Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Editorial Page 2 of 24

In this age of Donald J. Trump and the Mueller investigation, you can expect updates on what is happening to our country and its Constitution.

Home Is the Hunter, Home from the Hill

Our journey of 1,000 miles (give or take a few miles) has led us back to the Quad Cities, where the bush next to my garage is in full bloom.

Out of 19 phone calls on our answering machine, only 2 were important. One was from Iowa City, moving the time they want to see me up from 3:30 (May 6) to 2:40 (May 6) so that I can be told about some research studies that I might qualify for. This is interesting, because, earlier in the festivities, I wrote directly to the woman who is (ostensibly) in charge of all research studies at that venerable institution, and she told me I did not qualify for any of the studies currently ongoing.

I’ve been a devotee of trying to help other people with the same ailment ever since my mother volunteered for several diabetes studies during her days in Iowa City (ages 82 to 95). In fact, I’m currently in a knee study (control group) charting how arthritis ultimately gets us all and have had frequent MRI and X-rays of my left knee for that one for close to 20 years. I also was recently called from that same list of participants to ask if our joints hurt more or less after having Covid-19.

This time, the ailment is something far more life-threatening: cancer. I don’t know precisely what they want to talk to me about at 2:40 on May 6th, but it is one of the main reasons I am journeying to Iowa City at such a late date, after the barn door has been left open, so to speak, and the horse has gotten out. My treatment began last December. Hopefully, it will conclude on or about June 27th. I go tomorrow to have a CAT scan to set up radiation. On or about May 12th, I begin the radiation treatments that are supposed to kill any remaining cancer cells and, hopefully, prevent any recurrence on the left side of my body. I go every week day, Monday through Friday, for 33 days.

We may meet up with long-time friends Pam and John Rhodes for dinner on Friday night (May 6th) in Iowa City, another doctor appointment I have recently set up, but that part remains tentative. Regardless, we will drive up and listen to the experts give their feedback on everything that has been done (and is being done) so far, and listen to the study they mentioned in a phone conversation on our answering machine that they might like me to participate in. I have read that doctors around the country are trying to develop a vaccine to prevent breast cancer and that would certainly be a boon to mankind—or womankind.

The only other phone call that was important was simply to remind me to show up at 1 p.m. for the “simulation” with radiologist Dr. Stoffel and to have the CAT scan for planning purposes. I also have to stop and pick up one of the adjuvant therapy drugs that I was prescribed back in early February. I will have taken 90 of these Anastrozole pills (1 mg.) on Thursday of this week, so the side effects should have kicked in or be kicking in shortly. So far, taking them at night along with 5 other pills, I’m not aware of any extraordinary “bad” things, although perhaps February 5 to May 5 is not long enough? Don’t know. Can’t tell you, but have been told I have to take this pill for 5 years. Have read many horror stories about bad side effects, but, so far, so good. I have to have my bone density checked, which hasn’t been done since 2017, because that is one of the more serious side effects of this estrogen-blocking drug, and the other is high cholesterol (which I already have and for which I already take medication.) It sounded infinitely preferable to Tamoxifen.

Today, we drove from St. Louis and finished off “Comedy, Comedy, Drama” by Bob Odenkirk. We both agree that both books we selected were good, but the book “All About Me” by Mel Brooks gets the nod because of his much longer career. I started a “drama” book…actually 2 of them. One (“Devil House”) has definitely left me cold. It spent hours describing a trip to the supermarket (alert the media!) and barely used any real “” dialogue. Then, suddenly, in the middle of the book, the author began writing an ersatz version of Olde English.

Look: I was forced to memorize the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales when in high school (“Whom that Aprilluh, when the shoruh sota”), which I learned phonetically. It was pure torture then and putting in some made-up version of Olde English did nothing for the book or its plot—such as it is. It started out with promise: a story about a crime writer who moves into a house that witnessed the brutal murder of a high school teacher by two of her students. The teacher was subsequently thought to be a witch. Perhaps it was the fact that she took the time to hack up both students after dismantling them during their surprise attack and then wheelbarrowed their bodies down to the beach and threw them in the ocean. (Doesn’t sound like normal, ordinary, potential victim behavior).

The book was very sympathetic towards the teacher, but, then, just as we were trying to find a reason why an otherwise rational high school teacher who had successfully defended her life would not simply pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1- for help afterwards, there was a shift in tone and the author protagonist interviewed the mother of one of the high school victims.

O……K…….

I’m no expert, but I like good dialogue and a lot of it in the books I read, and I absolutely loathe lengthy descriptions that serve little to no purpose. On top of that, the Olde English thing lost me and—let’s just say that it is a toss-up whether I will continue residing in “Devil House” any longer, so I moved on over to a second e-book selection, the name of which escapes me.

The second book—as my husband agreed—just seems way too “slick.” It’s like a “Mission Impossible” vehicle for a Tom Cruise character. The not-that-original kernel of the book is that an orphan was raised to be an assassin (Orphan X). I’ve actually reviewed a book that had this same premise, only that book was better. This one has now thrown in talk of Mexican cartels and dialing for a Mr. Nowhere who will help find a beautiful young 18-year-old kidnapped by evil Mexican cartel members, and his apartment has been blown up, so he is re-engineering one of those James Bond-type residences that has all kinds of high tech things like hidden rooms and special glass to deter snipers and I-don’t-know-what-all. Meh. I am not getting into this one, either, even though the author has done a more-than-decent job of writing it. It’s just not my thing, apparently, and not my husband’s either, he says. There was one good sexy scene, which I appreciated since so many thriller writers avoid sex scenes like the plague, but, since I’m gearing up now for good old-fashioned radiation, which is supposed to leave one absolutely wiped out, I can’t want to, as my children used to say when young.

So, it’s “Home again, home again” diggety do. The spouse will have to hit the grocery store tomorrow, because I not only have to spend inordinate amounts of time at the radiologists going through a “simulation” but also have to stop and get more Anastrazole, which I run out of in 4 days.

I’ve unpacked. I’m getting ready to watch “Under the Banner of Heaven” with Andrew Garfield, and all’s right with the world.

Is the World Ready for A Political Fresh Prince?

(Quotes from August 10, 2016, Adam Howard, NBC News)

Will Smith

Six years ago, when “Oscars So White” preceded “Oscars So Black” as a theme, [spearheaded by Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, who was annoyed that Smith was not nominated for his role in “Concussion,”] the remarks below were made to NBC’s reporter Adam Howard.

The article sub-title was this:  Is America ready for the “Fresh Prince” as President? Maybe setting one’s sights on the top office in the land is premature, but what office do you think Will Smith will be angling for?

Donald J. Trump shook up traditional notions of who can be considered a credible candidate for the White House, and his stint on “The Apprentice” is at least partially responsible for the four years of Trump. Smith himself has hinted at a career change, telling The Hollywood Reporter in 2015: “I look at the political landscape, I think that there might be a future out there for me. They might need me out there.”

It seems that Will Smith has publicly blown up his film career with his behavior on March 27th at the Oscars. This article from six years ago seems to point to a new direction that Will Smith might be contemplating, so let’s just lay it out there with these quotes from the actor himself.

As an established A-list star entering a new phase of his life and career, Smith may also feel more liberated to speak his mind. For instance,  during a “Suicide Squad” press event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Smith spoke candidly about the perception of anti-Muslim bias back in the U.S.  “The Middle East can’t allow Fox News to be the arbiter of the imagery, you know. So cinema is a huge way to be able to deliver the truth of the soul of a place to a global audience.”

Smith then went on to pointedly attack Trump’s controversial Muslim ban proposal: “As painful as it is to hear Donald Trump talk, and as embarrassing as it is as an American to hear him talk, I think it’s good,” Smith said. “We get to know who people are and now we get to cleanse it out of our country.”

These comments came just a week after Smith lamented that the Republican presidential candidate’s rhetoric towards women had found a captive audience.  “For a man to be able to publicly refer to a woman as a fat pig (Rosie O’Donnell), that makes me teary,” he said during an interview with news.com.au. “And for people to applaud, that is absolutely f***king insanity to me. My grandmother would have smacked my teeth out of my head if I had referred to a woman as a fat pig. And I cannot understand how people can clap for that. It’s absolutely collective insanity. If one of my sons — I am getting furious just thinking about it — if one of my sons said that in a public place, they couldn’t even live in my house anymore.”

“For me, deep down in my heart, I believe that America won’t and we can’t elect Trump,” he added.

But Smith’s streak of outspokenness hasn’t just been limited to the presidential race. During an appearance earlier this month (August, 2016) on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” the actor spoke with a degree of cynicism about the claim that racial divisions have never been worse.

“Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed,” he told Fallon then.

Earlier in the year, Will Smith had backed his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith ‘s call for an African American Boycott of the Oscars, after the Academy Awards failed to recognize a single actor or actress of color (including himself, a would-be contender for the drama “Concussion”) for the second year in a row.”

So, the remarks made to NBC’s reporter Adam Howard are above; draw your own conclusions.

Since North Carolina and Kansas will play for the NCAA Championship on Monday, April 4th and that predicting season is almost over, we can then begin the pools on whether or not there will be regime change in Russia AND for which office the Fresh Prince might best run.

Right now,  watching “Saturday Night Live” (which featured a clever, but questionable skit about mental acuity in cases like aphasia or dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease) the host of “SNL” has declared himself the “least famous host of ‘SNL,’” which may be true. I can’t even tell you what his name is (Jerrod Carmichael; I cheated and looked). He  just informed us that he is the star of a television comedy special in which he comes out as gay. Jerrod says that we are in an Andy Warhol Fever Dream right now. Having just watched the documentary the “Velvet Underground” with real footage from Andy Warhol’s The Factory era, I agree. When will we break out the dark glasses to be able to tolerate the chaos?

Comedian Carmichael is trying to “heal the nation” by talking about Will Smith’s Oscar brouhaha.

Jerrod’s parting remark to the “SNL” audience and directed to former President Barack Obama: “You got us all hopped up on hope and change, Barack. We need you back, because I think you’re going to have to talk about it. The nation needs to heal.”

2022 Oscar Nominations: Which Best Pic to See in Terms of Entertainment Value

Sir Kenneth Branaugh on October 21, 2021, with his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago International Film Festival.

The Best Picture nominations for this year are: “Belfast;” “CODA;” “Don’t Look Up;” “Drive My Car;” “Dune;” “King Richard;” “Licorice Pizza;” “Nightmare Alley;” “The Power of the Dog;” and “West Side Story.”

Of that number, I have seen all but “CODA” and “Drive My Car” (which is also nominated in the category of Best International Film).

The fact that I have not seen the latter two should not be taken as a sign of personal preference, but of the availability of the films to the general public. I live “off the beaten path” in what is considered rural Illinois.

When I am in my place in Chicago, I can usually find the lesser-known films at art houses, but I’ve been stuck in the Quad Cities with ill health and surgery. I will stream “CODA” and “Drive My Car,” [hopefully before the awards show on March 27th], but it is unlikely that either of those little-seen films really has a shot at Best Picture honors, so let’s take a closer look at the remaining eight nominees.

Here they are in the order in which I enjoyed them, with commentary:

“West Side Story” – a superb re-imagining of the original 1960s film, with fantastic performances from the two leads, Ansel Elgort (who was much better than the original Tony in every way) and from new “find” in the Natalie Wood part,  Rachel Zegler. The fact that only Ariana DeBose was nominated as Best Supporting Actress, for her role as Anita (made famous by Rita Moreno’s win in the part) seems almost criminal. Scuttle-butt from the social media suggests that a concerted campaign to discredit Ansel Elgort in a “Me/Too” fashion may have dampened some of the film’s early buzz. All I know is that I went to our IMAX screen early in the week before it opened, to secure tickets for a couple in from out-of-town, so that we could go to it late on the Saturday afternoon it opened (weekend of December 10th). Imagine my shock when there were only 4 people in the entire theater for the late afternoon showing of this tremendous film on Opening Weekend. Then I read that Spielberg’s film was being “banned” in some countries because of its representation of the trans-gender world, and he was garnering praise for casting actors in their parts who were actually ethnic. Our friends humored me and agreed to watch the original film, back-to-back with this remake; we all agreed that the dancing and singing were superior in the remake. Also, the leads (Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler) should have been nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress. The film was one of the most enjoyable and best-updated films of the year, and I would happily see it carry off the honors for Best Picture.

“Nightmare Alley” – I’m always a fan of Guillermo del Toro’s films and loved “The Shape of Water.” While this film is not quite as appealing to me as that earlier Best Picture winner, it was a beautifully done and well-acted film, which has garnered nominations, as well, for Cinematography, Costume Design and Production Design. The film had the kind of cast that virtually guarantees a great end product, with Richard Jenkins, Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, and Cate Blanchett. Most critics felt that it was 2 different movies, with the early circus-themed charlatan days of Bradley Cooper leading to the later con-man rise to power of Bradley Cooper’s character. It isn’t until the movie is half over that Cate Blanchett, for instance, enters. I felt like that was a specious objection, as we have the saga of Donald J. Trump in his early days as a real estate mogul leading to his later heady rise to power, which saw him consorting with a completely different cast of characters in later life than in his early days as a real estate baron. That’s the way life goes. As the film explores in a circular fashion, what goes up must often come down and it’s not “two different stories” but the tragic continuation of the original story.

“The Power of the Dog” – I thoroughly enjoyed this streaming service film, but, when it came to guessing which “movies” would make the cut for Best Picture, I dismissed this Netflix film that has garnered the most nominations (12) from my mind. Those were the “olden” days, when a film that was streamed was not considered the equal of those that also played in first-run theaters. Now, streaming is coming into its own and this may well be the first film made for a streaming service (Apple) that breaks through the barrier that previously existed in critics’ and audiences’ minds. All of the cast of this western were nominated for their portrayals, which means Benedict Cumberbatch. Newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee as the scheming son of Kirsten Dunst, and the married IRL couple Kirsten Dunst and Jessie Plemens. The film was also nominated for Best Director for Jane Campion (“The Piano”). That would seem to be a plus for her in a decade that has seen objections to the scarcity of female directors be mentioned time and time again. Other nominated areas for “The Power of the Dog” include Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Production Design and Best Sound. “The Power of the Dog” stands alone in seeing all of its leads nominated in their respective categories (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.) I would have liked to have seen “The Tender Bar” and Ben Affleck and George Clooney (Best Actor and Best Director) break the streaming barrier, too.

“Belfast” – I attended the Premiere of “Belfast” in Chicago at the Chicago International Film Festival with nominated Best Director Kenneth Branagh appearing in person. I liked the film, especially for the lead performances from the young boy portraying Branagh as a child (Jude Hill as Buddy) and the actors portraying his mother and father (Jamie Dornan of “Fifty Shades of Gray” and Caitriona Balfe of the “Outlander” TV series). I am not surprised that old-timers Dame Judi Dench and Ciarian Hinds emerged with the nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, but their contribution was matched by the two young leads and it seems that public and/or critical sentiment is supportive of “The Power of the Dog” for recognizing the entire cast, but that thinking was cast aside for the really outstanding work that Jamie Dornan and Catriona Balfe also contributed. The film was split between black-and-white scenes and color scenes; I preferred the use of color. It was a good film, but it definitely comes down my list after the three above, to see immediately. It could have been shorter and had the earmarks of the sort of film that Old Hollywood always wanted to reward with Oscars.

“Licorice Pizza” – I enjoyed “Licorice Pizza,” primarily for the brief cameo appearance of Bradley Cooper as Jon Peters. It seems to be quite a snub that Bradley Cooper did not get a Best Actor nomination for “Nightmare Alley” in a year when he also turned in this extremely funny impersonation of Hollywood icon (and former Streisand squeeze) Jon Peters. Somebody up there DOESN’T like him? My husband did not stay awake throughout the entire run time of “Licorice Pizza,” but my daughter and I enjoyed it and I liked the introduction to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s young lookalike son. Still, not as good a film as the others above this, and not as good a film as “Last Night in Soho,” which was totally ignored. Anya Taylor-Joy deserved a nomination for her role in that last film, especially after “The Queen’s Gambit” on television.

“King Richard” – I saw this film and it failed to register, for me, as Best Picture of this (or any) year. Will Smith did a good job, but if I have to sit through one more commercial of Serena Williams hitting tennis balls in a mall, I think I am going to scream. I found the supporting stint of Jon Bernthal (“The Walking Dead”) as agent Rick Macci offputting. I also do not think that the role of Anjanue Ellis as “Brandy” Williams was worthy of a Best Supporting Actress nomination. She was good, yes, but she was not any better than Cate Blanchett in “Nightmare Alley” or Caitriona Balfe in “Belfast” or the leads in “Cruella” or Anya Taylor-Joy (“Last Night in Soho”). At least there won’t be the ”Oscars So White” outbursts this year that occurred the year that Will Smith didn’t get a nomination for “Concussion” in 2015. He has, however, received nominations, previously, for “Ali” (2002) and “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006), so maybe this is the year for Will Smith. (It’s definitely not the year for Bradley Cooper, which seems indefensible.)

“Dune” – I took myself to see this on the IMAX screen. It was gorgeously done, but I’d have to go back and read the books to connect more with the plot, which was extremely involved and complicated. I loved the cast, especially seeing Oscar Isaac in anything and enjoyed the ambitious special effects. A film definitely deserving of nomination (every scene looked like Big Bucks had been spent) but not my Best Picture of the Year. Sci-fi afficionados will feel differently, and rightfully so.

“Don’t Look Up” – This should have been right up my alley. A star-studded cast, all of whom I truly enjoy. Adam McKay. A great allegorical story about how we ignore the dangers heading towards us, like global warming. I did think Jennifer Lawrence was good in her part, although the verdict is still out on Meryl Streep (who was over-the-top) and Leonardo DeCaprio. Again, very surprised that it wasn’t better, given all the talent that went into it.

So, as we enter the final weeks of February and look forward to March 27th (the Oscar date), the order above represents my personal take on the nominated films. There are way too many performances that should have been nominated, but weren’t, and the two films I haven’t seen are likely to have little to no chance, given the fact that if I haven’t seen them—trying hard, as I am—probably nobody much has.

I feel that “Nightmare Alley” and “The Power of the Dog” are tied, in my mind, as to “which is best,” but it appears clear that the nod is being given to the latter, given the sheer number of nominations it garnered. If you want to see the nominated films in the order in which they are enjoyable, follow the list above, since I am always in search of entertainment as well as enlightenment.

The only thing that would make Jane Campion a better potential winner of the Best Director award in these P.C. times would be if she were a Black female director. As it is, she has checked one important box and, with “The Power of the Dog”, we may see the first “streaming” movie walk off with the top prize. I’d be okay with that, although, in my mind, there is still a distinction between an extravaganza like “Dune” or “West Side Story” and a well-told story like Campion’s previous award-winning film “The Piano.”

Reminder: Today is December 2nd and the XmasCats Deer Book is ON SALE!!!

The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer

This is a reminder that the 99 cent price for “The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer” is on TODAY, and it will be on for 3 days. This is a good one, and you may want to pick it up in paperback for a Christmas gift, because there are puzzles and coloring book pages in the back.

This is the first of the XmasCats.com books that had a hard cover book, but I did not go through Ingram Spark and that, my friends, has led to it being a “limited edition.” The small Indiana company that did the hard cover did a phenomenal job. The colors in the deer illustrations are gorgeous! I love the drawings that Gary did for this one, and I love the story, which we “story-boarded” at the Bettendorf Public Library, when people who had come to hear about the first 3 books in the series suggested plot twists (the “Cat Copter,” for one).

Unfortunately, having the small Indiana publisher do the book made it costly. It is $25, from me, if you want a hard cover version, and you will have to contact me here to get one. They are definitely a “limited edition.”

After this book comes “The Christmas Cats Care for the Bear,” an anti-bullying book that has one of the most germane and relevant messages for today’s youth.

And—last but not least—the Donald-Trump-look-alike bee of “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee.”

Look for specials on the remaining books in the series in the remaining weeks before Christmas, but “get them while they’re on sale and hot.”

Merry Christmas!

The Blog is Back: Happy Post-Thanksgiving!

Some mysterious person messed with WeeklyWilson in September.

GoDaddy got right on that and now, in December, after shutting me down for a week, WeeklyWilson is back up and running.

The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer

This is good, because, currently, my 6 children’s Christmas books are either reduced to FREE or 99 cents on various weekends from now until Christmas. Please sign up where indicated and you will receive a notification. I know that Book #1 has already been given away for FREE (but only for 3 days) and Book #2 was reduced to 99 cents (but only for 3 days) and most of the give-aways are happening on the weekends between now and Christmas, but, quite frankly, it has been quite frustrating to be talking to the PTB 3 times a day and learning that the “problem” was “the servers.” All this happened over Thanksgiving, when we were traveling to and from Texas for Thanksgiving and to hear the Rolling Stones at the Circuit for the Americas.

I hope to print more about that potentially final performance (maybe their last big stadium performance?), but, for now, I simply wanted to weigh in and indicate that we are back and are “live” and you, too, can pick up some e-books for a song if you sign up where indicated on the blog.

My apologies that it has taken until December (since September’s incident) to “fix” this. (Sigh)

Always when I’m promoting a book. It never fails.

[Just printing a picture of Jennifer Lopez to cheer you all up. It has nothing to do with my blog woes.]

William F. Nolan: A Living Legend in Dark Fantasy Leaves Us

William F. Nolan & Connie Wilson.

Incredibly sad to learn of the death of William F. Nolan, co-writer of “Logan’s Run” and so much more.

I first met Bill when interviewing him some twenty years ago or so. He became a mentor and wrote many blurbs for my books, telling me I had real talent. In his later years, Bill would hold forth online and friend and fellow writer Jason V Brock and wife Sunni looked out for Bill in his old age in Vancouver, Washington.

This picture was taken in Austin, Texas, at a long-ago Horror Writers’ Conference and Bill was in fine form and on panels. His short stories were the best and his optimistic attitude towards a writer just attempting to write “long” (after years of writing “short”) was much appreciated.

Here’s what Bill wrote for the back of my second book, “Red Is for Rage:” “Connie Wilson is back and the return trip will be a joy to her readers.  I’ve praised her work in the past and am happy to repeat the performance here and now.  She’s good. She’s DAMN good! In a world of mainly bad-to-fair writers, she stands above the crowd with plot, description and strong characters. Believe me, you’ll enjoy her latest! That’s a guarantee! Go, Connie!”

How could you not love a blurb like that from the author of “Logan’s Run,” “Logan’s World,” “Nightworlds” and a living legend in dark fantasy? Bill had literally hundreds of works, including “Twilight Zone” episodes and worked with the author’s group that included Ray Bradbury among their numbers and arose in southern California in the fifties. He was residing in Vancouver, Washington, at the end of his life and died from the complications of an infection. He was 93.

I won’t be able to send him flowers (or a cookie bouquet) on his birthday this year, as I had in previous years. I am so sad to learn that he has shuffled off this mortal coil. He joins my boss at Performance Learning Systems, Inc. (Joe Hasenstab) and my first serious boyfriend (LaVerne Wilkinson) as important people in my life who have died in the very recent past.

As Wikipedia put it: Among his many accolades, Nolan was nominated once for the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America.[1] He was voted a Living Legend in Dark Fantasy by the International Horror Guild in 2002, and in 2006 was bestowed the honorary title of Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. In 2010, he received the Lifetime Achievement Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association (HWA). In 2013 he was a recipient, along with Brian W. Aldiss, of the World Fantasy Convention Award in Brighton, England by the World Fantasy Convention. In May 2014, Nolan was presented with another Bram Stoker Award, for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction; this was for his collection about his late friend Ray Bradbury, called Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction.[5] In 2015, Nolan was named a World Horror Society Grand Master; the award was presented at the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, GA in May of that year.[

BornWilliam Francis Nolan
March 6, 1928
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
DiedJuly 15, 2021 (aged 93)
Vancouver, Washington, U.S.
OccupationWriter, Artist, Actor
GenreScience fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy, Literary, Western, and Horror
Notable worksLogan’s RunTrilogy of TerrorBurnt Offerings (film)Helltracks
Notable awardsMWA Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominee (1x); IHG Living Legend in Dark Fantasy Winner, 2002; SFWA Author Emeritus, 2006; HWA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, 2010; World Fantasy Convention Award, 2013; World Horror Society Grand Master, 2015
Years active1952–2021

Liz Cheney’s Last Stand: Another One Bites the Dust

Liz Cheney within the Capitol (Photo courtesy of the Denver Post).

The following represents Liz Cheney’s statement, in its entirety, as she took a stand against Donald J. Trump. It took 15 minutes to throw Cheney out. Now, over 100+ Republicans have announced that they may form a break-away party. Talking heads predict that this is an inflection point and the party may be beyond repair.

From this point forward, Teresa Hanafin of The Boston Globe fills you in, with Liz Cheney’s own statement as she was drummed from her position as #3 Republican leader in a 15-minute meeting in Washington, D.C. today, which saw her booed and which was poorly attended by the Republicans, themselves:

****************

Liz Cheney and backlash over her anti-Trump stance.

“This morning, US House Republicans sacrificed Liz Cheney on the altar of Trump, purging her from the ranks of leadership because of her refusal to lie about the 2020 presidential election.

Her belief in democracy and the rule of law is just too inconvenient for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his ilk, her insistence that the party grow up and stop groveling before the Mar-a-Lago narcissist too embarrassing.

They’re angry that she’s pointing out their moral bankruptcy as they support Trump’s continued assault on democracy. They’re upset that she’s highlighting their willingness to set aside principle in order to grab power.

So she had to go.

Even as Cheney’s principled stance has been universally praised by those not in thrall to Trump, some on the left aren’t willing to give her a pass, given her hard-right positions on just about everything.

She supported her father, former VP Dick Cheney, when he told another Big Lie about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. She favors waterboarding, insisting it isn’t torture. She said Hillary Clinton’s handling of her e-mails was worse than Trump’s disgusting comments about sexually assaulting women. She accused then-president Barack Obama of deliberately wanting to shrink the economy and weaken the US abroad.

“Liberals responded to Trump’s derangements by bathing the Bush-Cheney crowd in a flattering nostalgic light,” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote. In Salon, writer Chauncey DeVega called Cheney “a friendly fascist” who supported virtually all of Trump’s policies.

She’s no centrist.

But as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine points out, these complaints from some liberals ignores just how profoundly significant her stance really is.

To place her policy positions on the same level as her fight for democracy, Chait argues, is to say that the rule of law is just another issue. He writes:

“Cheney’s decision to challenge the party on democracy is remarkable for several reasons.

“First, she is putting the issue squarely. Rather than softening her line or couching her stance in the logic of messaging (i.e., Trump’s rhetoric will hurt Republicans with swing voters), she is straightforwardly instructing her fellow Republicans that their current path is a menace to the Constitution and the rule of law.

“Second, she has absolutely nothing to gain and a great deal to lose.

“And third, the fact she is such a dogmatic right-winger on economic, social, and foreign policy gives her support for democracy more, not less, weight. The very point of her dissent is that support for democracy ought to be separated from policy outcomes.

“Republicans should not succumb to the temptation of siding with a would-be authoritarian merely because he promises to advance their policy goals. ‘He’ll undermine the Constitution, but give us low capital gains taxes and friendly judges’ is not a morally defensible trade-off.

“Democracy is the one question not subject to horse-trading.”

(You can read Chait’s entire essay here.)

Cheney addressed her GOP colleagues before the quick voice vote that removed her.

“If you want leaders who will enable and spread [Trump’s] destructive lies, I’m not your person. You have plenty of others to choose from,” she said. “That will be their legacy.”

“But I promise you this: After today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism, to defending our republic, to making the GOP worthy again of being the party of Lincoln.”

When Cheney emerged from the meeting, she told reporters that she would continue her fight to protect democracy, and that she would do everything she could to make sure that Trump “never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”

Last week, I pointed you to Cheney’s essay in The Washington Post in which she made the point that Trump’s insistence that the election was stolen from him led to the murderous assault on the Capitol, and could provoke violence again.

Last night, she spoke to a mostly empty House chamber — the Republicans who had been giving speeches about “cancel culture” didn’t have the guts to stick around to listen to her — and talked about freedom, the Constitution, and duty.

LIZ CHENEY’S SPEECH IN ITS ENTIRETY:

Trump/Cheney/McCarthy: Three on a Match

Mister Speaker, tonight I rise to discuss freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it.

I have been privileged to see firsthand how powerful and how fragile freedom is. Twenty-eight years ago, I stood outside a polling place, a schoolhouse in western Kenya. Soldiers had chased away people who were lined up to vote. A few hours later, they came streaming back in, risking further attack, undaunted in their determination to exercise their right to vote.

In 1992, I sat across a table from a young mayor in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and I listened to him talk of his dream of liberating his nation from communism. Years later, for his dedication to the cause of freedom, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated by Vladimir Putin’s thugs.

In Warsaw, in 1990, I listened to a young Polish woman tell me that her greatest fear was that people would forget, they would forget what it was like to live under Soviet domination, that they would forget the price of freedom.

Three men — an immigrant who escaped Castro’s totalitarian regime, a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and became his country’s minister of defense, and a dissident who spent years in the Soviet gulag — have all told me it was the miracle of America captured in the words of President Ronald Reagan that inspired them.

And I have seen the power of faith and freedom. I listened to Pope John Paul II speak to thousands in Nairobi in 1985, and 19 years later, I watched that same pope take my father’s hands, look in his eyes, and say, “God Bless America.”

God has blessed America, but our freedom only survives if we protect it, if we honor our oath, taken before God in this chamber, to support and defend the Constitution, if we recognize threats to freedom when they arise.

Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.

Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.

I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law. The Electoral College has voted. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple judges the former president appointed, have rejected his claims. The Trump Department of Justice investigated the former president’s claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them.

The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process.

Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.

Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar.

I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.

As the party of Reagan, Republicans have championed democracy, won the Cold War, and defeated the Soviet communists. Today, America is on the cusp of another Cold War – this time with communist China. Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure.

We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.

I received a message last week from a Gold Star father who said, “Standing up for the truth honors all who gave all.” We must all strive to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who have died for our freedom. They are the patriots Katherine Lee Bates described in the words of “America the Beautiful” when she wrote,

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

Ultimately, this is at the heart of what our oath requires – that we love our country more. That we love her so much that we will stand above politics to defend her. That we will do everything in our power to protect our constitution and our freedom – that has been paid for by the blood of so many. We must love America so much that we will never yield in her defense.

That is our duty.

 

Biden and the Border

The article below is a cobbled-together article from a variety of respected sources, all of them fiarly recent and all of them addressing the border, the border crisis, and the history of the border issues. In light of the constant litany of charges that “the border crisis” was all the Biden Administration’s fault, with little recognition of how long this problem has existed and no discussion of what all of the issues behind it might be, I decided to “copy and paste” some of the more enlightening articles out there…especially if they were current.

Apparently there are those who think that a problem this complex can be solved by simply throwing up a barrier, and that it should happen literally overnight, in the case of the Biden Administration in office only 100 days as of April 29th.

So, what, exactly, is the deal with the border wall, then and now? The following words from others are selections of articles, only, and this is far from the definitive word on the border and what has gone on there historically and is going on there now, but I thought you might enjoy reading some of the information for yourselves all in one place.

***********************

US-Mexico border violence deepens immigration divide | World| Breaking news  and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 27.11.2018

“Some 172,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, the most in two decades. The problem is both push and pull: residents are driven out by hurricanes, crop failure, crime and corruption; they are drawn to the U.S. by family ties, work and stability in an economy expected to explode with post-pandemic opportunities, and an administration promising more humane treatment after the harsher Donald Trump years.

On Monday, VP Kamala Harris (delegated by President Biden to handle the crisis) meets by video with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei in advance of a visit there and to Mexico in June. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Harris would discuss sending immediate aid to Guatemala and “deepening cooperation on migration.”

Harris plans to hold a call with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador next week after a virtual meeting with Guatemalan community groups on Tuesday.

Officials and advisers say Harris will have to figure out a mix of short- and long-term steps, find non-governmental organizations to partner with and use carrots and sticks to fight corruption.”

HONDURAS

“U.S. prosecutors allege Honduran President Hernandez participated in a violent cocaine trafficking conspiracy. His brother was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to smuggle almost 200,000 kg of cocaine into the the U.S. The effort was part of a state-backed trafficking operation that netted the president’s brother nearly $140 million, according to prosecutors.

President Hernandez was also cited in a separate case in the U.S. last month for allegedly participating in cocaine trafficking. He has dismissed the accusations as lies told by convicted criminals seeking to reduce their sentences and said he remains committed to fighting the drug trade.

Hernandez narrowly won a second term in a 2017 election that Organization of American States observers called “low quality” and whose result they refused to confirm. The country will hold a presidential election in November, and Hernandez is not running. That could allow the Biden administration to hold out hope for better leadership, but there’s little optimism that corruption there is a problem with an easy solution.

“The perception of impunity or the perception that people in positions of power can commit acts of corruption without consequence discourages the population and contributes to the sense that there is no future in their countries,” Zuniga told reporters after visiting.

FLEEING THE VIOLENCE

migrant caravan

Central American migrants en route to the US starting their day departing Ciudad, Hidalgo, Mexico. (Photo AP/Moises Castillo)

“Migrants, including a growing number of women and children, are fleeing the troubled region in record numbers. On average, about 265,000 people have left annually in recent years, and this number is on track to more than double [PDF] in 2019. (And has, during DJT’s final years and now.]

Some migrants seek asylum in other parts of Latin America or in Europe. However, most endure a treacherous journey north through Mexico to the United States. Unlike past waves of migrants, in which most attempted to cross illegally without detection, migrants from the Northern Triangle often surrender to U.S. border patrol agents to claim asylum. In 2018, the United States granted asylum to roughly 13 percent [PDF] of Northern Triangle applicants, almost twice the 2015 acceptance rate [PDF]. Guatemalans currently account for the largest share of the migrant flow, followed by Hondurans and Salvadorans.

Agricultural setbacks, including unpredictable weather and a destructive coffee rust, have fueled food insecurity and become a leading driver of migration. Many households depend on money sent home by relatives living and working abroad. Remittances equal a comparatively large portion—almost 18 percent [PDF]—of the three countries’ economic output. Meanwhile, corruption and meager tax revenues, particularly in Guatemala, have crippled governments’ ability to provide social services.

Decades of civil war and political instability [PDF] planted the seeds for the complex criminal ecosystem that plagues the region today, which includes transnational gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Eighteenth Street Gang (M-18). Critics say that U.S. interventions during the Cold War—including support for a coup in Guatemala, brutal government forces in El Salvador, and right-wing rebels based in Honduras known as the Contras—helped destabilize the region. Though they have declined somewhat in recent years, homicide rates in the Northern Triangle have been among the world’s highest for decades.

ECONOMIC INSTABILITY

Economic instability. The region’s most significant coordinated effort to address economic instability is the so-called Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity (A4P), which made commitments to increase production, strengthen institutions, expand opportunities, and improve public safety. Announced after a flood of Northern Triangle migrants arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, the $22 billion plan is 80 percent funded by El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Corruption. The region has made significant progress in its battle against corruption, a longtime drag on economies. In perhaps the most prominent example, Guatemala appealed to the United Nations for assistance in establishing an independent body to investigate and prosecute criminal groups suspected of infiltrating the government. Widely trusted by Guatemalans, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) helped convict more than three hundred officials and significantly reduce Guatemala’s homicide rate.

Meanwhile, El Salvador has charged three former presidents with money laundering or embezzlement, and recently announced plans for its own international anticorruption panel. With the support of the Organization of American States, a regional bloc, Honduras also established a corruption-fighting committee and went so far as to fire 40 percent of its police during sweeping reforms in 2016, though citizen confidence in the force remains low [PDF].

What’s been the U.S. approach to the Northern Triangle?

Over the past twenty years, the United States has taken significant steps to try to help Northern Triangle countries manage irregular migration flows by fighting economic insecurity and violence. However, critics say U.S. policies have been largely reactive, prompted by upturns in migration to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Critics say U.S. policies have been largely reactive, prompted by upturns in migration to the U.S.-Mexico border.

George W. Bush administration. President Bush put trade at the top of his administration’s Central America agenda, negotiating the seven-country Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which includes El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Under his administration, the United States also awarded Northern Triangle governments more than $650 million in development grants through the Millennium Challenge Corporation. During its second term, the administration grappled more with security challenges, including rising crime and drug trafficking in the region, and it responded with an aid package for Central America and Mexico known as the Merida Initiative.

Barack Obama administration. President Obama separated Mexico from the Merida grouping and rebranded it the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) [PDF]. Over the years, Congress has appropriated more than $2 billion in aid through CARSI to help the region’s law enforcement, counternarcotics agencies, and justice systems. Midway through his second term, Obama recast U.S. strategy [PDF] for Central America, forging what was intended to be a more holistic interagency approach to complement the region’s A4P plan.

After an upswing in migration from the region in 2014, the administration partnered with Northern Triangle governments on anti-smuggling operations and information campaigns intended to deter would-be migrants. It also cracked down on undocumented immigrants inside the United States. Court-mandated removals during his administration outpaced those under Bush, totaling about three million. After Mexico, the Northern Triangle countries accounted for the largest shares of Obama-era removals.

Donald J. Trump administration. The Trump administration has kept Obama’s framework for the region, but has prioritized stemming the flow of Central American migrants to the United States and ramping up border security.

Many of Trump’s actions have stoked controversy and sparked legal challenges. In the spring of 2018, the administration implemented a zero-tolerance policy [PDF] that sought to criminally prosecute all adults entering the United States illegally, including asylum seekers and those with children. As a result, several thousand children were separated from their parents and detained in makeshift facilities, many of which were criticized for being in poor condition. Trump officially rescinded the policy following a public backlash, though separations have continued.

OCTOBER 1, 2019:

The U.S. Immigration Debate | Council on Foreign Relations
 Photo courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations

Apprehensions of Northern Triangle citizens have more than doubled so far this year  (2019) compared with all of 2018.

Meanwhile, Trump has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in Northern Triangle aid, and is holding back future funding until the region “take[s] concrete actions” to address migration. The administration also tried revoking temporary protected status, a program that allows migrants from crisis-stricken countries to live and work in the United States for a period of time, for Hondurans and Salvadorans.

This seems to have made the situation at the border worse.

CHILDREN AT THE BORDER

A growing influx of migrants has led to a record number of children – 3,200 – being held in US immigration facilities as of 8 March. (*This has supposedly shrunk to 600 unescorted children being held, as of late April, 2021, with faster turn-around on processing and at least four families reunited after the Trump administration removed children from their parental escorts and lost track of many of them. Two shown being reunited recently had been separated from their parents since 2017 and 2018, respectively.)

US media reported that the figure had trebled in the past two weeks. It was also reported that half of the children are being held beyond the legal three-day limit, after which they must be transferred to the custody of health officials.

In January, the month that Mr Biden took office, 5,871 unaccompanied children crossed the border – up from 4,995 in December – according to data from US Customs and Border Protection (CPB).

Are unaccompanied children being held?

Yes.

While in office, Donald Trump faced outrage over the conditions inside border facilities holding minors. Images from inside the detention centres showed children overcrowded in metal cages, others sleeping under foil blankets.

Some of these Trump-era facilities – now renovated and upgraded – are being used again.

Mr Biden has so far left a Trump-era Covid-19 emergency policy in place, which allows US authorities to expel almost all undocumented migrants seeking entry – bypassing normal immigration laws and protections.

But unlike Mr Trump, Mr Biden has decided not to refuse entry to migrant children or teenagers.

CHANGES UNDER BIDEN

Biden immigration policy stirs confusion at Mexico border - Los Angeles  Times
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

“Advocates say that with most children arriving with plans to reunite with sponsors – typically friends or family – they should be transferred immediately to their care.

And according to preliminary plans obtained by US media, such a system may already be in the works.

The Biden administration is reportedly rushing to convert its existing facilities into “reception centres”, meant to rapidly process migrant families with the goal of releasing them into the US within 72 hours of arrival.

The proposal would replace long-term detention with Ellis Island-style processing, allowing migrants to travel to US sponsors before completing asylum screenings. The reports, from the Washington Post and the San Antonio Express, suggest a major overhaul of the US immigration system. All those processed are tested for Covid-19 before being transferred.

What is happening with the Remain in Mexico policy?

On Mr Biden’s first day in office, DHS suspended a controversial Trump-era policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their US immigration hearings.

About 70,000 migrants were enrolled in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – informally known as the Remain in Mexico program – since it was introduced in January 2019.

Last month, the Biden administration began to gradually process these tens of thousands of people waiting in Mexico, allowing them into the US while their cases are heard.

March 9, 2021

What’s happening to undocumented people already in the US?

Biden’s administration has taken several steps to reform the country’s legal immigration system.

He has proposed a major immigration bill that would offer an eight-year pathway to citizenship to the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the country.

The legislation would also provide permanent protection for young migrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program, known as Dreamers.

The aggressively pro-immigration policy – which would greatly increase both family-based and employment-based legal immigration – will face staunch opposition in Congress, among Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

DIFFERENCES: THEN AND NOW

The White House has also started to focus attention on addressing root causes of migration in Central America, with Vice President Kamala Harris charged to shepherd an administration-wide effort to address conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sent a team to the region in April to scale up emergency humanitarian assistance in light of the pandemic, aftereffects of hurricanes that struck in late 2020, and other challenges. Thus far, work with these countries has focused on short-term measures to reduce the pace of migrants’ arrival at the U.S. border. But the administration has consistently noted that long-term efforts to address poor governance and create economic opportunities in Central America will be key to stem irregular migration.

 

 

 

YOYO Philosophy Prevails in Texas (*You’re On Your Own)

View from Room 808 in the Sonesta Hotel in downtown Austin.

Today’s Austin American-Statesman column by Ken Herman contained the headline: “Abbott to Texans:   You’re On Your Own.”

In addition to thoroughly disapproving of Governor Abbott’s recent dictum to the state that all mitigation effort are off and everything is 100% “open” in the state of Texas now, Herman ended his column with these words:

“Abbott’s bottom line is we’re all on our own to do what we think is best.  Businesses are free to open to whatever capacity they want.  And customers are free to choose which businesses to patronize.

Sounds very Texan.  The problem is the worst decisions of the worst among us could become a determining variable about when real normalcy returns for the rest of us.  As we have seen since Day One of this life-threatening mess, we’re all still in this together.

Snide sidenote:  Hey! It could have been worse.  Abbott could have put ERCOT in charge!”

 

(*ERCOT, for the non-Texans out there, stands for The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which turned out to be ironically named when the entire system failed.)

Was Trump Truthful During His Remarks at CPAC?

For those of you who have not investigated Donald J. Trump’s remarks at CPAC, here is a run-down of the veracity of his remarks.

  • Trump:  ‘Had we had a fair election, the results would have been much different.” 63 court cases were either thrown out of court or denied outright. There are always isolated cases of fraud and irregularities, but none that would have changed the outcome of the election.  Joseph R. Biden won by an 8 million vote margin.
  • Trump: “The Democrats used the pandemic as an excuse to change all of the election rules without the approval of their state legislatures, therefore making it illegal.”  The “change” to election rules was to allow more voters to use absentee ballots, since there was real risk from voting in person during a pandemic that has killed 500,000 citizens. The Constitution leaves the matter of how elections are conducted to state legislatures.
  • Trump: “This election was rigged, and the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.” Texas tried to overturn the election results of 4 swing states. Only Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito thought that the Supreme Court should be hearing such a case. The Trump administration looked high and low to find a state attorney who would lodge the lawsuit for them and—finally and reluctantly—agreed to let the less-than-virtuous Paxton of Texas file the case. Courts at all levels, many of them with GOP-appointed judges, threw out all but one of Trump’s challenges, and the only one that held up allowed observers to move closer to those counting the votes. Even if the Supreme Court had agreed to throw out Pennsylvania’s votes, Joe Biden would still have won in the Electoral College.
  • “Bee Gone: A Political Parable”

    Trump: “We seem to have more votes than we have people in Detroit.”  Detroit has a voting-age population of 503,934. Detroit’s City Clerk’s website says that 250,138 residents voted.

  • Trump: “In Pennsylvania, they had hundreds of thousands of more votes than they had people voting.”

3 million voters requested absentee ballots by the Oct. 27th deadline. In total, about 6.9 million votes were counted in Pennsylvania’s presidential election. The number of registered Pennsylvania voters in 2020 was just over 9 million.

 

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a man who told something like 35,000 documented lies while in office found it difficult to speak the truth at the CPAC conference.

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