Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Adam Devine and superhero movies

Adam Devine has a bold theory about the effect that Marvel films had on the general audience and said that “superhero movies ruined comedies.”

While making an appearance on This Past Weekend with Theo Von

, Devine talked about the quality of comedies in Hollywood. The Righteous Gemstones star said that although TV comedies are still good, he can’t say the same about movie comedies.

He went on to argue that the costly superhero movies made people think twice about seeing a lower budget comedy.

Again, he's retracted his remarks.  But what do you think?

I think superhero films have destroyed films period.  I think it has been overdone.  I think the constant rebooting to have constantly younger audiences have harmed those films.  I think Robert Downey Jr, for example, could have played Iron Man for another ten years and everyone would have been fine with it.  We don't constantly need a younger Spider-Man or a younger Superman, etc.  And no one's whining that the upcoming DEADPOOL is going to see Hugh Jackman return as Logan.

I get that it's cheaper for studios.  It's easier to pay an unknown than it is to ask Halle Berry to return as Storm, for example.  

I also think that superhero films outright harmed comedies.  I find it hard to believe that I'm the only one in the last three years who paid good money to see a comedy and was disturbed repeatedly while watching by the noise.  From the film I was watching? No from the superhero film in the auditorium next to me.  You're in the comedy, you're laughing, you're enjoying yourself and BOOM BOOM BOOM! from the next door auditorium.  

I love comedies.  They're actually my favorite.  And too much crap has crowded them out of the way.  And this is something people worried about when indie was being co-opted by the big studios -- were movies set to become Broadway?  Were interesting films being driven out of the market for spectacle which is pretty much all Broadway is now -- extravaganza.  

I wish he hadn't retraced his comments.  I think it's a good topic and one we should all consider.


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


Wednesday, August 9, 2023.  We look more at the efforts to dumb down Americans through censorship, Iraq and US military leaders meet to go over the continued occupation of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib standard may finally get heard in court, and much more.

On the heels of yesterday's snapshot, let's start with the book banners who are determined to make the rest of us just as stupid as they are.  Historian Neil J. Young (CNN) reports:

In the current fight over AP Psychology, the College Board has indicated it doesn’t plan to negotiate with Florida. Some Republican lawmakers in Florida have predictably responded by accusing the College Board of being “so committed to wokeism” that it is willing to sacrifice the course rather than adjust it to comply with Florida’s rules.

That AP Psychology has even been caught in the crosshairs of the “Don’t Say Gay” law may surprise many Florida parents. When the controversial legislation, officially titled the Parental Rights in Education Act, was first proposed in 2022, it only pertained to classroom instruction for students in kindergarten through third grade.

That narrow designation helped inoculate the bill against much of the criticism directed at it. What normal person would think discussions of sexuality were appropriate for second graders, the bill’s defenders liked to dramatically ask. “It’s basically saying for our younger students, do you really want them being taught about sex?” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis contended, a rationale that struck some Americans, no matter their politics, as reasonable.

Yet critics recognized that Florida’s restrictive legislation wasn’t really intended for only its youngest students. Instead, as some educators and LGBTQ activists contended, it was the opening wedge of a broader assault on LGBTQ rights and public education in the state.

In April, that plan became clearer when the Florida State Board of Education expanded its ban on instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity through the 12th grade. The bill sold to Florida voters as a sensible measure to ensure kindergartners wouldn’t hear about sex in the classroom would now prevent high school seniors from being able to learn about the psychobiological basis of human sexuality — and possibly also from earning college credit for such coursework.

In light of all the talk in Florida — and around the country — that parents should have a greater say over their children’s education, it’s worth noting that the AP Psychology class apparently has generated little objections in Florida in the past. Quite the opposite. It was the fifth most popular AP course in the state in 2021. For the 2023-2024 school year, about 30,000 Florida students planned on taking the class.

Given both AP Psychology’s popularity and its uncontroversial reputation in the state, the dust-up over the course exposes the lie of the parental rights discourse in Florida and elsewhere. Some Florida parents have voiced their anger that the course may be canceled, just as they have protested the ban on AP African American studies. Rather than empowering parents, Florida’s overreaching legislation always seemed to be just a play for power by the state’s Republican lawmakers and, especially, a publicity stunt by a small-minded governor who wants to be the next president.

They're stupid and they're uninformed and they want the rest of the world that way.  Let's look one individual freak that Katherine Fung (NEWSWEEK) reports on:

The wife of a Republican state representative has been switching out books from free library boxes with bibles and other religious reading materials that she believes better align with her Christian values, but the backlash has her husband rushing to her defense.

Jennifer Meeks, who is married to Arkansas State Representative Stephen Meeks, posted about her efforts to swap out the books last week on her Facebook account, according to a community page on the social networking site.

"I have been swapping out books in little free libraries for awhile," a screenshot of Jennifer's original post reads. She continued, "Recently I have been picking up free Bibles at flea markets and thrift stores. Sometimes I find good devotion books or kids' Bible stories at a good price to add. Or just great books, and a gospel tract is a nice idea too."

So she loves THE BIBLE but not enough, right?  I mean, she's doing THE BIBLE on the cheap after all.  She's not supporting a Christian book store and buying new copies of THE BIBLE.  She's going to flea markets and thrift stores.  To find cheap copies.  I didn't know you could get used copies there but I'm sure many people do.  And I'm sure those people would go to a thrift store or a flea market to get a copy.  Because they couldn't afford it otherwise.  Which means Jennifer Meeks' little stunt is probably depriving low income Christians of access to THE BIBLE because she's littering copies of it in free library boxes.  I wonder how doing Christianity on the cheap is supposed to help with salvation?  

Looking at her face online, she looks like someone who's never had an orgasm.  Looking at her husband's, I don't think she ever will.  

Like Moms For Bigotry and "Brave" (with Closeted Authors) Books, it's just a censorship effort.  On that not-so-Brave Books issue, the editorial board of MASS.LIVE notes the reality of that censorship group:

Burek acknowledged that one of the Brave Books authors, former teen actor Kirk Cameron of the 1980s TV sit-com “Growing Pains,” is a leading anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ activist. But Cameron’s first book, “As You Grow,” “had nothing like that,” Burek said.

The actor’s second children’s book with the company is called “Pride Comes Before the Fall.” His book tour coincided with Pride Month. In an appearance in Seattle, Cameron said this, according to the conservative Washington Times: “When you have an entire nation setting aside a month to celebrate something as dangerous as pride, I feel it’s my responsibility to hold up the truth of humility so kids can have a chance,” Cameron said. “They deserve the chance to have a life of blessing, not a life of misery and destruction that comes from being focused on yourself.”

Late this spring, the Ludlow School Committee considered a proposal that the superintendent no longer have final say on which books are allowed in the district. The committee wanted that authority for itself; the measure died, amid heavy news coverage, when it did not receive a second.

Kelly Kapinos, one of the counter-protesters Saturday, said she came to support the right of parents to decide what they’d like their children to read – or not read. Oh, and grandparents – she has five grandchildren in the town’s schools.

Kapinos said she watched a video of Cameron promoting his new book. “The first thing he talks about is the indoctrination of children. No one is indoctrinating kids in Ludlow. Our teachers follow the law,” she said. “You could argue that it is ‘grooming’ to only read religious books that say the only way to have a family is with a mom and a dad. … Our group here today is about loving everyone, no hate, and being accepted, and that’s it.”

We think Kapinos has the right read on what’s going on.

If you're not standing up to these bullies, if you're not calling out them and the people in bed with them (Naomi Wolf, for example), then you really are part of the problem.  When is it enough for you?  As Stan noted last night in "Janet Jackson and Shakespeare," there's a Florida school now censoring William Shakespeare.  Do we want an informed group of children who can compete with others in the world or a 'confederacy of dunces' who embarrass themselves and others?

I attended a rural public school from kindergarten through high school and throughout my education, but especially in high school, my teachers invited diverse literature into the classroom. Some of those books had a deep influence on me, and they helped me become who I am today.

I’m now going into my senior year of college, but if I were back at my high school today, I may have never opened and experienced them. Increasing numbers of people in increasing numbers of school systems want to ban books and keep students like me from reading them.

Throughout my primary education, my peers and I were actively exposed to books that contained ideas that challenged our shared beliefs and opened new doors. For example, Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give” was the first book I read that discussed the realities Black Americans like myself experience outside of history textbooks, which tiptoed around slavery.

Thomas’s critically acclaimed book and books like it can be essential empowering pieces for minority readers. These books can spark important conversations for all students. Yet the book has been banned nationwide for the "sensitive language" it uses.

“The Color Purple” taught me the strength and courage it takes to break free from and acknowledge the trauma that shapes the experiences and lives of others. That book has been facing book bans since 1984, only two years after its release.

Book-banning initiatives started by concerned adults seeking to protect children from topics and points of view deemed inappropriate may be well-intentioned. But they have unintended consequences: The rise of book bans will rob future generations of Americans of the value of diverse literature. In the name of temporary protection, the bans risk leaving students ignorant of diverse ideas and fearful of discussing them.

The urge to ban books spans party and state lines. In the first half of the 2022-23 school year, literary advocacy group PEN America recorded 1,477 instances of individual book bans. School districts are censoring everything from, “And Tango Makes Three,” a nonfiction children's book about two male penguins raising an orphaned baby penguin, to “The Bluest Eye,” an American classic about the idea of whiteness and beauty through the eyes of an African American girl in the 1970s.

In Seattle, the Mukilteo School Board unanimously voted to drop “To Kill a Mockingbird” from the ninth-grade reading list last January. The school board removed the widely popular novel because it "marginalized characters of color, celebrated 'white savior hood' and used racial slurs dozens of times without addressing their derogatory nature." As classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird” leave reading lists, the story of book removals is being repeated across the country.

Yesterday, the US Defense Dept issued the following by Jim Garamone:

U.S. and Iraqi defense leaders discussed an enduring strategic relationship between the two nations during talks at the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed Iraqi Defense Minister Thabit Muhammad Al-Abassi for a discussion on U.S.-Iraq joint security cooperation dialogue yesterday. 

This U.S.-Iraq bilateral engagement looks beyond the Defeat-ISIS agreement. The U.S. military has troops in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to support Iraqi security forces battling the terror group. 

"Through the global coalition to defeat ISIS, we have liberated more than 50,000 square kilometers of territory, and more than 4.5 million Iraqis have now been freed from the tyranny of ISIS," Austin said during the Pentagon meeting. "Today, U.S. and coalition forces continue to advise, assist and enable the Iraqi security forces in the Iraqi lead fight against ISIS at the invitation of the Government of Iraq. The United States stands with the people of Iraq as you build your secure and sovereign and economically vibrant nation."

The secretary said the relationship is changing as Iraqi forces grow more capable and confident. "The joint security cooperation dialogue reflects our maturing strategic partnership building on the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue in July 2021 when the U.S. forces with a combat role, ended their mission," he said.

This meeting looks beyond the defeat of the Islamic State and is an outgrowth of a visit Austin made to Baghdad in March. "We are interested in an enduring defense relationship within a strategic partnership," said Dana Stroul, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, during an interview last week.

Many officials are calling this an agreement on establishing a "360-degree relationship" — meaning it would be a whole-of-government strategic partnership for years.

The U.S. side of the discussion is chaired by Celeste Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. She is joined by other defense officials and officials from the State Department, the Joint Staff, U.S. Central Command, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the National Security Council. 

The Defeat-ISIS effort will continue in Iraq and Syria, officials said. The Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue is looking at ways to normalize the bilateral relationship between Iraq and the United States militaries. This includes exercises, military training, exchange programs for officers and NCOs. "All of these are things that we are seeking to build the architecture for an enduring defense partnership with Iraq," Stroul said.

The military relationship between the countries is good and functions well. Leaders in both countries would like to see the relationship expand in other areas — the economy, cooperation on climate change, diplomatically and more, said Alina Romanowski, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani "has been very open to this and has been very interested in working in areas that line up with his vision and his objectives to bring stability, sovereignty and security to Iraq," the ambassador said. "It's also an opportunity in some ways to continue to support … the reintegration and the engagement of Iraq in the region."

The dialogue will also look at the Defeat-ISIS mission and the state of the Iraqi Security Forces. While the ISIS caliphate was defeated in 2019, "their ideology remains unconstrained and is still a threat as they seek to rebuild some capacity and capability to conduct attacks and to regain or reemerge as a significant threat to the population in Iraq and Syria," said Army Maj. Gen. Matt McFarlane, the commander of Combined Joint Operation Inherent Resolve. 

He noted that Iraqi forces lead and there is significant progress. There has been a 64% reduction in ISIS attacks in Iraq this year. The general estimated there were about 1,000 ISIS adherents in Iraq and another 1,000 in Syria.

"We also see our partners conducting wide-area security operations, keeping pressure on the ISIS network," McFarlane said. "Our [special operations forces] continue to dismantle the ISIS network and the leadership network that's out there," he said. 

The war on Iraq was never about freedom or about helping the Iraqi people.  That's why the US government never cared about the suffering of the Iraqi people, never cared about their voting rights (the US negotiated Erbil Agreement turned over the results of the 2010  Iraq election, for example).  And it's why the US government put radcial fundamentalists in charge in Iraq.  

Iraq has banned media from using the term "homosexuality", in favour of the phrase "sexual deviance". 

The country's official media regulator also said the word "gender" was banned. 

The ban would apply to all media and social media companies operating in the nation, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC) said. 

It prohibited all licensed CMC phone and internet companies from using the terms in any of their apps. 

Didn't happen under Saddam.  But it happens under the corrupt government that the US created in Iraq.

Another disgrace the US government created in Iraq was the Abu Ghraib torture.  From yesterday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We end today’s show with a federal lawsuit brought by Iraqi torture survivors that appears to finally be heading to trial, after a federal judge refused to dismiss the case. The Center for Constitutional Rights and four Iraqi men are suing the U.S. military contractor CACI, which was hired to provide interrogation services at Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison where the men were tortured by U.S. guards. The lawsuit was first filed in 2008, 15 years ago. Since then, CACI has attempted 18 times to have the case dismissed.

This is one of the plaintiffs in the case, Salah al-Ejaili, speaking on Democracy Now! almost a decade ago, talking about what he endured at Abu Ghraib in November of 2003. He was working as a journalist for Al Jazeera, had traveled to Iraq’s Diyala province to report on the U.S. invasion. It was there that U.S. soldiers detained him. He said when he asked what he was being taken in for, their response was “You know the reason.” He was ultimately transferred to Abu Ghraib. When I spoke to him a decade later, he was in Doha, Qatar. I asked him about his time in captivity.

SALAH HASSAN AL-EJAILI: [translated] Throughout my detainment in the solitary cells, there was an interrogation every two or three days. During these interrogations, we were subjected to many psychological and physical torture methods. One of these methods was that you were kept naked, handcuffed, the hood on your head, then they would bring a big dog. You hear the panting and barking of the dog very close to your face. This is one of the methods of torture and interrogation that they conducted. There are many other similar cases.

AMY GOODMAN: How long were you held like this?

SALAH HASSAN AL-EJAILI: [translated] These interrogations that happened every two or three days would last for an hour, an hour and a half or two hours, in this manner. The details of the interrogations were different. In some cases, they would bring dogs, then start the interrogation. In other cases, they’d put you in a place and throw cold water or hot tea on you, then start the interrogation. But, of course, all the interrogations were conducted while you were kept naked and hooded, and they’d ask you questions to which you answer. I stayed for 40 days in a solitary cell, and 70% of that time I was kept naked.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Salah Hassan of Al Jazeera, also known as Salah al-Ejaili.

Well, for more, we’re joined by Baher Azmy. He is legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, representing the Abu Ghraib plaintiffs in the case.

Baher, welcome back to Democracy Now! Explain the significance of the judge once again saying, “No, the lawsuit will not be thrown out,” as CACI has attempted 18 times to do it.

BAHER AZMY: Thanks, Amy, for continuing to pay attention to this now-epic struggle by our clients to get justice, some measure of justice.

Yeah, what the court held here, and has held repeatedly, is that the plaintiffs here, our clients, have presented sufficient evidence that they were subject to torture at Abu Ghraib and that there was a connection between the military police, some of which were featured on the pictures that we’ve all come to be horrified by — there was a connection between the military police and CACI interrogators sent from headquarters in the United States, insofar as those interrogators, the CACI interrogators, were ordering the military police, who were acting as guards, to, quote, “soften up” detainees in the night shift at Abu Ghraib, where there was, as military commanders found investigating the war crimes at Abu Ghraib, a command vacuum. So the court has found that there was sufficient evidence of torture, sufficient evidence connecting the torture to CACI interrogators and domestic headquarters, and has cleared away any, I think, remaining obstacles to this case finally going to trial and our clients speaking openly in court.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about your clients. Start with Salah, who we just saw, who we interviewed like 10 years ago. Where is he today? What happened to him and the others?

BAHER AZMY: Yeah, so, we represent, in this case, four detainees. We had prior cases, representing nearly 200 individuals, that was thrown out by a D.C. federal appellate panel, and in the majority was Kavanaugh, and in dissent was Garland. We brought another case on behalf of 71 Iraqi citizens against a translation company. That’s the Al-Quraishi case. That settled favorably. And this case is on behalf of now three — regrettably, one of the four plaintiffs was dismissed — individuals who were in the “hard site” at Abu Ghraib. This is against CACI specifically. And all three plaintiffs were swept up in the chaos after the occupation, ultimately found their way to Abu Ghraib and suffered the range of tactics, interrogation tactics and violence tactics, that cumulatively amounted to torture, so sleep deprivation, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, temperature manipulation and outright beatings.

And Salah, in particular, has found his way to Sweden with his family, now has residence there. They’re all suffering the aftereffects, psychological and physical, of their time in Abu Ghraib 20 years hence. But Salah and the others are really seriously looking forward to appearing in a U.S. court and telling a jury and the American public about what happened to them.

AMY GOODMAN: Baher, can you talk about the email sent by a CACI employee? The judge in the case, Leonie Brinkema, has said this could really be a smoking gun, the CACI employee writing an email to his boss outlining what he had witnessed, apparently resigning in protest, the judge said. Brinkema said she was amazed that no one at CACI seemed to follow up on the employee’s concerns. CACI lawyers have disputed that the email, which is not publicly available, is incriminating. Talk about what CACI is, how it was involved, and what their argument is.

BAHER AZMY: Yeah, so, CACI now, which is a huge — continues to have huge contracts with the United States government around surveillance and technology and border technology, at the time was hired to provide interrogation services under contract with the U.S. government and sent over highly unqualified but comparatively senior private contractors that took command of the military police and ordered these kinds of abuses to extract — to soften up the detainees and extract intelligence.

So, the question in recent years, as a result of Supreme Court rulings, is to what extent is corporate domestic conduct related or perpetuating what happened abroad, for purposes of, you know, this jurisdictional question. And Judge Brinkema, in a prior hearing, did single out an email going back and forth between on the ground at Abu Ghraib and headquarters pointing out the seriousness of interrogator conduct there, sounding the alarm to headquarters, which, we say, the headquarters largely ignored and covered up and continued to deny to this day.

AMY GOODMAN: Baher, I wanted to show an image — and for radio listeners, they can go to — of the plaintiff we heard, Salah, Salah al-Ejaili, Salah Hassan, hooded in Abu Ghraib with his vomit at his feet. Where did this photo come from?

BAHER AZMY: This came from the discovery process in the case. There are not many photos that, you know, specifically identify our plaintiffs, but this is one of them. As you see, he’s prostate, suffering, hooded, bound, in the humiliating physical and psychological set of techniques that were so prevalent in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib and that he and the other plaintiffs had to endure.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we are going to continue to follow this, as we have for these years, a case that is now moving forward after 15 years. Baher Azmy, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, representing the Abu Ghraib plaintiffs in this case against CACI. For two decades, he’s been part of a team challenging the U.S. government over the rights of Guantánamo prisoners, discriminatory policing practices, government surveillance and the rights of asylum seekers and accountability for victims of torture, and representing these Abu Ghraib prisoners, as well.

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