Saturday, July 29, 2023


It's my time up for book coverage.  Stephen Rebello's DOLLS! DOLLS! DOLLS: DEEP INSIDE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, THE MOST BELOVED BAD BOOK AND MOVIE OF ALL TIME is my choice or, my eventual choice.

I like a lot of films starring Audrey Hepburn -- mainly FUNNY FACE and CHARADE but several others as well.  And so I thought it would be interesting to read a book about her. I got 35% in on Alexander Walker's AUDREY: HER REAL STORY before bailing.  It was so dull.  That's the writing.  At one point, we learn that Humphrey Bogart hated her  -- they made SABRINA together.  He hated her and he was rude to her on set.  He felt the director gave her more camera attention -- including close ups -- than he received.  He was insulting to her on the set and everyone just ignored it and acted as though it wasn't happening.

That should have been a riveting section of the book.  It may have been even more boring than the rest of the book.

So Rebello's DOLLS! DOLLS! DOLLS! is about how Jacqueline Susann's massive best seller VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is turned into a film.  In 1966, Susann's book is topping the best seller list with its steamy look at the entertainment industry (Broadway, modeling, films).  The standout character is probably Helen Lawson who is just outrageously evil as she tries to hold onto her stardom.  Susann based the character on Ethel Merman.  Who were the others?  Was the big breasted starlet Jennifer supposed to be Marilyn Monroe (it was partly based on Susann's friend Carole Landis)?  Everyone felt the pill popping singer-actress was Neely O'Hara.  People guessed along as they read along.  It was on the best seller list for 65 weeks -- 28 of those weeks in a row, it was the number one best selling novel in the country.  It was the best selling novel of 1966.

So they thought it would be a hit movie.  And it was.  DOLLS! DOLLS! DOLLS! documents why it wasn't a good movie.

A lot of people consider the film to be camp classic.  I don't.  I went with this book, after the aborted effort on AUDREY, because I made the mistake of watching the film again.  

It's wretched.  That's not the fault of Sharon Tate or Barbara Parkins who play Jennifer and Anne.  It's the fault of Patty Duke.  She plays Neely.  It's not that she overplays -- though she does.  It's that she's so wrong for the part.

Did anyone ever think Patty Duke was attractive?  She's certainly not beautiful. 

She's dog ugly in this film and, of course, can't sing.  

She has no presence.  Film presence saves Sharon and Barbara when the script fails them.

She's just hideous.  

She's never been a star -- well, she's dead now.  But in her career, she was never a star.  She was not a star on Broadway as a child in THE MIRACLE WORKER or in the film of the same name.  She won a Best Supporting Academy Award for that film.  I've never thought she deserved it -- she didn't win a Tony for the same performance.  I've never quibbled over Anne Bancroft winning Best Actress for the same film.  But Patty's performance wasn't all that.  Then she ended up on ABC for three so-so seasons (well the first two were so-so, the third season the show bombed) in THE PATTY DUKE SHOW where she's irritating and annoying as the main character (Patty) -- so much so that most people prefer Cathy (also played by Patty Duke).  After three low rated seasons, the show got the axe because ABC wanted all their shows in color and the studio making Patty's show rightly realized that filming in color would make the already barely turning a profit show go into the red.

Patty followed with no film of note.

Beginning in the 80s, there was an effort to rewrite history and claim that Patty's mental illness harmed her career.  Her untreated mental illness did get progressively worse as she aged until it was finally diagnosed.  

But she killed her career not by an acceptance speech at the Emmys (where she was drunk and in the revision she's not, it's all the mental illness; that's not reality, she was drinking hard the awards ceremony).  That didn't help.  But what destroyed her career was the events leading up to it.  Unmarried motherhood was a hard sell for many.  As late as the 80s, Farrah Fawcett would be pregnant and she and Ryan O'Neal did not marry.  Farrah suffered no fall out because we loved Farrah.  Because Farrah had a bad first marriage (to Lee Majors).  Because Farrah and Ryan had been together for about five years (maybe longer).  When Patty was pregnant, it just wasn't done.  

But it was worse than that.  Patty did not know who the father was.  She was sleeping with three men at the time.  And she didn't have the brains to keep that to herself so the press was writing about it.  She claimed the father was Desi Arnaz Jr.  And Lucille Ball did not believe that.  The father might also be actor John Astin.  Or music producer Michael Tell.

Again, none of this should have been known in real time but she didn't know how to shut her damn yap.  

John Astin was willing to marry her regardless of who the father of the child was.  He was willing to raise the child as his own regardless with no talk of paternity test.  

Nope.  Patty wanted big stardom and just knew trapping Desi was the way to go.  Which is why Lucille Ball hated her.  

Patty would go decades telling people that Desi was the father.  She lied.

That wasn't her only lie about this.

She married William Tell once she realized this tawdry spectacle had destroyed her film career.  She married Tell and ran back to TV.  She used him and tossed him aside after 13 days.  Then she went back to John Astin.  Astin adopted the child (Sean Astin).  The boy was raised with John, William and Desi Jr. all acting as his father.  

Patty wrote several books.  In her awful, filled with lies, CALL ME ANNA (1987), she lies over and over about everything and starts the revisionary history of 'it's my mental illness.'  No, it's that your a liar.

In the book, over and over, she says Desi's the father.  She insists -- over and over -- that it could not be William Tell because they never had sex.  She married when she was pregnant, she explains, but they had never had sex.


In 1995, Sean has a paternity test -- all three men had remained in his life and all three had acted as a father.  Guess what?


The father's William Tell.  


The one liar Patty claimed she never slept with.  Not to get pregnant and, after she was pregnant, not during their 13 day marriage.


Her manic mood swings?  They may be real -- they probably were.  They don't excuse her lying.  Lying in interviews, lying in print, lying to her son, lying to Desi Jr.  


Lucille Ball was right, Patty was lying and she was trash.


So there's short and fat Patty with her manly face trying to play what is basically Judy Garland and failing over and over.


Judy was pretty.  Even in her final years, she was a pretty woman.  She also had a star quality, yes.  But, more important, she had a vulnerability that made us want to root for her -- whether she's Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ or Jane in SUMMER STOCK.

There's no vulnerability with Patty Duke.  And instead of drawing viewers in, she repells them.


Reading the book, be amazed at how many actresses wanted the role but were turned down.


Natalie Wood.


She wanted to play Neely.  The studio wanted her to play Anne (the good girl who becomes a model and is the only one of the characters to retain their soul by the end).  She wanted to play Neely.


They should have let her.


The film needs Natalie Wood.  


Patty comes off as loud and abrasive from the beginning.  It's not just that you wonder how she would become a star, it's that it's the wrong performance. 


Anne and Mel and Lyon all help Neely after Helen Lawson gets her dropped from the Broadway musical because Helen's jealous of Neely's talent.


Natalie could have played that.  If you watch those scenes -- up to the club scene right after where Neely learns her career is not over because of the work of Ann, Mel and Lyon, you get that they're helping her and they're doing it because she's vulnerable and you want to help her.  That's in the writing.


It's never in Patty Duke's unrestrained and hammy performance.  She doesn't build a character.


Neely's not a bad person, she gets on drugs and her life gets out of control.  


But that's not how Patty played the role.  She's tougher and harder than Helen Lawson from her first scene.  


We need to see a soft and kind Neely for the film to make sense.  That's the only reason Anne and the others take pity on her.  Helen Lawson, we are told, does what she did to Neely to others all the time.  That Neely survives is not because of her talent, it's because she has a vulnerable quality that makes people want to protect her.


And her career suffers as she gets tougher and tougher offscreen and then on.  

The "dolls" are the pills and the characters self-medicate.


It changes them.  


Except, in the film, Neely who starts out as a hardened bitch and never changes.

Many actresses could have played Neely, Anne or Jennifer.

And they would have been fine.  

With Barbara and Sharon, the film got two actresses suited for the parts.  With Patty?  No.

Natalie should have been given the role.  She was three times nominated for an Academy Award by that point.  The scenes where Neely's mind scrambles?  SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS already proved Natalie could handle that.  She could have handled Neely's arc of growth.  

CBS did a mini-series of VALLEY OF THE DOLLS -- I think it was 1981.  Veronica Hamel did a great job as Jennifer but, more to the point, Lisa Hartman nailed the role of Neely.

Many good actresses could have.  

Patty Duke was not a good actress and she destroys VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.

The book tells you about how Helen Lawson also attracted interest from actresses.  Bette Davis early on wanted the role.  Johnny Carson hated Jacqueline Susann and would not have her on the show to promote the book.  So Bette went on and got the book mentioned as a favor to Susann.  She was then supposed to play Helen.

That did not come to be.  

Then Judy Garland was signed for the role.

Wardrobe tests and recording the song she'd perform went well.  Then?  It was said she reported to work on her first day for an 8:00 am call.  And the director, Mark Robson, refused to call her to the set for her first scene until 4:00 pm.  It seemed like a power play and left her only more nervous.  She would be fired from the film.

Probably the best thing that could have happened.  I am not a Susan Hayward fan but even I marvel over how poorly she comes off in the role.  Mark Robson was not a great filmmaker.  He shot a lot of garbage in his time.  VALLEY OF THE DOLLS would make that list.

Jacqueline Susann saw the finished film and couldn't believe how bad it was. 

What survives?

Sharon Tate and Barbara Parkins who are perfect in their roles and who make you believe that Jennifer and Anne are friends -- even in scenes without one another, when they mention the other, it seems sincere.

Also surviving are the fashions of William Travilla.  He created distinctive looks for the three main characters and did a great job.  He won an Academy Award for costumes for 1949's ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN. He was also nominated for HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953), THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS (1954) and THE STRIPPER (1963).  He would go on to be nominated seven times for an Emmy.

In fact, I don't do enough to note the costumes.  When they're nominated for an Academy Award each year, I write about the nominees and that's it.  One of the best things TCM has done is when they have Alicia interview people about the fashions that were created for a film and how the vision was executed.  

So let's take a minute more to note William Travilla.  This is from IMDB:

The man who draped a fringed Idaho potato sack on Marilyn Monroe for a famous snapshot - proving that she looked good in anything - was born on Catalina Island off the California coast on March 22 1920. He studied at the Chouinard School of Art in L.A., showing a precocious talent for drawing fashion design from an early age. By the time he was sixteen, he made money by selling sketches of costume designs for showgirls he had studied at burlesque houses.

Found unfit for wartime duties due to flat feet, William Travilla made his way to Hollywood and signed his first contract as costume designer at Columbia in 1941. However, during his two-year tenure he received rather few assignments and left disillusioned. Little work came his way during the next few years, until, in 1946, he was spotted in a nightclub (selling travel sketches of the South Pacific) by the actress Ann Sheridan, who became an instant admirer of his work. Sheridan persuaded Travilla to become her personal costume designer at Warner Brothers. This didn't quite come to pass, though he did design her gowns for Nora Prentiss (1947). More importantly, he notched up his first major success by winning the Academy Award for the lavish and colourful costumes of Adventures of Don Juan (1948) in conjunction with Leah Rhodes and Marjorie Best. After his three year contract was up, Travilla went on to 20th Century Fox, for what would become the most productive period of his career in the film business. At the same time, he set up his own high end fashion salon, Travilla Inc., in Los Angeles, creating several collections of elegant, award-winning designs.

Travilla dressed many established stars, from Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, to Loretta Young. However, he is chiefly remembered for the iconic gowns, designed for Marilyn Monroe's famous hourglass shape in eight of her most popular films. These include her sexy satin number from How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), the gold lame dress with the sun ray pleats glimpsed in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and, subsequently, at the 1953 Photoplay Awards (over Travilla's objections); and, of course, the white cocktail dress famously uplifted above the subway grate in The Seven Year Itch (1955). One of three versions of the latter sold at auction for $ 4.6 million in 2011. Despite their close working relationship, Travilla later went on record describing Marilyn on a personal level as 'childlike' and plagued by feelings of inadequacy.

After his contract with Fox expired in 1956, Travilla tended to his own exclusive label, designing a collection of ready-to-wear 'California' fashion. In the 1960's, he continued to freelance, working primarily for television. He showed off a young Connie Sellecca to great effect in a murder mystery revolving around the fashion industry, fittingly titled She's Dressed to Kill (1979). Ever synonymous with a bygone era of glamour, he went on to win two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Costume Design for The Scarlett O'Hara War (1980) and for Dallas (1978). An exhibition of his personal collection, under the auspices of his longtime collaborator William Sarris, went on a world tour in 2008.

Along with Edith Head and Adrian, Travilla was probably one of the most important costumers for film in the 20th century.

So what else survives?

The theme song.

"(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls" was a big hit.  The song was written by Dory and Andre Previn (Mia Farrow, after sleeping around on the set of A DANDY IN ASPIN while still married to Frank Sinatra, would set her sights on her best friend Dory's husband and Dory would write one of her best known songs "Beware Of Young Girls").  It was a huge hit -- number two on BILLBOARD's pop chart and number one on CASHBOX's pop chart.  Barbara Parkins, the book explains, was the one who suggested and advocated for Dionne to be the artist to perform the theme.

It's a really good book.  Rebecca reviewed it in 2020:

  • valley of the dolls
  • this is the book you have to read this summer

     The film was a huge hit.  It made the top ten for 1967 -- this despite the fact that it only went into wide release on December 15, 1967.

    Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


    Friday, July 28, 2023.  A helicopter crashes in Iraq (a US helicopter, in case you weren't paying attention before), protests outside the banks, RFK Junior tries to spin a likability poll into how someone plans to vote, a church is attacked, and much more.

    Starting in Iraq, FIRST POST reports, "A military helicopter from the U.S.-led coalition crashed on Thursday in northern Iraq while making an emergency landing attempt, the coalition said in a statement, adding that no one was hurt."  THE NEW ARAB notes the official reason being given for the crash is an " in-flight mishap" -- which, of course, could be anything from a blown fuse to having been hit with missile.   THE CRADLE provides this context:

    A widely held view among Iraqis is that the US helped ISIS grow in Iraq and Syria to weaken and divide both countries. The US then sought to maintain influence in Iraq by joining the fight against ISIS once it was initiated by the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and the Iraqi army, with the strong support of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

    ISIS was defeated and lost its territory in Iraq in 2017 and Syria in 2019. However, remnants of the group remain and carry out attacks from time to time in both countries.

    US officials cite the ongoing presence of ISIS as a pretext to maintain forces in both Iraq and Syria.

    Currently, there are nearly 3,500 US troops and coalition troops in Iraq who train and advise local security forces.

    The US coalition forces are stationed at bases shared by the Iraqi military, including the Ain al-Asad base in Anbar, Camp Victory near Baghdad's international airport, and Harir airbase in Erbil, the IKR capital.

    In other news, financial unrest leads to protests in Iraq.  AP reports:

    Dozens of people protested in front of the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad and bank owners called for official action to stem a sharp increase in the dollar exchange rate Wednesday, after the United States blacklisted 14 Iraqi banks.

    Over the past two days, the market rate of the dollar jumped from 1,470 dinar per dollar to 1,570 dinar per dollar. The jump came after the US listed 14 private Iraqi banks among banks that are banned from dealing with US dollars due to suspicions of money laundering and funneling funds to Iran. 

    The currency fell after new action by the US government to curb the flow of dollars to sanctioned Iran. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the US Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York barred 14 Iraqi banks from dollar transactions. Restriction on US dollars limit the currency's supply, thus boosting its value against the dinar. 

    The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York did not respond to Al-Monitor’s request for comment.

    The Central Bank of Iraq issued a statement in response to the news, saying the barred banks can still conduct business in Iraqi dinars. The Central Bank also said that these banks only constitute 8% of foreign transfers, according to a statement.

    The dinar’s depreciation led to protests in Baghdad outside the central bank on Wednesday, with people demanding government intervention to prevent the currency from falling further.

    ALJAZEERA notes, "The protests outside the central banks were organised by the Thuwar Tishreen (October Revolutionaries), a group that started mass protests in 2021, calling on the government to take action to halt inflation."

    Let's turn to the US and let's zoom in on the pathetic.  A friend of several decades is someone I often rag on and I'm not going to name him today but I've probably done so before, so if you figure it out, good for you.  But when he reads this, I didn't name you in this.  So my issue with him for years has been that he's the male Joan Crawford onscreen.  I find his films formulaic but, most of all, I don't like them because he's Joan Crawford.  Now I like THE DAMNED DON'T CRY, for example, it's a great film noir.  But all the suffering and all the melodrama needed to elevate Joan above everyone else in the cast is present in his films and so is the victimization that is the hallmark of the average Joan Crawford character.

    I bring that up because I finally get why the right-wing is so obsessed with masculinity.

    I get it.

    It's because they have none.

    They have no strong men.  They only have strong shoulders -- shoulder pads -- because they're an army of Joan Crawfords.  They can't stop playing the victim.  

    It's there in Ronald DeSantis crazed attack on the world, it's there in pathetic Jason Aldean who secretly edited the video recently to take out some of the more objectionable parts and wants to pretend like it's the same video that's been airing this whole time and that he's the victim.

    It's so bad even Mona Charen is calling him out in her syndicated column (briefest up to speed for those who don't know Charen, no one would ever call her "left" or even "center"):

    And it’s notable that some awfully famous images of rioters attacking an iconic American landmark, desecrating the American flag and spitting on cops — those from Jan. 6 — didn’t make the cut. 

    Asked if he would play the song even after the controversy, Aldean took refuge in the familiar pose of victimhood. Because he’s being criticized, he thinks he’s being “canceled.” Gushing about his “bada—” fans, he whined that “Cancel culture is a thing ... which means try and ruin your life, ruin everything.” Of course he would perform the song, he declared, because “the people have spoken and you guys spoke very very loudly.” So matters of decency get decided by plebiscite? 

    Look, Aldean imagines that he is merely standing up for the “feeling of a community that I had growing up.” But if he really was raised with good values, where is the fellow feeling? Where is the sense of community with other Americans who may not be from the same town but are just as worthy of respect and consideration as his high school buddies? If this were really a call to community, he would have included at least one or two images of Americans who weren’t white or rural. Don’t we expect all Americans to honor their neighbors and compatriots? Isn’t that part of what being “raised up right” includes? Don’t rural people reach into their wallets when hurricanes or tornadoes hit cities and vice versa? 

    Aldean’s defense is fatuous. The music video is belligerent and divisive. In this age of ugly partisanship, the cheapest clicks can be purchased with us-vs.them incitement. It’s unworthy. Don’t try that in a good country. 

    When I read her column and thought of how pathetic Aldean is, I thought of how pathetic Jonathan Turley is who uses social media to divide the country constantly and can always be found inciting attacks on DISNEY, Bud Light, Target and anyone objecting to Aldean's racist video.  

    They play the victim because that's how they see themselves.  It's why they're so enraged.  It's why they attack everything.  They're not men, if they're lucky they're boys.  But they're not men.  A Joan Crawford character was many things but it was never a man -- not even in JOHNNY GUITAR.

    If you're not getting it, go to YOUTUBE, search "REASON" and pull up that nonsense outlet's interview with victim Matt Taibbi.

    Did you know that poor Matt is so troubled and so hurt and it's all because, grasp the tissue, he refused to support Hillary Clinton in 2016 and, sob, sob, he didn't get on board with Russia-gate.  The left turned on him!  The left turned on him!!!!

    Grow the hell up, you fat f**k.  You're the most spoiled brat in the world -- and it shows in that creepy baby face.  Have you been out in the sun ever?  To be fat and have that skin?  We're talking THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS grotesque.  

    And most of the left does not care one way or another who you voted for in 2016.  

    Hillary Clinton, in 2016, wanted to be Barack Obama in 2008 which is why she ran such an awful campaign.  It was inauthentic and it relied on celebrities.  Not only did she not photograph with them as well as Barack had -- it's an issue of body types and an issue of crips lines in the clothing -- Hillary didn't have it -- but it just never rang real and only reminded people of other times when she'd come across fake thereby daily playing to her weaknesses and elevating her negatives.

    But here's the thing, Matty, speaking out against Hillary didn't cost you a damn thing.

    I was opposed to Barack.  I knew, from Elaine and my meeting him before he was in the US Senate, that he had no plan to end the Iraq War.  He made that clear which is why closed our check books and left the fundraiser.  We had planned to max out because we were -- and remain -- against the war.  But when we got our face time and raised Iraq to this 'anti-war' person and he told us it didn't matter anymore because "we" were in Iraq now, we left.

    Barack didn't end the war.  He didn't even ever pull out all US troops.  There was a drawdown -- as the Pentagon rightly termed it -- not a withdrawal.  And we had noted that Barack would send troops back into Iraq -- if elected president -- and we'd done that by looking at the raw interview NYT did with candidate Barack as opposed to the garbage filth they published.  He said very clearly -- but they didn't put it in the article -- that he was fine with pulling troops out and with putting them back in.

    ISIS was his excuse for that in 2014.  

    That's probably not going to cause anyone to spew their coffee today.  But the media was for Barack at the time.

    And he was a very popular president.

    We went campus to campus speaking out against the war before he was president and we did it after.  And telling the truth, especially in the weeks and months right after the election?  People didn't want to hear that.  They wanted to believe that the war was over, all the US troops were coming home, blah blah blah -- Hillary had a funny on that in 2008 ("the heavens will open . . .").  

    Point being, you tell the truth.  If you have any integrity, you tell the truth.

    I did.  I was booed.  Didn't bother me, didn't make me cry.  It wasn't the first time I'd ever been booed.  I know how to work a crowd and, each time, was able to turn it (the booing) into a joke so we could laugh together and them move back to the topics and reality at hand.

    I think if that had happened to Matt, 15 years later, we'd find him still seated on that stage in a pool of his own urine as he sobbed.

    Grow the hell up.

    You chose a position.  Are you happy with what you chose to fight for?  Then you won.  Stop the whining.  Stop pretending you're a victim.  

    And stop pretending that you're transphobia isn't the reason most people hate you today.

    You actively courted the right-wing and you served them.  You betrayed yourself as a journalist -- hell, even Glenn Greenwald told THE VANGUARD that he wouldn't have agreed to the terms you did to get access to The Twitter Files.  You are an embarrassment.  You are a goober.  You are this fat, ghostly white sloth that is physically repugnant.  

    You're a grifter and people caught on.

    No, there was no excuse for you to be attacked in a Congressional committee and we defended you on that.  But you're not eleven years old, grow the hell up.

    If these pathetic right-wing males could, we'd have a better world.  But too many of them are nursing perceived hurts and feeling victimized.  How pathetic.

    Did someone say RFK Jr?

    He's begging money again.  He's trying to sell the latest Harvard-Harris poll as a win.  He's moved nothing and he thinks that's a victory.  "I'm the same as I was last month," he brags.  

    The numbers aren't increasing, are they?  Not the numbers of people who support you.  You had name recognition and you've failed to build on it.  

    And the poll doesn't say what he wants it to.  In the campaign e-mail, the campaign's insisting that it means he would be president if the election were held today.  That's not what it means at all.  This was not an issue of who would you vote for?  That question was not asked -- which is why various people listed -- such as Hillary -- are people who aren't even running for office.  He's such a liar.

    When conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. isn’t busy spouting racist and antisemitic trash, he can be found campaigning for a clearly doomed 2024 Presidential nomination. And the way he’s doing it…not exactly the most creative approach.

    Over the weekend, RFK Jr. spent some quality birthday time with his son Conor, who recently celebrated his 28th birthday. But while Kennedy Jr.’s blatant attempt to cash in on his son’s abs might seem like an obvious move out of the wacko candidate’s playbook, it’s not quite working as intended.

    Let’s be clear: Conor is a fine-looking gentleman, and yes, those abs could certainly have launched a thousand ships in a simpler time—in fact it’s rumored that Taylor Swift’s 2012 Red track “Begin Again” was written about the socialite. Still: nobody’s biting, and for good reason.

    Basically…it’s giving classless. It’s giving desperate. It’s giving…please just stop.

    What does it say to you?  To me, it just emphasizes how Junior's always been a little thinner on the right side of his face -- as though that side didn't develop normally.

    + RKF, Jr. during his “Combatting Antisemitism, Championing Israel” event in New York City: “Israel has…Israel is not going to use their nuclear weapon unless they’re attacked and we know that.” In fact, I’m pretty sure we don’t know that.

    + Every nuclear state is a terrorist state, using the threat of its arsenal to bully non-nuclear states into submission. Moreover, Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s nuclear power plant in 1981 was a kind of nuclear strike, given the amount of highly-enriched uranium released by the attack.

    + At nearly the same time RFK, Jr. was “championing Israel,” Tamir Pardo, the former head of Mossad, told an Israeli radio station that the Israeli right is similar to the KKK.  Pardo said that many of the Israeli government’s legislative initiatives are tantamount to “antisemitic laws,” and would be labeled as such were they passed in any other country.

    + RFK, Jr. to Greta Van Susteren: “I’m the only one who has called for Biden to retract the $2 billion payment he’s giving to Iran, which you know will be used for genocidal purposes.” How can Dennis Kucinich continue to front for this maniac?

    [. . .]

    + Ron DeSantis has now fired one-third of his paid campaign staff. Among the terminated was Nate Hochman, the communications staffer who made and Tweeted out a pro-DeSantis video with Nazi imagery.

    + People generally like their kid’s school, which may be one reason the smoke from DeSantis’s scorched-earth campaign against them is blowing back in his face. According to a recent Gallup poll, 80% of parents said they were somewhat or completely satisfied with their child’s school, which in most cases was public. This approval rating was actually a little higher than in most years before the pandemic.

    + As part of its public school “turnaround” vision plan, the Houston Independent School District–the largest in Texas– is shutting down 28 school libraries and turning them into disciplinary centers.

    + Eleven paragraphs deep into Nicholas Kristof’s interminable NYT column arguing that legacy admissions for the offspring of privileged elites aren’t a problem, we are confronted by this staggering parenthetical admission: “(Conflict alert: I was a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers and my wife, Sheryl WuDunn, is currently a member and previously served on the Princeton and Cornell boards; our three children also attended Harvard.)” I wonder how many people leapt that hurdle and kept reading for any reason other than the laughs, which, otherwise, come so infrequently in his writing.

    + Political punditry is the sub-basement of journalism. For a year or more, the opinion pages were flush with columns promoting DeSantis as the rational alternative to Trump, when really his only political skill is his viciousness. Even Trump could occasionally feign compassion. Now DeSantis is getting whacked by Christian conservatives for assailing Trump’s meagre criminal justice reforms.

    + DeSantis said this week that while he wouldn’t pick RFK Jr as a running mate, he would consider him to be in charge of the FDA or CDC “if he’d be willing to serve.” Maybe DeSantis will tap Ammon Bundy to run the BLM…Looks like he’s going to need the money.

    Lastly, let's see what all the attacks from Ron DeSantis, MTG, Lauren Boebert, Jonathan Turley, Matt Taibbi, Moms For Bigotry and so many more are now resulting in.  Caroline Radnofsky and Colin Sheeley and Eric Carvin (NBC NEWS) report:

    Authorities in Plano, Texas, are investigating what they call "an intentionally set fire" at a Unitarian Universalist church Sunday, just weeks after it was targeted for criticism in a video by an anti-LGBTQ Christian YouTuber.

    A passerby spotted flames coming from the Community Unitarian Universalist Church early Sunday, Plano Fire-Rescue said in a statement. The fire was around the front door and was extinguished quickly, causing no injuries, it said.

    The department is leading the criminal investigation into the fire, with the city's police department working on its own investigation, authorities told NBC News.

    The church called the incident "a firebomb attack" in a statement on its Facebook page, saying "an incendiary device with a chemical accelerant was thrown or placed at the front doors of the main church building."

    It also referred to the visit from right-wing content creator Bo Alford, who goes by "bodittle" on social media, less than a month earlier.

    "Church officials have been reviewing building security and working with the Plano Police Department since the intrusion of a hate group in the church building during and after Worship Service on Sunday, June 25. That group has posted video of their activities inside the church on various social media sites."

    The following sites updated:

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