while visiting a German family). Sadly, the fever eventually kills her.

Laurie asks Jo to marry him, but she refuses him, arguing that their temperaments are too much alike and they’d only fight and make each other miserable. On a trip to Europe with his grandfather, Laurie encounters Amy and eventually falls in love with her. At first reluctant about accepting Jo’s castoff (“I’ve been second to Jo my entire life”) and seemingly determined to marry an even richer man she doesn’t love, Amy comes around to recognizing Laurie’s qualities.

Jo stands apart from convention about marriage, declaring that “Love is not all a woman’s good for,” but also admits to being terribly lonely. In New York, she develops feelings for a German professor, Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel), who returns her affections, but dares to criticize some of the stories she’s had published as trivial and unworthy of her. They reconcile at her parents’ home in Concord. As her editor Mr. Dashwood insists, the central female character must either die or marry.

This Little Women is generally appealing and often moving. It draws most of that strength from the original, but Gerwig has worked conscientiously to bring out the novel’s qualities. Saoirse Ronan is fine as Jo, although it seems a little ironic for a director presumably disdainful of “objectifying women” and measuring people in general by their looks to have chosen such an ultimately glamorous pairing as Ronan and Garrel, the well-known French actor (and director). Jo in Alcott’s novel is “very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt,” with her “long, thick hair … her one beauty,” while Bhaer is older, and in Jo’s own words, “rather stout” and hasn’t “a really handsome feature in his face,” other than “the kindest eyes I ever saw.” Hollywood will unfailingly be Hollywood.

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet in Little Women

Timothée Chalamet is convincing and appealing as the initially dilettantish Laurie, who threatens to become dissolute but eventually finds his moral and emotional way, while the most remarkable performance is given by Florence Pugh as Amy. Pugh, who was memorable in Lady Macbeth (2016), continues to demonstrate a ferocity and intelligence that makes a strong impression.

To her credit, and to one’s pleasant surprise, Gerwig does not attempt to inject contemporary identity politics into her film, at least not overly so. The framing device of Jo’s dealings with her publisher lends itself a little to some of that, but it is kept to a respectable minimum. In general, Gerwig respects Alcott’s tone and intentions.

Little Women occupies an unusual place in literary history. As mentioned above, Alcott thought it a relatively lightweight affair (“I plod away,” she confided in her diary, “although I don’t enjoy this sort of thing”), as did her real-life publisher. Although it is life idealized, “rounded off,” occasionally sentimentalized, the novel appealed to readers, young and not so young, at the time of its publication for its relatively unadorned and natural portrait of everyday existence, in opposition to much of the saccharine contemporary treatment of women’s and children’s lives in particular. Its moralizing is subordinate, in the final analysis, to its realism.

The book’s honesty and unpretentiousness are disarming. This description of Jo at her literary efforts presumably bears some relationship to Alcott’s own experience and self-image: “She did not think herself a genius by any means, but when the writing fit came on, she gave herself up to it with entire abandon, and led a blissful life, unconscious of want, care, or bad weather, while she sat safe and happy in an imaginary world, full of friends almost as real and dear to her as any in the flesh. Sleep forsook her eyes, meals stood untasted, day and night were all too short to enjoy the happiness which blessed her only at such times, and made these hours worth living, even if they bore no other fruit. The divine afflatus usually lasted a week or two, and then she emerged from her ‘vortex,’ hungry, sleepy, cross, or despondent.”

Alcott had the undoubted advantage of her education and intellectual surroundings. Her dialogue is often witty, engaging and precise, no doubt in part the result of having overheard some extraordinary people in conversation. Literary critic Van Wyck Brooks noted Alcott’s “life spanned all the great days of Concord.” He pointed out that she “had built her first play-houses with diaries and dictionaries and had learned to use them both at four and five.” Later, “she browsed in Emerson’s library, where she read Shakespeare, Dante, Carlyle and Goethe. She had roamed the fields with Thoreau, studying the birds and flowers.”

When, Brooks observed, “she made a ‘battering-ram’ of her head, to force her way in the world and earn her living, she ignored the conventional notions that governed her sex.” As for Little Women, he commented, “it was the author’s high spirits that captivated the world in this charming book.”

No doubt, but there is more to the novel’s continuing impact than that. The intellectual conditions of Alcott’s life themselves were bound up with great changes in society in the build-up to the second American revolution, the Civil War. As noted, Alcott and her family were fervent Abolitionists. Bronson Alcott was a friend of William Lloyd Garrison and participated in rallies against the return of slaves to their owners. In one instance, during the trial of one such unfortunate in 1854, Alcott joined the storming of a Boston courthouse. The Alcott family house was a station on the Underground Railway, sheltering fleeing slaves.

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott volunteered to be a nurse in the Civil War in 1862 on or near her 30th birthday, when a single woman became eligible for such service. “I want to do something,” she wrote, for the Union cause. For six weeks in December 1862 and January 1863, Alcott served at the Union Hotel Hospital in Georgetown in the District of Columbia. On her third day there, the casualties from the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg began to arrive, as she writes in her remarkable Hospital Sketches (1863), on “stretchers, each with its legless, armless, or desperately wounded occupant.”

Alcott tended to the sick and wounded, “washing faces, serving rations, giving medicine, and sitting in a very hard chair, with pneumonia on one side, diphtheria on the other, five typhoids on the opposite,” until she herself contracted typhoid pneumonia. Her father came and took her back to Concord, by which time she had fallen into delirium. She eventually recovered, but the war experience, along with the relationships she developed with African Americans in Washington (she shocked certain colleagues “by treating the blacks as I did the whites”), had life-altering effects.

In an interesting 2015 article devoted to Alcott’s war service, John Matteson of CUNY John Jay College argues that “no life experience transformed her writing more profoundly” than her stint as a Civil War nurse. Matteson comments that Alcott was “no stranger to harrowing experiences,” including her family’s grinding poverty and her much-loved sister’s death. She had even contemplated suicide in her mid-20s. “Nevertheless,” Matteson writes, “her experience of war exposed her as nothing had yet done to the farthest limits of human struggle and endurance.”

Little Women can be categorized, and criticized, in a number of ways. There seems little question, however, but that when Alcott came to take up her “book for girls,” about the apparently most mundane details of life, she brought to it some of the intensity and life-and-death urgency of the epoch, which is one of the reasons it still holds interest.

Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, twin queens of Gamergate, turned feminist victimhood into a career, then cheated their followers – by Sophia Narwitz – 21 Jan 2020

Zoe Quinn & Anita Sarkeesian, twin queens of Gamergate, turned feminist victimhood into a career, then cheated their followers
For the best part of a decade two women have parlayed supposed gamer sexism and death threat allegations into wealth, fame, and a reputation at odds with their actions. Will Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn ever be held to account?

Sarkeesian was an online pioneer of a certain type of feminist game criticism that appeared to dismiss most games as a form of digitalized misogyny and hated playing all of them, while Quinn was a game developer with a thin track record but a flair for drawing attention on the internet, when Gamergate struck.

An avalanche triggered in August 2014 by a single account of Quinn’s supposedly unscrupulous personal behaviour, Gamergate was the moment that a prevalent but culturally marginalized hobby came of age as something that truly mattered.

A full-scale war of words, denunciations, and firings cleaved gamers, developers and journalists into the ethical or corrupt, the normies and the basement dwellers, the abusers and the targets, those who believed that games were fine and needed to serve only as entertainment, and those who wanted to uproot the industry to better represent their political beliefs.

Sarkeesian and Quinn were appointed the unofficial bannerwomen of the ‘woke’ side of the divide, its sorriest martyrs and its fiercest warriors. For those who have only ever read about Gamergate from complimentary profiles in mainstream media outlets, where it has been blamed for everything up to and including getting Donald Trump elected and the ascent of fake news, and the spread of white supremacy, Sarkeesian and Quinn remain angels. They are not.

The Quinnspiracy

As the most notorious name to emerge from 2014, Zoe Quinn has remained by far the most recognizable among her and her cohorts. It was her promiscuity with industry insiders that launched Gamergate as a whole, but since then she’s had a number of public failings that have only helped her remain in the public consciousness.


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On October 26, 2016 she launched a Kickstarter for an erotic full motion video game. It would go on to raise a respectable $85,448. At the time of its announcement it was boosted by many gaming blogs and news websites. Conveniently for her, the incestuous nature of the medium took hold, and writers she’s hung out with on multiple occasions were among those who helped market her project to the world, all under the guise of journalism; a move on their part which no doubt helped the project go above its original asking price of $69,420.

As per its pitch, the game was almost a year into development and near completion as its estimated delivery date was February, 2017. Fast forward until now, and no game has ever appeared. The last official update occurred over 500 days ago on August 30, 2018, when Zoe informed backers that the project had run out of money.

Incidentally, at the very same moment she told the people who’d given her 85 grand that she was broke, she was in Japan, traveling in luxury. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the same media entities that were quick to boost her project to the masses have never once reported on the status of the game. As per my conversations with a source who worked on it, they called it a “failure.” zoe 4

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Within a day, news articles and industry insiders smeared his name, and even his own game studio tossed him out. Whether innocent or guilty, he never stood a chance to make his case. The internet had sealed his fate, and he took his own life. Perhaps for no greater a reason because someone needed her daily dose of righteous internet adrenaline?

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I’m not going to be so bold as to adamantly state that this was entirely done to garner attention, but Zoe’s past does indicate she often pushes herself to the forefront of controversy as to steal the spotlight. In fact, she thrives on the need to be the center of drama.

When former The Escapist owner Russ Pitts took the reins of the website, she attacked him simply because he revived it without “contacting” her; never mind that she’s not in any way associated with it. Acting as a supplicating inferior though, he quickly bent the knee and took his punishment, so much so that he abandoned it entirely and handed it off to someone else.

As it pertains to Alec, it hasn’t escaped the eye of detractors that the accusations were published to coincide exactly with the 5th anniversary of Gamergate.

Sarkeesian capital

One of the biggest media lies about Gamergate is that everybody who is supportive of it is a bigot who hates marginalized people. An ironic tall tale considering evidence shows the people most touting the importance of such folk are the ones most taking advantage of them.

Following Gamergate, Zoe Quinn launched the Crash Override Network. It was built as a support group for victims of online harassment, and infused with money from Anita Sarkeesian’s nonprofit, Feminist Frequency, who took on the role of a financial sponsor.

The network as a whole would only last roughly two years, and if former staff allegations are to be believed, not everyone got paid, and her trans members feel as if they were especially taken advantage of. Making matters worse is that allegedly, normal everyday people who came to the network seeking help were often denied service if they weren’t famous enough. Accusations range far and wide that Crash Override was just a ruse to help boost Quinn and Sarkeesian’s popularity. Statements which are believable when considering how Sarkeesian lives as opposed to those she is seemingly close with.

Strangely, Anita Sarkeesian’s has a Youtube channel for Feminist Frequency which could make money from the 200,000 people subscribed on the Feminist Frequency channel if people watched, but usually only about 2,000 people look to see what Anita Sarkeesian has to say in her videos.  So she constantly makes pitches for people with money to help spread the word by donating. 

Last year, it was announced that Anita could no longer afford to pay her two co-creators, and that she herself had ceased taking a salary. Fem Freq is an organization that in 6 years time had raised close to 2 million dollars, and somehow all the money had been squandered. A big portion of their funds came from corporations, and she was quick to take on an entitled sense of self and call them out on Twitter for not financially supporting her.

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The loss of Fem Freq funds hasn’t appeared to hit Anita too hard, as outside of her activity with the organization, she tours the world and gives speeches. This coming April she will be embarking on a mini speaking tour in Europe, which is a potential windfall as her average speaking fee is $20,000. Graced with the ability to travel at will, she even takes part in events like JoCo Cruise as a featured guest, and this past December she toured parts of Africa on what appears to be a trip of leisure.

Her trans co-host Carolyn Petit is another story, however. As Anita was spending a beautiful holiday abroad, Carolyn was seeking work, and struggles to afford her self described “cheap” cup of daily coffee, let alone her rent. From the looks of it she’s had to apply for work at a local grocery store and is struggling to get by. This is a woman who has worked with Anita for years, and who still volunteers at Fem Freq and works on their podcast and such, but by all outward appearances it doesn’t look as if Anita is doing much to help her with her situation.

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From the very beginning the manipulative grift of Anita was pretty obvious. In one of her earliest ‘tropes v women in games’ episodes, she caused controversy with the misinformation she spewed. In a video titled ‘Women as Background Decoration: Part 1’ she twists facts and misrepresents games to a shocking degree, all to push her agenda. An agenda that has been shown to be quite hypocritical.

A core argument of her content is the dishonest depiction of women, so it says a lot that her channel’s own art thins the hosts and makes them ten times prettier. Outside of that is her repetitive talking points. In a recent Polygon article she repeatedly brings up marginalized people, namely trans folk. Yet, if her funding of Crash Override and staff testimonials mean anything, she didn’t quite care enough about whether they were treated well, likewise she makes thousands on speaking tours while her co-host struggles to get by.

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She can tout being ‘woke’ and pretend she cares, but it seems she just builds projects up to boost her own name and then watches them die once she has sapped all she can from it. Funny how Quinn and Sarkeesian have benefited from various projects to a much greater extent than those they work with. As if reflecting the vanity which brought them here in the first place.

Enabled by the media

Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian are enabled, emboldened and in essence bankrolled by a mainstream media that refuses to hold them accountable. Years of lies and manipulation have had no negative effects on their standing with the press.
On Tuesday, both were featured in a Vox article about Gamergate, another litany of familiar accusations of “spreading hate” and “violence against women”.

Partisan journalists do not care about the Kickstarter backers who are still waiting for what they paid for, and who have been left hanging with zero updates. Nor do they care that the duo hasn’t properly taken care of those loyally working under them.


Most sickening of all is the lack of due diligence by those in the industry still providing them a voice. Whatever they say is taken as fact, a horrid display of unethical journalism as both individuals continue to purposefully cause outrage wherever they go, even at the cost of other people’s lives.

There’s Alec Holowka that we know of, but how many people reached out to Crash Override for help, only to be turned away because they weren’t popular enough? And suppose that was their last desperate bid to find comfort, could they too have cut their lives short?

These are questions we may not have suitable answers for until someone else decides to speak up, but one thing we know for sure is that Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn are the gaming industry’s dirty duo. Wherever you stand on Gamergate, listen to someone else.

Mystery solved: Klimt’s ‘Portait of a Lady’ painting found after 23 years missing, verified authentic – By Claudio Lavanga and Henry Austin (NBC News) 17 Jan 2020


Italian police officers stand next to Gustav Klimt’s painting “Portrait of a Lady” during a press conference in Piacenza, Italy on Friday.

By Claudio Lavanga and Henry Austin

ROME, Italy — A missing Gustav Klimt masterpiece that vanished from an Italian gallery, only for it to reappear within its walls 23 years later, has been confirmed by art experts as the original.

“It’s with no small emotion that I can tell you the work is authentic,” Ornella Chicca, a prosecutor in the northern city of Piacenza, told reporters on Friday at a news conference.

Klimpt Portrait of a Lady


The “Portrait of a Lady” painting, valued at $66 million, vanished from the city’s Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery, during renovation work in February 1997.

Believing it stolen, Italian police launched a wide ranging investigation and came up empty handed.

Then in December, almost 23-years after it vanished, it was discovered hidden inside the gallery’s walls.

While clearing ivy, a gardener who has not been named, noticed a metal panel. He opened it and found a bag inside a space within the walls.

Museum employee Dario Gallinari told NBC News that he was coming back from his lunch break when the gardener told him they found something and handed him a trash bag.

“I immediately saw a corner of a painting sticking out of the bag and recognized it straight away,” he said, adding that he had seen pictures of the painting for his entire life, but never the original.

“I even remember the day it was stolen,” he said. “I was 9 and I was at school when I found out and we have lived with the mystery of its disappearance ever since.

“So you can imagine how emotional it was to have it suddenly in my hands. I immediately run into the museum and showed it to a colleague of mine. He also couldn’t believe his eyes.”

Painted between 1916 and 1917, the painting of the woman sensually glancing over her shoulder against a dreamy green background is a later work by the Austrian art nouveau master.

Its disappearance had been one of the art world’s biggest mysteries.

There had been widespread optimism in Italian art circles that the gardener’s discovery would turn out to be the missing Klimt.

Italy’s Piacenza Sera newspaper quoted gallery officials as saying the back of the canvas bore stamps that were put on when the painting was on loan.

Since its discovery, the work had been kept in a vault of a local branch of Italy’s central bank.

Claudio Lavanga reported from Rome and Henry Austin from London.

Biden Was A Staunch Supporter of US War on Iraq in 2003 – Now He Claims the Opposite – by Sam Hussaini (Counterpunch) 14 Jan 2020

Biden’s Pack of Lies About the Iraq War

While Biden and his surrogates like John Kerry continue to falsely claim that he was not for the Iraq invasion, the Sanders camp has rightly highlighted more documentation, including video, of his support for the Iraq invasion after it happened, like his statement about Bush at the Brookings Institution in July 2003: ‘The president of the United States is a bold leader and he is popular.”

But it’s the tip of the iceberg. That address to Brookings (video) itself contains brazen pro-war falsehoods, with Biden claiming that Saddam Hussein ‘violated every commitment that he made. He played cat and mouse with the weapons inspectors. He failed to account for the huge gaps in weapons declarations that were documented by UN weapons inspectors and submitted by them to the UN Security Council in 1998, and every nation in that Council believed he possessed those weapons at that time. He refused to abide by any conditions.’

It’s a pack of lies. The Iraqi government released a massive amount of information in 2002, it agreed to allow the UN weapons inspectors in well before the Congressional vote that authorized war — a vote that Biden has claimed was justifiable to give Bush a stronger hand in getting inspectors into Iraq. Additionally, the prior weapons inspection regime, UNSCOM, was ended in 1998 not because Saddam Hussein kicked them out, but because Bill Clinton ordered them withdrawn on the eve of his scheduled impeachment vote to make way for the Desert Fox bombing campaign.

It’s remarkably fitting that the Biden camp has put out Kerry on this issue since Kerry’s falsifications regarding Iraq are remarkably similar to Biden’s. Kerry might be the Democratic senator whose record helped the Iraq war as much as Biden’s. This notably led to his contortions in the 2004 election when he was the Democratic Party nominee and lost to George W. Bush.

When I questioned Kerry in 2011 about his vote for the Iraq invasion, he claimed that ‘I didn’t vote for the Iraq war. I voted to give the president authority that he misused and abused. And from the moment he used it, I opposed that.’ Another lie. Kerry actually attacked the notion of a withdrawal from Iraq at that point, even saying in December of 2003: ‘I fear that in the run-up to the 2004 election the administration is considering what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy,’ effectively taking position even more militaristic that Bush.” Also see from August 2004 from CNN:Kerry stands by ‘yes’ vote on Iraq war.”

It’s remarkable how little scrutiny Biden has gotten for his role in the Iraq invasion. Sanders has mostly criticized Biden’s vote, but Biden was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been criticized by leading analysts and weapons inspectors for the hearings he presided over that led to war. Tulsi Gabbard, viewed by many as an antiwar candidate, has outright let Biden off the hook. At a debate last year, Gabbard said of Biden: ‘He was wrong — he said he was wrong.’ Thus, Biden may be positioned to become the Democratic nominee — and face Trump in the general election — with minimal scrutiny for his major role in the worst policy decision of our lifetimes. He’s also in a worse position to take on Trump’s phony ‘America First’ isolationism than Hillary Clinton was in 2016.