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: Local Page 1 of 29

Columns on local goings on could mean the Quad Cities of IA/IL (Moline, IL or Davenport, IA); Chicago; or Austin, Tx, since Connie spends parts of each year in those towns where she has homes. ‘Of local interest” could mean politics, opinion pieces, or business or entertainment-related subjects.

“Bullet Train”: A 2 Hr. 7 Min. Train Wreck

This Brad Pitt vehicle is—(dare I say it?)—a train wreck.

I had a very bad feeling about the film going in. This line from the script sums up my feelings about “Bullet Train:” “I haven’t got the time or the patience, let alone the interest.” I can’t recommend you take this one in at the Cineplex for actual cash.

If you do invest the time in “Bullet Train” when it streams somewhere, Brad Pitt is the best thing in this overlong fist-fest. He plays a hit-man who is trying to mend his violent ways and learn to solve problems in a more peaceful manner.

Code-named Ladybug in a “cute” discussion with his handler (Sandra Bullock) that already screams “Turkey,” among other pronouncements from Pitt are these: “Let this be a lesson on the toxicity of anger.” “A path to a peaceful outcome is an opportunity for growth.” “I just wanna’ get off this train and go see a Zen garden or some shit.” “When we are so quick to anger, we are slow to understand.” “If you do not control your fate, it controls you.” Not a lot of great original writing in those bon mots. The writing here is byZak Olkewicz (screenplay) and based on the book by Kôtarô Isaka.

Pressed into service in place of the mysterious Carver (Ryan Reynolds in a cameo), Ladybug is supposed to steal a briefcase on the bullet train. The case is being protected by 2 other assassins code-named Tangerine and Lemon. [Also cloyingly cute.] Tangerine is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who was brilliant in 2016’s “Nocturnal Animals.” It’s a great part for the handsome actor, speaking in his native British accent, who was nominated for a BAFTA in 2017 for Best Supporting Actor for that role. His “twin” partner is Black actor Bryan Tyree-Henry (2018’s “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse”). Also a forced joke, since they are obviously not biological “twins.”

One of the flaws of the film is that the director is David Leitch. As a former stuntman, himself, he has a passion for fight sequences (which is primarily what this movie is). He has been Brad Pitt’s stunt double 5 times and served as Matt Damon’s stunt double many times, including in “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Leitch co-directed “John Wick” (2014) with Chad Stahelski. He directed “Atomic Blonde” (2017) starring Charlize Theron. David also directed the box office smash/critically acclaimed “Deadpool 2” (2018). These movies all depend on non-stop action sequences; that is what you get in “Bullet Train.” Not a fan.

A second failing, for me, is that the plot is impossibly convoluted and not worth the time and effort to follow it. Lots of bathroom humor. (I mean that literally.) A particularly wasted co-star was Michael Shannon as The White Death. (I hate it when Michael Shannon’s considerable talents are wasted, and they are wasted here).

A third problem is that the music feels very dated. The musical director was Dominic Lewis, so lay the blame for selecting such songs as “Staying Alive,” “Holding Out for a Hero,” and “I Just Wanna Celebrate” at his feet.
. None of these songs are even remotely new. “Staying Alive” is almost 40 years old. “Holding Out for a Hero” was released in 1986 (36 years ago). “I Just Wanna Celebrate” was released in 1971, 51 years ago. There are also some oldies-but-not-goodies, including the one with the lyric “If you miss the train I’m on Hear the whistle blow 100 miles.” Yeah. Soundtrack sucked.

The entire film screams “Look how cute and hip we are.” Various stars make cameos (Channing Tatum, Ryan Reynolds, Sondra Bullock, Zazie Beetz) and, all-in-all, I felt cheated out of a decently themed movie with something to say. It was not worth the price of theater admission.

Other critics say it is going to be Brad Pitt’s new ongoing vehicle in the same way that Robert Downey, Jr., repeatedly rode “Ironman” to the bank. All I can say to that is, “Count me out.”

Besides the convoluted repetitive plot, the non-stop fight sequences, and the lack-luster musical score, the humor came off as forced and unfunny. The entire film was way too “cutesy” and much too dependent on CGI special effects (primarily of trains crashing).
The propping up of dead bodies to make them appear to be alive: not “funny.” I want to see Brad Pitt in the context of a well-written film with some depth and a message. I’m so glad we took in “Vengeance” (B.J. Novak) before “Bullet Train.”

At times I was confused about whether we were watching Japanese actors in Mexico or vice versa. I got the feeling that the entire movie was aimed at a Japanese audience that will enjoy the Bruce Lee vibe, and, to them, I say Sayonara. I really did not enjoy much of anything about this pastiche, but I do like me some Brad Pitt, (even though the line from the movie that sums up his sex appeal in this is, “You look like every white homeless man I’ve ever seen.”)

Having told you what I think of this Boomslang of a film, in good conscience I should report that others coming out of the theater were chatting about how much they enjoyed this mindless mess of  movie/ fight sequence. Something tells me that they have seen far fewer films than I have seen.

I found the humor strained and the entire undertaking a waste of money ($85,900,000 down the “Bullet Train” drain.)

“Vengeance” (B.J. Novak) Is A Great First-Time Film from “The Office” Star

The film “Vengeance” is written and directed by B.J. Novak of “The Office” fame. The synopsis of the plot reads: “A writer from New York City attempts to solve the murder of a girl he hooked up with, and travels down South to investigate the circumstances of her death and discover what happened to her.”

As the film opens, B.J.—who plays the main character Ben Manalowitz in a sort of early Woody Allen-esque fashion modeled on the “Annie Hall” template—is out and about in New York City with John Mayer, the singer. Mayer essentially plays himself. It is well-known that the singer (“Your Body Is A Wonderland”) has practically made a career out of dating numerous female pop icons. The conversation between Mayer’s character (John) and B.J.’s character of Ben, which seems to take place atop a New York City rooftop party, is all about hooking up with various women on a casual basis. The two are using their cell phones to revisit past and present conquests and agreeing with one another (without really communicating) with the rote response “100% !”

The next step in the plot has Ben (B.J. Novak) answering a late-night phone call from someone who says his name is Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook). Ty describes himself as the brother of a one-time hook-up of Ben’s named Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton). Ty assumes that Ben will be coming South to Texas for Abilene’s funeral. Ben is at a loss to process this suggestion, as he barely remembers Abilene at all.

Where, in Texas, is this home town? Three hours from Dallas and five hours from Abilene, so literally in the middle of  nowhere in west Texas. Ben tries to beg off, saying, “I’ll be there in spirit,” which causes Ty (the brother) to respond that he will pick Ben up from the Spirit Airlines terminal at the airport.

Ben does fly to Texas, because he has the idea that his experiences in rural Texas might provide good raw material for a podcast topic he is pitching to a radio executive, played by Issa Rae as Eloise.

When Ty picks Ben up at the airport, he lays out a case for Abilene, an aspiring singer, having been murdered. They are in Ben’s pick-up truck and  Ben is quite taken aback, exclaiming “I don’t avenge deaths. I don’t live in a Liam Neeson movie.” This leads to a wry conversation with Ty about Liam Neeson movies, with Ty proclaiming “Schindler’s List” to be “a huge downer.” Hard not to laugh.

It also sets up the scene at the burial of Abilene where Ben—who barely knew the girl—is asked to get up and say a few words about his “girlfriend.” Ben does an excellent job of uttering platitudes along the lines of “I never expected to be in a situation like this.” He goes on to mention banal remarks about “spending more time” with someone (“All of us”) and mentions how she “loved music.” It should be mentioned that Jessie Novak actually wrote one of the songs entitled “I Finished My Shift at Claire’s” and B.J. Novak gets credit for one with a title something like “When I Get Signal.” Andrea Von Foroester was in charge of the music and Cinematographer was Lyn Moncrief in this Jason Blum production.

The eulogy from Ben graveside gets him off the hook with the family (re his relationship with Abilene) for the moment, but, because he needs more material for his podcast proposal, Ben is talked into staying at the family home and actually sleeping in Abilene’s old childhood bedroom. Ben keeps humoring Ty in his quest for vengeance, which, in one insightful line, the script explains is the new reality that the truth is too hard to accept, so people are always looking for someone to blame. There are also some deep nuggets concerning social media adding to the proliferation of conspiracy theories and those who hold forth their own opinions as everyone’s truth (without proof), so the film is not just all fun and games and searching for killers who may or may not exist.

The piece starts out to be a somewhat snobbish look down Ben’s nose at the fly-over country he is visiting, a land where, according to the locals, “In Texas, we don’t dial 9-1-1.” It ends up failing to endorse the proposal that all city folk are smarter and sharper and better. The sincerity of the locals cannot fail to impress. However, you do come away with the impression that the bright lights of the rural Heartland won’t win fame and fortune unless they move to a city where their talent can be recognized, so you tell me if that is a vote for west Texas or, like Sam Kinnison’s act, someone screaming, “You live in the desert. Move to the water.”

As it turns out, Abilene—(who initially is misrepresented as someone “who wouldn’t even touch an Advil)—did have a bit of a drug problem, and the reason seems to be the dead-end life she was living in rural Texas, her New York City dreams having not panned out.

Abilene attended a party near an oil field, where cell reception was poor. The party took place at the intersection of four competing jurisdictions off Highway 29. This meant that neither the local Banefield Police Department (Officers Mike and Dan), the border patrol, the DEA, nor Sheriff Jimeniz really would care enough to investigate a party like the one where Abilene died, which seems to have been a routine event in the area.

The Shaws are a family where the younger brother of Abilene’s (Eli Bickel as Mason) is routinely referred to as “El Stupido.” When Ben objects to categorizing the middle school-aged boy this way, Ty, his older brother, says, “It’s okay. He doesn’t speak Spanish.”

Ty is portrayed as “a good old boy” and a typical Texan. Only Quentin Sellers seems to have a clue about the Big City. At one point in the dialogue, Ashton Kutcher’s character mentioned that he had moved to this godforsaken spot from another state. I’d have to see it again to tell you if it was Iowa or Idaho, but we all know that, IRL, Ashton is from the Cedar Rapids/Amana area, so please let me know if Iowa got a plug.

The movie makes fun of the Texas fascination with the Whataburger franchise. The simplistic reason for liking it is given as “because it’s right there.” However, when Ty is pushed to explain further, he says, “You just love it, and that’s how love works.” This “heart to heart” theme comes off as perhaps superior to the lack of compassion or empathy evinced by city dwellers, early in the film.

Many of the snobby Jewish boy’s pre-conceived impressions about the South are shown up for what they are: prejudice. In a revealing debate with one of Abilene’s sisters (Isabella Amara as Paris Shaw) about literature, it becomes clear that Paris has actually read the source material, while Ben has not. (Harry Potter books abound in Abilene’s bedroom, thanks to 2 female set decorators who grew up in San Antonio and are about the same age as Abilene of the film.) Ben is merely reciting rote opinions without being as well-informed as this Texas high school girl, but he has retained an air of superiority. Alex Jones, without the shouting.

Ashton Kutcher, who has not appeared in a major movie role since roughly 2013 (“Jobs”) appears as Quentin Sellers. The Iowa-born native recently revealed that he had been suffering from “a super rare form of Vasculitis” that he contracted three years ago. The disease attacks the veins and arteries and is an auto-immune disorder that involves inflammation and can cause organ failure or aneurysms in its most severe form. Kutcher said, “Like two years ago, I had this weird, super-rare form of vasculitis,” Kutcher shared these experiences in an exclusive video clip released to “Access Hollywood” from an upcoming episode of National Geographic’s “Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge.”

“Knocked out my vision, knocked out my hearing, knocked out like all my equilibrium. It took me like a year to build it all back up.”

Therefore, it was a treat to see a healthy 44-year-old white-clad Kutcher playing Quentin Sellers, founder of the Quentin Sellers Music Factory in the middle of Texas. Quentin gives an inspiring speech about “all these bright creative lights with nowhere to plug in their energy,” as he holds himself out as a music impresario in the middle of nowhere. His wardrobe is a plus (mostly white) and he looks great.

The writing is extremely insightful. The actors do well with their parts, and, for a first-time director, Novak has hit a home run. The dry humor (see trailer) leaves you laughing out loud.

My only criticism would be the denouement of the film. It seemed out of character for the protagonist. I won’t say any more than that, because this is one you’ll want to rent and enjoy for yourself.

I look forward to B.J. Novak’s next writer/director outing.

Will the Texas Power Grid Prevail in These High Energy Times?

I’m sitting in the Illinois Quad Cities, where it is currently 95 degrees. And humid. Very, very humid. It’s 100 degrees in Des Moines and 91 degrees in my old hometown in northeast Iowa (Independence). Because of the humidity, it feels more like 107.

In Austin, Texas, our home away from home, it is 97 degrees. One wonders how the weird Texas power grid will hold up, given its spectacular failure in February of 2021. Texas wanted to have its very own power grid to escape and avoid federal oversight, but they are “on their own” in such power emergencies. And when it’s hot in the summer, AC is a power emergency. And when it snowed in Austin (a rare occurrence) it was a power emergency on the other side of the dial.

“Daily Kos” reported that “intensifying Texas heat is poised to test the power grid on Thursday with demand seen topping 80 gigawatts for the first time ever.”

Running turbines are expected to bolster electricity supplies, reducing the threat of outages as homeowners and businesses crank up air conditioners across the second-largest US state, according to data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. [ERCOT]

We lived through the power outage in February of 2021 in Austin, Texas, that killed hundreds and cost many homeless people the total loss of their toes and/or feet. It was truly NOT a good thing. We had to melt down our snowman to be able to flush our toilets! We had to use Saran wrap on dirty plates because there was no water with which to wash dishes (or anything else). Not fun. The catastrophe totally upended businesses like the HEB food store shelves, which were largely bare for at least a week after the storm hit.

Elsewhere today (8/6/2022), near the White House, lightning struck and killed 3 people, critically injuring 4 people. Donna and James Mueller, grandparents from Wisconsin, died. Kentucky has been hit by floods. Missouri also experienced torrential downpours. The U.S. hurricane system will produce an above-average series of storms, up 60%, says the National Weather Service. Death Valley National Park has 1,000 people stranded there amid flooding, and water is becoming a precious commodity in the western part of our nation, where fires have ravaged states like California

The drought is so intense that there is no absorption of any rainfall. Fires have been everywhere in the west, while states like Washington, and cities like Seattle, where only 40% have A/C, are suffering in this nationwide heat wave. Yellowstone shut down. Our national parks are proving to us that these are different days and we should have fought harder to install Al Gore, who probably really won in 2000 and championed global warming. (Just think how much better off we would have been with a president who championed curbing climate change for 8 years, rather than one who started 2 unwinnable wars simultaeously.)

Cities are hitting 110 temperatures in Scottsdale, AZ, and in  Phoenix, the current temperature is 106. Heat stress is real. It takes a toll on our GDP. Emergency room visits; Health care costs. All are affected. Cooling centers and city planning will be affected in our murky future.

I hope that Texas’ weird power grid system makes it through this hot period, before I arrive in the fall. Personally, I think it is very unfair to turn the Texas Power Grid into a “money-making” scheme, operating much like surge pricing by Uber and Lyft. More is charged during “peak periods” and the bills, currently, are staggering in cities like Dallas.

By NOT being part of the East or West power grids of this country, the state also misses out on the ability to borrow power from other states in an emergency and on the ability to sell excess power to other states. Only El Paso escaped the chaos in February, 2021, as they had joined one of the two national power grids, which was wise.

Amidst all this chaos, the $369 billion climate investment of the new bill passed by the Democrats and the Biden administration seems very, very sound, if, arguably, not large enough.  The goal is to decrease fossil fuel emissions by 40% by 2030. [The bill that is passing today will also provide health changes, including capping Medicare out-of-pocket costs at $2 k and giving Medicare the power to negotiate some drug prices, while also extending the Affordable Care Act for 3 more years].

One wonders how much longer the GOP  will continue to maintain that there is no global warming, Donald J. Trump won the election, and Covid will go away when the weaather gets warmer.

 

“Low Cut Connie” Cuts Loose At Raccoon Motel on August 3, 2022

Low Cut Connie’s” Adam Weiner.

The live show at the Raccoon Motel on August 3rd, Wednesday, in Davenport, Iowa, featuring Low Cut Connie lasted for an hour and a half, beginning at midnight. It was like an All Night Energy Infusion, even if it was 1:30 a.m. on a weeknight when it ended.

The doors opened at 9 p.m. A lead-in group was scheduled prior to the main event. I actually called the venue in the afternoon and was told that the headliner (Adam Weiner) probably would not start before 10:30 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. We drove over around 10 p.m. and that projection was optimistic.

The main act did not commence until midnight, at which point headliner Adam Weiner expressed his relief that the crowd was still there at midnight on a Wednesday night. He expressed anxiety over whether the crowd would have gone home, but the roughly 100 fans present were rewarded with a true high energy rendering of the band’s songs.

I have some great video, but I have written to the publicist(s) for permission to post same, as I am currently on Double Secret Probation (or whatever they call it at YouTube) for posting one 30-second song from Bryan Adams’ “Candle in the Wind” tour (or whatever he called it when he played in Moline six years ago). YouTube has restricted all postings in recent years. Postings of various Rolling Stones concerts and others are still up and were not attacked as postings today have been. The threat: my account would be terminated if I were to sin again.

Frankly, I always thought that groups that were touring would welcome free publicity, if positive, but the group, itself, told YouTube to remove the short snippet, which notified me and put a big “Restricted” banner on my account that remained for the past 6 years. I had to go to “copyright” school and—mind you—this was for a mere 30-second spot from their concert. Understandable that a group would not want audience members to give away the store, but the particular song I wanted to use was posted from a previous concert in Miami by another YouTuber, which I then used, instead.   I am still wondering about the harsh nature of YouTube today and working to make sure that there will be no blow-back if I post some truly great video footage of Adam Weiner scaling his piano for the crowd’s enjoyment (while playing).

If it were possible for Adam Weiner to turn himself inside out to please the crowd, I think he would do that for his audience. I was front and right, front row. Weiner reached out and shook my hand. A bobblehead at 10 o’clock kept trying for physical contact, but Adam was too quick for him, most of the time. (*A Bobblehead is someone who goes absolutely batshit crazy at a concert, flailing around, throwing their fist in the air and, in this case, constantly reaching out and trying to touch the lead singer. Did I mention singing along so that the rest of us can’t hear the artist? That, too.)

Supporters include Elton John, Barack Obama, Howard Stern, Bruce Springsteen and  all of the respected music review magazines, such as “Rolling Stone.” Low Cut Connie performed as part of the festivities for the inauguration of President Joe Biden, appearing at a show called a Love Letter to Pennsylvania. In May of 2015, Low Cut Connie met President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House in a special meeting arranged by White House photographer Pete Souza and former President Obama listed them on his summer listening list of artists.

The COVID-19 crisis and the resulting shut-down of the live music industry forced Low Cut Connie off the road in early 2020. With music venues shuttered and his touring band in quarantine, Weiner performed a livestream concert for a virtual audience out of his South Philadelphia home beginning on March 19, 2020.   The show was dubbed Tough Cookies as a tribute to the band’s  devoted fan base.  Tough Cookies  received critical praise for its intimacy (Weiner sometimes performed in his bathrobe) and for Weiner’s high energy performance style. On December 21, 2020, The New Yorker published a full-length feature on the Tough Cookies variety show, naming Weiner “Pandemic Person of the Year” for his ongoing efforts to raise spirits during the  pandemic. We watched it quite regularly during the shutdown that began around March 13, 2021 (about the time I began my podcast).

We saw the band perform at Lucy’s Chicken in Austin, Texas “live” just prior to the pandemic shut-down, during the time that SXSW was in full swing. The performance on Wednesday night in Davenport, Iowa, was absolutely high-octane and superior to the Austin gig. Also, this time, the band performed the same song they performed on Seth Meyers’ late night show (“All These Kids Are Way Too High”), which they did not perform in Austin (despite repeated requests). Just when you think that the band can’t give the performance any more energy, they take it up a notch. At this show, even guitarist Will Donnelly climbed atop the piano briefly. My only criticism would be the “horn echo” effect in one song, which was very flat. (Lose the cornet echo).

The tickets to this remarkable night were only $20. The band’s tee shirts were also priced at that level and CDs on sale at the merchandise table were available for $5. It was a great night; the crowd went away very satisfied. The band was heading ultimately to the Minneapolis State Fair, where they would, no doubt, wow that crowd, too.

I’ve seen a lot of bands “live,” including the Beatles (San Francisco Cow Palace, 1965) and every Rolling Stones tour since 1982, but Low Cut Connie and Bruno Mars are the only bands working today with the fire and finesse of The Greats. If the media hadn’t already dubbed James Brown “the hardest-working man in show biz,” I’d nominate Adam Weiner (which, since James Brown has been dead for years, I’ll do right now.)

“Low Cut Connie:” Tonight. Raccoon Motel. (Be There! Roll Will Be taken!)

LOW CUT CONNIE w/HOLY WAVE
As a public service to all Tough Cookies and Low Cut Connie fans, it should be noted that you can hear them, tonight (Aug. 3) for $20 LIVE in downtown Davenport (315 E. 2nd St.) at the Raccoon Motel as they journey through on a tour that will see them performing at the Minneapolis State Fair in St. Paul, eventually. Doors open at 9, but no music till 10 and they have a lead-in band (see the Low Cut Connie blog for more on them).
How to describe Low Cut Connie? Think of Adam Weiner as an updated version of Jerry Lee Lewis, maybe? And don’t forget about Will, the guitarist,  and the pandemic-streamed concerts that got us all through Covid.

Tickets are on sale at their website and I’m sure there will be merchandise, since I already have a Low Cut Connie shirt somewhere (which I probably won’t be able to find when I attend.)
It’s a Wednesday night, and the doors open at 9 p.m. with 10 p.m. listed as the opening act, which I looked up on their website and know nothing about. I do know a bit about Low Cut Connie, however and it doesn’t hurt that my name is Connie—right? We don’t anticipate having anywhere to sit, which may make for a short concert for Yours Truly, who is not even 2 weeks out of radiation, (which makes you tired). But we’re such true blue fans that I will stand as long as I can (I hear there are 10 bar stools and th-th-th-that’s it, Folks.
I’m sure we’ll fit right in. (Ha!)
Here’s a sampling of a little bit of Adam Weiner’s and Will’s work.

Jim Leach Changes Party Affiliation from “R” to “D”

Jim Leach2 Cropped.png
James Leach
Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities

I grew up during a time when Democrats and Republicans co-existed relatively peacefully. We have the example of Al Gore’s 2000 concession speech after the Florida “hanging chad” controversy (look it up if you’re too young to remember it). My parents were best friends with Bus and Arlene Raymond of Independence, staunch Republicans, and Arlene (my godmother) was even a Republican lobbyist in Des Moines, while my father was the Democratic County Treasurer of Buchanan County for 4 terms. So you’ll have to excuse me if the news that Jim Leach has left the Republican party after 30 years as a House of Representatives Republican from Iowa is worth mentioning—especially when you hear his words as to why.

Also, back in 2001, on Veterans’ Day (Nov. 11th) right after 9/11, I funded and organized a gathering called “Celebrate Citizenship,” a patriotic sing-along gathering post 9/11, with the money raised to go towards college scholarships for the children orphaned in  the World Trade Center explosion on 9/11. Whatever we raised would be matched by my parent company, Sylvan Learning Corporation.

I rented out the Pleasant Valley High School Auditorium and set up a program, which included my students reading from their essays, the Glenview Junior High School Band from East Moline, IL, (best in the state of Illinois that year by actual vote of Illinois music educators) playing for a sing-along of patriotic songs, and various speakers, which included a representative from Channel 6 (Ryan Nolan), a representative from the “Daily Dispatch” (John Marx) and, as the keynote speaker,  James Leach, then the long-time GOP House of Representatives delegate from the state of Iowa. Leach served in the House of Representatives for Iowa from 1977 to 2007, thirty years. Getting him as my speaker that day was quite a coup, as he had numerous speaking engagements around the state, but he was most gracious in agreeing to come, and that, in itself, is a story I will tell on here in more detail at another time.

Jim Leach was a good guy: a moderate Republican for 30 years who lost re-election to Dave Loebsack, a Democrat, in 2006. Leach was then, and is now, a thoughtful, intelligent leader who did not just vote the party line.Leach was the John L. Weinberg Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University. He also served as the interim director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from September 17, 2007, to September 1, 2008, when Bill Purcell was appointed permanent director.

Jim (James) Leach, age 79, switched his party registration from R to D to vote in the June, 2022 primary. He said the switch was prompted by a Republican Party that he described as lurching to the right and lying about the results of the 2020 election. Here, in long-time Republican James Leach’s words, are his thoughts on the present-day GOP:

“My own view is that there is no excuse whatsoever for an insurrection. And that we’re in one of the most profound challenges to American democracy ever, excepting the Civil War. Today, the Republican Party that I spent so many years with has really let the country down. And we need to have a political party that operates in a way that both parties can participate.  The Republican Party has just torn itself apart, and it’s got to pull itself together.  I’ll lean toward the Democratic party as long as excellent people are running.”

Leach went on to specifically endorse University of Iowa colleague Christina Bohannan, a law professor, running against Marianne Meeks. “This particular year could not be more appropriate for a law school professor to run. She’s intelligent and not an embarrassment to the state or anything. She’s a decent person. I just don’t see anyone standing up to Christina.” Leach also said he would support Mike Franken, a former Navy Admiral and Democrat running to unset 88-year-old Chuck Grassley. Leach cited Franken’s naval experience as a plus to Congress and took issue with Grassley’s role in ushering through conservative picks for the U.S. Supreme Court. Some have also linked Grassley to potential foreknowledge of the impending insurrection (see previous article on Weekly Wilson).

Of Admiral Franken, Leach said, “It’s really important we have some naval knowledge in the Congress which is why I was very pleased to see Admiral Franken run. Leach did not see the chances of a moderate Republican in Iowa winning as very favorable. “It would be awfully, awfully hard in the primary. A lot of Republicans would have a decent chance in the general election, but would have a really hard time, at least over the last year, in a primary.”

James Leach said, “We have an obligation to pull together and vote for anyone who has a moral capacity to lead in a credible way.”

Monet Immersive Exhibit in Chicago

The Monet Immersive Exhibit provided many gorgeous tableaus. Dinner at La Cite atop Lake Point Tower was a gorgeous vantage point to view the city of Chicago.

The Germanium Club up north was totally taken over to facilitate the showing of Monet’s impressionistic works. It is a lovely display area, with the ability to purchase a glass of Prosecco to carry into the exhibit, but there are a lot of stairs. Visitors can lounge on banquettes or sit in a few folding chairs and there is a balcony, if you want to view the art work from above.

Following the Exhibit, we walked to the Corcoran Bar & Grill, in honor of my maiden name, and a lovely young lass from Galway, Ireland, waited on us.

Then it was home to the South Loop to watch a film. We actually used my CD collection and saved the $3.99 rental fee on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

All-in-all, a great night.

Birthday Events in Chicago: July 23rd Weekend

I’ve been in Chicago for a few days and have discovered that this may be one of the coolest cities of those I track. It was 101 in Austin (Tx), but my son and family were here with me. It was 100 in Nashville, but, likewise, my daughter flew in to join the group of 7 of us celebrating my birthday and attending a concert at Wrigley Field. The Chris Stapleton fans did that on Saturday night.

We also managed to have a wonderful dinner on the 70th floor of the Lake Point Tower restaurant,with a phenomenal view of the city and, afterwards, we were able to stroll over to Navy Pier and check on the fantastic growth of the small trees mid-plaza. I think it’s been a while since I hit Navy Pier and the trees have really matured.

Lastly, Stacey, Ava and Elise and Craig attended the Monet Immersive Exhibit with me and we dined, afterwards, at Corcoran’s Bar & Grill. Expect to see pictures from the fantastic Monet Exhibit for some time, as I took so many that my new phone may be full. We had taken in the Van Gogh Exhibit, and this one was just as impressive.

So, with those explanations, here are some photos from Wednesday through Saturday.

At the Germanium Club and the Monet Immersive Exhibit.

List of Sitting Lawmakers in IL, TX, TN, Who Betrayed Our Democracy

As the January 6th Commission convenes in Prime Time on Thursday evening (7/21), it is good to remember those representatives and Senators who betrayed our democratic values on January 6th. I have listed the states where I live and where my son and daughter live, as the names on the lists below do not deserve our future votes for office.

Here is an opinion reprint from “Daily Kos” that names the traitors in office.

by Brandi Buchmann

Now that the January 6th committee has spent more than a year investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, they have unearthed evidence, in physical records and eyewitness testimony, that overwhelmingly suggests former President Donald Trump desperately schemed to retain power after losing the 2020 election and saw this plot aided or advanced by an increasingly craven series of lawmakers, lackeys, lawyers,  aides, and right-wing extremists.

Many of those lawmakers who parroted Trump’s meritless claims of voter fraud did so at relatively the same clip he did, using their sizeable platforms, power, and influence to promote conspiracy theories about the results of the election that were disproven by the nation’s Justice Department and intelligence apparatuses and dismissed by court after court and judge after judge—including those judges Trump appointed.

When Congress finally met for the joint session on Jan. 6 to count certified elector slates and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gaveled in, throngs of protesters would breach Capitol police barriers just minutes later. Trump, live from the Ellipse, was finishing a speech where he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol. One line encouraging this in his draft speech, according to White House records provided to the committee by the National Archives, shows Trump ad-libbed this call to action four times on Jan. 6.

Testimony and other evidence collected by the committee indicate too that Trump initially tried to conceal a plan to march on the Capitol even as he, members of his campaign staff, and rally organizers moved full steam ahead. This detail drastically undercuts claims by Trump and his allies currently in Congress that say January 6 was a peaceful protest that spontaneously went awry.

The committee has also shown evidence of at least six Republican lawmakers seeking preemptive pardons from Trump in the wake of the insurrection. In a request spearheaded by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, he went so far as to ask for a preemptive pardon for all 147 members of Congress who lodged an objection to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Brooks also requested pardons for 126 Republicans who joined an amicus brief filed in Texas that sought to challenge election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

Brooks has since defended his ask while simultaneously trying to distance himself from his own inflammatory remarks delivered at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.

It was Trump who told Brooks to make the pardon request, he wrote, in a Jan. 11, 2021 email.

Notably, Brooks said he was making his inquiry “pursuant to a request” from Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. More than six weeks after Trump finally left office, it was reported for the first time by The New York Times that Gaetz was under investigation for alleged sex trafficking and sex with a minor.

In addition to Brooks and Gaetz, Hutchinson specifically named House Republicans Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. All have issued various denials about the pardons but remain vocal, staunch supporters of Trump and have continued, until now, to cast doubts or aspersions on the Jan. 6 committee’s work and standing.

Trump never issued the pardons and Brooks fell out of favor with him after he urged prospective voters during his failed campaign for a Senate seat to put the 2020 election “behind them.” Trump said Brooks went “woke” and endorsed his opponent.

The Senators who voted to overturn the 2020 election after the insurrection are:

House members in Texas, Illinois and Tennessee who voted to overturn the 2020 election results after the insurrection:

One additional Texas legislator on the list has subsequently died.

 

 

Did Chuck Grassley Collude with the January 6th Trump Insurrection?

Since we are on the border with Iowa, it is important to present this Mark Karlin article that ran on “Daily Kos.” Karlin’s point that the Secret Service should know enough not to delete phone text messages sent on one of the most momentous days in our country’s history, January 6, 2021 is common sense. The possible involvement of 88-year-old Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley in Trump’s plot is something to consider if you are an Iowa voter going to the polls at mid-terms. This year, Admiral Franken (Grassley’s probable opponent) is a charismatic alternative to the 88-year-old Chuck Grassley and—if Grassley’s slip of the tongue is legitimately a sign of Grassley’s allegiance to DJT, do you want to support a candidate willing to overthrow democratic elections who may not support the democratic principle of  the peaceful transition of power?

***

By Mark Karlin

The bombshell that the pro-Trump Secret Service deleted crucial text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021, may be a “connect the dots” moment. It’s not just that this excised communication could have corroborated Cassidy Hutchinson’s second-hand account of Trump lunging for the steering wheel and grabbing a Secret Service member to try and compel them to drive him to the Capitol after the January 6 rally.

There might be something much more profoundly concerning: there might be Secret Service collaborators in Trump’s coup plot.

Let’s begin with a July 16, 2021, article from the Independent that is entitled, “Mike Pence refused to get in car in the midst of the January 6th riots, fearing Secret Service ‘conspiracy’, reports claim”:
Former Vice President Mike Pence purportedly refused to get into a vehicle with Secret Service agents amid the 6 January riots out of fear there was a “conspiracy” to “vindicate the insurrection”….
Mr Pence refused to evacuate the Capitol a number of additional times on January 6th as pro-Trump rioters stormed the building in a bid to prevent the certification of the 2020 election results.
In the midst of the riots, Mr. Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber to his ceremonial office, where he remained protected by Secret Service agents alongside members of his family present that day. He was also the only elected executive branch member calling for help for the besieged Capitol, as President Trump did nothing for hours. (This will be the subject of the next January 6th Commission hearing in prime time this week.)

Then, let’s move to an eye-raising detail involving the oldest member of the Senate, Charles Grassley (R-IA), about a January 5, 2021, comment he quickly backtracked on. Heather Cox Richardson recalled the short-lived claim in her July 13 column:
On January 5, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), who was the president pro tempore of the Senate, the second highest-ranking person in the Senate after the vice president, talking to reporters about the next day, said: “Well, first of all, I will be—if the Vice President isn’t there and we don’t expect him to be there— I will be presiding over the Senate.”

Grassley’s office immediately clarified that Grassley meant only that he would preside over counting of the Electoral Votes only if Vice President Mike Pence “had to step away during Wednesday’s proceedings,” and that “‘[e]very indication we have is that the vice president will be there.”

Richardson writes that the largely forgotten “we don’t expect him [Pence] to be there” statement combined with Grassley’s claim that he would then preside over the electoral count “continues to bother” her, as it should. Grassley’s statement appears, given that democracy was at stake, as something more than casual. It seems to reflect the possibility of someone who knew of Trump-world plans, but was quickly told to retract his “prediction.”

Official portrait, 2017

Charles “Chuck” Grassley (age 88)

Who knows if Grassley would have accepted the Biden electors in the swing states, given the strenuous pressure from team Trump, if he had been presiding over the electoral count? His eye-popping statement of January 5 certainly raises that question. Why would Pence need “to step away”? Why would Grassley even consider such a possibility the day before the count and insurrection unless he knew more than he was saying? Why was Pence fearful of the Secret Service driving him from the Capitol, with the result being, amidst the mob activity still in full swing at the time, that the electoral count would be delayed indefinitely or Grassley would preside over it when it resumed if Pence had complied?

This leads to the erasure of Secret Service texts from January 5 and 6 in 2021. According to a July 15 article in The Washington Post:
A government watchdog accused the U.S. Secret Service of erasing texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, after his office requested them as part of an inquiry into the U.S. Capitol attack, according to a letter sent to lawmakers this week.

Joseph V. Cuffari, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees indicating that the text messages have vanished and that efforts to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack were being hindered….
Cuffari emphasized that the erasures came “after” the Office of Inspector General requested copies of the text messages for its own investigation..

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