Saturday, August 12, 2023

Stream HEART OF STONE and don't go to GO WEST

GO WEST?  Are the studios trying to go out of business.  This wouldn't have been a good movie fifty years ago.  It's lousy, slow and could have been a bad TV movie for a lot less money.

When we got home, I was in a bad mood.  And I told my girlfriend, "I'm telling everyone it was your pick!"  Because it was.  I knew it was going to be awful.  

So we get home and end up watching HEART OF STONE on NETFLIX.  

We should have skipped GO WEST and just stuck to HEART OF STONE.


Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder wrote the script and Tom Harper directed the film. 

 It's an action thriller.  Gal Gadot is Rachel and she's working with a team of MI6 (British secret service).  They're three people including Jamie Dornan.  He's kind of the creepy one of the bunch, actually.  That kind of bothered me at first.  Then it made sense.  SPOILER in the next paragraph.

She's actually a spy for CATCHER -- some global spy force.  And Jamie's actually the villain.  Which is why he's so creepy.

It zips along so quick and there are some amazing sequences.  Early on, she's using a parachute to travel down a mountain.  I loved her getting on airplane while it was in the air and I loved her getting off the same airplane (still in the air).  There are so many great action moments.  And she's so incredible in it.  They should do a series of films with her playing Rachel Stone.  This could be a NETFLIX franchise.

So make a point to stream it this weekend. 

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


Friday, August 11, 2023.  The illegitimate Supreme Court gets a lot more crooked thanks to Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, Ron DeSantis wants to dumb down America further, shame on parents who allow him to, and much more.

Starting with the US, the location of the corrupt and illegitimate Supreme Court, Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is facing growing calls to recuse himself from a case that could hamstring Congress' ability to enact a federal wealth tax, a policy that progressive lawmakers and economists say is needed to rein in out-of-control inequality.

Late last week, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter urging Chief Justice John Roberts to "take appropriate steps to ensure that Justice Alito will recuse himself" from Moore v. United States, which the Supreme Court recently agreed to take up.

The lawmakers' demand was prompted by a friendly interview that Alito gave to The Wall Street Journal's opinion section, which in June allowed the right-wing justice to get out in front of a ProPublicastory on his luxury trip with billionaire hedge fund titan Paul Singer.

The interview late last month was conducted in part by David Rivkin Jr., an attorney who is representing the plaintiffs in Moore v. United States. The case, which is mentioned in passing in the Journal's write-up of the Alito interview, concerns whether unrealized gains such as stock appreciation can be subject to federal taxation.

Unrealized gains are currently untaxed in the U.S., allowing billionaires such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk to accumulate massive fortunes while paying little to nothing in federal income taxes.

Supporters of the Moore plaintiffs, who are specifically challenging an obscure foreign earnings provision in the 2017 Republican tax law, have encouraged the Supreme Court to explicitly address the constitutionality of wealth taxes in its ruling.

"This case presents the court with an ideal opportunity to clarify that taxes on unrealized gains, such as wealth taxes, are direct taxes that are unconstitutional if not apportioned among the states," the right-wing Manhattan Institute argued in a May amicus brief. (Proponents of a tax on unrealized gains, such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), have expressed confidence that such a tax is constitutional.)

The Manhattan Institute is chaired by Singer, whose private jet flew Alito to an Alaska fishing trip that the justice did not disclose.

"Alito needs to recuse himself from the case deciding the constitutionality of a wealth tax," Americans for Tax Fairness, a progressive advocacy group, said Wednesday. "First he accepted lavish gifts from billionaires and failed to disclose them. Then he gave a buddy-buddy interview to one of the case's anti-wealth tax lawyers. Enough." 

Alito's a crook.  Sadly, he's not the only one on the Court.  Crooked Clarence is back in the news. 

An investigative report published Wednesday by Pro Publica outlines the utterly corrupt lifestyle of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The most right-wing of the nine justices, the most consistent advocate of the interests of the super-rich and enemy of democratic rights, has lived like a billionaire throughout his three decades on the high court.

The report, published under the headline, “Clarence Thomas’ 38 Vacations: The Other Billionaires Who Have Treated the Supreme Court Justice to Luxury Travel,” is a devastating exposure of corruption and criminality. 

The report declares: 

Thomas has secretly reaped the benefits from a network of wealthy and well-connected patrons that is far more extensive than previously understood… 

During his three decades on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas has enjoyed steady access to a lifestyle most Americans can only imagine. A cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives have treated him to far-flung vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events and sent their private jets to fetch him including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737. 

The gifts include “at least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas.” This is better than one expensive vacation every year of Thomas’s 32 years on the court. In addition, there were “26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.”

These trips were largely unreported, either by the corporate media or by Thomas himself in his annual financial filings with the court. Pro Publica observes, “Thomas appears to have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises and expensive sports tickets, according to ethics experts.”

At least four billionaires, representing several sectors of the US economy, have been identified as sponsors of Thomas. There may be others, but these four, as profiled by the New York Times and Pro Publica, include:

  • Harlan Crow, heir to the commercial real estate giant Trammell Crow, founded by his father, which became the largest US owner of real estate. Harlan Crow controls the family holding company, Crow Holdings, with assets of $20 billion.
  • David Sokol, oil and finance executive, who made his initial fortune at Berkshire Hathaway, the massive investment firm founded and headed by Warren Buffett, before resigning in disgrace over an insider trading scandal.
  • The late H. Wayne Huizenga, whose fortune derived from Waste Management, the leading waste disposal firm in North America, Auto Nation, once the largest auto dealer, and Blockbuster video. He also owned at one point or another most of the professional sports teams in Miami, Florida.
  • Paul Novelly, oil executive, whose family owns the billion-dollar independent Apex Oil and several other oil industry firms, most involved in trading and storing heavy oil products, including fuel oil and asphalt.

What these billionaires have in common, besides enormous wealth, is an extreme right-wing political perspective, opposing any restriction on the capitalist market and any effort to provide state support for working people whose jobs and living standards have been devastated by market forces.

They were not “personal friends” of Thomas, as the justice claimed of Crow when his financial ties with the real estate mogul was brought to light by Pro Publica earlier this year. All four began their relationships with Thomas only after he had become a Supreme Court justice in 1991, when he was in a position to reinforce the drastic shift to the right in the high court which was already under way.

Thomas occasionally reported trips and gifts from Crow, but never for any of the other three, although these relationships were extraordinarily lucrative as well. 

Betty covered the latest developments in "Crooked Clarence and the corrupt Court" last night.  Let's note Isaiah's  THE WORLD TODAY  "Crooked Clarence" from April.

crooked clarence

The illegitimate Court can't be mocked because it's already make a mockery of itself and of the law.  Impeachment is required but, as Betty notes, a Republican controlled House refuses to take the measures required.  

The verdicts of late and the scandals have destroyed the Court's image.  That really kicks off with DOBBS where the Court ignored and overturned precedent.  This is  Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "The Experts"


There's no rebuilding the image -- or the integrity -- with the same crooked members.  And the Court had been the only branch with any real consistent support from We The People.  

Stand Up America issued the following:

Brett Edkins, Managing Director of Policy and Political Affairs for Stand Up America, issued the following statement in response to reports that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted gifts and travel likely worth millions of dollars from four billionaires.

“Today’s ProPublica report brings to light a litany of new ethics violations by Justice Thomas, including accepting and failing to disclose extravagant gifts and luxury travel paid for by his billionaire benefactors. The Supreme Court’s legitimacy hangs by a thread. Justice Thomas' pattern of misconduct is a stark reminder that we cannot trust Supreme Court justices to hold themselves to a higher ethical standard on their own. The Supreme Court needs a code of ethics now.

“It’s time for Congress to behave like a coequal branch of government and address corruption on the Supreme Court with the urgency it demands, including by passing the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act. This latest report from ProPublica begs the question: what is it going to take for our leaders in Congress to do their jobs and finally hold this Court in check?”

Stand Up America is a progressive advocacy organization with over two million community members across the country. Focused on grassroots advocacy to strengthen our democracy and oppose Trump's corrupt agenda, Stand Up America has driven over 600,000 phone calls to Congress and mobilized tens of thousands of protestors across the country. 

Chris Hayes noted Clarence's corruption last night.

Donald Trump, former US president, is running for the GOP's presidential nomination while he hopes to avoid a federal conviction in one of many cases currently working their way through the courts.  His attorneys feel that Clarence is their inside judge if they're able to kick any of the cases up to the Supreme Court.

Donald's not the only nightmare wanting to be president of the United States currently.  

Robert F. Kennedy Jr is willing to destroy his own name and his family's name as he pursues the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

In some good news, he still has the support of Tulsi Gabbard.  You know Tulsi, right?  She ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2020.  Remember how many delegates she was awarded in 2020's contest?  Two.  Maybe Junior can get two as well.  Joe Biden won the nominations with 2687 delegates.  But Tulsi -- Tulsi Garbage, as Trina has dubbed her -- only got two. 

Today, Tulsi says she left the Democratic Party and preaches hates against LGBTQs and embraces Moms For Bigotry and takes that scarred acne face where ever cameras can be found as she attacks Joe Biden.  She never points out that she refused to hold Joe accountable for the Iraq War in the only debate she was in with Joe -- Jake Tapper not only gave her a chance, when she flubbed it, he came back around to her and gave her a second chance.  She not only defended Joe and excused him for his support of the Iraq War, she later dropped out of the race and endorsed Joe -- not Bernie, she endorsed Joe.  That's why I find any of her hateful criticism so puzzling -- she endorsed Joe.  In March 2020, she endorsed him.  When does she take accountability for that?  When does she take accountability for anything?  

Another crazy that Junior has in his corner is Naomi Wolf -- and if her med dosage is correct on the day of the primary, she'll vote for him.  He's spent recent days announcing he will not call for Medicare For All.  He doesn't believe in it.  He believes Barack Obama wasted time and leverage trying to address healthcare.  This is the man, please remember, who believes the free market will solve climate change.

At COUNTERPUNCH, Jeffrey St Clair notes Junior and GOP hopeful Ron DeSantis:

+ One of RFK Jr.’s super PACs has been paying thousands to a xenophobic outlet called Creative Destruction Media that blasts out alarums about the threat of “Black and brown invaders” with a “primitive culture”.  Not much of a surprise there. Last month, RFK Jr stood with the big irrigators in Arizona who are sucking the Colorado River dry and smeared immigrants for stepping on their arugula plantations….

+ Which imperial family’s disintegration has been more complete: the Windsors, Kennedys or Cuomos? According to a story in the NYT this week, Madeline Cuomo, the sister of former NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, worked with a pro-Cuomo group called We Decide New York, Inc. to smear and intimidate women who had accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.

+ DeSantis auditioning for the Joker in the next Batman reboot?

+ Is it any wonder he’s campaign is in free fall? DeSantis is now polling less than half of the support from people who pick a candidate not named Trump.

+ DeSantis, who was billed as the political Ken doll for the Moms of Liberty demographic, is now polling at 11% nationally among GOP women.

+ In a desperate effort to reverse his slide into political oblivion, DeSantis used his autocratic powers as Florida governor to remove the elected state attorney in Orlando, a black reformist prosecutor named Monique Worrell, saying she’d been weak on criminal prosecutions. Worrell responded by saying, “I am your duly elected state attorney and nothing done by a weak dictator can change that.” Meanwhile, DeSantis has taken no action against the DA of Jacksonville, despite the fact the city has the highest murder rate in Florida. Of course, he’s white and a Republican.

+ This latest action has means that DeSantis has nullified the electoral decisions of more than 15.5 percent of the voters in the state, leaving 3.3 million Floridians without their elected choice of prosecutor.

+ Here’s DeSantis defending his plan for death squads on the southern border:

+ “These people in Iraq at the time, they all looked the same.” This is certainly calls out for a deeper probe into DeSantis’ time in Fallujah, as well as Guantanamo.

Ron DeSantis is a clear and present danger as his campaign makes more clear with each passing day.  At SALON, Amanda Marcotte writes:

Another week, another lesson in a truth that will not be heeded by the mainstream media: Republicans are liars, and you should never take what they say at face value. This time it was over yet another education scandal in Florida under the leadership of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. It started when the College Board, a non-profit that manages educational standards for those seeking higher education, announced that Florida had banned an Advanced Placement (AP) psychology course that over 30,000 Florida high school students had enrolled in for the fall.

Long story short: The DeSantis-signed bill barring schools from offering "instruction" in gender or sexual orientation, dubbed the "don't say gay law" by critics, made it impossible for teachers to address very basic ideas like "sexuality is a part of the life experience." Rather than offer a substandard program, the College Board was forced to pull the AP classes, which many students could use for college credit, from the schools. 

In response to the bad press, the GOP-controlled Florida government went into heavy spin mode, releasing a letter claiming the AP Psychology course can be "taught in its entirety," but only "in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate." This was widely — and falsely — reported in the press as a "reversal," with even LGBTQ-oriented sites getting caught up in the hype. Thankfully, the team at Popular Information was on hand to debunk the lie, pointing out that the "developmentally appropriate" language is a poison pill that amounts to a de facto ban on the AP Psychology course. 

"A teacher can exclude the content in AP Psychology related to sexual orientation and gender identity and put their students at risk of not receiving college credit," Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria explain. "Or a teacher can include those topics and risk losing their certification and their job." Despite reports implying otherwise, therefore, Florida schools are canceling the classes. 

Luckily, the Washington Post quickly updated the story with the correct information, under the headline "Florida schools drop AP Psychology after state says it violates the law." 

All this confusion is very much by design. The mixed messages coming from Republican leaders on what is and isn't allowed in schools serves a larger purpose: making it so impossible for teachers to do their jobs that they give up even trying.

In some cases, teachers leave the profession or move to a less hostile state to work. In others, it's more a quiet-quitting, as the limitations force teachers to offer a substandard education to their students, out of fear that actually challenging kids to learn will cross some legal line that will land teachers in serious trouble. Either way, children in red states are losing access to quality education. 

He's carrying out a war on information.  Shame on any parent who is okay with their child's education being sub-standard because Ronald wants to promote racism and homophobia.  In ten to twenty years, when your kid is trying to get a job, do you really think, "We sent them to Florida public schools" is going to look good on a resume?  It's not.  That's especially true if they try to get employment outside of Florida.  You are allowing him to harm your child's future -- including their potential income making power.  I have no idea why you would try to doom your own child.

But you need to grasp that's what you're doing.  The world is laughing at Florida.  Baily Richards (PEOPLE magazine -- repeating, PEOPLE magazine) notes:

The works of William Shakespeare are now being censored in some Florida schools amid confusion stemming from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new book-challenge law, HB 1069, which has spawned an uptick in book bans and increased scrutiny surrounding schools' education materials.
After the Florida governor approved and promoted the legislation last week, media specialists said that the English playwright’s works — many of which are longtime staples of American high school curriculum — would likely be deemed unfit for classroom use, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

At WSWS, Sandy English observes:

Education in Florida has been ravaged by book banning for the last year under the “don’t say gay” law as well as other laws that allow parents to object to almost anything in curriculums. In fact, according to the Parental Rights in Education law, Diaz is inviting any Florida educator to lose his or her job—or worse—by verbally recommending “Romeo and Juliet” to a student or including it in a curriculum.

The confusion and fear sown in Florida’s educational standards are a part of the wrecking operation by far-right groups such as Moms for Liberty and their would-be Il Duce, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis. A small Evangelical Christian and fascist-minded constituency has lit the bonfire of book banning in Florida’s schools and in those of other American states.

As the WSWS noted in April:

The numbers and types of books that have been removed from Florida schools are truly staggering. In February, in Martin County, Florida, over 80 works, by authors such as Toni Morrison, James Patterson and Jodi Picoult, were removed from elementary school libraries at the request of a single parent, who wrote that these works had no “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for students.”

The parent, Julie Marshall, is the head of the local chapter of Moms for Liberty.

“One of the books removed, Picoult’s novel The Storyteller (2013), is a bestseller that tells the story of the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who meets a former SS officer. “Banning The Storyteller is shocking,” Picoult told the Washington Post, “as it is about the Holocaust and has never been banned before.” This ban recalls the censorship of the graphic novel Maus in Tennessee, an action with distinct overtones of anti-Semitism.

“When one parent in Pinellas County [Florida] complained that Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), had a rape scene in it, the principal of the local high school banned it, and it was subsequently banned in the entire county. In February over 100 high school students protested the decision.”

Recent banning also includes a graphic novel based on the diary of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, which “was removed from the library at Vero Beach High School in Florida after a complaint from one parent.”

The crusade against culture is not simply one of exclusion, but of active historical falsification. Last month Florida’s State Board of Education approved standards for African American history curriculums that include such historical revisionism as the claim that slavery gave black people a “personal benefit” because they “developed skills,” and that a racist pogrom against blacks in Ocoee, Florida, in 1920 included “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.”

This week, Ron DeSantis, now a candidate for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party, reinforced his fascist credentials by telling the media that the standards are “probably going to show some of the folks [i.e., slaves] that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life.”

This is little more than a rephrase of the South Carolina senator and arch-defender of slavery John C. Calhoun’s notorious 1837 speech before Congress, arguing that African American slaves “had attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically but morally and intellectually … in the course of a few generations it has grown up under the fostering care of our institutions, as reviled as they have been, to its present comparative civilized condition.”

A Civil War was fought to destroy the “fostering care” of those institutions, and it is a marker of the decline of political culture under capitalism that DeSantis can openly echo the reactionary sentiments of the slaveowners.

The book banning, restrictions on Shakespeare and the teaching that slavery was a positive good serve to wipe away all that is progressive and enlightened in world culture and American history and to teach subservience, conformity and worship of authority to a generation of young people now coming into struggle against war, climate change and the very fascism with which the Republicans, with the acquiescence of the Democrats, are poisoning the cultural air.

Florida parents are failing their children right now.  Advancing Ronald to the White House would fail all of America's children.  Valerie Strauss (WASHINGTON POST) reports:

We know what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and his allies in the state legislature don’t want students to learn in public school classrooms — but here’s what the state just approved for use in classrooms: material created by a nonprofit advocacy organization called PragerU, which says it offers “a free alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education.”

The materials include videos, magazines and books that in some cases disparage the Black Lives Matter movement, deny that police unfairly target Blacks, question the impact of human use of fossil fuels on the environment, and call out “climate alarmism.” There are videos on “How to Embrace Your Femininity” and “How to Embrace Your Masculinity,” one on “How to Be a Rational Patriot” that says the United States was founded on “Judeo-Christian values,” and one under the categories of “Life Lessons and “Judeo-Christian values” called “How to Learn to Forgive.” Topics covered under the PragerU Kids banner are divided into categories for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6+ and are wide-ranging, including financial literacy, history, civics, character development and life lessons.

The move by the Florida Department of Education is the latest in the DeSantis administration’s efforts to dictate what teachers can say about specific topics. Laws now forbid teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity and restrict what they can say about race and racism in the United States. The department banned an Advanced Placement (AP) class on African American studies and threw the use of an AP class on psychology into question because of discussions of race and gender, respectively. It has also censored textbooks and instructional materials, removing material it says is leftist indoctrination.

PragerU was founded in 2009 by conservative talk show host Dennis Prager and screenwriter/producer Allen Estrin and is promoted as being in the “mind-changing business.” It offers 2,600 videos on its YouTube channel and other materials on its website that it says are aimed at “promoting pro-American values,” some of which have been challenged by historians for accuracy.

Are we really willing to dumb this country down further?  Fabiola Cineas (VOX) notes:

Despite strong backlash from Democrats and fellow Republicans, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is tripling down on his state’s newly approved social studies curriculum guidelines that erroneously teach students that enslaved people “developed skills” that they could use for “personal benefit.”
Since news of the state’s new standards gained attention in mid-July, DeSantis has faced criticism — including from four of the five Black congressional Republicans, almost all of whom support former president Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.

“What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives,” said Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is also running for president. “It was just devastating. So I would hope that every person in our country — and certainly running for president — would appreciate that.”

But DeSantis is continuing to defend the standards. In a recent NBC interview this week, the governor stated that enslaved people “developed skills in spite of slavery, not because of slavery,” adding that “it was them showing resourcefulness and then using those skills once slavery ended.”

In the interview, DeSantis also defended the steps his administration has taken in the past year to overhaul various aspects of that state’s education system. “We’ve been involved in education, not indoctrination,” he said. “Those standards were not political at all.”

The controversy is the latest in a string of education-related fights for DeSantis, including the state’s rejection of the AP African American History course, the dismantling of the state’s tenure system, and the conservative takeover of the small New College of Florida. With each move, DeSantis has attempted to model what he would do nationally as president.

We need a better future.  Stupidity is not the answer to that.  Oliver Milman (GUARDIAN) reports:

Videos that compare climate activists to Nazis, portray solar and wind energy as environmentally ruinous and claim that current global heating is part of natural long-term cycles will be made available to young schoolchildren in Florida, after the state approved their use in its public school curriculum.
Slickly-made animations by the Prager University Foundation, a conservative group that produces materials on science, history, gender and other topics widely criticized as distorting the truth, will be allowed to be shown to children in kindergarten to fifth grade after being adopted by Florida’s department of education.

Teachers who use the materials “will not be reprimanded, cannot be pushed back on about it, we are approved on the curriculum”, said Jill Simonian, director of outreach at PragerU Kids, the youth arm of the organization. “More states are following. Florida – I’m applauding. This is step in the right direction.”

But experts who have studied the videos and other PragerU output have warned that many of Florida’s 3 million public schoolchildren risk being exposed to a form of rightwing indoctrination that conforms to the worldview of the organization’s funders but bares little resemblance to reality.

We'll wind down with this, Brooke Migdon (THE HILL) reports:

group of LGBTQ veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation sued the Defense Department in federal court Tuesday, arguing it violated their constitutional rights when it failed to update them to honorable discharges after it repealed the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy more than a decade ago.

“The U.S. Armed Forces allows that discrimination to live on in the discharge papers carried by LGBTQ+ veterans, denying them privacy, benefits, and pride in their service,” reads the class action lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of five veterans.

Veterans who were discharged under “don’t ask don’t tell” for their actual or perceived sexual orientation often received discharge paperwork that identifies their sexuality as the reason for their discharge, according to Tuesday’s lawsuit. The discharge papers, known as DD214s, also burden veterans “with discharge rankings below honorable” and bar them from reenlisting.

“Discharge paperwork bearing these markers carries the legacy of the anti-LGBTQ+ policies that the military has now disavowed,” the lawsuit says.

While the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy has been inactive for years, the government “has taken no steps to correct this discrimination systematically,” the suit argues. 

The following sites updated:

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