Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

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: Politics (Page 2 of 16)

Paul Manafort’s Trial/Verdict Under Attack by Trump

I’m not sure I’ll have a graphic to illustrate today’s Trump ruminations. 

Having just heard Trump going on  about what a “good person” Paul Manafort is (or was) in a news clip, when is it acceptable for a President to use his bully pulpit to interfere in the jury deliberations of a man against whom there is overwhelming evidence that he tried to defraud the U.S. government (and others) of rightful taxes by establishing overseas accounts in various tax havens? Shouldn’t the Donald be shutting up right about now?

But, no. He is ranting on about what a “great”  and “good” person Manafort, his former campaign chairman, is, which has certainly got to be considered anything but objective weighing of the evidence against Manafort AND prejudicial to a jury that might have dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporters amongst the twelve.

Any fact-based person would take a look at the faked bills of sale from gardeners and others, (with the owners of those companies taking the stand to testify that that is NOT their legitimate bill), and would say, “Well, at the very least, he’s a crook.” And a liar. And an opportunist who worked for the worst of the worst amongst dictators in Russian countries, which is not undocumented and not in dispute.

When the money ran out, Manafort began creatively spinning various stories to get money to support what most of us would say was a lavish lifestyle,–unless you are “in” to $900,000 ostrich jackets. (Loved the skit where an ostrich takes the stand and testifies against Manafort, on Seth Meyer’s late-night TV commentary). There’s a fantastically revealing story about Manafort’s financial decline in the latest issue of “Vanity Fair.”

The defense would have you believe, “Well, his second-in-command (Gates) is reponsible.” But, as one talking head put it, “If Gates was the quarterback, Manafort was Jerry Jones and owned the team.” It is worth noting that Gates netted a salary of only (note: I say “only” because we’re talking in millions of dollars for Manafort) $240,000 a year for keeping the books, while Manafort supposedly was paying himself over a million and a half (or more) from off-shore accounts to himself, illegally. And, of course, Gates embezzled from Manafort, so: “birds of a feather.”

At the very least, the presence of multiple offshore accounts to keep from having to pay U.S. taxes does not make Manafort a “good” person when he was the ring master for putting Donald J. Trump in office. Nor does it make Betsy DeVos a good choice for a Cabinet post (Secretary of Education) when she doesn’t have ANY experience in education (or much in finance) and sails a ship that is NOT registered under a U.S. flag, to keep from paying normal higher wages to the ship’s employees and to avoid port taxes of a U.S. registered ship. But that’s the kind of “draining the swamp” we’ve had with the Head Alligator in charge. Trump charges the Secret Service for use of his golf carts and really gouged those who rented the floor above him in Trump Tower for a while (his security detail). Since then, an unsightly trailer has been established outside the Trump Tower and is set up as Command Central for Trump’s security detail, to avoid the fleecing that was taking place in billing the government outrageous sums for a roof over their heads.

And let’s not even get started on the many other ways Donald J. Trump and family are making out like bandits while in office. It sure makes the days when former Presidents like Harry S. Truman (“The buck stops here”) refused to even take his pension, or when Jimmy Carter said he would not take positions, post presidency, on boards that might make it appear that he was profiting from having held the highest office in the land seem quaint and long ago. Has the entire morality and ethics of the U.S. really gone this far downhill in such a short time?

A few (not many, but a few) of my smart friends voted for Trump and have the cojones to admit it. They thought they were getting somebody from “outside” politics who would stop wasteful spending and rid the government of people like those now exclusively running it. They were wrong, and, some day, they will admit they were wrong, but, for now, can we just agree that jacking the national debt up, the way it has been increased under Trump is NOT a good thing? (Oh, for the days of Clinton’s surplus) and removing Obama’s ban on selling the extremely accurate missiles and bombs that just killed a schoolbus full of children in Yemen (when aimed at them by the Saudis) was probably another “bad” idea. Why remove that prohibition, which was put in place precisely because the previous administration feared that the Saudis might use them in such a way. (Let’s not forget that most of the 9/11 bombers were Saudis, something that the Bush administration tried to have us conveniently forget.)

In fact, this entire Trump presidency: bad idea. Let’s figure a way to start over and push the restart button that Hillary Clinton famously offered Putin once. No, I don’t mean by putting the much-maligned and unpopular former First Lady in office, but simply by getting rid of  Agent Orange (as Spike Lee calls him)  as quickly as we can. Our very survival may depend on it as we teeter and careen from crisis to crisis without a sane or smart hand on the tiller and with the entire National Security apparatus under constant attack. (John Brennan, anyone?)

Trump Revokes Security Clearances of True Patriots Like John Brennan

Wouldn’t it be too perfect if a black woman (Omarosa) finally took down Donald J. Trump’s presidency? For her part, the reality TV star turned White House hanger-on has said, “Donald Trump has met his match.” And this sorry presidency marches on, revoking the security clearance of former CIA Chief (and CBS on-air expert) John Brennan.

Today, with the vindictive actions of Trump in regard to true patriots like former CIA Chief John Brennan, in revoking Brennan’s (and others) security clearances, primarily to divert attention from the release of and content of the Omarosa tapes (the original order removing the security clearances was dated July 27, but NOW is a better time to distract the public) there has been push-back. Trump has admitted he took his action in a vindictive fashion, much like dictators in tin pot banana republic might punish opponents by actions like this, or worse.

When will ALL members of Congress wake up and see this for themselves? Some have, but they are the ones (Jeff Flake comes to mind) who have deserted the sinking ship of state, even though Trump is ostensibly a Republican. Hard to believe that anyone believes he is really a Republican, but nevermind.

Attorney McNamara (also a woman) for Simon & Schuster has taken the grenade that Trump directed be thrown through their publisher’s window, picked it up and thrown it right back, with the response that they will not let their clients be intimidated and are planning on releasing Omarosa’s book. McNamara said they have documentation that sounds vaguely intimidating if you are Donald J. Trump, crouched in the White House in a stance that Richard M Nixon learned to know only too well. The guy has to be unraveling and this latest action—-erratic, unkind and ungrateful as it is—seems to be just another symptom of Trump’s spiraling status.

“Is it appropriate for you to punish your critics?” asked a reporter at the White House. Trump glowered and did not respond, as per usual.

“Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash,” said John Brennan. A retired Navy Admiral called John Brennan “a man of unparallelled integrity and honor.” He went on to say he would consider it a badge of honor to have his own security clearance revoked by the current occupant of the White House, whom Spike Lee calls Agent Orange.

But Donald J. Trump a man of integrity? Not so much. I saw a “breaking news” bulletin that stated this even more baldly, declaring that “Trump has humiliated us abroad, embarrassed us, and divided us as a nation.” All true.

Fierce fall out has come from Congress, (but not fierce enough yet). Susan Collins (R, Maine) says she doesn’t see the grounds for revoking John Brennan’s security clearance. Senator Orrin Hatch came to Trump’s defense; really, Orrin? Trump’s unconscionable actions speak for themselves, including his dalliances with prostitutes and porn stars and other remarks (“dog” aimed at Omarosa) and embarrassments (remember him shouldering aside the head of another country at that summit meeting?).

In a free democratic society, freedom of speech is granted each of us and there is no excuse for this kind of vindictive action towards John Brennan or anyone else who has dared to point out the fact that it is very likely that Donald J. Trump colluded with Russia in order to win the 2016 election. He is entitled to his opinion, which is also my opinion and probably that of the majority of right-thinking U.S. citizens, at this point.

Only Trump’s most loyal base members think otherwise. Savvy customers like John Brennan can see for themselves what most of the rest of us admit, (some of us more grudgingly than others.)

None of us WANTS to believe that the plot of The Manchurian Candidate has become fact

As my former chemistry teacher, Bill Hatfield, used to say, “Facts and figures don’t lie.”

He also used to say, “Figures don’t lie, but any fool can figure.”

This guy in the White House is a verified serial liar who can’t get the facts right,— if he even knows them. Nor can his Press Secretary, who released incorrect data during a recent press conference on the number of jobs for African-Americans that were created under Trump vs. Obama (Trump’s nemesis and constant target.)

When will those in Congress and the Senate decide that “enough is enough” and impeach this guy?

 

 

San Antonio Film Festival, August 1-5 in San Antonio

The 24th Annual San Antonio Film Festival kicked off at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts at 100 Auditorium Circle, San Antonio, Texas, on August 1st, 2018.

Longtime director Adam Rocha, who has led the group for 24 years, did not greet us as we drifted in to get our credentials, and my badge, listing me as a Screenplay Finalist for THE COLOR OF EVIL, was MIA. (I was given a VIP badge, instead.)

Most of us waiting for the 6 p.m. kick-off films were directed to a small café across the street called Pharm Market that was heavily in to health food(s). There were literally no soft drinks (like Coca Cola or 7-Up) but there was a table serving free alcoholic beverages (beer and wine) and many strange delicacies that I did not have the time nor inclination to sample.

We headed over to the opening film(s) at 6 p.m. selecting between “Tecumseh, the Last Warrior” directed by Alvarez Studio and Larry Elikann or “They Call Me King Tiger,” directed by Angel Estrada Soto.

6:00 p.m. Premiere Showing was here.

My husband chose the latter film, which had this synopsis:“In June, 1967, the court of Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, was assaulted by armed men under the command of Chicano leader Reies Lopez Tijerina.  The outcome of such bold action was the largest manhunt in the recent history of the United States.  Tijerina managed to survive prison, a psychiatric hospital, and several assassination attempts.  The Chicano movement faded away, and everyone thought the same of Tijerina.  People spoke of him as a saint, a man illuminated, a man that used violence looking for a fair cause.  They called him King Tiger.  King Tiger is alive and he wants to tell his story.”

Some of this was misleading, as King Tiger recently died at age 88 (and insisted that he be dressed in his coffin as a Muslim to illustrate his conviction that he was a prophet; people had to be flown in from Chicago to accomplish this).

The story as told by Director Larry Elikann had a meandering documentary quality that did not serve the  extraordinary story well. There definitely was feature film potential in the story of King Tiger, but this treatment, witnessed by only 9 people sitting on hard-backed chairs, was probably not it.

San Antonio, Texas, Aug. 1-5, 2018

For one thing, this was the Premiere of the film and the Director was not present.

For another, as we moved into the main substance of the story, it was still unclear what injustice, exactly, King Tiger was trying to rectify. It purports to be the story of New Mexico’s Hispanic peoples losing their land to “the gringos,” much like the Indians lost their land to European settlers. Quote:  “These lands were robbed, and we want them back.” The 1848 Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty was at the bottom of much of the dissent, but the terms of that treaty are never spelled out for the viewer.

There were allusions to such historic figures as Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X, but King Tiger’s followers never numbered more than 14,000 to 20,000, from the film’s reckoning, and, when he was a handsome firebrand of a man who had “boundless courage because he was always living in some other realm” he didn’t exercise his power as skillfully as MLK.

A conversation is recounted that supposedly took place between Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy and Chicano leader Reies-Lopez Tijerina. Bobby Kennedy supposedly said, to the firebrand leader, “There was a war.  You lost it and we won it.  Go home.”

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

A Treaty of Hidalgo is constantly mentioned, supposedly transferring one-half of what was then Mexico’s land to the United States.  The statement is made:  “They lost their lands through diverse legal movements, so he (King Tiger) led a campaign to reclaim those lands.”

How devoted the followers were seemed to be one problem. A friend and acquaintance of Reies’ recounted a rally at which Reies asked how many of those present “will fight like a she-dog fights to protect her puppies” to get back the land. He asked them to stand up, if willing. One-third of the men present stood up. Reies then told his followers that those who didn’t stand up should be among the first killed. This took me back to a horrifying documentary I saw at the Chicago International Film Festival about just such neighbor purging neighbor that happened in the Philippines, when the U.S. encouraged the removal of Communists and atrocities were perpetrated, neighbor upon neighbor.

Interior of Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

The film consisted largely of interviews with the extremely elderly (age 88) Reies himself, who wandered on about dreams and angels and was a shadow of his former firebrand self. If anything, it was an object lesson in how death comes for us all and the most dynamic among us will be weakened and withered by time, as Reies definitely had been. His three wives are interviewed and many of his numerous children, some of whom recount beatings at Reies’ hand. The prettiest daughter from his first marriage was incarcerated after Reies formed a small band of armed men and marched on the courthouse.

He then was arrested in a manhunt (2,000 National Guardsmen were searching for him) that was not as dramatic as the program claimed. He said he was in the back seat of a car on the way to Coyote when he was apprehended. Reies is quoted as saying, “I’m chewing up the gringos no matter who is in the middle.”

One of his wives—a second wife who left him—said, “He wanted to be fighting, fighting, fighting. I didn’t want to do anything.” His son by a second marriage remembered that Dad told him: :You are nothing.  You are never going to be a man like I am.” The prettiest daughter, Rosita, who went to prison after the attack Reies engineered on the courthouse, said, “I don’t want to talk about or remember any of that.  I think that people saw him as a terrorist.  All my 6 brothers and I were beaten by him.”

So, not overwhelmingly positive as a leader and Man of the People.

The English subtitles were also rife with errors. Example:  “”Take this (sic)  pills, please.” This was in reference to what was said to be psychological torture that Reies underwent in prison. His first trial, when he defended himself, he was found innocent, but the film suggests that he was a victim of double jeopardy or that various trumped-up charges  kept recurring. One of his wives, Maria Escobar, had a house that was attacked and Reies swears that the attack was by thugs from the government.

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

As nearly as I could determine from the meandering plot and lack of  focus, Reies was declaring that all those lands were taken illegally by District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez and that they were taken from Mexican and sold to white people and Sanchez was the person they hoped to get when they marched on the courthouse.

Just before his death, Reies told the interviewer, “What happened, happened, my friend.” His wife said he asked for forgiveness before he died.

The Awards Ceremony for the San Antonio Film Festival will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday night and the world premiere of “Stella’s Last Weekend,” a new comedy from writer/director Polly Draper (“Thirty Something”) will follow at 9 p.m.

Formerly of “Fame.”

A debut film from Director Jesse Borego (“Fame”) “Closer to Bottom,” will screen on Sunday, August 5th.  It deals with two brothers who are coping with the death of their father when both fall for the same girl.

The San Antonio Film Festival began on August 1st and will conclude with the showing of Boreo’s film on Sunday, August 5th.

AP, CNN Reporters Barred from Scott Pruitt Public Meeting

Difficult as it is to believe, today journalists from CNN and the AP (Associated Press) were physically shoved out of a public meeting chaired by EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, with only those whose names were on a White House list being allowed to enter and report on this public meeting of the PFAS National Leadership Summit. The information being shared was not classified and it was a public meeting. Journalists being banned from a public meeting or mistreated when attempting to attend is why I no longer cover presidential races in the U.S., but focus on film.

The official excuse used by EPA spokesman Jehan Wilcox was that “there wasn’t sufficient room.” Photographs from journalists who were allowed inside showed plenty of room. 

Oliver Darcy, Senior Media Reporter for CNN, was nearly apoplectic as he was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer and Sally Buzbee, AP (Associated Press) Executive Editor also issued a statement denouncing this obvious attempt to stifle the press press.

Wake up, people. This is how dictatorships seize and hang on to power.

Hearing Test Leads to Information on North Korea’s Plight

WARNING: Explicit Language Contained in the Above Trailer

 I decided to go have a hearing test, because my EYE doctor, way back in December in the Quad Cities, before we left town for Texas, clicked something 3 times on each side of my head. I did not hear the final click on the right ear side. He then said I could “go see our audiologist in Rock Island” if I wanted to know if I had any hearing loss.

I was not aware of any hearing loss, but every single teacher friend I have who taught as long as I did talks LOUDLY and, in Silvis, where I taught, the second-hand cheapie heater system they bought when they built the “new” junior high school (in 1969-1970) was horrible. It was LOUD and it threw crap into the air and it leaked gas. So,when I saw that a local business (NewSound Hearing Centers) would give me a complete hearing test with a video microscope and all the trimmings for FREE, I drove myself over there at 2 p.m. and had the whole schmear.

First, they showed me the inside of my ear canals magnified 150 times. (Ugh). One of the comments in the article was that you can have hearing loss simply from waxy build-up. Although the technician pronounced my waxy build-up to NOT be that severe, it looked gross, especially when he was fishing it out with a long instrument. (Double ugh).

Next, we moved to a small room where sounds were played and I was to push the button when I heard the various sounds. My tester was on the other side of the glass of the soundproof booth. I thought I was doing pretty well. Later, I learned I was doing “okay” but everybody has some hearing loss as they age. Mine seemed minimal, as my ear drums were not punctured, but, funny thing, my right ear was doing much better than my left ear, but it was the right ear that I could not hear the top “clicking” sound in December. I was not surprised that my right ear is doing most of the real work. My right eye is, too. My vision when I (finally) had lasik surgery some years ago was 20/70 in my right eye and only 20/200 (legally blind) in my left. After lasik, my vision in my “good” right eye was 20/15 and the vision in my “bad” left eye was 20/20.

At one point, as he set up to read my scores of words which I was to repeat back to him, I found myself  waiting for him and began reading the article next to the ad in the local “Austin American Statesman” newspaper, and I have to say, it turned out to be interesting. (*On the “repeat these words” tests, I scored 96% with each ear, missing only the word “dime”—I heard “dine”—-and “lock” when I heard “locked.”) These small miscues did not strike me as something to worry about, but I was glad to have a baseline hearing test for my impending deafness (!) and I left without any  hearing aids.

However, while I was waiting for the testing person to set up one test, I read the article NEXT to the free ad in the “Austin Statesman” and it was actually pretty interesting. Here are the salient facts in THAT article:

FOOD, FACTS TRICKLE INTO CUT-OFF NORTH KOREA

Image result for Jung Gwang il
                           Jung Gwan-il Image (from Wikipedia)

That was the heading and I learned that a former North Korean prisoner, Jung Gwang-il, has taken it upon himself to send bottles into North Korea from South Korea. He does this two times a month, when the tides are right. He and his helpers toss hundreds of bottles into the Han River to be carried downstream, hoping that the bottles will end up in the hands of some of the North Koreans, who are hungry for both food AND information.

So, what goes in these bottles? This is where it got interesting, for me.

A flash drive is put in the bottles , and on the USB sticks is a video of “The Wall,” a movie about a North Korean poet by an Irish director and, quite interestingly, the Seth Rogen film “The Interview,” a low-brow comedy in which Rogen and James Franco attempt to assassinate Kim Jong Un. To say that this movie was low humor is putting it mildly. “The Interview” was so hard on Kim Jung Un that it is thought the computer hack of Sony was caused by the dictator’s anger about the movie. (After all, he has cut the heads off relatives for far less, including a half brother’s!)

The Kim Jung Un family has been in power for over 7 decades and, in addition to the 2 films mentioned above, there is video of a North Korean musical group’s performance in Seoul in February. There were also micro-SD cards that can be put into phones.

When escapees from North Korea were interviewed in 2015, 81% reported having watched foreign media on USB drives while still in the country. The group doing all this is known as No Chain and they join others who have flown balloons over the border carrying information and goods and other illegal methods of smuggling information and food into the extremely poor country that spends all of its money on its military.

 Korean churches donate 3 pounds of rice per bottle, and the Human Rights Foundation in New York donates USBs as part of its “Flashdrives for Freedom” project.

Three pounds of rice is worth about TWO MONTHS’ SALARY for a state worker in North Korea. It’s no wonder that ships have reported seeing the bottles being fished out of the Han River. Let’s hope this and the soon-coming meetings between North and South Korean leaders gives the downtrodden people of North Korea a better life.

Said Thae Yong Ho, who was North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London until his dramatic escape in 2016:  “We should educate the North Korean people so that they can have their own Korean Spring.”

Signs from the Resistance in Chicago on Jan. 21st, 2017

My good friend Mary Gerace took part in the Chicago Women’s March yesterday and has prepared this report on the signs that TV didn’t show us.

“After marching from Columbus and Congress to Michigan Avenue, I stepped up on the sidewalk to do some serious sign reading; I then did the same on Jackson Blvd. These were memorable:

  • I’ve seen better cabinets at Ikea
  • 2018 We shall overcomb!
  • And you thought we were mad last year
  • So, Trump who?
  • Prevent Truth Decay
  • Super Callous Fragile Sexist Racist Nazi Potus
    (Must be of a certain age to get it, I’d say; Mary Poppins would approve.)
  • Witchhunt: I’m a witch and I’m hunting you
  • Respect Existence or Expect Resistance
  • The power of the people is stronger than the people in power! We Decide
  • Does this ass (drawing of Trump) make my country look smaller?
  • (Under photos of Trump, Pence, Ryan and McConnell) Do these asses make my sign look fat?
  • (Drawing of the White House) Sex offenders CANNOT live in government housing!
  • If HILLARY were PRESIDENT we’d all be at BRUNCH
  • EMERGENCY ALERT: Threat to democracy – Inbound to Mar-a-Lago – Seek immediate impeachment -This is not a drill
  • Without Hermione, Harry would have died in Book One
  • Remove the Malicious Mango
  • Out with the Dope, In with the Hope
  • Snowflakes turn into avalanches
  • It takes a snowflake to start an avalanche
  • I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change; I am changing the things I cannot accept.
  • Vote with heart because they don’t have one
  • White people renovating houses, Congressional edition
  • My mom is pissed!!!
  • If you’re not terrified, you’re not paying attention
  • If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention
  • Too depressed to be funny!
  • The reasons why I march will not fit on just one sign
  • Global warming is not a liberal conspiracy
  • Make America Hate Again! Oh, you thought he meant GREAT?
    Well, you know how he tends to say one thing and do the exact opposite.
    He’s very presidential like that.
  • Norway, please help us!
  • Keep your tweets off my rights
  • Girls just want to have FUNdamental human rights
  • Grab them by the Ballot Box
  • Grab ’em by the Mid-Terms
  • Grab him by the Putin
  • New Public Trust Poll: Trump 24% Gas Station Sushi 26%
  • So sex offenders can’t live within 1000 feet of a park or school but Trump lives in the White House?
  • (Drawing of Trump) I don’t always use mouthwash but when I do it’s Fleet
  • I will not go quietly back to the 1950s
  • REsisters
  • So bad, even introverts are here
  • (Photo of Robert Mueller) Make America Great Again
  • Vaginas brought you into the world; Vaginas will vote you out
  • We aren’t going anywhere except to the polls
  • RIP GOP
  • Trump Shutdown: Nice deal, Donny
  • (Photos of Trump and Kim Jong-un) The Moron Terror
  • I didn’t see my favorite sign from last year this time, but here it is:
  • Give him hell until he goes back there

And that’s your report from the field.”

https://www.gamevillage.com/

 

Card Company Announces on AOL That They Are Going to Save America with $15 Stunt

The dirty and sometimes downright offensive game Cards Against Humanity is back with another stunt, and this time they’re taking aim at one of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises.The company announced its holiday promotion on Tuesday, called Cards Against Humanity Saves America. Essentially, the company purchased a plot of vacant land on the border of the United States and Mexico, making it extremely difficult for Trump to build his expensive border wall which the U.S. taxpayers will inevitably pay for.

CardsAgainstHumanity 

✔@CAH

The government is being run by a toilet. We have no choice… we are going to save America and attempt to keep our brand relevant in 2017

Join in and for $15 we’ll send you six America-saving surprises this December: http://CardsAgainstHumanitySavesAmerica.com 

Cards Against Humanity Saves America

It’s 2017, and the government is being run by a toilet. We have no choice: Cards Against Humanity is going to save America.

cardsagainsthumanitysavesamerica.com

 

“Donald Trump is a preposterous golem who is afraid of Mexicans. He is so afraid that he wants to build a $20 billion wall that everyone knows will accomplish nothing,” the website reads. “So we’ve purchased a plot of vacant land on the border and retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and as expensive as possible for the wall to be built.”

Fork over $15 of your hard-earned cash to Cards, and they’ll send you “six surprises” in the month of December, including an illustrated map of the land, a certificate of promise to fight the wall, and some new cards.

Given the nature of the game, the company has no problem being a bit brash, and because they are self-owned, and don’t rely on big box stores to push their product, the company can get away with a bit more.

On it’s FAQ page for the new expansion, one question asks: I don’t like that you’re getting political. Why don’t you just stick to card games?

Their answer? Why don’t you stick to seeing how many Hot Wheels cars you can fit up your ass?

The card game is well known for its stunts, like digging a giant hole, destroying valuable pieces of art, and offering nothing, yes, nothing, for $5.

 

Dan Rather Appears at Texas Book Festival in Support of “What Unites Us:” Says “Civil Dissent Is As American As Apple Pie.”

Veteran CBS newsman Dan Rather, a Houston native, came to the First Baptist Church in Austin at noon on Saturday (November 4, 2017) to talk about his new book “What Unites Us.”  His appearance was part of the Texas Book Festival, which is one of the largest and one of the most prestigious literary festivals in the country, featuring 250+ nationally and critically recognized adult and children’s authors, 20+ venues (including the State Capital), 80+ exhibitors and live music.

Later in the day (4:00 p.m.), Rather’s spot would be taken by Tom Hanks, talking about his new book of short stories, a compilation united by his love for collecting old typewriters.

But at noon on Saturday, November 4th, Rather sat down with an interviewer and answered questions:

The First Baptist Church in Austin hosted Dan Rather. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Q:  When did nationalism become essentially white nationalism?

A:  I think the sixties spawned this. It was a very difficult period.  I do think that, coming out of the sixties, as an “experienced skeptic,” the tragedy of President Nixon and his appealing to Southern state white racists was not a good thing. Remember: Nixon was successful. He was re-elected two times with overwhelming majorities.  He proved that you can win if you appeal to white supremacists.  We’re now paying the price of what started in the sixties.

We need to pause and take a deep breath.  Our national motto is “E Pluribus Unum”:  “Out of many, one.” We can make it work.

Q:  The slogan “make America great again.” It seems to be asking us to go back to the fifties. Is that true?

A:  There’s no going back to the 1950s and, by the way, the 1950s were not that great (laughter from crowd).  We can’t do it.  Those who try will not succeed.

Texas Book Festival.

Moderator:  “You’re literally whistling Dixie, Dan.” (laughter from audience).  There’s a perception that all this started on January 20th with President Trump’s Inauguration. Is that right?

A:  It started at least as far back as the 1970s or 1980s.  We’re realists. We recognize when we’re wrong. After 9/11 we pulled ourselves together.  Now we are at a decision point:  re-dedicate ourselves to belief in the institutions, values, drive and forward movement of the American Dream.

Q:  You have written your book in terms of 6 essays on such things as Freedom, Character, Responsibility, Science, Empathy and Exploration.  I’d like to ask you about science, in particular.

A:  We can’t move the country forward with post-truth.  There are no “alternative facts.”  I don’t care if you have a degree from Harvard or Stanford, it is ridiculous:  2 + 2 = 4. We know the difference between bullshit and brass tacks.  Water does not run uphill:  Gravity is a fact.

Q:  What makes this unique? All Presidents have sometimes dissembled?

A:  What makes this unique and not moral is these daily statements are not true. No President has ever told so many lies so brazenly and so perpetually. Also, his constant attacks on the free press are unprecedented.  It’s a post-truth where facts don’t matter, and it’s dangerous.

Moderator:  “In your empathy essay you say that we seem to have lost the power to be empathetic.

From the First Baptist Church in downtown Austin, Texas. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

A:  I don’t necessarily feel that way.  We see empathy in the American people all the time:  People are civil, wanting to help.  These are very strong values that Americans prize, and we saw it following the recent natural catastrophes.

What is unworthy of us, as Americans, is a week-long debate about the President of the United States’ words to a grieving widow. Any decent person would have called her back or sent her a note of apology. That is the real spirit of the American heart.

Q:  Let me ask you about your “Dissent” essay.

A:  Yes. Dissent is being discouraged. Civil dissent in America is as American as apple pie.

Q:  What makes our situation right now so perilous, in your view?

A:  I want to be careful about drawing a line between Watergate and the place our country finds itself in now.  Watergate was bad, but it was internal. Now, we have a foreign power intervening and interfering in our democratic process. That is an enormous difference.  Also, the media landscape is different.  It used to be that newspapers were important.  Iphones and social media did not exist.

Q:  Do you think it was better then, or better now?

Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

A:  Overall, I think it is better now to have the Internet. The Internet, when used properly, is a tremendous resource.  Today, the greatest opportunity of the Internet is to educate, but a greater burden is placed on the user.

Rather ended his remarks to a standing ovation from a  crowd of roughly 700 people and left the Church so that Tom Hanks could take his place at 4:00 p.m.

Vanessa Redgrave’s Directorial Debut, “Sea Sorrow,” Documents the Refugee Crisis in Europe

In her directorial debut after a lengthy career as a much-lauded actress, Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave takes on a cause near and dear to her heart in “Sea Sorrow.” That cause is trying to alleviate the refugee crisis affecting Europe right now, with displaced persons—many of them unaccompanied children—streaming in, 70 new people a day at a camp called Jungle Camp in Calais.

Of those numbers, 800 are children with 387 of them eligible to join relatives in the country to which they fled, but bureaucratic indifference or actual opposition dooming progress.
Only Greece seems to be trying to set an example for the rest of the world, although Germany’s Angela Merkle also has done much to help and Canada’s Justin Trudeau was also singled out for praise. Donald J. Trump, of course, has proposed numerous travel bans and seems to have no core moral philosophy guiding his “executive decrees,” [other than to build a wall against Mexico and ban travelers from other lands.] Trump was not mentioned by name in the documentary, which, instead, interviewed the refugees, themselves, and those working hard against overwhelming odds to try to help them. The entire message of the 74-minute documentary could be summed up this way, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Early estimates of the numbers of unaccompanied children entering the country in countries like Greece, Italy, Calais (France), and Dunkirk were 26,000, but more accurate surveying revealed that the number was really closer to 95,000.
Redgrave urges, “Bring back the idea that we’re all humanity.” Jemma Redgrave (actress) is shown saying, “I find it unbearable that there are children living in camps who are denied any assistance. We have to stand up as parents and human beings and not accept the appalling status quo.”

Redgrave hopes the film will educate a generation and a half to the existing mandates, written and adopted after World War II, to stand up for human rights.
There is a film clip of Eleanor Roosevelt addressing the United Nations during the 1945 Declaration of Human Rights, issued after the defeat of Fascism. The film comments on the European Convention on Human Rights (UNHCR, 1951) and the 1989 Rights of the Child legislation, all of which, she said, are being ignored.

It is Redgrave’s feeling that the battle must be won through the courts, using these existing pieces of legislation to force nations that have become insular and unwilling to accept these displaced populations, to do the right thing and help unaccompanied orphans and children streaming into Europe, as well as the entire families who are fleeing for their lives. Precautions against the entry of terrorists are, of course, implicit and already in place in most countries, but the lives of innocent men, women and children are also on the line.

Not only Redgrave, but House of Lords member Lord Dubs, whose own history goes back to World War II when his parents escaped the Nazis, gave the shocked audience actual data on the crisis. It was originally thought there were 26,000 unaccompanied minor children, but the real number turned out to be closer to 96,000 and 10,000 of these poor souls have completely disappeared.

When you hear stories like that of 22-year-old Hamidi, who fled Afghanistan after witnessing the murder of both his mother and his father right in front of him (he was also shot as he fled), who walked 3 months on foot with $8,000 Euros gathered from friends and relatives to finance the trip and then was loaded onto a boat meant for 40 with 80 souls (Twelve fell overboard or died on the boat).

Another young boy spent 11 hours on a boat to Bari; it took him 2 months to flee from Tripoli. These people are desperate and are treated very poorly and inaccurately by mainstream media, according to Carlo Nero. Of the 86% of refugees who entered the UK, the United Kingdom provides support for less than 1%. The words on the base of the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.”) have gone out the window in the U.S., along with common human decency to our own citizens in many places under the Trump administration. Be careful in screening immigrants, yes, but push for the equality and dignity of defenseless refugees fleeing death and destruction in their native lands.

The opportunities for human trafficking and other such misdeeds at camp’s like Calais, France’s The Jungle are high
. “Bring back the idea that we’re all humanity,” pleads Redgrave, and one short clip gives a little bit of her own childhood remembrance of the burning of the Coventry Cathedral during the blitz. (November 14, 1940, when she was just 3). She still has nightmares about approaching fire.

The biggest injustice, it seemed, was that, of the 378 children in the Calais camp known as “The Jungle” (which was torn down in October of this year), 178 had relatives who would have taken them in, under the terms of the Dublin Treaty. Said Redgrave, “It is simply a matter of political will.”

Rallies were shown with touching scenes of young refugees thanking their rescuers while wearing shirts with the message “Choose Love.” Seventy new people a day join their ranks. Said Redgrave, “They are brave young people with real courage.” No one denies the need for security precautions, but common human decency is also necessary.

We learn some of the history of why Redgrave feels so passionately about this cause and why Lord Dubs has thrown in his efforts to assist her. An old copy of the newspaper the Manchester Guardian dated 1938 is read by film star Emma Thompson, in which average citizens write in saying they are ready, willing and able to help. Why won’t our government let us help? (Most notably E. Sylvia Pankhurst of Essex wrote, who willingly would have taken some of the refugees that were spirited out of Germany during the Holocaust in an operation known as Kindertransport.) Redgrave mused on “The Diary of Anne Frank.” The young Jewish teenaged girl who lived in hiding from the Nazis for two years in Amsterdam, wrote, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are basically good.”

Redgrave’s feeling: “You’ve got to litigate. The courts are ruling every single time that the government is wrong, but the government appeals. And that’s where we are…We people can change things, but we’ve got some very hard work to do. None of us should feel hopeless. You have to get groups of them and say, ‘This is wrong and we’re going to do everything we can to change it.’”
No stranger to controversy following her Oscar acceptance speech in 1978, her attempt(s) to do good here will, no doubt, incite further controversy, but her message, with 10 people dying a day, was, “The Greek people are showing the world how to help fellow human beings. Now, we have to tell our governments they have to step in.” She urged a common European policy be adopted.

There are some sad stories with happy endings, like that of 14-year-old David from Eritrea, whose parents both drowned on their way to Italy. He spent 9 months in Rome until the group Safe Passage found his Aunt in England and he was allowed to go live with her. “These are inspirational people and a lot of them are young people,” said Redgrave, of the volunteers. She, at 80, said she is willing to go with the film to colleges and elsewhere to help spread the word about the refugee crisis and to let a whole generation know about human rights law that is currently being ignored and violated.

The film’s title comes not only from the harrowing scenes of boatloads of refugees (and even the famous photo of a young two-year-old boy, drowned, dead on the beach in Greece that stunned the world) arriving and being helped ashore by the Greek officials, but from Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.”

At the end of the film, Ralph Fiennes reads the scene from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” where Prospero is speaking to Miranda about how they were “Hurried them upon a boat—a rotten carcass of a boat.”

“How came we ashore?” asks Miranda.

“By Providence Divine. Sit still and hear the rest of our sea sorrow.”

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire: Donald Trump Jr.’s Russian Meetings

You’ll seldom find me agreeing with arch Republican columnist Charles Krauthammer, but his editorial entitled “Bungled Collusion Is Still Collusion” of Sunday, July 16th (Quad City Times) contains some sentiments that I want to share with you. And then I’ll include some remarks from “the other side.”

Quoting Krauthammer re the burgeoning Donald Trump, Jr. Russian meeting and Russian collusion, in general: “My view was, Collusion? I just don’t see it. But I’m open to empirical evidence. Show me. The evidence is now shown. This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks. This is an e-mail chain released by Donald Trump Jr. himself.” Krauthammer continues: “Once you’ve said, ‘I’m in,’ it makes no difference that the meeting was a bust, that the intermediary brought no such goods. What matters is what Donald Jr. thought going into the meeting, as well as Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, who were copied on the correspondence, invited to the meeting, and attended.” (8 people, in all, were present).


Krauthammer goes on to say: “It’s rather pathetic to hear Trump apologists protesting that it’s no big deal because we American are always intervening in other people’s elections and they in ours.” He goes on to say this is RUSSIA, our sworn adversary, and says, “This defense is pathetic for two reasons. First, have the Trumpites not been telling us for 6 months that no collusion ever happened? And now they say, ‘Sure it happened. So what? Everyone does it.’ He concluded that, no, not everyone does it (Gergen offered oral testimony that both the JFK campaigns and the Al Gore campaign said no to such foreign assistance offered to their campaigns) and said, “But it is not merely stupid. It is also deeply wrong, a fundamental violation of any code of civic honor.”

Just before typing this excerpt from a columnist with whom I seldom agree, I listened to David Gergen explain on television that the presidency requires someone in that office who sets a moral tone for the entire administration and the entire country. This seems self-evident and easy to understand, but that standard is not being met by the White House’s current occupant, whose ethics officer, Walter Schoud, just resigned, saying that the White House, unlike the 2 previous administrations, is doing nothing to cooperate with them on ethics violations and continues to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which forbids a president or his family from profiting from the office while holding it. The fact that Donald Trump is constantly promoting his businesses is a given. Schaud said he told Donald Sr. numerous times that he must withdraw from his private holdings and shouldn’t be seen at his numerous golf courses (all but 4 weekends in office he has been playing golf at one of them or at Mar A Lago), thereby promoting that business. It was widely reported that the dues at Mar A Lago, Trump’s private Florida club, doubled from $100,000 to $200,000 after his election.

The Donald

Leonard Pitts Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004.
His editorial is entitled “What Is Wrong with Trump?” Pitt does not mince words. In his Monday, July 17th essay, African-American writer Pitt said: “This has been said a million times: Donald Trump is a lying, narcissistic, manifestly incompetent child man who is as dumb as a sack of mackerel. But he is the president of the United States because 63 million people preferred that to facing inevitable cultural change. So I am done asking—or caring—what’s wrong with him. Six months in, it’s time we grappled with a far more important question. What in the world is wrong with us?” (Quad City Times, p. A4)

In conclusion, I would refer you to my own Letter to the Editor, which appeared in the Sunday paper (Moline “Dispatch”). (It was on one of those annoying fold-over ad portions that you want to immediately rip off and throw away, so I doubt if many saw it on p. A11, which I almost could not find.)

I put my original letter on my blog in its entirety (scroll back) because generally my letters to the editor are round-filed without comment. I’ve sent 3 letters to the “Dispatch” editor and never once have they used one or contacted me to say it needed to be changed in some fashion. One letter was sent by snail mail on letterhead.

While I am glad that one (of 3) letters I took the time to write finally did see the light of day, I wrote today to ask why the credentials of all other writers are generally placed after their names. My credentials for writing a letter about our current political situation were placed at the end of my letter when I submitted it, but there was no mention of my having been named Content Producer of the Year (’08) for Politics by Yahoo (in 2009) or my 2 wins from the Illinois Women’s Press Association as the Best Writer of the Year in a contest judged by experts from the Chicago area, not by its members. (I won the Silver Feather Award, as it is known, in both 2012 and 2014.)


And I didn’t even mention the 2 books that came from my coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, or the fact that I (also) covered 2004 and 2012. As per usual, no response to my e-mail asking why my credentials were completely absent. Read my entire letter on here, but know that it concluded this way: “Trump’s arrogance at home and abroad has isolated us on the world stage and his inability to know how to behave as our representative is a national embarrassment.”

Driskell Hotel, Austin, Texas

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