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!
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?”
Remarks from George Will, abridged, Washington Post of 1/22/2021
Re Joe Biden’s presidency:
Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.
“There’s some things that I’m going to be able to do by executive order,” Biden said, “and I’m not going to hesitate to do it…but I am not going to violate the Constitution. Executive authority that my progressive fans talk about (e.g., banning assault weapons) is way beyond the bounds.”
Fifteen days later, resisting pressure to unilaterally erase billions of dollars of student debt, he said, “I’ve spent most of my life arguing against the imperial presidency.”
Progressives yearning for New Deal 2.0 will notice that Biden did not speak, as Franklin D. Roosevelt did in his first inaugural address, of perhaps seeking “broad Executive powers” as great as he would need “if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”
Biden is an adult. 74 million voters voted for 4 more years of infantilism…
Why are strange people proliferating in government?
President of the United States
One reason, Ben Sasse (R, Neb.) said, is “America’s junk food media diet,” the underlying economics of which involve “dialing up the rhetoric” to increase “clicks, eyeballs and revenue.” (*Note: See the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix).
Another reason is “the digital collapse” as “the digital revolution erodes geographic communities in favor of place-less ones. Many people who yell at strangers on Twitter don’t know their own local officials or even their own neighbors across the street.”
Biden’s Inaugural address, the essence of which was to stop the shouting and lower the temperature and end the “exhausting outrage” had the unadorned rhetoric of a teacher telling disorderly students to sit down and shut up. In tone, it was pitch perfect for intimating to his dissatisfied fellow countrymen that they should not be self-satisfied.
Who is Scott Perry, and why are people calling for him to resign?
Scott Perry (R, PA),s a retired Pennsylvania Army National Guard brigadier General. He served for nearly 40 years and had multiple deployments, including combat in Iraq.
Perry was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature in 2012, a Republican from York County in Pennsylvania.
Perry made Donald Trump aware that Jeffrey Clark (“a relatively obscure Justice Department official”), acting chief of the civil division, supported Trump’s “the election was stolen” propaganda. The president would have been unaware of Clark, if not for Perry.
Says the New York Times in a new article: “As the date for Congress to affirm Mr. Biden’s victory neared, Mr. Perry and Mr. Clark discussed a plan to have the Justice Department send a letter to Georgia state lawmakers, informing them of an investigation into voter fraud that could invalidate the state’s Electoral College results. Former officials who were briefed on the plan said that the department’s dozens of voter fraud investigations nationwide had not turned up enough instances of fraud to alter the outcome of the election.”
It is interesting that, in the same issue of the Austin American-Statesman, there is a story about Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s bounty, offered for any proof of voter fraud, which was a cash award of $25,000. Patrick—who is a bit of a loon—said the incentive was necessary to ferret out potential illegal voting and to “restore faith in future elections.”
Interestingly enough, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, is demanding that Patrick pay up after 3 Republicans in Pennsylvania were arrested on charges that they voted illegally. One of these tipsters, a Pennsylvania poll worker, told police he witnessed a Republican vote 2 times in one day.
Eric Frank told the Morning News, “I don’t know what avenue to take in order to request the reward.” He is not optimistic that Patrick will pay up.
Hereford cattle on LBJ Ranch.
Patrick famously told the press that older citizens should be willing to die during this pandemic. He later reversed this cavalier attitude for all legislators in the Texas Congress, requiring that they wear masks and have testing to join that august body.
Patrick, in a press release, announced the rewards and said the money would be available to “anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and final conviction of voter fraud.” He set aside $1 million for the rewards, in total, but it does not appear that he is paying up. Is this all bull s***? Ask Dan Patrick.
[Thoughts for today from New York Times writer Charles M. Blow, 1/22/2021, Abridged]
“I had many feelings as I observed the Inauguration, a pageant of customs. The first was the feeling of having—remarkably and improbably—survived a calamity, like stumbling out of a wrecked car and frantically checking my body for injuries.
Trump taught us, the hard way, that what we took for granted as inviolable, was, in fact, largely tradition. And traditions are not laws…
There is a feeling of deep patriotism and awe for the country itself. Trump did everything he could to break this country, but, in the end, America remains. Biden was sworn in at the Capitol that Trump’s insurrectionist supporters had stormed two weeks before.
But then there are also the lingering feelings of disappointment, betrayal and loss of faith.
How is it possible that enough Americans voted for Trump in the first place, sending him to the White House? Donald Trump is a racist and a white supremacist. And yet millions of Americans either agreed with his views or were willing to abide them. I know that there will be those who warn that I should just let this go, that holding onto it is “divisive.
To them, I say, “Hell no!”
There must be acknowledgement and accountability. There must be contrition and repentance. It is not enough to simply let the co-conspirators and abettors of a white supremacist president quiet down and cool off, biding their time, waiting for the next opportunity for their riotousness and wrath to be unfurled and unleashed.
There are many transgressions of the Trump presidency. Some, like the mishandling of the pandemic, have even been far more deadly than the handling of migrant families at the border. But there is something particularly cruel and inhumane about what Trump did to those children in the name of the United States government.
I will never forget that. And I will never forget that tens of millions of Americans were willing to accept that and give Trump a pass on it.
I am happy that the Trump administration is now behind us and a new, more normal one is before us, but my relief still mingles with my rage.”
To those friends and family members who voted for Donald J. Trump:
Perhaps you are a life-long Republican. Maybe you have deeply held beliefs about those values for which the Republican Party used to stand. Maybe you got on the Trump train early on, and your enthusiasm in being part of a popular group carried you along.
I ask you now: Please get off the Trump train. He’s not worthy of your trust.
Disengage your identity as a follower of the Donald, and think critically, questioning everything. Utter those three little words, which are the hallmarks of honest, healthy communication: “I was wrong.”
(A Letter to the Editor from the Austin American-Statesman of Wednesday, January 20th, 2021.)
So began Charles M Blow of the New York Times in his essay today.
I could relate to Mr. Blow, an African American essayist.
I wrote this poem, entitled “Words” when I was 16 years old, in Independence, Iowa:
If fewer words were spoken,
If fewer words were said,
If deeds alone were the mark of a man,
Not the ‘catch’ of an eloquent pledge.
If fewer words were spoken,
If fewer words were said,
If, for all the fake forensics, there were simple words instead,
And a man stated just what he started to state,
Without false fuss or further ado.
If you weren’t a politician,
I’d probably listen to you.
So, I’m in agreement with Charles M. Blow as he continued:
“Sure, there are some politicians who are good people, who tell the truth most of the time and choose careers in politics for the right reasons—public service rather than political aggrandizement.
“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)
But power, as a genre, is about power. And power corrupts. (*And absolute power corrupts absolutely).
Generally speaking, the higher up the political ladder a politician climbs, the more vicious they have had to be, and the more viciousness they have had to endure.”
As a young girl, going around with my Democratic father to help put up yard signs, I remember him saying to me, a then elementary-school-aged child, “Stay away from politics, Con. It’s a dirty business.”
Charles Blow continued: “Politicians have had to shake more and more hands to raise the obscene amounts of money now needed to run campaigns, and they have likely had to make unsavory compromises in order to protect their own advancement.
I do not seek to draw a false equivalence between the political parties in America. While I find all politicians suspect, the utter moral collapse of Republican conscience and character under Donald Trump still stands out as an outrageous aberration.
Republican politicians, by and large, knew how lacking in every aspect Donald Trump was, not just in experience, but also character, morality and intellect. Many said as much before he was elected.
Ted Cruz called Trump ‘utterly amoral,’ a ‘serial philanderer,’ and ‘a narcissist at a level that I don’t think this country has ever seen.’ He also said of Trump: ‘This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.’
Lindsey Graham said: ‘He’s a race-baiting xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.’
Marco Rubio said: ‘We’re on the verge of having someone take over the conservative movement who is a con artist,’ and called Trump, ‘the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency.’
All of this was true When these people were Trump’s opponents in the quest for the nomination, none of them shied away from telling the truth about him. Now they have been cowed into obsequiousness.
Trump didn’t change, but his relationship to power did: when he won he had it, and the Republicans swarmed to him like moths to a flame, [or more like vultures to a corpse].
Power, in politics, changes everything. Politicians are desperate for power the way a drowning person is desperate for air. But in politics, there are levels of proximity: The closer you are, the stronger you are You can possess or be in proximity to it.
Republicans in Washington turned their backs on everything they believed. Trump created a mob. He recruited traditional conservatives into it. He was in full control of it.
To a politician, a mob can look like a movement. It can look like power. So, they caved to that which they could consort with: they feigned ignorance of the ways they had accurately derided Trump so that, one day, they might harness the white nationalist throngs he unleashed.”
I attended a rally for Jeb Bush back in Davenport, Iowa at St. Ambrose University, accompanied by a Republican friend, and we listened to Jeb Bush (in 2016) say, “You can’t insult your way to the White House.” As it turns out, Jeb was wrong, and you actually CAN insult your way to the White House and remain there for 4 long years insulting friends and foe alike! And some of those insults were aimed at our long-time allies, which is even more damaging.
Republicans put their personal ambitions over the preservation of America. Maybe they thought that whatever damage Trump did would be easily repaired, so they would simply trudge through it until his time in office was at its end.
Well, it is now at its end, and he seems to be doing more damage than ever—or as much damage as ever.
The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a shocking thing to behold. But so much of what has occurred during the Trump presidency has been shocking.
There is no telling what Trump might attempt to do in his final days in office.”
“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” sixth book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).
For those of us who have read his niece, Mary Trump’s, book “Too Much and Never Enough” or have viewed “Unfit,” Dan Partland’s fine Amazon documentary, we realize that there is nothing this man, this criminal, will stop at. Nothing.
“Even if Trump leaves office without further damage, the damage he has done is lasting and many of the people who blindly support him will persist. (The militias, the Proud Boys, QAnon, the white nationalists, are not going away).
We may be getting rid of Trump. But we are not getting rid of “Trumpism.” The aftertaste of this toxic presidency will linger.
Now we have to ask a very serious question: What do we do now as a society and as a body politic? Do we simply turn the page and hope for a better day, “let bygones be bygones”? (It seems, to me that most Republicans speaking on the floor today want to simply sweep aside what has occurred, punish the common street flunkies who are being rounded up, but ignore the head of the serpent, DJT.) Or do we seek some form of justice, to hold people accountable for taking this country to the brink? (And let it be known that this extends to those at the very top.)
I say that we must prosecute all people who have committed crimes and punish all those who have broken rules. The rule of law can’t simply be for the common man. It must also be for the exalted man. Because only then will the ideas of fairness and justice for all have meaning.