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: Politics (Page 2 of 14)

“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).

The 35 Best U.S. Films About Politics Ever Made

The 35 Greatest U.S. Political Films of All Time

By Connie Wilson

In preparing a list of “the greatest” of anything, you are limited by your own exposure to the films (i.e., ‘Did you see these movies?”) If you did see them, do you remember all of them?

Fortunately for those of you longing for a political fix that isn’t nauseating (but actually entertaining), I have personally seen every single movie on this list—some of them more than once.

I concentrated on the American political experience, not that of another country. For that reason, films like “Z” by Costa-Gravas, or his equally impressive “Missing” (Chile) or Helen Mirren’s“The Queen” were deleted, as they focus on the political process in other countries. Warren Beatty’s movie “Reds” would have qualified if we wanted to open the list to Mother Russia.

But my emphasis is on politics here in the good old United States of America. (Also known, recently, as the Divided States of America, but that’s a topic for another day.) Steve McQueen’s 2008 film “Hunger” about the Irish Republican Army prison inmates certainly deserves a place on a list of great political films, but not if we’re concentrating on America, American politicians, and American politics. Similarly “The King’s Speech” (2010) had to go. “V for Vendetta”(2005): out. “Metropolis” (1927): a classic, but not really a film about American politics.

And that brings me to another criteria for my list. The primary focus of the film had to be on politics or the political process or a political candidate. One other list I consulted while researching my list included “Children of Men” (2006) and “The Godfather: Part II”.

The second “Godfather” movie definitely brings politics into the plot. But let’s be honest about “The Godfather” films. They’re about the Mafia family the Corleones. They’re not purely about politics, except peripherally. When it seemed like it might be a good idea for the Corleone family to become involved in the political process, by hook or by crook, they were buying Senators, yes, and perhaps planning more, but the films do not scream POLITICS to me.

Nor was Coppola’s other masterpiece, “Apocalypse Now” a movie about politics (as one list would have had me believe). Yes, Martin Sheen is traveling up the river to find Kurtz (Marlon Brando), but don’t most of us think of “Apocalypse Now” as a war movie? I know I do; I was surprised to see it on lists of “greatest political films” and I was equally surprised to see Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece “Citizen Kane” or Gregory Peck’s turn as Atticus Finch in “To Kill A Mockingbird” listed as “political” movies.

Well, yes, there is politics involved in both,— if you really stretch the definition of what you want your list to represent. Were they really short of candidates when they made their list(s), because I had no problem at all listing 35 films that I guarantee you that you will find enjoyable, entertaining and informative. (No attempt to say, “THIS is the very best one.”)

I eliminated documentaries, such as Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” because it isn’t a feature film. A great documentary like the Oscar-nominated “The Look of Silence” about the Philippines therefore lost out on two counts: it’s a documentary AND it is not about the United States. There are any number of great Errol Morris documentaries (“The Fog of War,” “The Unknown Known”) that would have been included, if I included documentaries. But these are all feature films on this list, made about the U.S. and being recommended to you for future viewing.

For those of you still reeling from the election of 2016 who want to see a good movie that will both entertain and enlighten you and is about politics in the U.S. of A, this is the list for you!

I admit to having seen every single one of them, which demonstrates why I get so little real work done. After the thumbnail sketches of the films, I’ll list a few “oldies-but-goodies” that I admit woulda’/shoulda’/coulda’ made the list—if I had seen them. Or, in at least one case, if I remembered it, which, apparently, I do not, or I would have included it.

Most of those films pre-date my movie-going career, (which has been very, very long).

THE FILMS:

1949 & 2006: “All the King’s Men”
– Broderick Crawford won an Oscar for playing Huey Long in the original movie (and then moved on to television, where he had a long-running role on “Highway Patrol.”) Sean Penn took on the part again in 2006. I’ll take the original over the remake, especially for the scene featuring Huey’s violent death as he exits the Capitol building. The film was based on Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and here’s what IMDB says it is about: “The rise and fall of a corrupt politician, who makes his friends richer and retains power by dint of a populist appeal.” Amazing how these old movies retain their timeliness.

1962 & 2004: “The Manchurian Candidate” – For many years, this was my All-Time Favorite Flick. Laurence Harvey as the hit man who was brainwashed and is now the pawn of the evil Angela Lansbury (his mother) is magnificent, and Frank Sinatra is racing against the clock to prevent catastrophe in this plot that involves putting a Russian pawn in the White House. After the assassination of JFK, the film was withdrawn from release for many years, but re-emerged and the John Frankenheimer (“Black Sunday,” “Seven Days in May”) version was re-shot with Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber in the title roles and the conflict updated to the Korean War. Direction in 2004 was by Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”). Both are good films, but I vote for the original 1962 version.

1962: “Advise and Consent” – Otto Preminger directed this film that starred Henry Fonda and Franchot Tone. The film was adapted from the Allan Drury novel that I once had to read for and with a young student from Chicago who was enrolled in a political science class at Augustana College and had been assigned to read the book for his class. The IMDB plot write-up: Senate investigation into the President’s newly nominated Secretary of State, gives light to a secret from the past, which may not only ruin the candidate, but the President’s character as well. (Nothing like this could ever happen in today’s world—right?)

1964: “Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” – Stanley Kubrick’s film with Peter Sellers in multiple roles is so good that I once cornered my entire family and made them watch it on Christmas Day. After all, what is more entertaining than the sight of Sellers’ facing off against Sterling Hayden and George C. Scott. I’ll never forget the scene where Sterling Hayden is ordered to machine gun a Coca Cola vending machine and Hayden defiantly says, “Well, all right, but you’ll have to answer to the Coca Cola Company,” or words to that effect. The plot (IMDB): An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop. Oh! THAT could never happen in real life, now, could it? Slim Pickens riding the bomb. This film cries out for viewing in today’s political climate.

1964: “Fail-Safe” – Henry Fonda steps up to the political plate once again, in a film directed by Sidney Lumet (“12 Angry Men,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Network”) that features a rogue attack on the U.S.S.R. (Remember the Cold War when Russia was our adversary and not our good friend?). The launch a mistake caused by an electrical malfunction and the question is: “Can we avoid an all-out nuclear war?”

1964: “Seven Days in May” – John Frankenheimer directed the original film that starred Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, Ava Gardner and Martin Balsam about a plot against the President of the United States by military leaders because the president supports a nuclear disarmament treaty and the military fears a Russian sneak nuclear attack. Nominated for 2 Oscars.

1972: “The Candidate” – I still have a political button that says “Bill McKay: A Better Way.” The theater gave them out to advertise this Robert Redford starring movie about a candidate running for the Senate in California and his handlers. Real Senators Alan Cranston, Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern had cameos. Howard K. Smith of ABC News played himself. I always felt that this treatment of the run for office was probably more accurate than most.

1974: “The Parallax View” – An ambitious reporter played by Warren Beatty gets in way-over-his-head trouble while investigating a senator’s assassination. Everyone who knew anything about the Senator’s death seems to be dying. He discovers a vast conspiracy involving a multinational corporation behind every event in the world’s headlines. Directed by Alan J. Pakula (“The Pelican Brief”) and co-starring Paula Prentiss.

1975: “Three Days of the Condor” – A bookish CIA researcher (Robert Redford) finds all his co-workers dead. (You never know what you’ll find your co-workers up to when you return from a coffee run). He must outwit those responsible and figure out whom he can trust. Directed by Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford’s kidnapping of Faye Dunaway (he needs a place to hide out while he figures things out) leads to some moody cinematography of her photography and, ultimately, to the salvation that releasing facts to the media (i.e., the “New York Times”) used to mean. Ah, for those good old simpler days.

1976: “All the President’s Men” – Starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as Woodward and Bernstein of the Washington Post, the two uncover the details of the Watergate scandal (primarily from informant “Deep Throat” played by Hal Holbrook) that leads to President Richard Nixon’s resignation from office. Again directed by Alan J. Pakula, based on Bernstein and Woodward’s books. I showed this to a class at Eastern Iowa Community College to illustrate “whistle-blower” films, and the credits are of an old manual typewriter banging out the information, so its credit opening seems very dated.

1979: “Being There”
– The great Peter Sellers plays Chance, the gardener, and Shirley MacLaine co-stars. I’ll never forget Chance saying, “I just like to watch.” Jerzy Kosinski wrote the novel on which the plot is based and also wrote the screenplay for the film, which was directed by Hal Ashby (“Harold & Maude,” “The Last Detail”). A poor simple gardener becomes an unlikely trusted advisor to a powerful businessman and an insider in Washington politics (These days, that phrase is redundant). Is Chance really dumb, or is he crazy like a fox? Melvyn Douglas won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor, but the film also had another 13 wins and 15 nominations for a variety of film critics’ awards that year.

1981: “First Monday in October” – This film starring Jill Clayburgh and Walter Matthau was about the appointment of the first woman to the Supreme Court. Jerome Lawrence wrote the play and the screenplay and Ronald Neame directed. Clayburgh is the Conservative (think Scalia) and Matthau is the liberal (think Ruth Bader-Ginsberg). It eventually leads to a romance not unlike that of the Ragin’ Cajun of the Democratic party, James Carville, and his Republican wife Mary Matlin—[before she bolted from the GOP, anyway].

1992: “Bob Roberts” – Tim Robbins wrote it. Tim Robbins directed it. Tim Robbins starred in it. Here’s the IMDB plot summary: “A right-wing folk singer becomes a corrupt politician and runs a crooked election campaign. Only one independent muck-raking reporter is trying to stop him.”

1993: “The Pelican Brief”
– Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts are on the trail of who murdered a Supreme Court Justice of the United States and why. Based on the John Grisham best-selling novel. Alan J. Pakula (“All the President’s Men,” “The Parallax View”) wrote the screenplay and directed.

1995: “The American President” – Aaron Sorkin wrote it, Rob Reiner directed it, and Michael Douglas and Annette Benning play the widowed President, who falls in love with a lobbyist. I actually knew the guy who made sure the dye in the carpet was the same as the real Oval Office. (He also dyed the Trump baby’s layette for a photo shoot for “Vanity Fair”, but that “baby” our current president’s second daughter, with Marla Maples, is now the young Tiffany Trump.)
1997 : « Conspiracy Theory » – Mel Gibson & Julia Roberts. A man obsessed with conspiracy theories becomes a target after one of his theories turns out to be true. Unfortunately, in order to save himself, Mel has to figure out which theory it is. Directed by Richard Donner (“Lethal Weapon”).

1997 – “Wag the Dog” – Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor (Robert DeNiro) and a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal. Directed by Barry Levinson (“Diner”) and co-starring Anne Heche. My favorite scene involved a young girl clutching a bag of potato chips to simulate a baby, which would be “green screened” into a touching war scenario that would distract from the REAL scandal. The movie is a hoot and a half and rings even truer today!


1998: “Primary Colors”
– A man joins the political campaign of a smooth-operator candidate for president of the USA, played by John Travolta and loosely modeled on Bill Clinton’s charisma. Directed by the late great Mike Nichols, who joins Alan J. Pakula in heaven as one of the best directors of a political movie since 1970. Based on the Joe Klein novel that hit New York Times best-seller lists as written by “anonymous.”

1991: “JFK” – Oliver Stone directed from a script that he and Zachary Sklar co-wrote. The bio-pic explores the assassination theories that New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison believed to be true. Too many courtroom scenes, but a decent bio-pic about the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, starring Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald, Brian Doyle Murray as Jack Ruby, Sissy Spacek, Kevin Costner (as Garrison), Tommy Lee Jones, John Candy, Jack Lemmon, Ed Asner, Vincent D’Onofrio, Wayne Knight and Michael Rooker among a very large cast.

1992: “Malcolm X” – Spike Lee directed from the book “Malcolm X” by Alex Haley (“Roots”). Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett and Delroy Lindo starred in this bio-pic about the Black Muslim leader who was assassinated in New York at the age of 39 on Feb. 21, 1965.

1995: “Nixon” – Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen and Powers Boothe headed up the cast of this Oliver Stone bio-pic. I have to admit that I thought Hopkins was the wrong physical type to play Nixon, but he did his usual great job. Film was nominated for 4 Oscars. It got nominations for its screenplay, its original music, and both Allen and Hopkins were nominated, but did not win.

1998: “Bulworth” – Warren Beatty wrote this, starred in it, and directed it, with Halle Berry as his co-star. Bulworth is a liberal politician, Senator Jay Billington Bullworth, who is so suicidally disillusioned that he puts a hit out on himself. At that point, he feels that he can now be completely honest with his constituents. I did not like this movie as well as most of the others on the list, which was because the plot had Bulworth embracing hip hop music and culture as he waits to die. But it’s a Warren Beatty film and deserves to be on the list as an examination of to what lengths (or depths) politics can drive a candidate.

1999: “Election” – A very young (and obnoxious) Reese Witherspoon is Little Miss Goody Two Shoes in teacher Matthew Broderick’s classroom. A compulsive over-achiever, Broderick’s life becomes very complicated (and the film becomes very hilarious) when the campaign and run for Class President comes down to a vote or two against opponent Chris Klein (“American Pie”). I loved this movie and laughed out loud; it didn’t hurt any that the inexpensive film used the Midwest chain Younkers in the background of some shots, because you’re not going to see THAT every day! (Founded in 1856 in Keokuk, Iowa, Younkers stores only exist in 50 Midwestern locations.)

2000: “The Contender” – Joan Allen strikes again, this time as a Vice Presidential contender named Laine Hanson. Information and DISinformation threatens to derail her confirmation. What a cast! In addition to Allen, the co-stars include Gary Oldman, Christian Slater, Jeff Bridges, Sam Elliott and William Peterson. (I met Joan Allen at the Chicago International Film Festival a few years back, when she was being honored as a local girl made good. She is a Rochelle, Illinois native who attended both Eastern Illinois University and Northern Illinois University, my husband’s alma mater).

2005: “Good Night & Good Luck” – George Clooney wrote, directed and was one of the stars of this film about Edward R. Murrow’s attempts to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy. Clooney admitted it was a passion project for him. David Straithorne played Murrow, with Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson, Frank Langella, Matt Ross and Robert Downey, Jr., also in the cast. Nominated for 6 Academy Awards.

2007: “Charlie Wilson’s War” – Tom Hanks portrayed Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, who attempted to covertly supply Afghan rebels with the weapons to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. The film’s tag-line was: “Based on a true story. You think we could make all this up?” Co-stars were Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman (again), and Amy Adams from a script written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Mike Nichols.

2008: “Frost/Nixon” – Ron Howard directed Frank Langella (Nixon) and Martin Sheen (Frost) in this film adaptation of the Broadway play that detailed the information that Nixon finally admitted during David Frost’s interviews of him on national television. It was essentially a two-man play, but the movie also featured such name actors as Kevin Bacon, Toby Jones, Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt and the director’s brother, Clint Howard.

2008: “Milk” – Sean Penn beat out Mickey Rourke this year (in “The Wrestler”) to take home the Oscar for Best Actor in this drama about California’s first openly gay elected official. Emile Hirsch and Josh Brolin (as the shooter) star in this Gus Van Sant project.

2008: “W” – Josh Brolin portrayed George W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s bio-pic, with Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice, Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney and Scott Glenn as Donald Rumsfeld. Toby Jones portrayed Karl Rove, Jeffrey Wright played Colin Powell, Ellen Burstyn was Barbara Bush and Colin Hanks played a speechwriter.

2011: “The Ides of March” – Ryan Gosling portrays an idealistic staffer for a candidate who learns more than he wants to about dirty politics. The play on which the film was based was written by a former Howard Dean staffer, Beau Willimon, who now helps helm Kevin Spacey’s “House of Cards” TV series. George Clooney, who directed and co-wrote, also played Governor Mike Morris. Others in the cast included Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld on television now), Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright.

2012: “Game Change” – Jay Roach directed from the book of the same name, in a film about Sarah Palin’s ascendancy to the vice presidential slot on John McCain’s ’08 presidential bid. The film starred Julianne Moore (as Palin), Woody Harrelson, and Ed Harris as John McCain. (These were “the olden days” when we thought Sarah Palin was the worst know-nothing candidate one could put on a presidential ticket.)

2012: “Argo” – Ben Affleck both directed and starred (along with Bryan Cranston and John Goodman) in this film based on Tony Mendez’ book “The Master of Disguise.” The book detailed how a team posing as filmmakers scouting a location for a sci-fi movie rescued 6 of the Iranian hostages in 1980. Won 3 Oscars, including Best Picture of the Year.

2012: “Lincoln” – Based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin book, Stephen Spielberg cast Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and he won the Oscar this year as Best Actor for the bio-pic about Lincoln’s trials and tribulations as the Civil War raged. The film was also nominated as Best Picture. Co-stars were Sally Field (as Mary Todd Lincoln), David Straitharn (again), Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Tommy Lee Jones, Jackie Earle-Haley, Hal Holbrook and John Hawkes.

2012: “Zero Dark Thirty” – Kathryn Bigelow helmed this story of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by Navy S.E.A.L. Team Six in May of 2011. The film starred Jessica Chastain, Chris Pratt, Joel Edgerton and Kyle Chandler. It won one Oscar.

2014: “Selma” – Ava DuVernay directed from a script by Paul Webb. The film documents the Martin Luther King civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. David Oyelowe played Martin Luther King, and would later make his mark again in “Twelve Years A Slave.” Carmen Ejogo portrayed Coretta Scott King. Won one Oscar.

I’d just like to add that 1964’s “The Best Man,” as well as 1939’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and 1957’s “A Face in the Crowd” would have made the list if I had a better memory. I know I saw them, but they are lost in the mists of memory, while I do remember all others on this list. Also, haven’t seen “Snowdon” (Oliver Snow) and perhaps “Dave” with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver could make the list, but I was trying for films with the stature of “Argo” and “Lincoln,” so some (like “War Games”) were intentionally omitted.

Enjoy!

“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.

Trump Is Elected & World Shudders

I’ll begin this analysis of the election that is unfolding tonight, November 8th, at 2 a.m. CDT with a quote from my own book, “Obama’s Odyssey” (Vol. I,” which is all about the 2008 election:

FROM 2008:

“If you’ve read my analysis of why and how Hillary might lose (in Iowa), predictions I made before she DID lose in Iowa, you know that I referenced her “lackluster” speeches, her failure to take many questions, her aloof demeanor at times, her screechy voice, her lack of charisma and her plasticity on the stump. As James Stockdale (VP candidate with Ross Perot in 1992) once was put down by his opponent when he referenced JFK (and I paraphrase roughly to fit this candidate): ‘I knew Bill Clinton, Madam, and you’re no Bill Clinton.’…Let’s not forget how inaccurate the polls were in Iowa (in ’08) reporting Hillary Clinton leading at almost all junctures, only to see her finish third.
During the live debate with Charles Gibson moderating and Facebook users weighing in, the issue of likeability was raised with Hilary, as Gibson came right out and said, “They seem to like Barack Obama more.” It was Hillary’s best—and possibly only—good moment in that debate, as she said, ‘Well, that hurts my feelings, but I’m going to go on.’ Hillary has modified her appearances in New Hampshire to take questions from the audience more. I’d like to think my blog articles influenced that, but I’m too rational to take credit for what a lot of people pointed out: her plasticity, her prepared stump speech, the stiffing of the fourth-grade reporter by daughter Chelsea. To this viewer, Hillary looked, to use a colloquialism of my mother’s, ‘Mad enough to spit’ at several junctures. She took shots at Edwards. She took shots at Obama. She seemed irritable, out-of-sorts and semi-desperate in trying to make her points.”

Other blog entries from my book about the 2008 election included blog entries with titles like: “Can Hillary Cry Her Way to the White House?” and “Hillary Clinton (aka Miss Frigidaire) Losing Popularity Contest (What Are You Gonna’ Do When the Most Popular Kid in the Class Takes You On?”)

When I wrote those words back in 2008, that most popular kid was Barack Obama. Perhaps that “most popular kid” in 2016 is reality TV star Donald J. Trump.

Mike Pence has said “this is a historic night” in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s conceding the election to Donald Trump tonight—(too early, as far as I’m concerned with the election so close)— and he is right about that.

We have learned that the following events will bring down a political dynasty:
1) The FBI Director releasing statement mere days before a presidential election and then half-heartedly taking it back 2 days before the election. (You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, Folks, and this just proves it.)

2) Third party candidates who have no chance of winning siphoning off votes (Johnson/Stein), much like in 1992 with Ross Perot. Every vote that might have put HRC over the finish line that was given, instead, to Johnson or Stein or withheld because the nominee was not Bernie is responsible for this razor-thin loss.

3) Uninformed voters who are constantly barraged with negatives about one of the candidates (Hillary) for a period of literally decades. True charges? Not usually, but nevermind about that. Certainly neither candidate was a great one, but we have selected the one that knew nothing about governing anything and declared bankruptcy about 5 times and never paid any federal taxes, so good luck with him, then.

4) Blacks and millennials failing to rise to the occasion and support Hillary Rodham Clinton with the same enthusiasm they had demonstrated for Barack Obama in ’08 and ‘12.

5) Bernie’s loyal supporters who wouldn’t make the switch, no matter what.

6) The inherent difficulties of any party winning 3 consecutive terms.

7) Gender. Not only do women not receive equal treatment, other women don’t support them, either, so, sadly, our first woman nominee was beaten by THIS guy.

8) The inherent unlikeability of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which I wrote about extensively in 2008. It was recently reinforced by my visit to the rural Heartland, but I chose to ignore those tremors.

9) The Hispanic vote being taken for granted. The Hispanic vote did turn out, but it turned out selectively, trying to get rid of Sheriff Joe in Arizona, etc.

10) The media not doing a good job of coverage, but, instead, supporting a candidate who was a reality TV star. They knew him from his TV show, so he must be good, right?

11) The Rust Belt dissatisfaction with their jobs being sent overseas, which Donald Trump must now deliver on. Good luck with that, when some of the jobs have not been sent overseas but have given way to computerization. (Soon, no more truck drivers with driverless trucks).

12) Charisma, even if it is of the most obnoxious kind, was more a Trump characteristic than a Clinton characteristic. It may not be the kind of charisma that I admire, but it was apparently the kind of charisma that the electoral college voted for tonight.
Good luck to all of us as our economic indices fall faster than a speeding bullet.

I should have listened to my people in Independence, Iowa, where I recently visited, who were bound and determined that Hillary Clinton NOT be allowed to become our first woman president and that her philandering husband not be allowed near the Oval Office again.

Sad day for competent leadership.

If you know where I can purchase another keyring that counts down the years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds of the orange person’s term until he is through with this hopefully one-time term, please drop me a line, as that key-ring kept me sane through “W’s” years at the helm of the United States, ruining our economy and getting us into war.

Election Predictions for Presidential Race of 2016 on Nov. 8th, 3 a.m.

Donald Trump, Republican Presidential candidate..

Donald Trump, Republican Presidential candidate..

Hillary is ahead roughly 44% to 40% on the eve of the 2016 election (Nov. 7, 2016). It also looks like Democrats have a very good chance of taking back the Senate, with only 2 votes in dispute and 50 that look like they’ll go Democratic (48 were in the Republican column with 2 in dispute as of this writing).
Congress is not as good a bet.
It seems now would be a good time to make a prediction about the presidential race. I’m not alone in thinking that Hillary Rodham Clinton will win. It was unfortunate in the extreme that FBI director James Comey, 9 days before the election, made some vague allusions to additional e-mails.
Then, just 2 days before the election, Comey tried to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Pulling a stunt like that is tantamount to your pregnant girlfriend announcing at the wedding reception, “Turns out I’m not pregnant after all.” Comey was also involved in the Whitewater Investigation, parts of Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings and has a long history of “investigating HRC.
So, we won’t know how much worse Trump’s defeat could and would have been without the assistance of Comey and Putin and the WikiLeaks hackers, but I still think she has a good shot at beating him silly, with over 300 electoral college votes, for sure.
Counties to watch, early on are:
1) Duval County in Florida, where Jacksonville is located. This county had 74,000 votes in ’08 and ’12.
2) Hillsborough County in Florida, where Tampa is located. There were 543,000 votes there in 2012 but there are more Hispanics registered this year than ever before.
3) Miami-Dade County. I got an urgent e-mail asking for money from Little Marco saying that the early voting by Hispanics was outpacing the Republicans. 541,000 Democratic votes were cast in 2012. Nevertheless, most analysts think Marco Rubio will hang on, which is unfortunate, since he doesn’t believe in global warming.
4) North Carolina: New Hanover County was lost by 92,000 votes in 2012. There are more Independent voters in Wilmington and New Henry Counties than there are registered Democrats or Republicans and this county will signal how Independents are breaking. Obama lost by 1.5% in 2008 and 4.5% in 2012.
Wade County is the state’s most populous county and Independents are up by 50,000 (24$) since 2012. Obama won by 56,000 (11 points) and, in Watauga, Obama won by 4% in 2008 and in 2012 he slipped 13% and lost by 3 percentage points.
5) Ohio: Belmont County is a county that Obama won in 2008, but lost in 2012. 90% of Belmont County is white, but NOT college educated, but working class whites. Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, has many black voters. Obama won by 225,000 and 220,000 in his 2 runs, a 6% win.
6) Pennsylvania: Chester County (Philadelphia) has white, college-educated voters that gave Obama a 6 to 1 victory. Pennsylvania (Scranton) is also current Vice President Joe Biden’s hometown.

Last time there was a national election it was all wrapped up by 11 p.m. when Ohio went for Obama. Will it be as decisive (and early) this time?

My favorite predicting group (Moody’s Analytics) did not use polls to predict at all, but used different statistical indexes including:
1) The standing of the incumbent President, which should be favorable to Hillary since Obama’s are the highest since Reagan.

2) Gas prices. In my area, a gallon of gas goes for $2.05 right now and when we were in Texas you could purchase a gallon of gas for $1.44. In Des Moines at Sam’s Club yesterday it was $1.89. This bodes well for HRC, just as high gas prices were bad news for Carter in his re-election run.

3) Housing starts: How is the housing market doing? It seems to be on the upswing in Chicago and Austin with cranes everywhere, something that has been missing from the Chicago skyline since 2007/2008. Advantage Clinton.

4) Household income: it’s up slightly. In Illinois, federal employees are going to be paid $13 an hour, minimum. My friend in Des Moines said it was $10 per hour for ordinary jobs like Starbucks barrista. In Illinois the plan is to raise the minimum wage for everyone to $13 soon.

5) Unemployment measures: unemployment is under 5% whereas it had been above 7% back in the day.

All of the above support my contention (and nearly everyone else’s) that Hillary Rodham Clinton will become the first female President of the United States, God willing and the river don’t rise.

2016 Presidential Race Predictions on Nov. 8th, 2016

Donald Trump, Republican Presidential candidate..

Donald Trump, Republican Presidential candidate..

Hillary is ahead roughly 44% to 40% on the eve of the 2016 election (Nov. 7, 2016). It also looks like Democrats have a very good chance of taking back the Senate, with only 2 votes in dispute and 50 that look like they’ll go Democratic (48 were in the Republican column with 2 in dispute as of this writing).
Congress is not as good a bet.
It seems now would be a good time to make a prediction about the presidential race. I’m not alone in thinking that Hillary Rodham Clinton will win. It was unfortunate in the extreme that FBI director James Comey, 9 days before the election, made some vague allusions to additional e-mails.
Then, just 2 days before the election, Comey tried to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Pulling a stunt like that is tantamount to your pregnant girlfriend announcing at the wedding reception, “Turns out I’m not pregnant after all.” Comey was also involved in the Whitewater Investigation, parts of Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings and has a long history of “investigating HRC.
So, we won’t know how much worse Trump’s defeat could and would have been without the assistance of Comey and Putin and the WikiLeaks hackers, but I still think she has a good shot at beating him silly, with over 300 electoral college votes, for sure.
Counties to watch, early on are:
1) Duval County in Florida, where Jacksonville is located. This county had 74,000 votes in ’08 and ’12.
2) Hillsborough County in Florida, where Tampa is located. There were 543,000 votes there in 2012 but there are more Hispanics registered this year than ever before.
3) Miami-Dade County. I got an urgent e-mail asking for money from Little Marco saying that the early voting by Hispanics was outpacing the Republicans. 541,000 Democratic votes were cast in 2012. Nevertheless, most analysts think Marco Rubio will hang on, which is unfortunate, since he doesn’t believe in global warming.
4) North Carolina: New Hanover County was lost by 92,000 votes in 2012. There are more Independent voters in Wilmington and New Henry Counties than there are registered Democrats or Republicans and this county will signal how Independents are breaking. Obama lost by 1.5% in 2008 and 4.5% in 2012.
Wade County is the state’s most populous county and Independents are up by 50,000 (24$) since 2012. Obama won by 56,000 (11 points) and, in Watauga, Obama won by 4% in 2008 and in 2012 he slipped 13% and lost by 3 percentage points.
5) Ohio: Belmont County is a county that Obama won in 2008, but lost in 2012. 90% of Belmont County is white, but NOT college educated, but working class whites. Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, has many black voters. Obama won by 225,000 and 220,000 in his 2 runs, a 6% win.
6) Pennsylvania: Chester County (Philadelphia) has white, college-educated voters that gave Obama a 6 to 1 victory. Pennsylvania (Scranton) is also current Vice President Joe Biden’s hometown.

Last time there was a national election it was all wrapped up by 11 p.m. when Ohio went for Obama. Will it be as decisive (and early) this time?

My favorite predicting group (Moody’s Analytics) did not use polls to predict at all, but used different statistical indexes including:
1) The standing of the incumbent President, which should be favorable to Hillary since Obama’s are the highest since Reagan.

2) Gas prices. In my area, a gallon of gas goes for $2.05 right now and when we were in Texas you could purchase a gallon of gas for $1.44. In Des Moines at Sam’s Club yesterday it was $1.89. This bodes well for HRC, just as high gas prices were bad news for Carter in his re-election run.

3) Housing starts: How is the housing market doing? It seems to be on the upswing in Chicago and Austin with cranes everywhere, something that has been missing from the Chicago skyline since 2007/2008. Advantage Clinton.

4) Household income: it’s up slightly. In Illinois, federal employees are going to be paid $13 an hour, minimum. My friend in Des Moines said it was $10 per hour for ordinary jobs like Starbucks barrista. In Illinois the plan is to raise the minimum wage for everyone to $13 soon.

5) Unemployment measures: unemployment is under 5% whereas it had been above 7% back in the day.

All of the above support my contention (and nearly everyone else’s) that Hillary Rodham Clinton will become the first female President of the United States, God willing and the river don’t rise.

“Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” Screens at Chicago Film Festival

This film from Director Deborah Riley Draper examined the 28 athletes who traveled to Berlin in 1936 for the Olympic games held when Hitler was in power. Everyone remembers the name Jesse Owens from those games. But there were 17 other African American or Jewish athletes who participated as part of the U.S. team of 400 who remain largely forgotten, and this film tells their story.

THE GOOD

Over four years of time, newsreel footage was assembled of all the participants, including spending much time in Berlin and Cologne. German families who had attended the Olympics contributed family photos. Director Draper told the crowd at the Chicago screening, “It came to life for me here. It was very special. It was a confirmation of stories we had been told. They were powerful and extraordinary and beautiful.”

Even more interesting was Draper’s acknowledgement that she was originally working on a story of a woman from the South who had been imprisoned in a Nazi prison. But, as she said, “These athletes competed 30 years before Wilma Randolph. The irony and paradox of that was intriguing. It was astonishing to know that these women had been part of the 400-member Olympic team.” Draper hinted that the story of that female prisoner in Germany might still get her day on film in the future.

Asked if there were other black athletes participating, Draper mentioned those from Haiti, Brazil and Egypt, but reinforced that Hitler wanted to use the Olympics as a propaganda machine to sell his theory of white racial superiority. Hitler was sorely set back in this goal when Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals and the black athletes, as a group, won half of the total U.S. medal count, including 8 gold medals. The African American contingent won all but 2 events in which they competed. In fact, Hitler stormed from the stadium after one such African American win and the Olympic committee had to tell him to either greet all winners or none. He chose the latter, but met with German winners privately in his box to congratulate them on their victories.

Draper’s film not only documents the lead-up to the games (some felt the U.S. should boycott the Olympics entirely, as the U.S. did in Russia under President Jimmy Carter), but there is a post that tells what happened to the athletes after the games, and it is nearly as heartbreaking as the stories of racial prejudice and religious injustice that are documented by the film.

The injustices were not just perpetrated on blacks. Two Jewish athletes who were supposed to run track and field (Glickman of Syracuse and Stoller of Michigan) were pulled from competition in order to use Caucasian runners at the last minute, prompting Jewish contestant Marty Glickman to confront the coach and ask, “Is it because I’m Jewish that I wasn’t allowed to run?”

The same pulling at the last minute technique occurred with Louise Stokes, who was replaced at the last moment and never got to run another race because of racial politics, while the women’s 80-meter-hurdles contestant, Tydee Pickett of Chicago, broke her foot when the hurdle in German didn’t “give’ as they had in the U.S.

One of the worst cases of the unfairness of Hitler’s regime was the story of Greta Bergmann, a German national who fled to England and was slated to compete for the British team when Hitler sent word that she needed to return to Germany and compete for the Motherland. Bergmann returned, but was refused the right to participate and, to add insult to injury, had all her records expunged. Bergmann, who was still alive, described the ordeal as “a terrible time.”

Two boxers who traveled the 10 days across the ocean on the S.S. Manhattan to compete, Joe Church and Howell King, were sent home with weak excuses that they were “homesick.” Howell King was even told he would have to box against the man he had already beaten once (Rutecke), which he did, beating him again on board the boat.

The black athletes were frequently chased from the movies shown aboard ship, were not able to train, in some cases (notably, Tydee Picket) were seasick and the ship had to stop in England to take on more food during the 10-day voyage. The Olympic Black Gang, as they were known, or the Black Eagles as the boxers were called, were, however, treated extremely well by the Germans, who wanted to dispel rumors of Nazi persecution of minorities. The Nazis orchestrated every aspect of the games, staged them, choreographed them, for propaganda purposes, with Lennie Riefenstahl (“Triumph of the Will”) documenting it all on film for the Third Reich after convincing Hitler that the films would prove the Aryan race was superior.

There were 100,000 spectators in the stadium with the (doomed) Hindenberg shown hovering overhead, and 49 nations competing. As the U.S. athletes entered the stadium to the strains of “The Star-Spangled Banner” German authorities orchestrated it in such a manner that the German team then entered and 5,000 German voices sang the Hallelujah chorus and “Deutschland Uber Alles” while hordes of pigeons were released, drowning out the United States national anthem, which ceased being played. Werner Viehs, a spectator who was aged 10 at the time. remembered the spectacle. All agreed that some of the pigeons left their mark on the U.S. team before they departed the stadium.


Mack Robinson, older brother of Jackie Robinson, was one of the competitors, winning a silver medal.
He could only get a job sweeping streets after his return and wore his Olympic jacket at night to stay warm. Jesse Owens was penalized for not touring other European countries to help raise money for the Olympic Committee. He was banned, stripped of his amateur status and ended up having to race against racehorses to make money upon his return to the U.S. As Draper put it, “The country turned its back on him.” It was a far cry from the German frauleins who stood at the dock in Germany waiting for the World Record Holder to disembark, many holding scissors so they could snip parts of his clothing off as a souvenir.

Athletes who competed were Dave Albritton (high jump), John Brooks, James Clark (boxing). “Cornelius Johnson (high jump), Willis Johnson (heavyweight boxer), Howell King (boxing), Dr. James LuValle, Ralph Metcalfe (track), Art Oliver, Jesse Owens (track), Fritz Pollard Jr., Mack Robinson (track and field), John Terry, Archie Williams, Jack Wilson (bantamweight), John Woodruff, and the 2 African American women, Tydee Pickett and Louise Stokes, both track standouts with Tydee a hurdler. Nearly all are dead, although we heard the voice of competitor Dr. James LuVelle, who went on to earn a Phd from UCLA and went on to become one of the Tuskegee airmen. Narrating the film was Blair Underwood, who executive produced with Deborah and Michael Draper.

Throughout the film we hear commentary from famous folk like Isaiah Thomas, Carl Lewis and Andrew Young who confirm the message that filmmaker Draper conveyed to the crowd: “These 18 are the ones who paved the way for those of us who are here today.” The jump from 1936 to the black salute of 1968 to Jackie Robinson playing major league baseball 10 years later would not have happened at all or as quickly without these trailblazers who proved their mettle at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Draper’s film not only documents the lead-up to the games (some felt the U.S. should boycott the Olympics entirely, as the U.S. did in Russia under President Jimmy Carter), but there is a post that tells what happened to the athletes after the games, and it is nearly as heartbreaking as the stories of racial prejudice and religious injustice that are documented by the film.

As the film underscored, “This was an incredibly important moment in human history,” not just in sports history, but also because of the principle of racial justice and equality that started the slow climb upwards at this much-heralded event. As an Iowa graduate, I noticed one athlete wearing an “Iowa” shirt in the still photographs that are part of a collage effect, and I’m going to have to do some research to determine which one of the 18 names above was given a chance at my Midwestern alma mater.

The film will air on HBO in December.

“In the Last Days of the City” is Docu-Drama About Arab Spring in Cairo

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“In the Last Days of the City” Depicts Cairo, Pre Arab Spring

Genre: Docu-Drama
118 minutes
Director: Tamer El Said
Writers: Tamer El Said, Rash Sulti
Actors: Khalid Abdalla, Laila Samy, Hanan Youssof
From Egypt: In Arabic with subtitles
Review by Connie Wilson, WeeklyWilson.com

This requiem for a lost Cairo follows Khalid, a filmmaker, in December, 2009, as he attempts to complete a film that is pieced together from footage of his hospitalized mother, his neighborhood, his girlfriend Laila and 2 friends, and street events, all caught on the eve of an approaching revolution. For Khalid and his compatriots, life will never be the same, nor will Cairo.

THE GOOD

I was eager to see this glimpse of Cairo, Egypt, before the Arab Spring toppled Mubarek. I felt this was as close to the Middle East as I would ever get. All the countries mentioned—Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia—-are dangerous for westerners now.

Therefore, I was anxious to see this film about a filmmaker trying to capture the city of Cairo before it changed forever and also trying to make sense of the changes going on around him.
When he rides up in an elevator to look at a new flat, each floor has a bumper sticker plastered on the wall that reads “Thou shalt not look at women.” We see a worker in a department store taking western-style clothing off female mannequins, putting newspaper in the windows to obscure the view of the mannequins, and when the newspaper is taken down, all the mannequins are dressed in extremely concealing burkhas. Another sign on a building reads “The Quaran must rule” and “Praying is light.” A street preacher stresses that all must “obey God’s commandments. It’s God’s command. We can’t question it.” When Khalid and his real estate agent show up at one building for a pre-arranged viewing of a possible rental apartment, the veiled woman inside cannot allow him entry because no man is present. Khalid begins witnessing actual beatings (one of a woman by a man near his apartment building; one of a protester who is taken away in the bed of a truck by armed men); he seems shocked.

THE BAD

It is impossible to keep the characters straight and/or figure out what is going on.
Explanations, when they come, are never situated in the story near the appearance of the character. There are just way too many different characters and situations shoe-horned into this overlong docu-drama. One friend has already fled Baghdad for Berlin and urges Khalid to join him, saying, “Leave the downtown. It will kill you.” The friend adds, “He knows his city is full of death, corpses, and funeral banners, but he’s still there.” This friend says, “I want to live now and in the future. You insist on living in the past.”

A second friend is also resistant to leaving the city, insisting that the omnipresent danger deepens one’s enjoyment of life. (“Life deepens. You’ll find real meaning…You stop seeing because the images become like noise.”) But one day, that friend, too, finally leaves, saying, “All we do is hide.” Khalid told the first expatriate friend, “You’ll die missing Baghdad” to which his friend replied, “It’s better than dying in Baghdad. In Baghdad, you don’t choose. A stray bullet, you die.”

Khalid acknowledges that he is trapped in a state of stasis, saying, “There’s just too much.”
His western-style girlfriend is reluctant to take his calls. His mother may be dying (it took at least half the film before it was explained that the elderly woman in the hospital was his mother and we never do find out if she is seriously ill or simply old). He can’t find a new apartment and must vacate his old one by February. Rabble rousers in the streets are holding rallies and crying “Down with the tyrant. Down with military rule,” while a taxi driver says, disgustedly “They should get a job instead of protesting. The country is fine.”

VERDICT:
Don’t bother. I really wanted to like this film, which had even won three awards. Buy a book with pictures of Cairo, before and after 2009 and read up on the rebellion. That was over 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back. Khalid’s film editor said it best: “We just go around in circles. I feel I’m wasting my time.”

Hitler Just Found Out Trump Has Caved on Immigration

I have to admit I laughed throughout this put-down of The Donald’s new position on building “the wall” and deporting 11 million illegal Mexicans.

The fact that it happened the very same day that Anne Coulter (the thin, blonde, ultra-Conservative mouthpiece most often seen guesting on Bill Maehr’s show, where she is always off her rocker) was just too much.

“War Dogs” Mentions Rock Island Arsenal

The preview (above) shows the gun runners in “War Dogs” meeting with officials (ostensibly) at the Rock Island, Illinois Arsenal. Does the Arsenal employ twins who meet with gun providers about purchasing artillery and ammunition? No idea. Is that really the interior of the offices of the Rock Island Arsenal? Based on actually having been inside some of them, I seriously doubt the resemblance, since the “real” Arsenal is all brick and old and pretty much ancient-looking.

For years, The Quarters on Arsenal Island was the second-largest government residence, after the White House, but its antiquated kitchens and bathrooms (the place still had a recessed roof with a lever so, in the days before running water, you could heat water and then lower it for use in the 1800s) made it unsuitable for constant habitation, despite its Abraham Lincoln-era splendor. I don’t believe that it is the Commander’s official residence any more.

But what about the film “War Dogs?” I was particularly interested in seeing the film adaptation of the “Rolling Stone” article by Guy Lawson entitled “Arms and the Dude” because, reading it, I became fixated on the Rock Island (IL) connection.

So did people like Bradley Cooper, apparently, become fixated with the nearly unbelievable true piece. He plays a bit part as a shadowy arms dealer to terrorists (a part I don’t remember from the source material) and is listed as executive producer. The film is directed by Todd Phillips.

The movie outlines the more-or-less true adventures of 2 young guys who got a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to provide arms to Afghanistan. The opening date onscreen for these shenanigans is January 1, 2008. We quickly learn that it costs the U.S. government $17,500 to outfit just one American soldier. With 2 million sold and an annual bill of $4.5 billion just to provide AC for those stationed in the very, very hot Afghanistan, one savvy small-time con saw an opportunity to make money after new regulations were passed in the wake of no-bid contracts for Cheney’s boys. That led to bidding on everything and AEY (don’t ask what it stands for; it doesn’t stand for anything, and asking could get you fired) was there to provide the materials of war.

Initially, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), the brains behind the outfit, was bankrolled by a Jewish dry cleaning magnate, Ralph Slitsky (Kevin Pollak), who thought Efraim was sending arms to defend Israel. It will be Ralph who will fold like a cheap accordion when the questions begin flying thick and fast. Efraim involves his childhood friend David Packouz (Miles Teller).

But, before all hell breaks loose, we get lines like, “I dropped out of high school before they covered international diplomacy” from Hill’s character, who plays the part with an insouciance and aplomb that would challenge many. An unusually insightful script theme appears from the “good guy” arms dealer, David Packouz (Miles Teller of “Whiplash”), who says of Efraim: “He would figure out who someone wanted him to be and he would become that person.”

Punctuated by little messages onscreen like, “When does telling the truth ever help anybody?”, the film explains how the duo gets a major contract to supply Italian barettas to U.S. troops and, ultimately, to provide 100 million rounds of AX47 ammo, The Afghan Deal.

Problems arise when the chutzpah that has carried Efraim and David this far wears thin while facing hurdles like 68,520 crates of ammunition stuck in Albania that turn out to be filled with Chinese goods, when the U.S. has an embargo on buying from China. The solution, albeit an illegal one, is to re-pack the embargoed bullets in cardboard boxes that don’t scream “China” and send them off to the front,anyway. But Efraim doesn’t pay “the box guy” in Albania and that leads to charges of 70 federal crimes and a 4-year sentence for the guiltier of the two and the mastermind, Efraim Diveroli (who could be back in business by 2020, because the government still hasn’t closed a few loopholes in their online outsourcing M.O., says the script at movie’s end.)

The friendship unravels as the deal does. “We were never best friends. You were just playing the role of my best friend,” says David to Efraim (Teller to Hill) and this, above all, struck me as a very insightful statement. It’s happened to me. Has it happened to you?

While “The New Yorker” gave the film a very sniffy review, most critics liked the film (giving Jonah Hill’s laugh high marks) and it has a high rating on IMDB from those who have actually seen it.

We liked it. How often do you get to see identical twins from the Arsenal negotiating an arms deal with a couple of doofuses from Miami who admit they are stoned at the time? (one of whom, David Packouz, is a massage therapist).

Try it. You’ll like it.

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