Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries." (Julius Caesar; Act 4, Scene 3).

Category: News (Page 1 of 8)

“Letter to the Editor” that May (or May Not) Ever See Daylight

[* Below is the complete text of a letter sent to the “Dispatch” newspaper recently, which they refused to run in its entirety. I was told to shorten it to 250 words. The last letter I sent, they never responded and it never ran, so I’m not sure if this is a step forward or a step backward. At any rate, I thought I would offer the complete letter to my frequent readers, as one never knows if the letter will run at all.]

A letter in July 12th’s “Dispatch” from writer Betty Murphy of Orion requests that you stop publishing disinformation from the unreliable sources relied upon by columnist Stephen Moore. I would second Ms. Murphy’s objections to the dissemination of useless information and add to that list the publication on Tuesday, July 11th (page B8) of an ill-informed Dallas-based radio talk show host, Mark Davis.

On the very day it was revealed by Donald Trump, Jr., himself, that he had met with a Russian attorney connected to the Kremlin (in the hope of obtaining information to be used in the 2016 presidential race against candidate Hillary Clinton), Davis wrote that CNN has “wasted countless hours on Russia collusion fantasies.” [When Paul Mananfort, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr., meet with a highly-placed Russian attorney with Kremlin ties, the Russian collusion claim goes well beyond “fantasy.”]

Davis went on to make the comment “…we have reversed the pandering to Cuba and the junk science of man-made global warming.”

Global warming is not junk science. The reality of global warming is accepted by literally every other civilized society, most of whom have joined the Paris Accord to confront the threat it represents to the world. Meanwhile, the U.S. under Trump has abdicated its leadership role on this important issue. Ignoring climate change may doom our planet. Disseminating this crack-pot viewpoint in your newspaper does a disservice not just to local readers but to the world.

Another Mark Davis remark: “Genuine conservatives remain thrilled at the results (of the Trump administration) so far.

Genuine conservatives…and, more importantly, genuine patriots of all political persuasions…are very, very concerned about the Trump administration—not “thrilled.”
Collusion with Russia to undermine the integrity of our elections; creating Muslim registries and travel bans; enriching the Trump family in direct conflict with the emolument clause of our Constitution; accepting aid, either monetary or other, from our enemies; undermining our intelligence agencies and our free press is cause for grave concern for everyone who values living in a free and fairly-elected democracy.

Davis’ entire editorial was blatantly mis-titled: “As haters whine about tweets, Trump succeeds.”

Donald Trump is NOT succeeding. His approval ratings are lower than any president in recorded history. His signature “accomplishments” are largely staged signings of presidential decrees, most of which he has not read, apparently, since he seems singularly ill-informed. (During his speech in France, he did not seem to remember the name of the man he had just nominated to be FBI Director). His health plan is “mean” (Trump’s own words) and a disaster. (Fix Obamacare, instead.)

The entire administration is in chaotic disarray (which must please the Soviet state, as that was their goal, all along.) Trump’s arrogance at home and abroad has managed to isolate us on the world stage and his inability to know how to behave as our representative is a national—now international— embarrassment. All of the warnings about what would happen if this dishonest, corrupt, narcissistic man were to be elected are coming true.

God help us all.

Sincerely,

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson
www.ConnieCWilson.com
CEO, Quad Cities’ Learning, Inc.
www.quadcitieslearning.com
Author of “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vols. I and II
Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics

“Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press” @ SXSW

Genre: Documentary Feature
Length: 95 minutes
Writer/Director: Brian Knappenberger
Principal Cast: Nick Denton, A.J. Daulario, John Cook, David Folkenflick, Floyd Abrams, Peter Sterne, David Houston, Margaret Sullivan, Jay Rosen, John L. Smith

The trial between wrestler Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media pitted privacy rights against freedom of the press, but ended up as a case study in how big money can silence media using legal means. This examination of the free press in an age of inequality echoes the “Vanity Fair” issue with an article by David Margolick entitled “V.C. for Vendetta.”

From that article, we learn that, outed as gay (“Peter Thiels Is Totally Gay”) by one of Gawker’s web sites in 2007, Silicon billionaire Peter Thiel ($2.7 billion as a co-founder of PayPal, and an early investor in Facebook) laid low until 2016, when he seized the opportunity to financially back Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy suit over a sex tape to bankrupt the entire organization.

In this documentary that interviews all the principals except Thiel (who is seen speaking at other venues), we learn that “what he’s done is to legitimize the idea that an uninvolved party can fund an effort by someone else in order to destroy a news organization. If billionaires and multi-millionaires can be behind the scenes doing this, that is conspiratorial and underhanded completely.” As Gawker founder Nick Denton, who was personally bankrupted, said, “We were outgunned here.”

Knappenberger dubs it, “abusing the justice system to go after journalists.” All these efforts have taken back a lot of 1st Amendment rights. Many others are mentioned in the piece: the Chandler family, the Salzburger family of New York, Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the “Washington Post” and, in greater detail, Sheldon Adelson’s purchase of Nevada’s largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

John L. Smith, the editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote a book about early investors in Las Vegas’ history entitled “Sharks in the Desert: The Founding Fathers and the Current Sharks.” There was one line mentioning Sheldon Adelson. Adelson sued Smith for the one line in the book, and lodged the $15 million dollar suit at a time when Smith was bedside in a local hospital with his young daughter Amelia, who was suffering from a brain tumor.

Smith was offered all sorts of financial inducements not to publish articles about Adelson, but resisted. He was blackmailed regarding the one line in his book, and, as he said: “Bullies always act the same.”

Then, unexpectedly, the entire staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal was brought in to a meeting cold and told the newspaper had been sold. They were not allowed to know who had bought them.
Rather than take this without investigating, the entire staff, including one employee who had been with the paper for 39 and ½ years, dug in to find out if Adelson was behind the purchase in the face of overwhelming obfuscation.

Smith said, “”Everybody came in and everybody stayed. For us, it was preserving whatever integrity we had. We knew it was a career-ending move. Some stories are worth losing your job over.” As Smith asserted, “Journalism is a calling for a lot of us.”

As a Journalism Major (Ferner/Hearst Journalism Scholarship recipient at the University of Iowa), this documentary spoke to me. I characterize myself as “”Old School” because my stint with 5 “real” newspapers began at the age of 10 and continues today, 6 decades later. I am of the generation that grew up with only 3 television channels trusting the voice of Walter Cronkite to tell us the truth. There was no Internet. There was no cable television, and we believed in presenting both sides of the story so that readers could draw fair conclusions with all the facts at their disposal.

The idea of “hacking” Internet accounts (there was no Internet) and Wiki Leaks style dissemination of documents from the e-mail of others was decades away. I find it personally offensive that anyone in a position of authority can level wholesale charges of bias and dishonesty against the hardworking men and women of the press. One of the least honest politicians (or human beings) of all time has underscored just how important a free and independent press is from his podium in the White House. No less an authority than Thomas Jefferson talked about the importance of a free press to keep the checks and balances of this country working properly.

This documentary was depressing in that it showed the extent to which being rich means being able to destroy the very institutions we all thought were inviolate. As we watch money corrupting the very fabric of society, we are simultaneously experiencing the intentional undermining of the free press and I, for one, view it as one of the biggest tragedies our Republic has experienced since its inception.

A very informative, relevant and concerning documentary
. Reading the “Vanity Fair” article by David Margolick explained much of the Peter Thiel/Nick Denton Gawker sex tape dispute in far greater detail, which added to my understanding of the film’s rehash of the trial, (which was surreal in so many ways). The revelations about the Las Vegas Review-Journal were new to me, but explained a lot.

Worth watching, if you care about remaining free and being part of an informed populace in a working democracy.

“Trump & Consequences” Fun and Safe Only for the Rich and Elderly

Trump & Consequences


Lifting from the newest issue of “Vanity Fair,” I return peripherally to a discussion of presidential politics. Some of you may remember that I followed 3 presidential campaigns, writing about ’04, ’08 and ’12 for Yahoo (3 million hits on over 1,000 article).

My writing(s) of 2008 even led to an invitation to come cover the Democratic National Convention in Denver and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

I had planned to follow the presidential race of 2016 and started out by attending a Jeb Bush rally. After that, a Bernie rally, one by Hillary and—the coup de grace—- (some might say coup d’etat)—a Trump rally at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa.

That was it, for me.


I came home and said to my long-suffering Republican husband. “I’m not going to cover the presidential race any more. It’s not fun any more.”
When he asked for specifics, I referred him to video clips of AP photographers being roughed up and Trump belittling and denigrating registered press from outlets such as CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and MSNBC. Trump enjoyed penning them up, if you recall, and hurling abuse at them, and he still enjoys calling journalists “Among the most dishonest people in the world” and other such over-the-top insulting hyperbole.

Since I am one of the most honest people I know (to my detriment, usually), I wanted no more of Mr. Trump, and I switched back to my long-time love: movies. After 15 years as the Quad City Times critic back in the day (1970-85, roughly) I began reviewing for www.QuadCities.com and continued the reviewing I have always done on this blog.

I now am also a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics’ Circle and write for one of the six largest movie blogs in the country, www.TheMovieBlog. Thanks to the wizardry of Anthony Whyte, my offerings on such things as “The 20 Best Films of Paul Newman” or “The 35 Best U.S. Films on Politics Ever Made” appear with lots of pictures and trailers to add to the text. And, most importantly, it is fun. Thanks to writing film reviews for national readerships (over 600,000 for The Movie Blog) I could, in theory, attend any film festival I might wish as Press. (SXSW in March; Chicago in October).

Today’s article is not about movies, however, although I love them dearly, but is about the “Vanity Fair” article entitled Trump and Consequences which Michael Lewis wrote in the February, 1970, “Vanity Fair”

DONALD TRUMP GAMES

Apparently, Donald J. Trump tried to have games made much earlier than 2017.
There was Trump Collector’s Edition Monopoly (“The Fast Dealing Property-Trading Game.”) After that, in 1989, “Trump: The Game” (“It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!”) And, following on the heels of those two failed attempts came 2004’s “The Apprentice” game (“I’m back and you’re fired!”)

Only now are we ready for another Trump game.

Here are the rules for Trump & Consequences:

Six participants (minimum) are required. Half of the number are designated “Members of Trump’s Court.” The other half are assigned the term” Citizens.”

Each “Citizen” selects a “Character,” pulled randomly from a bowl or hat that contains descriptions of that character. If you can get hold of a large shoe or boot from Ivanka Trump’s collection that would serve nicely and fit into the spirit of the game. All the characters are rather stereotypical and defined mainly by race, religion, gender and a few other characteristics.

For example, the character card might say: “45-year-old white Jewish female without health insurance” or “young Muslim male whose house is at risk of being flooded by rising sea levels,” or “male Catholic Mexican undocumented immigrant.”

Amidst the several hundred character descriptions are “Trump Cards.”

These Characters are actual relatives of the presumed president of the United States, by blood or marriage, and they go straight to the top of a miniature replica of Trump Tower to sit out the round.

Other players’ tokens rise, step by step. The roll of a pair of dice determines the rate of their climb. If a player rolls a 12, he climbs a dozen steps up the escalator staircase The Donald descended with Melania to announce his candidacy for the most important political position in the world. (It’s not moving; it’s been stopped, momentarily, so he may enjoy yet another Victory Lap basking in the golden glow of his Russian-enhanced win over Hillary Rodham Clinton.)

Some of the steps on the way up the (stationary) escalator or staircase are harmless.
Some are inscribed with terms like: “You’ve been re-tweeted!” If a player is re-tweeted, he or she draws from a stack of cards reminiscent of Chance or Community Chest cards in real Monopoly.

The cards drawn describe various life situations that might occur to a citizen of the United States trying to live through the Trump regime, along with strategic consequences,
such as “Your company gets a great bribe from the U.S. government! Take the escalator or elevator up five floors.” Another might read: “You’re deported! Or “Your public school is defunded and the money given to Christian charter schools by Betsy DeVos!” or “Join an undocumented immigrant wherever on the escalator/staircase he may be.”

The player reads aloud his Life Situation card and then chooses between 2 options:

1) He can accept his fate and move his token as directed.
2) He can plead his case to Trump’s Court. That is, he can argue that his character does not belong in the Life Situation assigned.

The argument might go something like this: “As a white Christian male I am highly unlikely to be deported.” Or, “As a 50-year-old Asian female, I won’t be affected by the closure of a public school or the defunding of Planned Parenthood.”


This is where the Game-within-the-Game begins.


The Courtiers discuss the likelihood, in Trump’s version of America, of the character ending up in any given Life Situation.
Therefore, they are compelled to think in stereotypes, just as Trump does, and to imagine the radically different outcomes that might be experienced by different kinds of people in identical situations, [since “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”](Animal Farm, George Orwell).

No white male is likely to be deported or sexually assaulted, for example, though he is plausibly a recipient of a corporate bribe. The Court’s deliberations on such matters are at the heart of the game. If you think this sounds unfair or unlikely, you should have watched the 2-hour special on Tom Brokaw, where he told Oprah Winfrey that he, himself, wonders how many of the Big Breaks in his career he would have gotten if the color of his skin had been one shade darker. He defined that concern (racism) as among the biggest we face as a nation, second only to climate change.

The Court’s deliberations on such matters are at the heart of the game.
Courtiers will find themselves saying things like: “Too bad you’re black!” Or, “God, it really sucks to be a Muslim in Trump Land!” Or, “Too bad you’re a member of that Rainbow coalition at this time in history.”

Each round ends when one citizen reaches The Donald’s Penthouse.
All Citizens then become Courtiers, and all Courtiers Citizens. No one ever actually wins the game, but all the players experience the elation and terror of the new realities of Trump’s America and the ever-shifting odds facing a great number of Americans in a variety of different circumstances, who find themselves, discriminated against and at the mercy of Trump and Pence’s whims. Not a Christian? Bad on you. “Venezuelan immigrant with a green card who is just learning to speak English and has minimal funding.” Good luck!

Trump also has the power to occasionally pardon an undocumented immigrant the way the president usually pardons a Thanksgiving turkey; that player gets to stay and graduate at the top of his class. Think “The Hunger Games.”

On the other hand, Cabinet Courtier posts are handed out primarily to those who were, in their previous lives, diametrically opposed to whichever Cabinet post they are appointed to, or, as a corollary, have no experience whatsoever for the job they are assigned. Examples of this abound, such as Rick Perry’s appointment to the very Cabinet post and department he famously wanted to eliminate (but couldn’t remember the name of), and the EPA head being a climate change denier. And, of course, there is Betsy Devos, who never taught a day in her life, was never a school administrator, never was in charge of a large budget for any business, and apparently does not believe in the separation of church and state, since her family (Amway and Blackwater billions) has given money to Christian schools…and, of course, to those on the Committee that, today, forwarded her nomination for Secretary of Education to the floor for confirmation. (The split was 11 Democrats voting against Devos and the 12 Republican members voting for the woman who has never experienced anything that even remotely smacks of taking out a student loan for college, nor run or taught in a school of any kind.)

Actually, the LESS qualified you are for the office, the more likely you will be to be appointed to head it up. “Heckuva’ job, Brownie! Times 100.

After a negative Court verdict, the Citizen discards his Character card for another randomly drawn card and so, as the game proceeds, the less fortunate Characters will naturally be purged from it and replaced by the more fortunate ones. (Let’s hope that The Donald is not a fan of “The Purge” films or we’ll end up with that scenario!)

In a process that resembles natural selection (says Michael Lewis in the Vanity Fair article), “the Characters ascending to Trump Tower will become whiter and older and, most likely, male.”
American will once again re-invent themselves in the old, white, male image of the 2008 RNC, which had only one black person anywhere near it (I was there and inside) and he was an Obama impersonator hired for the occasion.

A player who started his climb as a Muslim immigrant on food stamps might end up as Ivanka Trump through the luck of the Character draw, perhaps.
In short, the game, as it goes, will reveal the predicaments of entire classes of Americans caught in the chaos. The Court will be forced to contemplate, as voters apparently never did, the character of the president and the consequences for great swaths of our society. For instance, all those coal miners who voted for The Donald so blithely and are now finding out that Obamacare and The Affordable Care Act are one and the same and they are going to lose all their health insurance just as their pensions ran out on Dec. 31, 2016, are experiencing Buyers’ Remorse. [Too late for that, Coal Miners. Should have thought about reading up before you voted. A good book to start with would have been one on all of Donald J. Trump’s previous business dealings (and I don’t mean the one he didn’t write.)]

For children, their fate in Trump’s America will obviously turn on their race, religion and socio-economic status, as there is no longer an Obama figure fighting for them to receive health care and equal opportunity.
The shrewder players of the game will shun them as a group. Their “weakness” is their personal exposure to the distant future, which, if Leninist and Disrupter-in-Chief Bannon is in charge, almost certainly involves another war. (Wars are SO good for business!)

Says Lewis: “Politicians often stiff the future on behalf of the present, but no one in the political landscape has cut so many Draconian bargains with the future as Trump. An indifference to the long term is one of the keys to his behavior.” His treatment of his fellow human beings has left him in the odd position of having no real friends except those toadies who hope to profit by kissing his Trumpian ring. Trump’s willingness to borrow money that he does not repay has led many Wall Street banks to refuse to do business with him, which is why he probably is in debt to Russia by as much as $12 billion (we’ll never know, since he won’t release his tax returns, which also show him paying no taxes for literally years.) If he owes them that much money, they could ruin him by calling in the debt, but now all they have to do is dictate to him what he should do to de-stabilize the United States of America until it becomes the Divided States of America and Russia wins.

The cannier players of Trump’s America will realize that they are better off limiting their exposure to the future, so the older their Character is, the less likely it is to suffer the consequences of Donald Trump.
I can personally attest to this, as one of my friends, a Trump supporter, said, “Come on, Connie. You’re in the group that will benefit from all of his plans. Get with the program.”

If you play a character that depicts even a 60-year-old Muslim woman, you may live to play on. Play with a token that represents any child and you are eventually out of the game. It may take a while for less thoughtful folk to wake up to this reality. After all, it’s tough to say to your 8-year-old granddaughters: “Too bad you’re a kid and female.”

Millennials: GET ON THIS! I protested Vietnam. I protested for Free Speech (Berkeley, 1965, Mario Savio). I protested for civil rights. It’s up to you, now, to protest these pre-determined Character Outcomes and right the wrongs that Donald J. Trump (et. al.) represent(s) to our country’s Constitution and its long revered ideals of freedom of religion, among other principles. If you don’t start paying attention and reading up, you run the risk of becoming like those coal miners in West Virginia, hoodwinked and flim-flammed, with no health insurance (“I’ll be okay. I have the Affordable Care Act, not Obamacare” was a real quote on my Facebook page), no job, and no pension. The average life expectancy of a mine worker today is only 42 years, and that was before the complete destruction of Obamacare and Medicaid.

Good luck, Players! Pick your Character and start praying (Pence likes that).

“Blood on the Mountain” Documentary Recaps Plight of West Virginia Coal Miners

Genre: feature-length documentary
Length: 90 minutes
Director: Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman
Producers: Deborah Wallace, Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman
Release date: November 18, 2016 from Abramorama
Reviewed by: Connie Wilson

The opening scenes from the impressive documentary “Blood on the Mountain” show the beautiful forested hills of Appalachian coal country from the air. West Virginia, second in the nation in coal production (and second poorest state in the nation), looks beautiful from hundreds of feet overhead.

And then we go to ground and reality rears its ugly head.

A litany of mining disasters is listed: Hawks Nest, West Virginia: 764 African-Americans in unmarked graves with 10 to 14 dying in the mine(s) daily.

The conflict at Blair Mountain.
Buffalo Creek (125 killed, 4,000 homeless, engulfed 17 towns with coal slurry).
Brushy Fork Slurry: 9 billion gallons of coal slurry released to bury nearby towns.
52 dead under Donald Blankenship’s Massey Energy.
Sago Mine Explosion, Jan. 2, 2006.
Aracoma Mountain Fire, in 2000, 2 dead.
Upper Big Branch Explosion, April, 2005, in the #9 mine. Seventy-nine went in; 50 came out—“the worst explosion since 1984”—29 dead.

And yet Don Blankenship’s (Massey CEO) e-mail, read into the Congressional record during the post-disaster investigation, said: “You need to ignore them (federal rules and regulations) and run coal.”

Anyone who wants to know what a mine that is trying to evade regulatory efforts might resemble need only take in Antonio Banderas’ 2015 film “The 33” about gold and copper miners trapped underground in Chile for 69 days before rescue (Banderas played Mario Sepulveda, the group’s leader). The precious metal may be different, but the methods to avoid ensuring the health and safety of the mine workers comes very close to coal mining in 2016. Any time a federal regulator was on the way to make an inspection, the word was put out; efforts were made to avoid detection/correction of any infractions of rules put in place to safeguard the health and safety of the workers.

THE GOOD:

Blood on the Mountain starts with a brief history of the rise of coal at the end of the 19th centur
y. Because of the abuse of workers, unions began to form to fight for the rights of the working man. (Sylvester Stallone’s 1978 film “F.I.S.T.”, for which I attended the World Premiere, was about the fight to unionize in the face of brutal opposition from management). A voice onscreen says, “That’s how we got the New Deal.” FDR in a Fireside Chat is shown telling the nation that government should “seek the primary good of the greater number.” Between 1935 and 1938 Roosevelt championed the New Labor Act and the Fair Labor Act and progress was made.

But the demand for coal as a cheap energy source peaked in the 1920’s and there are only 500 mines left in the United States today.

Of that number, those in Wyoming are far and away the biggest producers of coal (4x more than West Virginia), but West Virginia, long associated with coal mining, is second. It is also the second poorest state in the Union.

Once the heady days of the passage of Fair Labor Acts were past, Homer Adam Holt, Governor of West Virginia in 1939, tried to amend educational literature in the schools to make it more to his liking. Changing history by writing it to the Governor’s liking was recommended by those in power this way, “It is better to have a mediocre book than to antagonize the Governor.” Corrupt governors abounded before and after Holt.

The comment, prescient and predictive today, is made that “industrialists have been able to get by with whatever they want” and, as the documentary attests, “there were a continuous stream of accidents and treatment of others as less important” by those in power.
(*Recent Reference: “Deep Horizon” Mark Wahlberg film about the BP catastrophe in the Gulf.)

Corruption of the officials in West Virginia was a given. Between 1984 and 1991, under Governor James Manchen, more than 75 state officials went to jail. While this does not seem unique to West Virginia (witness Illinois and Louisiana officials, for openers), Davitt McAteer, head of mine safety and featured as a talking head in this documentary, does lay out their repeated attempts to break up unions, beginning in 1984.

The miners, for their part, are quoted in Blood on the Mountain this way: “You have a kid to feed. Do your job.” McAteer says, “A proud heritage came to a crashing end in the 1980s,” referencing the UMWA (United Mine Workers Association) looking out for the health, pensions and safety of its members. As a former worker said, “Production was the name of the game at all costs…We had to produce to keep our jobs.”

Cecil Roberts (a mine worker) refers to “the power of intimidation” and talks about one mine administrator with a wife with cystic fibrosis whose medication cost $5,000 per month. Threaten that mine worker with loss of his position if he does not do your bidding. If someone tried to stand up to then-president of the UMWA, Tony Boyle, as Jock Yablonski did in 1969, that individual risked his life. Murder was used as a tool. Wikipedia entry: Joseph Albert “Jock” Yablonski (March 3, 1910 – December 31, 1969) was an American labor leader in the United Mine Workers in the 1950s and 1960s. He was murdered in 1969 by killers hired by a union political opponent, Mine Workers president Tony Boyle.”

Therefore, the number of mine workers steadily declined from a high of 500,000 to, currently, 80,000—and all but 14,000 of those members are retired. It is obvious that, like Social Security where those taking out money are outnumbering those paying in money, the funds to support miners in their retirement or ill health are drying up, while, simultaneously, the demand for coal (and coal miners) is declining.

While President Obama’s regulations against coal are used to urge coal miners to vote for the opposition, the reality is that such EPA regulations began under Republican President George W. Bush. The reasons for the precipitous decline in jobs in West Virginia mining coal are many and varied and blaming “tree huggers” just won’t fly in the face of facts.

Mechanization and automation has idled thousands. “Appalachia is a shell of its former self…Parents are telling their children to go.” No less an authority than Jay Rockefeller is seen telling his audience, “It’s a disservice to coal miners and their families to pretend that things can be as they were.” Coal is a finite mineral and mining has been going on since the 1800s. Is it any wonder that now you have to go deeper and deeper into the ground to mine? Instead of even trying, mines have resorted to simply blowing off the tops of the mountains using explosives, which damages the environment and the topography of the state.

Despite the fighting words “Coal IS West Virginia,” coal mining is a dying industry. 80% of coal mines are owned by out-of-state corporations. Mines have destroyed 352,000 lush forested acres using explosives as of 2009. Wendell Berry is heard to say, “The global economy is built on the principle that one place can be destroyed for the benefit of another.” [What comes to mind is the Brazilian rain forest and attempts to save it, or the Arctic and attempts to ban drilling beneath the polar ice caps.]

In addition to silicosis (“black lung disease”) which has made the average miner’s life expectancy only 42 years of age, in Charleston, West Virginia, “They poisoned people’s water and commerce goes on.” The chemical MCHM used by Freedom Industries to process coal caused a Flint, Michigan, water situation (for different reasons) where water could not be consumed, used for washing, or considered safe in any way. Dr. Rahul Gupta, a medical director, is shown speaking to that issue, and Chris Hedges, an author, says, “They tried to make it appear to be an anomaly.” Nine counties were affected and a state of emergency was declared. Bottled water had to be delivered to anyone living in those nine counties.

Immediately thereafter, on January 17, 2014, Freedom Industries declared bankruptcy.

The declaring of bankruptcy is a common ploy used by unscrupulous coal companies to avoid having to pay reparations or retirement sums due or health care promised to workers when they began in the mines. It’s a bit like the plot of “The Producers” (i.e., Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel plan for a play to fail so they can use it as a tax write-off) where a mine is set up to fail and then bankruptcy can be declared, relieving the unscrupulous mining company of any obligations to the men who risked their lives underground mining the coal. Seven thousand coal mining jobs have been lost in West Virginia since 2011. In 2015, over 11,000 coal miners lost their jobs, according to “The Hill.”

“The Hill” goes on to attempt to blame the loss of coal mining jobs on federal regulations, but the truth is much more complicated.

To wit:

1) China is trying to clean up its pollution problem, so the Asian demand for coal from places like West Virginia did not measure up to expectations.
2) Clean, renewable energy sources are cutting into the concept of coal as king. Natural gas, for one, is cheaper and the head of Exxon is all for using natural gas rather than coal for power. In fact, the day the Paris Climate Control Pact took effect, the head of Exxon announced his support for the climate initiatives the Paris act endorsed, which included cutting back on coal to eliminate pollution and global warming.
3) Although Donald Trump hates wind turbines because they clutter his Scottish golf course view and kill birds, Obama supported wind and solar efforts, and, even in the coal state of Illinois where I live (Illinois is 5th in coal production), the nuclear power plant in Cordova (IL) recently received a death sentence reprieve from Republican Governor Bruce Rauner which is good for the next decade, despite consistently losing money operating it.
4) If the demand for coal were still high, eastern states have cleaner coal and it is easier to get Eastern coal to market.
5) Australia also is capable of producing coal for export.
6) Mechanization and automation, mentioned previously, have cut into the need for coal miners.
7) Changes in how coal is extracted from the ground also reduces the demand for coal miners.

THE BAD

Blood on the Mountain is a documentary with a point of view and those who do not accept climate change and global warming as fact will dispute its point-of-view. It also did not address the life-and-death struggle in the halls of Congress ongoing in December of 2016 to help save miners’ pensions and retirement benefits, gutted by unscrupulous companies who do not believe that promises should be honored. There is footage of a UMWA rally in September in Washington, D.C. regarding Senate Bill #1714, the Miners’ Protection Act.

After a huge coal miners’ strike in 1946, Harry Truman nationalized the mines and, in order to end the strike, hammered out a deal with UMWA President John Lewis and Interior Secretary Julius Krug that would guarantee coal miners certain benefits, like pensions and health care. That, to the miners and the UMWA, is the promise made that should be kept, but there are those who argue that the promise was not forever and not the government’s responsibility.

If you accept the premise that coal mining is a dinosaur industry that is dying a slow, tortuous death, quotes like this one from Jeremy Nichols, spokesman and director of climate and energy for Wild Earth Guardians are incendiary. When asked about the plight of coal miners in West Virginia (and elsewhere) Nichols said, “My initial response is tough shit…Keep it in the ground.” There is an obvious disconnect between the blue collar miners and the college-educated environmentalists who they see as a threat to their livelihood—even though the threats are far more wide-ranging.

The Wild Earth Guardians brought a suit in 2013 that threatened to shut down Colowyo and Trapper mines in Colorado, saying that the environment was “inadequately protected under the National Environmental Policy Act.” The mines were sued by the United States Office of Surface Mining.

Headlines in primarily Republican organs (“The Hill” was one) read: “Happy Birthday Clean Power Plan, Thanks for the Job Losses and Billions in Costs.” Another read: “Clean Power Plan: All Pain, No Gain for West Virginia” (The Hill). The same source made the dire prediction of 24,000 coal mining jobs displaced by the year 2020 blaming it all on EPA regulations and cited rising cost for electricity if coal were cut out of the power equation.

But the truth is that MANY factors play into the fall of coal as a power player. It is NOT just EPA guidelines that have put coal miners in the position of losing their pensions and their health care by Dec. 31, 2016.

The UMWA pension system is irreparably broken. No union members to pay in; no union money to pay out. “The looming insolvency is due to the precipitous drop in demand for coal in recent years…” say the experts. Union busting mine owners helped destroy the organization that had fought for workers at the turn of the century, and that began in earnest in 1984.

TODAY:

December 5, 2016:
Senate Democrats staged a last-ditch attempt to pass a stop-gap measure for miners who face the loss of their pensions and health care NOW (i.e., Dec. 31, 2016). Senate Bill #1714, the Miners Protection Act, was co-sponsored by Virginia senator Tim Kaine and it passed out of committee 18 to 8, with 8 Republican Senators voting with the Democrats to take millions earmarked for the cleaning up of abandoned mines and put it into a fund for displaced and retiring mine workers. Republicans who crossed party lines to vote for the bill included Orrin Hatch (R, Utah), Mike Crapo (R, Idaho), Pat Roberts (R, Kansas), Richard Burr (R, NC), Rob Portman (R, Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R, PA). Saying “Congress, in my view, has an obligation to the Miners Protection Act” this group tried to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. But House Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has no love for the UMWA or President Obama, refused to allow a vote. (*Note: McConnell’s wife was just named Secretary of Transportation.)

Meanwhile, a variety of mining companies (Peabody, Freedom, Alpha Natural Resources) continue to file for bankruptcy and the courts have relieved the bankrupt companies of their obligation to pay retiree benefits. All of this hits home here in the Rust Belt when I think of the waning days of International Harvester, which went under and took many pensions with it.

Let’s also not forget how we all suffered financially in 2008 when the economy nearly collapsed and was rescued only in the nick of time by the stewardship of the incoming administration. Pension funds—like all of ours—took a hit then, too.

He’s not in Blood on the Mountain, but Joe Stowers, age 72, from DuQuoin, Illinois, a retired miner who worked 28 years, is thinking of coming out of retirement to try to find a job because, as many who were interviewed for “Blood on the Mountain” said, “I thought my tomorrow was safe. Apparently, it’s an entirely different story.” As of October 5th in a letter sent to 12,500 union members, Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Patriot Coal, have all told their union employees that their health care coverage will be lost on December 31, 2016 unless Congress acts. Following on the heels of those three companies are Walter Energy and Alpha National Resources, who have sent out letters announcing similar losses to miners in March and July of 2017.

In a December 9, 2016 article in Mother Jones, Katie Herzog wrote: “President elect Trump campaigned on bringing back those same coal miners’ jobs, through sorcery, perhaps. Someone is working to help miners, but it ain’t Trump—or many Republicans, for that matter.”

One coal miner quoted in this truly grim-but-important film says, “We’re like lepers. Put us in a colony and let us die off. We’re not losing it (the land); we’re sacrificing it for the good of mankind and we’re sick of it.”

About Connie Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com ) was the Quad City Times film and book critic for 15 years and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970. She also publishes books (31 at last count) in a variety of genres (www.quadcitieslearning.com), has taught writing or literature classes at 6 Iowa/Illinois colleges or universities as adjunct faculty, was Yahoo’s Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics, is the author of It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com.

Carrie Fisher Dies at 60: “Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher” Gives Us Her Story

With the sad news that actress Carrie Fisher has died at age 60, I am posting this review of the documentary about her life, “Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher” again, in memorium. i inserted an Oprah interview with the two that is well worth watching. I hope Carrie finds the peace in death that she sought so desperately in life, seemingly finding it belatedly if at all.

Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie … – The Movie Blog
www.themovieblog.com/2016/bright-lights-starring-debbie-reynolds-and-carrie-fishe

New “Christmas Cats Book Care for the Bear” Is Available

As my previous post indicated, I’m booked for some appearances around the Quad Cities, but they are different from other appearance years.

1) Today (Saturday, Nov. 26th) I’ll be setting up within the former Country Manor store in downtown East Moline during the kick-off parade for the holidays. I’ll be there from 4 to 8 p.m. and will have not only the 5 Christmas Cats books, but a sampling of my 35 adult titles. So, come on down! There’s no charge and shop local!

2) On Saturday, November 30th, I’ll be within Building One at Black Hawk Junior College, as indicated in the previous post. This is a fund-raiser for international students and I’ll have both children and adult books at my 2 tables.

3) Saturday, December 3rd, in the morning, I will be at the entrance to the Breakfast with Santa event at Happy Joe’s in LeClaire, Iowa from 8 to ?

4) Saturday, December 3rd in the evening, I’ll be at the Herb Cellar in the Village of East Davenport. No details as to time, but that is the night of the fireworks. [Other years, I was at Freddy Frittters Dog Bakery, but their fire has caused space to be a premium, so come enjoy some herbs and carolers in the middle of the block, across from the Edward Jones office and down from Logomarcino’s.]

5) I am supposed to be at the Gallery Hop the following weekend, but, somehow, was left off the map. Still awaiting details of what store or business they may find for me.

And, last but not least, the book is up on Amazon for purchase, but the hardcover is not currently listed, but I will have them with me. Cost of the hardcover is $12.95 while the softcover is $6, with signatures if you come see m at any of the above locations.

Happy Post Thanksgiving and I hope to see you soon. Who knows? The Cat in the Hata might even be with me at one or more of these events.

Holiday Appearances Scheduled to Date

Some of you may know that I have a holiday series entitled The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats, which began many years ago when my daughter was in high school and dating a very talented young artist who drew the pictures for the first book while still a high school student. I sometimes travel with a costumed Cat in the Hat when selling these books, which now exist in both paperback and hardcover formats (as well as e-book formats) for sale on Amazon and wherever I happen to be hanging out over the holidays.

My plan was to publish the book way back then, in 2003 or so, but Author House lost most of Andy Weinert’s drawings, leaving me only with scans in my computer.

It was years later that I had the idea of resurrecting the children’s cat series for my then 2-year-old granddaughters, Ava and Elise, as a Christmas present, which would go on with their help and input until they turned 10. I asked my layout person in Rockford (Donnie Light) to see if he could bring the scans up to some sort of quality, and a first book emerged.

Time had passed and I needed more drawings to bring the Christmas concept forward. Andy was busy graduating from Northern Illinois University with a degree in graphic arts and the girls’ nanny from Venezuela, Emily Marquez Vilcek, stepped in to finish the book.

Each year since then, a book has emerged at the holidays, with “The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats” helping animals in distress and teaching life lessons to children aged 3 to 10. They are throw-back books in that regard, as they aren’t about flying pot roasts or other useless information (a real book, by the way).

Book One: The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats was about learning to get along and cooperate with others.
Book Two: The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Cats was about not being prejudiced.
Book Three: The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats
was about having respect for all life, no matter how icky it seems, at first.
Book Four: The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer was about thinking out of the box to solve problems, which, in this case, was saving the deer who live in Scott County Park.
Book Five: The Christmas Cats Care for the Bear
has an anti-bullying message.

All of the books can be seen at www.TheXmasCats.com and all of them can be purchased through Amazon or from me, if you find me at one of the sites I plan to visit this Christmas-time.

My first appearance will be at what used to be called the Manor House in downtown East Moline on November 26th from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. I will have all of the Christmas books and others that you can see at my author site, www.ConnieCWilson.com. I have a Stephen King-like series “The Color of Evil” (3 novels); 2 short story series (“Ghostly Tales of Route 66” and “Hellfire & Damnation”) and various other books, such as a nonfiction books on movies of the seventies, 2 nonfiction books on the 2008 presidential race (“Obama’s Odyssey”), a book of humor (“Laughing through Life”) and others you can view at my author site.

The second place I know I will be is within Building One at Black Hawk Junior College on December 30th, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. I will have the Christmas Cats books, but I will also have the more adult fare. (I have 35 books, to date).

The third place I know I will be is outside Happy Joe’s in LeClaire, Iowa, before the Breakfast with Santa event on Saturday, December 3rd.
I am hopeful that I can make my annual stop at Razzleberries down the street, possibly on Friday night, and I am still trying to work out a place within the Village of East Davenport for the evening of December 3rd, Saturday, the night of the fireworks. The problem is that, in other years, I was inside Freddy Fritters, and it burned down and is much smaller now.

I also don’t know if I’ll have the traditional Cat in the Hat with me, posing for photographs, as in other years. [If you have a burning desire to wear an adult-sized Cat in the Hat suit (and get paid for it) contact me at Einnoc10@Aol.com.]

I did not ask to be present in Geneseo during their Victorian Christmas Walk at the Four Seasons this year because I was aced out by locals last year. I’m also still trying to find a spot within the Village of East Davenport, as Freddy Fritters burned down (taking one of my posters with it). Now, they don’t have room for me. So, if you’re in the Village and reading this and would like a local author and possibly a costumed Cat in the Hat on the night of the fireworks (Saturday, Dec. 3), contact me at 309-737-2225.

Opening Night of the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival on Oct. 13th

http://search.aol.com/aol/video?q=Valerie+Perrine&v_t=aolrt-ff

Claude LeLouch with interpreter.

Claude LeLouch with interpreter.

Now that I have your attention, may I mention that the lovely creature featured in the tribute above is the co-author of French director Claude LeLouch’s (2015) film “Un & Une?” You may recognize Valerie Perrine from her Oscar-nominated role as Honey Bruce, wife of Lenny Bruce, in the 1974 film “Lenny” or any of her many other film roles. She accompanied LeLouch to the opening night and is a lovely and vibrant 73-year-old (LeLouch is 79).

Damien Chazelle, Writer/Director of "La La Land" and "Whiplash."

Damien Chazelle, Writer/Director of “La La Land” and “Whiplash.”

The current hot director who attended the Opening Night of his film was Damien Chazelle, whose musical “La La Land” has been well-received virtually everywhere it has screened. In Venice, on August 31st, the opening sequence on a Los Angeles freeway received a standing ovation. Since then, the film has opened to kudos at Telluride and Toronto and Emma Stone won the Best Actress award for her role (She is being prominently mentioned as a Best Actress Oscar contender). The chemistry that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone displayed in “Crazy, Stupid Love” (he told her his signature move was the lift from “Dirty Dancing”) remains.

Michael Rooker

Michael Rooker

Another classic flick brought back to life for the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival was “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, an indie film directed by John McNaughton and starring Michael Rooker. The film premiered in Chicago in 1986 and has achieved cult status over the intervening 30 years. Rooker, himself, now 60, has gone on to appear in such films as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Days of Thunder” (1990), “The Bone Collector,” and as Merle in television’s “The Walking Dead.”

When McNaughton was asked his advice for aspiring filmmakers who want to make an independent film he said, “Ill give them the same advice my father gave me: become a dentist.”

Rosemarie DeWitt of "La La Land."

Rosemarie DeWitt of “La La Land.”

In addition to Writer/Director Chazelle of “La La Land”, actress Rosemarie DeWitt, who plays Gosling’s older sister in the film, came to Chicago and her comments to me about the film were, “I think Damien made something very beautiful and very fresh that is going to make you very happy and maybe even make you cry.”

Why Won’t Donald Trump Release His Tax Returns?

Why Won’t Trump Release His Tax Returns?

For the first time in modern history, a candidate running for President on a major party ticket is not releasing his tax returns.

Why not?

The 6 best guesses are courtesy of Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, one of 3 news outlets (the New York Times and the Des Moines Register being the other two) that Donald Trump has recently banned from covering his campaign for various slights or offenses he doesn’t like (it doesn’t take much when you’re as thin-skinned as Donald Trump):

1) The Donald may have Russian business ties.

2) Donald Trump did not pay any taxes at all for 2 years in the seventies. Speculation is rampant that he has not paid his fair share of taxes since then. A 1981 report by New Jersey gambling regulators showed that Trump did not pay any taxes for 2 years in the seventies because he reported negative income—which brings us to number 3.

3) Trump may not be as rich as he claims. He once said he was worth $10 biliion. Others have said he is worth $3 billion. Still others insist he is worth far less than either of those numbers. Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, is not impressed with Trump’s wealth, saying he is a con man at the DNC.

4) Trump may donate very little to charity, despite claims to the contrary. I’m sure we all remember when he skipped a debate in Iowa to raise money for veterans, but then didn’t donate the money until newspapers tracked down whether he had actually raised and donated as much ($6 million) as he claimed. The tracking down forced Trump to make good on a campaign promise to chip in a large amount of his own and made us aware that the $6 million was actually only $5.6 until the research outed the entire process and showed that he had not put in his contribution until the day after the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold printed the true story. Farenthold also found that his charitable giving to that point was less than $10,000.

5) He is being audited. This is pure bunk. Richard Nixon released his taxes while being audited in 1973. My husband ran 2 H&R Block locations and says there is no reason that an audit should prevent him from releasing his tax returns, which many others have confirmed.

6) Trump may have Mob ties. This idea has circulated for years. Ted Cruz on “Meet the Press” said, “There have been multiple media reports about Donald’s business dealings with the job, with the mafia. Maybe his taxes show those business dealings are a lot more extensive than has been reported.” (Of course, Trump claimed that Cruz’ father was somehow complicit in the assassinaton of JFK, so…..

In other breaking non-tax-return news, Melania Trump’s website that claimed she earned an architecture degree before becoming a model (she didn’t) has been taken down.

Paperback “Goodreads” Giveaway Ends in 8 hours

I’m giving away 5 autographed copies of “Obama’s Odyssey, Volume I” through Goodreads, to end tonight at midnight (May 28th). I’ve been mentioning it on the national radio tour I’m on, which will continue on June 1st and June 2nd.

If you don’t mind reading the book as an e-book, on those 2 dates you’ll be able to get an E-book copy of Volume II FREE and a copy of Volume for 99 cents, in conjunction with the radio tour, so that is $30 of paperback books in e-book (Kindle) format for under a $1. (Sweet)

Also, I’ll be at the IWPA (Illinois Women’s Press Association) tent from 10 to 2 on the first day (Saturday, June 11th) of Printers’ Row and from 2 to 6 on Sunday, June 12th. Stop by and pick up the nonfiction or fiction books (30 at last count) for special pricing and have them autographed.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Obama's Odyssey by Connie Corcoran Wilson

Obama's Odyssey

by Connie Corcoran Wilson

Giveaway ends May 28, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Page 1 of 8

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén