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!
In the spirit of her full-length book “Laughing through Life” that featured humorous stories of child-rearing and general life, Connie has written humor columns for a variety of newspapers, which Erma Bombeck’s widower described as being very much like her columns when presented with a book at an Ohio writing festival.
The name Del Close is not one most of us associate with the pre-eminent comedians of the past twenty-five years, but we should.
In the documentary “For Madmen Only” from Heather Ross, narrated by Michaela Watkins we learn about this guru of comedy who helped discover and ultimately shape such talents as Bill Murray and Chris Farley.
The number of talking heads who pay homage to Del Close as their teacher is lengthy. Here is a quick look at who you will find in this documentary talking about Del Close: Robin Williams, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Patton Oswalt, Mike Myers, Will Farrell, Chris Farley, Steven Colbert, Jon Favreau, George Wendt, director Adam McKay, Ike Barinholtz, John Belushi, Harold Ramis, Dave Thomas, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Catharine O’Hara, Jason Sudeikis, Rachel Dratch, Howard Hesseman, Tim Meadows, Mike Nichols, Elaine May and “Better Call Saul’s” Bob Odenkirk.
The early performances onstage by famous comics is legendary.
Who was Del Close? And what, exactly, did he do to help that impressive list of comics get their start?
Amy Pohler in “For Madmen Only.”
John Belushi in “For Madmen Only.”
In 1960 Close moved to Chicago, his home base for much of the rest of his life, to perform and direct at Second City, but was fired due to substance abuse. He spent the latter half of the 1960s in San Francisco where he was the house director of improv ensemble The Committee. He toured with the Merry Pranksters, and created light shows for Grateful Dead shows. In 1972 he returned to Chicago and to Second City. He also directed and performed for Second City’s troupe in Toronto, in 1977. Prior to those Chicago years with Second City, Close had, at age 23, become a member of the Compass Players in St. Louis.
Del Close was certifiable. He ran away from home at the age of 17 and joined the circus, working as a fire-eater and being shot from a cannon. He spent time in mental hospitals and was checked out to do his show in Chicago and then checked back in to the Cook County Hospital Psych Ward. He had had a complete breakdown while supervising the Great White North in Toronto in 1976, a Second City outpost.
From a troubled childhood that saw Del’s alcoholic neglectful father commit suicide came a highly intelligent and highly creative comic genius who was devoted to promoting improvisation as an entirely separate art form, which he called “Harold.” He also supervised a magazine for D.C. Comics called “The Wasteland,” although he admits, “Most of our readership didn’t quite get it.”
This documentary written by Alan Samuel Golman and Heather Ross describes Close as “a living legend in comedy.” Bill Murray organized a deathbed party for the inveterate smoker, who refused to quit even when emphysema was killing him.
Jason Sudeikis of “Ted Lasso” on “For Madmen Only.”
The Del stories involving pot, alcohol and psychedelics never quit, starting with groups like the Merry Pranksters and continuing on until his death. Close died on March 4, 1999, at the Illinois Masonic Hospital (now the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center) in Chicago, five days before his 65th birthday. An early birthday party was held for him by Bill Murray, who summoned many of Del’s former students to his bedside, a party which is on film in the documentary.
Close bequeathed his skull to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre to be used in its productions of Hamlet, and specified that he be duly credited in the program as portraying Yorick. Charna Halpern, Close’s long-time professional partner and the executor of his will, donated a skull—purportedly Close’s—to the Goodman in a high-profile televised ceremony on July 1, 1999.
A front-page article in the Chicago Tribune in July 2006 questioned the authenticity of the skull, citing the presence of teeth (Close had no teeth at the time of his death) and autopsy marks (Close was not autopsied), among other problems.
Halpern stood by her story at the time, but admitted in a The New Yorker interview three months later that she had purchased the skull from a local medical supply company. Halpern is shown onscreen bemoaning the fact that the public learned that this was not, in truth, Del Close’s real skull.
This film is a tribute to the creative comic who lived and taught this credo: “You have a light within you. Burn it out.”
“For Madmen Only” premiered on July 27th and is available on Apple TV and Altovid
My apologies to all who thought—as I did—that Weekly in the title Weekly Wilson meant that I would not go more than a week without posting.
I have excuses.
Mostly, the excuses involve my always-rocky relationship with computers.
The hinge on my laptop somehow came undone. So, no laptop to write my post on and most of the graphics I’d need are within said laptop. Computer Revolutions scavenged a new top from an old computer and ordered and installed a new hinge. They did this between Friday and Tuesday, but I still was without a computer recently.
In the meantime, I tried to go downstairs and use my desk top.
Can’t make it type even a letter to the sister for her birthday. Not sure why. Could be “updates.” Could be that I owe money for something that I don’t know about. After all, we were gone from November through May, so various “updates” had to be installed.
Now that I’m (more-or-less) back, I’d like to recommend some viewing, including “Start Up,” which features Martin Freeman and Ron Perlman in a tale from Miami about the Internet, which also features Academy-Award winning actress Mira Sorvino, whom you seldom see onscreen. (Her career a Harvey Weinstein casualty, I believe).
We started watching “The Ice Road” last night, the #1 rental on Netflix with Liam Neeson. When we got to the point where both trucks were on their sides, I asked how they were going to get them both upright again. Still don’t know, as the film quit loading/running.
Last, but not least, Sally Hawkins (the deaf mute girl in “The Shape of Water”) and “Terry” (from “Ray Donovan,” as portrayed by Eddie Marsan) appeared on my late-night television viewing in “Happy-Go-Lucky” and I heartily recommend this film if you are in the market for an upbeat film (from 2008) that has a lot to say about optimism in the face of life’s normal setbacks. (Preview above).
Liz Cheney within the Capitol (Photo courtesy of the Denver Post).
The following represents Liz Cheney’s statement, in its entirety, as she took a stand against Donald J. Trump. It took 15 minutes to throw Cheney out. Now, over 100+ Republicans have announced that they may form a break-away party. Talking heads predict that this is an inflection point and the party may be beyond repair.
From this point forward, Teresa Hanafin of The Boston Globe fills you in, with Liz Cheney’s own statement as she was drummed from her position as #3 Republican leader in a 15-minute meeting in Washington, D.C. today, which saw her booed and which was poorly attended by the Republicans, themselves:
Liz Cheney and backlash over her anti-Trump stance.
“This morning, US House Republicans sacrificed Liz Cheney on the altar of Trump, purging her from the ranks of leadership because of her refusal to lie about the 2020 presidential election.
Her belief in democracy and the rule of law is just too inconvenient for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his ilk, her insistence that the party grow up and stop groveling before the Mar-a-Lago narcissist too embarrassing.
They’re angry that she’s pointing out their moral bankruptcy as they support Trump’s continued assault on democracy. They’re upset that she’s highlighting their willingness to set aside principle in order to grab power.
So she had to go.
Even as Cheney’s principled stance has been universally praised by those not in thrall to Trump, some on the left aren’t willing to give her a pass, given her hard-right positions on just about everything.
She supported her father, former VP Dick Cheney, when he told another Big Lie about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. She favors waterboarding, insisting it isn’t torture. She said Hillary Clinton’s handling of her e-mails was worse than Trump’s disgusting comments about sexually assaulting women. She accused then-president Barack Obama of deliberately wanting to shrink the economy and weaken the US abroad.
“Liberals responded to Trump’s derangements by bathing the Bush-Cheney crowd in a flattering nostalgic light,” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote. In Salon, writer Chauncey DeVega called Cheney “a friendly fascist” who supported virtually all of Trump’s policies.
She’s no centrist.
But as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine points out, these complaints from some liberals ignores just how profoundly significant her stance really is.
To place her policy positions on the same level as her fight for democracy, Chait argues, is to say that the rule of law is just another issue. He writes:
“Cheney’s decision to challenge the party on democracy is remarkable for several reasons.
“First, she is putting the issue squarely. Rather than softening her line or couching her stance in the logic of messaging (i.e., Trump’s rhetoric will hurt Republicans with swing voters), she is straightforwardly instructing her fellow Republicans that their current path is a menace to the Constitution and the rule of law.
“Second, she has absolutely nothing to gain and a great deal to lose.
“And third, the fact she is such a dogmatic right-winger on economic, social, and foreign policy gives her support for democracy more, not less, weight. The very point of her dissent is that support for democracy ought to be separated from policy outcomes.
“Republicans should not succumb to the temptation of siding with a would-be authoritarian merely because he promises to advance their policy goals. ‘He’ll undermine the Constitution, but give us low capital gains taxes and friendly judges’ is not a morally defensible trade-off.
“Democracy is the one question not subject to horse-trading.”
Cheney addressed her GOP colleagues before the quick voice vote that removed her.
“If you want leaders who will enable and spread [Trump’s] destructive lies, I’m not your person. You have plenty of others to choose from,” she said. “That will be their legacy.”
“But I promise you this: After today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism, to defending our republic, to making the GOP worthy again of being the party of Lincoln.”
When Cheney emerged from the meeting, she told reporters that she would continue her fight to protect democracy, and that she would do everything she could to make sure that Trump “never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”
Last week, I pointed you to Cheney’s essay in The Washington Post in which she made the point that Trump’s insistence that the election was stolen from him led to the murderous assault on the Capitol, and could provoke violence again.
Last night, she spoke to a mostly empty House chamber — the Republicans who had been giving speeches about “cancel culture” didn’t have the guts to stick around to listen to her — and talked about freedom, the Constitution, and duty.
LIZ CHENEY’S SPEECH IN ITS ENTIRETY:
Trump/Cheney/McCarthy: Three on a Match
Mister Speaker, tonight I rise to discuss freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it.
I have been privileged to see firsthand how powerful and how fragile freedom is. Twenty-eight years ago, I stood outside a polling place, a schoolhouse in western Kenya. Soldiers had chased away people who were lined up to vote. A few hours later, they came streaming back in, risking further attack, undaunted in their determination to exercise their right to vote.
In 1992, I sat across a table from a young mayor in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and I listened to him talk of his dream of liberating his nation from communism. Years later, for his dedication to the cause of freedom, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated by Vladimir Putin’s thugs.
In Warsaw, in 1990, I listened to a young Polish woman tell me that her greatest fear was that people would forget, they would forget what it was like to live under Soviet domination, that they would forget the price of freedom.
Three men — an immigrant who escaped Castro’s totalitarian regime, a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and became his country’s minister of defense, and a dissident who spent years in the Soviet gulag — have all told me it was the miracle of America captured in the words of President Ronald Reagan that inspired them.
And I have seen the power of faith and freedom. I listened to Pope John Paul II speak to thousands in Nairobi in 1985, and 19 years later, I watched that same pope take my father’s hands, look in his eyes, and say, “God Bless America.”
God has blessed America, but our freedom only survives if we protect it, if we honor our oath, taken before God in this chamber, to support and defend the Constitution, if we recognize threats to freedom when they arise.
Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.
Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.
I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law. The Electoral College has voted. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple judges the former president appointed, have rejected his claims. The Trump Department of Justice investigated the former president’s claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them.
The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process.
Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.
Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar.
I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.
As the party of Reagan, Republicans have championed democracy, won the Cold War, and defeated the Soviet communists. Today, America is on the cusp of another Cold War – this time with communist China. Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure.
We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.
I received a message last week from a Gold Star father who said, “Standing up for the truth honors all who gave all.” We must all strive to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who have died for our freedom. They are the patriots Katherine Lee Bates described in the words of “America the Beautiful” when she wrote,
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life!
Ultimately, this is at the heart of what our oath requires – that we love our country more. That we love her so much that we will stand above politics to defend her. That we will do everything in our power to protect our constitution and our freedom – that has been paid for by the blood of so many. We must love America so much that we will never yield in her defense.
“Recovery,” a film written by Whitney Everton and Stephen Meek was my first film of Day #2 of SXSW Online Film Festival. Two sisters, Jamie (Whitney Call) and Blake (Mallory Everton) Jerikovic stage an across-the-country trip to rescue their Nanna from an old folks’ home during the pandemic.
It is one of the few—-perhaps only—films I’ve seen that completely embraces Covid-19 in its storyline. I don’t mean documentaries, of which I’ve seen several, but a feature film with Covid as a central storyline with the emphasis on the light side.
The traveling sisters (Whitney and Mallory) have actually been best friends since the age of nine in real life. The delightful home-made videos at the end confirms their easy familiarity. They are also sketch comedy veterans of “Comedy C” and do a wonderful job of embodying their characters and (for Mallory) in writing the screenplay. Comedy is not easy to write. It needs to be as light and fluffy as a souffle. These two seem like the likely heirs apparent to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
When the film opens, Jamie (Whitney Call) is celebrating her 30th birthday. The coronavirus is not yet a thing. Jamie is a teacher of 4th graders. She is thinking about buying airline or hotel stock and investing in a pricey gym membership. Sister Blake (Mallory Everton) has just had a one-night stand with a cute guy named Scott; that is another topic of conversation. They are unaware that they are about to be frozen in time by the pandemic. In the background of the next few scenes we hear the disheartening news of 51,000 deaths on March 30 of 2020. (If nothing else, this film will be a great, but not depressing, time capsule.)
Upon learning of the ravages of coronavirus on Nana’s nursing home, the pair, headquartered in New Mexico, at first are counting on their older married sister, Erin (Julia Jolley), who lives in Washington closer to Nanna, to ride to the rescue. Paulina Jerockova (Anna SwerdHansen), their beloved Nana, needs to be moved out of the nursing home as quickly as possible—a plot point that is factual, as one-third of all deaths in the United States took place in the close quarters of nursing homes.
The husband of Whitney Call, Stephen Meek, helped write and direct this light-hearted film, and I recommend it for those who want to see the comedy stars of tomorrow.
Unfortunately, Erin (Julia Jolley) is off on a cruise with her husband. (“The tickets were so cheap,” to which the sisters in New Mexico respond, “Yes, because it’s a death trap!”)
There are so many funny things in this 80-minute film that I enjoyed, even if I did have to watch it at 10 a.m. after covering some late-night films. I was relieved to discover that it wasn’t a grim documentary about surviving some horrible illness (since I had forgotten exactly what I signed up early for), but a light-hearted distraction that audiences perfect for our time.
First, there is a sub-plot about the fourth grade class pet mice. Before the duo rides off to rescue Nana, Jamie must make arrangements for the mice to be cared for by one of her students’ families. Student Jacob Harper promises to take care of the mice, Bert and Ernie. It turns out that Ernie should have been named Ernestine and gives birth to mice babies. This does not go over well with Mrs. (Ainsley) Harper, who threatens retaliation. This plays out as a cell phone conversation
There’s a funny bit about the girls really getting into their music while driving and pounding on their car horn as they tool down the Interstate. Next to them on the highway is an elderly man on a motorcycle. The girls roll their window down to explain their innocent exuberance. Thinking that they are honking AT him, the Hell’s Angel Senior spits through the open window of their car. The panic over strange spit is merited and very funny.
There is the potential hottie “Scott,” of whom Blake says, “I seriously met him at the worst moment in history.” After sending Scott several funny (but meant to be endearing) memes, she gets a text from Scott’s roommate, saying Scott has died of Covid-19. Now THAT doesn’t sound “funny,” so….
Scott has simply panicked. He tried to think of a way out of responding appropriately to Blake’s memes. His idea of an “appropriate” response is, [after revealing that he is NOT dead], sending an inappropriate personal picture and then texting Blake to ask her for her Hulu password. (Someone calling himself “LibraryGuy” once sent me a totally unwelcome pic. Use your imagination on this one.)
The excuse for Scott’s inexplicable behavior? “He’s probably just stressed about Covid.” That, or he is incurably out-of-it, but the lengths to which Scott has gone do come off as funny in the expert comic hands of our two leads.
Then there’s Nana’s dog Bruce. The girls need to collect Bruce—who has been farmed out at at an acreage with a completely weird dog-sitter— along the way. Nanna has also been very fond of Fred, a fellow inmate in her nursing home. Fred has been making nightly visits to Nanna’s room. The girls are explicit about telling Nanna NOT to let Fred in, as he may have the coronavirus. The adventures retrieving Bruce and repelling Fred are enjoyable.
Blake and Jamie are trying desperately to be the first family members to reach Nanna’s nursing home before Erin, the older sister from the cruise ship, arrives. That, too, presents some humor, which the girls explore to the fullest. [I could really relate to the cruise ship scenario, having just come back from a cruise to Alaska before all hell broke loose.]
There is an interlude where Blake races off while divesting of the jumper shorts she is wearing. I don’t know what the accurate term for this fashion choice is, but, when pregnant, I called it my “Humpty suit.” It is largely shapeless, with straps, and very comfortable. Blake takes them off and throws them into a tree, declaring them to have been “too chafey.” You had to be there, but it just “works.”
I also really enjoyed the simple asides about how Nanna used to drive her car by using a mop handle on the accelerator. (I had a friend who used a brick, but nevermind. Really.) And then there’s the “go-to” strategy for distracting older sis Erin by asking her to share “the birth story.” [Every family has a similar story that will set one of its members off on a long stroll down memory lane.]
“Recovery” was genuinely funny and well done. I had forgotten exactly what this one was about. Stumbling out early in the day to view it after struggling through the drug overdose stories, Isis captivity stories and horrible illness films (most notably, multiple sclerosis), I was delighted to start my day with “Recovery.” Try it; you’ll like it.
“Recovery” will help us all to recover our good mood(s).
View from Room 808 in the Sonesta Hotel in downtown Austin.
Today’s Austin American-Statesman column by Ken Herman contained the headline: “Abbott to Texans: You’re On Your Own.”
In addition to thoroughly disapproving of Governor Abbott’s recent dictum to the state that all mitigation effort are off and everything is 100% “open” in the state of Texas now, Herman ended his column with these words:
“Abbott’s bottom line is we’re all on our own to do what we think is best. Businesses are free to open to whatever capacity they want. And customers are free to choose which businesses to patronize.
Sounds very Texan. The problem is the worst decisions of the worst among us could become a determining variable about when real normalcy returns for the rest of us. As we have seen since Day One of this life-threatening mess, we’re all still in this together.
Snide sidenote: Hey! It could have been worse. Abbott could have put ERCOT in charge!”
(*ERCOT, for the non-Texans out there, stands for The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which turned out to be ironically named when the entire system failed.)
For those of you who have not investigated Donald J. Trump’s remarks at CPAC, here is a run-down of the veracity of his remarks.
Trump:‘Had we had a fair election, the results would have been much different.” 63 court cases were either thrown out of court or denied outright. There are always isolated cases of fraud and irregularities, but none that would have changed the outcome of the election. Joseph R. Biden won by an 8 million vote margin.
Trump: “The Democrats used the pandemic as an excuse to change all of the election rules without the approval of their state legislatures, therefore making it illegal.” The “change” to election rules was to allow more voters to use absentee ballots, since there was real risk from voting in person during a pandemic that has killed 500,000 citizens. The Constitution leaves the matter of how elections are conducted to state legislatures.
Trump: “This election was rigged, and the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.” Texas tried to overturn the election results of 4 swing states. Only Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito thought that the Supreme Court should be hearing such a case. The Trump administration looked high and low to find a state attorney who would lodge the lawsuit for them and—finally and reluctantly—agreed to let the less-than-virtuous Paxton of Texas file the case. Courts at all levels, many of them with GOP-appointed judges, threw out all but one of Trump’s challenges, and the only one that held up allowed observers to move closer to those counting the votes. Even if the Supreme Court had agreed to throw out Pennsylvania’s votes, Joe Biden would still have won in the Electoral College.
“Bee Gone: A Political Parable”
Trump: “We seem to have more votes than we have people in Detroit.” Detroit has a voting-age population of 503,934. Detroit’s City Clerk’s website says that 250,138 residents voted.
Trump: “In Pennsylvania, they had hundreds of thousands of more votes than they had people voting.”
3 million voters requested absentee ballots by the Oct. 27th deadline. In total, about 6.9 million votes were counted in Pennsylvania’s presidential election. The number of registered Pennsylvania voters in 2020 was just over 9 million.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a man who told something like 35,000 documented lies while in office found it difficult to speak the truth at the CPAC conference.
Former Trump administration neo-Nazi and Breitbart spawn Steven Miller has been invited to address GOP members of Congress about the Democratic plan for an 8-year path to citizenship for illegal aliens.
This won’t be Miller’s first time trying to stop pro-immigrant legislation. Back when he worked for then-Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Miller “played a key role in ensuring the failure of a comprehensive immigration bill introduced by a bipartisan group of senators who became known as the Gang of Eight,” the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said. Miller in fact “drafted a 30-page memo that Mr. Sessions shared with the House Republican caucus,” [The New York Times, 2019].
While the Senate under former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid passed legislation by a wide, bipartisan 67-27, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner blocked it in his chamber. Now House Republicans are bringing Miller back.
“This comes on the heels of news that Donald Trump’s will address immigration in his upcoming CPAC speech. Clearly, the Republican Party is still the Party of Trump,” immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice said. “The GOP is doubling down on ugly xenophobia and racism rather than trying to grow its appeal and reclaim lost suburban voters.” They are also trying to clamp down on absentee voting and are actively trying to gerrymander districts that didn’t go GOP in the last presidential election.
The organization said that the “ongoing political transformation of Georgia captures the perils of this approach.”
“In Georgia, a multiracial majority—sparked by the combination of bottom-up organizing by Stacey Abrams, Republican extremism, and changing demographics—delivered two Senate seats for Democrats and flipped an important electoral college state for President Biden,” the group said in the statement. It points to a new NBC News report finding that Democrats’ most significant gains from 2008 to 2020 came from three suburban Georgia counties.
In a testament to this shift, one of those Georgia counties, Gwinnett, elected a sheriff who ran and won on ending a racist and flawed agreement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
Joining Miller to “brief” House Republicans are two other notoriously anti-immigrant officials from the previous administration: former acting ICE director Tom Homan, and former acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan. Mark recently became an official hate group member, joining the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigrant organization deemed a hate group by the SPLC, as a “Senior Fellow.”
“Instead of changing course, working to reclaim suburban voters, and trying to expand their appeal, Republicans seem intent on speaking only to the cul-de-sac of the Trump base, re-emphasizing that white power is the beating heart of the party,” America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry said. “They seem to gloss over the fact that Trump’s demonization of immigrants and refugees backfired badly, helping the Republican Party in the past four years to lose the White House, the Senate and the House.”
Texas Tales: “Our Government in Texas Failed Us This Week”
That quote from a Texas representative Lizzzie Fletcher interviewed on CNN at 2:17 p.m. (CT).
Other words of wisdom come from folks like John Bridges, the Executive editor of the Austin American-Statesman.
In Texas, the buck doesn’t stop here; it just gets on a plane to Mexico, [making Ted Cruz one of the first Latinos to flee the United States for a better life in Mexico].
Governor Abbott spent more time in his 4-days-too-late Press Conference talking about the Green New Deal than he did talking about the raw deal he and his cronies have dealt the state of Texas. The recommendations for winterization of the power grid were decades old, but Texas authorities in power sought to shift the blame to wind and solar panel, when that is not the truth.
The very idea of a Republican politician lying to protect his political future is not new, but it was refined to a daily performance art under DJT. And, in Texas, the man who said of his initial time in office in a 2013 speech to fellow Republicans,”I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home,” now has had to ask the federal government for help in a crisis that could be more costly than Hurricanes as famous as Katrina. President Biden will visit Texas this week to see how the federal government can help the state—14 million of us still boiling our water, if we have any—recover from the debilitating effects of a severe weather event that combined freezing temperatures with power and water failures.
First, in an attempt to shove the responsibility off onto solar and wind power not performing during the freak winter storm, Abbott went on Sean Hannity’s television show and blamed the entire mess on Green renewable energy. This was false. The power outages were due to freezing temperatures affecting natural gas plants, with uninsulated pipes causing gases with heavy carbon chains to liquify and intake or outtake pipes freezing. Oil wells can freeze up and did.
According to ERCOT’s Fuel Mix report, the state’s largest energy source last year was natural gas as 46% of the state’s energy needs. Wind supplied 23% and, if properly weatherized as experts had warned the blades should be, these fixtures continue working in sub-freezing temperatures. Coal supplied 18% of the state’s power, nuclear 11% and solar only 2%.
Actually, although half of the state’s wind supply turbines were frozen, on Tuesday the unfrozen turbines collectively produced up to 1,000 megawatts more energy than grid operators expected, because of the high winds that the snowstorm brought. ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said, “It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system at large.”
In an editorial headlined “Texans Deserve to Have Government That Works” Executive Editor John Bridges (Austin American-Statesman) noted that, “For too long, Texans have elected people more interested inn dismantling government than actually running one. As we painfully learned this week, small government sounds good right up until the power goes out and the faucets run dry.”
Bridges further noted that the priorities of our elected officials, like Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Paxton, have been (1) their own political futures (2) their cronies and (3) their business interests. Right now, in fact, Paxton is embroiled in several legal investigations into impropriety with a local real estate developer, and his entire staff has blown the whistle on him, calling his behavior towards them punitive. Those lawsuits and others involving Paxton highlight why he was the Attorney General who filed the complaint attempting to throw out the electoral college votes of 6 other states on behalf of former President Trump. (The Trump administration didn’t really want Paxton, because of his unsavory reputation and the various investigations into his unethical behavior, but he was the only volunteer to come forward to lodge the spurious lawsuit.)
Bridges goes on to focus on the issues that these elected officials chose to waste time on, rather than making sure our power and water would work if there were a catastrophic weather event. What were those other oh-so-important issues that tied up much of the Texas legislatures time?
The use of transgender bathrooms.
Restricting access to abortion.
Promoting or protecting the out-of-control gun culture.
Suing the federal government for political sport—at least 44 lawsuits during the Obama years by Abbott.
Restricting local taxing authority, much of which is spent on public safety.
Forbidding cities from controlling their own police budgets.
Finding ways to further restrict voter access, such as the ONE mailbox that was to serve as the drop-box for voters in a large Texas city of millions.
Rick Perry—-Abbott’s predecessor as Governor of Texas—famously said that Texans would rather endure a few days of blackouts than have the feds (the department he recently and ironically ran asU.S. energy secretary) involved in Texas’ energy grid. Let’s not forget that this is the same Rick Perry that Donald Trump mocked, saying he put glasses on to “make himself look smarter” and the student who got a grade of “D-“ in a college class entitled “Meat.”
So, as Bridges says, “Speak for yourself, Rick!”
Texans shivering in their own homes, burning candles and their own wood furniture for warmth, and harvesting snow to flush toilets do not agree. If Texas wants its own power grid and wants to run it “the Texas way,” its government must tirelessly regulate, inspect, and enforce the efficiency of that power grid.
An Abilene man froze to death in his bed. The 60-year-old’s death was one of six tied to the freezing cold reported in and around that western Texas city this week, the Associated Press reported. A Houston woman and her child died from carbon monoxide poisoning after seeking warmth in their car. As snow blanketed much of Texas on Sunday, an 11-year-old boy in the Houston area gleefully played outside. Seeing the snow was a first for the boy, who came to the U.S. from Honduras two years ago with his mother, she told the Houston Chronicle.
Less than 24 hours later, as temperatures plunged to near single digits and homes across the state lost power, that boy died.
Early that same morning, a San Antonio man left his house for a dialysis appointment — but he never arrived. His wife found him unresponsive nearly two hours later in the frigid weather.
A Black Austin renter described how he grabbed a few belongings from his back-of-the-house apartment and ran for his life. The couple in the front of the house, who had tried to heat the building with their barbecue grill, died in the fire.
The Houston Chronicle reports that more than two dozen people in Harris County alone have died from events related to this week’s icy weather. And the threat is far from over. Thousands of Texans are still without electricity, food and clean water. The entire state is under a boil order for water.
Texas was not prepared for the lowest temperatures it has experienced in 70 years and recent inspections of the power grid that declared it ready for the winter were wrong. It wasn’t.
Much like the unwillingness to acknowledge the problem, Texas stuck its governmental head firmly in the Trumpian sand and did very little to prepare for the onslaught of the pandemic that has now killed 41,000 Texans. Given months to develop a plan for the vaccine rollout, both state and local governments failed to develop and communicate a workable plan.
We are in the “1b” group of citizens with pre-existing conditions, older than 75, who should have been contacted to schedule an appointment for a Covid-19 shot. We have been trying for literally months to find any source of vaccine. The state website crashes immediately. Once you fill out your name, rank and serial number, including selecting a password, you learn that you must “check back later” to see if there is any vaccine availability. (There never is). Lately, when we attempt to sign in, the site says our passwords are wrong, despite having noted them upon entry. We then try to get a “new” password and the site promises to send a note to our mailboxes, but does not. Therefore, the state health site is worthless.
Then there are the sign-up lists for Walgreen’s, CVS, HEB, and the like. Yes, we’re on all of them, too, plus lists that exist in cities as far-flung as Houston and Dallas. It is nearly March and our constant “checking back” yields only the words “No vaccine available. Check back later.”
I even went so far as to secure a local doctor, hoping that having a local doctor for our winter months’ residence, might help. It hasn’t. I fear that our April trip to Mexico is going to see us as the only older members of the family group who have not had even one Covid-19 shot. While we may have some small amount of immunity from contracting a mild case in October, will that be enough? Or will we, too, become victims of this failure to try to protect the citizens of Texas and the United States.
As Bridges says, in his concluding remarks, “Texans don’t ask much of our government. But is it too much to ask that government not try to kill us?”