Category: Local Page 1 of 25
Columns on local goings on could mean the Quad Cities of IA/IL (Moline, IL or Davenport, IA); Chicago; or Austin, Tx, since Connie spends parts of each year in those towns where she has homes. ‘Of local interest” could mean politics, opinion pieces, or business or entertainment-related subjects.
Today is March 13th, Saturday, and it sticks in my brain pan as the day that my husband and I went out to see “The Way Back” at a local cinema. The place was deserted and, when I asked about upcoming films, the news was not good.
By that weekend, we were “sheltering in place” and we were going to be sheltering in place for one full year. My hair appointments became non-existent, My nails grew out and became a problem. I was giving hair cuts to my husband. I would not enter a movie theater for 7 months to see “Tenet” at the Regal Cinema (now closed) in Moline, Illinois.
During that long Covid-19 year my husband and I would contract the virus and be sick for two weeks (in October). We would venture out perhaps twice (once to a drive-in) to see movies, but the flow of new films would cease, so the sacrifice that no movies means, to me, as a bona fide movie buff, was slightly mollified by the realization that there were very few new good films coming out. All of us were glued to our respective television sets, and that is where I would cover the Chicago International Film Festival, the Denver Film Festival, Sundance, and, this coming week, SXSW, virtually, online.
I am Press at SXSW, again, and the films I will be seeing from March 16-20 will include the following, (with reviews here and on The Movie Blog.com and perhaps a few on QuadCity.com):
Tuesday- March 16th
“Hysterical – top female comics perform in a special.
“The Oxy Kingpins” – a documentary.
“Aretha” – a documentary about Aretha Franklin
“Lily Topples the World” – young girl sets up blocks to “fall.”
“Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil” – the story of Demi Lovato’s close call with death from a drug overdose.
“The Thing That Ate the Birds” – horror
Wednesday, March 17
“The Return: Life After Isis”
“Tom Petty: Somewhere You Feel Free” (documentary)
Waze & Odyssey” with appearances by George Michael et, al.
Not Going Quietly – feature film
United States vs. Reality Winner – a documentary about White House leaks
Thursday- March 18
“Swan Song” – I actually have already seen this one, about a hairdresser called out of retirement in the nursing home to do a dead friend’s hair. The dead friend is Linda Evans (“Dynasty”). The hairdresser is German actor Udo Kier. The co-star is Stiffler’s Mom, from “American Pie,” Jennifer Coolidge. Todd Phillips directs.
“The Lost Sons” – fascinating documentary about a boy kidnapped at birth from Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago only to be returned to his parents 2 years later. Or is the boy found in New Jersey really their son? A fascinating documentary with many twists and a Chicago setting.
“Cruel Summer” – Jessica Biel’s project; teen-aged cast.
“The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Mary Johnson – one of the few feature length films
“Violet” – a Justine Bateman project
“Alone Together” – a documentary about Charlie XCS
“Sound of Violence”
“The Spine of Night” – animated, with voices by Patton Oswalt and others. The last 2 are “midnight fare,” meaning scary films.
Friday, March 19th
“Late Night Girls Club” – Samantha Bee and Amber Ruffin
“Cruel Summer” Q&A”
The festival does not end until Saturday, but my husband and I are scheduled to get our second Pfizer shots on Saturday and Sunday, which is his birthday. We are making a true celebration out of it, staying at the VanZandt hotel downtown in a pricey room and dining out with the son and daughter-in-law, so no closing night film for me. Check back at WeeklyWilson.com for reviews of the above.
From this morning’s “Austin American-Statesman,” comes this assessment of our Texas water problem.
We’re here in Austin (TX), experiencing the black-outs and lack of water along with the rest of the state. The cold weather meant below freezing. As a northeast Iowa native, not impressed by the cold part. However, down here, things immediately went to hell in a hand basket. Nobody could/would/should drive! So, that’s how it started, but that’s not how it’s ending. Now that it’s back in the above freezing range, things are changing, but there are still major, massive issues that we are right in the middle of, unfortunately.
“Tens of thousands of leaks in the system have wreaked havoc on Austin’s water supply,” said Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros. That has been compounded by an untold number of burst pipes in homes. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning Austin Water saw 325 million gallons leak out of the system, where, typically Austinites typically use 100 million gallons a day.
Meszaros: “That is an incredible amount of water and nothing I’ve ever seen before at that rate,” said Meszaros, “So that’s what we’re managing is to not return to that state of affairs, where 100 million gallons of water could leak out of our system in one night.”
This means that Austin Water will need to methodically restart portions of the system to prevent leaks.
“It’s going to be a multiday process to restore pressure and service and then clear the system for use. It’s really difficult to give precise timelines for portions of our section of our system. We don’t know what we don’t know. And we don’t know how long some of them are going to take to fix.”
Reservoirs are now being refilled. Thirteen million Texans are under boil water notices, including us. The effect has been acutely felt in the city, where a loss in water pressure forced evacuations at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center late Wednesday. All surrounding cities (Pfugerville, Bastrop, etc.) are also affected by the boil order.
Water systems under a boil water notice likely will face a logjam from state regulators as water pressure stabilizes. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires testing to ensure no unsafe bacteria is in the supply before lifting the advisories. Timelines for water service to return to normal remain elusive. Said one official, “I just feel like this is such a catastrophic failure on every level. If I wasn’t so consumed with finding a functioning shower or a functioning toilet, I would be so angry.”
Supposedly, 13 million of us have no water, at the moment. Thirty-plus people have died, estimated.
Now, say the officials, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires testing to ensure no unsafe bacteria is in the supply before lifting the advisories. The environmental commission is coordinating with the EPA to bring in mobile testing labs from out of state.
PULLING A CRUZ: I have suggested that we go home to Illinois temporarily. Craig is always in such a Big Hurry to go home to “do taxes”, so I’m not sure why he is resistant to going back to Illinois, but he is. I refer to it as “pulling a Cruz.” When we hit Wednesday and I’ve gone one full week without a shower/bath or hair wash, that could change. And we cannot, for the life of us (literally) get a Covid-19 shot here, despite putting ourselves on lists in Houston, Dallas, and about 10 places in Austin. We are definitely old enough for 1B and I have 4 underlying health conditions (things like asthma), so there’s that. I even went so far as to go find a doctor, thinking that might help. No such luck.
If I were to try to go home alone, I’d face all kinds of things that have been “turned off” that I know nothing about turning back on. I have to admit that I did not go to the basement and fart around with the water heater, etc. so if I go home alone, I’d face figuring out how to get things to “work” at home, or I’d be in pretty much the same situation I am here. I’m not afraid to fly (despite the pandemic) and we can fly free, thanks to the daughter’s job with Southwest Airlines, but it pretty much needs to be both of us going and only one of us votes for returning to the deep freeze so that we have running water.
Stacey, the daughter, who lives in Nashville has been with us since last Saturday. She is going to make a pilgrimage to the Walgreen’s (which finally opened for restricted hours and closes at 6 p.m.) to try to get us some dry shampoo.
I last had a bath and washed my hair on Wednesday, February 17th. It is now Saturday, February 20th.
I had 4 prescriptions that I had phoned in before the deluge. I was fearful that they would go back on the shelves. When Walgreen’s opened for limited hours (closes at 6 p.m.) I was Car #12; it took 35 minutes to get to the drive-through window to pick up my prescriptions. Mission accomplished.
We have no water. We tried to order pizza to eat, but very few pizza places were open. The one we found that WAS open had run out of pizza dough, but we were able to get lasagna, as long as we ordered right then, because they were closing down at 6 p.m. (It was 4:30 p.m. and we ordered right then.) Many gas stations are closed, because they are out of gas.
El Paso has largely avoided this disaster because they learned from the 2011 freeze that hit. They planned for colder weather and, as a result, the built-in redundancies that should have been built in WERE built in. It is also not on the same power grid as the rest of Texas. They are on the western power grid. Texas is the only state to have its very own power grid. ERCOT failed Big Time. Other states can turn to their neighbors, but Texans, in general, don’t want to depend on their neighbors. El Paso took itself OFF the Texas power grid (ERCOT) and went ON to the western power grid (there are only 3 power grids, nationwide) after a 2011 bad freeze. Therefore, El Paso avoided the woes we are currently experiencing, firsthand. And I do acknowledge that, initially, we had power (pretty much throughout) and only lost our water completely yesterday. Before, we had very low water pressure, but we had a little bit of water. No more. Our laundry and dirty dishes are building up. There was talk of putting a garbage bag in the toilet and pooping into it, to keep flushing down. I’ll be on a plane to the Midwest before it comes to that. People are putting saran wrap on plates, so that they don’t have to deal with a “dirty” plate that cannot be washed.
I’m planning on a small spaghetti jar for tonight’s dinner, as we had one lb. of hamburger in the freezer and we have spaghetti noodles. The hard part will be the water. While we have a bathtub full of water, we have very little bottled water. The feds are supposedly sending water in, but where is it? No idea. [Probably the same place our Covid-19 shot is: unavailable to us and met with the response, “We don’t have any.”]
After the spaghetti and some grilled cheese, we have a few frozen things (that, fortunately, did not go bad because our power stayed on), so we can eat our way through a couple steaks, some frozen pot pies. We have some canned food (soups, vegetables), but we are leaving the land of “What’s for dinner?” with a regular menu. I’ve made salmon and steak and a 10-lb. turkey and we are pretty much “out” of food, with no grocery stores having any for sale, apparently, since Craig just came back from Randall’s a few minutes ago declaring the shelves bare. The HEB stores warehouse all of their stuff in San Antonio warehouses and, until today, roads were considered pretty impassable. Now, with the warming temperatures, driving up to restock their stores from their warehouses is do-able, but did the warehouses storing the food lose power when the outage was statewide, like the stores did, and, if so, is there anything up in San Antonio that is still good that can restock the HEB stores here in Austin? I know that one employee had half-gallon jugs of milk in a wheelbarrow on her front porch in our subdivision, inviting the neighbors to “help themselves.” All were gone within minutes and good luck in finding eggs or milk or water, since then.
We are using water we melted from the snow to flush the toilets, sparingly. I’m pretty much treating the flushing like when we took the lobster dinner cruise on those old pirate ship look-alikes, which would not let you put paper in the water because, although they had toilets, they were not great toilets.
So, yes, we have power.
(Craig just tried going to the grocery store: no eggs, no milk, no chicken, no water. A line waiting to get in. I had to wait for 35 minutes in my car to get the prescriptions that I had phoned in well before the cold weather arrived. I was the 12th car in line. They were closing down early and have adopted early closing as their norm now.)
So, I’m not sure what is going to go down here in the next week. I’ve agreed to give this “we are camping out” lifestyle a green light for the week, but I honestly do not think they will have this situation “fixed” in a week, and I wonder how long it WILL take.
Obviously, there are going to be investigations and studies about the power failures. The headline on p. 5B today reads: “Just crippling: Texans Devastated.” It details the people trying to find food at HEB, which had to close 10 stores in the chain, because they, too, lost power. By Thursday the number in Texas without power was down to 450,000 from 4 million. Harris County officials have a feature where residents can click through and see which major food stores are open. As bad as this was, it was almost worse, being second or minutes away from a catastrophic power outage. Texas makes more power than any other state in the union, but the weather disaster was unparalleled. Coldest it had been in 70 years, and it wasn’t really THAT cold, but it was below freezing, and that’s all it takes, in Texas.
The charges that wind turbines froze, were bogus. Forty % of power is natural gas; 18% from coal; 11% nuclear; Wind power was under 30%—more like 27%. “No single fuel source can be blamed for this event.” Neil Chatterjee, the head commissioner of the energy commission.
The lesson is that the entire system has to be prepared for severe weather conditions. “Clearly, they have got to winterize everything.” The coal, nuclear, natural gas could have been winterized. “Climate change is having a dramatic change on weather.”
To me, it seems as though—just as Trump’s time in office revealed the true frailty of the U.S. in so many areas and destroyed our image abroad—this Texas freeze has revealed Texas’ image under Republican Governor Abbott as being full of holes. Texans like to think of themselves as hardy and “can do” types (just like Americans, in general, come to think of it). Well, we can do as long as we have power and water. When we have no water, things become dire fast.
To me—especially in light of our complete and total inability to secure Covid-19 shots here, either—I feel like YOYO is the prevailing Texan and U.S. philosophy, these days. What do I mean?
“You’re On Your Own.”
From Renee Potenza (of Austin, TX)
“Get Off the Trump Train and Admit Your Mistake”
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.)
“Never trust politicians.
They are craven.
It’s an occupational attribute.”
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.
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.”
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.
The Austin American-Statesman Editorial Board (Austin, TX) posted this on Sunday, January 10, 2021:
Politicians stretch the truth all the time. Some lies, though, are so big that they can pull at the seams of a nation, pit its people against one another, leave a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood in the halls of the U.S. Capitol, and render a police officer and a rioter dead.
President Trump’s wild-eyed claim of a stolen election is just such a lie. And a lie doesn’t grow that big or that dangerous being tended by just one man. Eager to flatter Trump or afraid to displease him, much of the Republican Party leadership repeated this lie for the better part of the last two months, giving it oxygen and a glint of legitimacy in the eyes of Trump supporters. Belief in that lie—that their country needed saving—led to rioters assaulting the Capitol on Wednesday, as members of Congress undertook their Constitutional duty to finalize the election results.
Repairs are underway at the ransacked Capitol, the backdrop for President Biden’s January 20th Inauguration. Repairs for our divided nation will prove more difficult. The events of this past week, indeed, of the past four years, remind us how powerful words and lies can be, and how fragile our democracy is.
This moment calls for accountability and truth. Both seem in perilously short supply in today’s Republican party. It is unclear whether Trump will be dislodged before Biden takes office. But the doubts and conspiracy theories Trump has sown will not expire with his term. They will fester and poison the body politic unless GOP leaders heed the words of Senator Mitt Romney (R, Utah): “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth! That’s the burden, that’s the duty of leadership.”
Too many of our leaders have shunned that burden. They prefer to chase the adulation of their political base, to stoke the manufactured controversies that animate fundraising e-mails, than do the tough work of governing. They have forgotten that public service is about service.
Unfit for office since Day One, Trump has been the worst offender, but hardly the only one.
Senator Ted Cruz fueled Trump’s election lie, leading the charge Wednesday to block certain states’ election results, knowing that Congress had no authority or justification to disenfranchise millions of voters. If he had any shame, he would resign, but we know Cruz has no shame.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also fueled that lie, filing a spurious lawsuit last month asking the Supreme Court last month to toss four states’ election results, then returning to Washington on Wednesday to tell Trump supporters, “We will not quit fighting.”
After that crowd laid siege to the Capitol, our state’s (Tx) chief law enforcement officer shielded their sedition with another lie, claiming on social media that those who stormed the Capitol were not Trump supporters, but members of the left-wing Anti-Fa movement.
If he had any shame, Paxton would have resigned years ago, when he was indicted for securities fraud, or months ago when the FBI began investigating charges of bribery and corruption. But we know Paxton has no shame.
The list of Trump’s abettors runs deep. Governor Greg Abbott cheering on Paxton’s election lawsuit. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick offering cash rewards for claims of voter fraud. Central Texas Representatives John Carter of Round Rock, Pete Sessions of Waco and Roger Williams of Austin, who returned to the Capitol after Wednesday’s insurrection, tear gas residue still clinging to the walls, and voted exactly as the rioters wanted. All of them lent credence to an alternate reality of rampant voter fraud, knowing full well that multiple voter recounts, dozens of judges, and Trump’s own cyber-security chief and his own attorney general had affirmed the election results were valid.
Voters will deliver their verdicts on these officials in due time. In the meantime, we all need for our leaders to pull back from the brink, to dispense with the lies that incite lawlessness
We need hearty debate, of course. Discussions on tax policies and environmental policies and most crucially the path out of the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to kill a record number of Americans each day. But we cannot have those debates, and reach some resolution, if we don’t accept the legitimacy of the elections that put those leaders in office.
Once the recounts and court rulings have upheld an election, we cannot allow the lie of a stolen election to persist. Republican officials have an obligation now to tell the truth, to accept the presidential election didn’t go their way, and to recognize it was a free and fair election all the same.
No doubt that will infuriate those who steadfastly believe the lie: Feed the lie, legitimize the mob, watch our democracy burn.
Immediately after the breaching of the Capitol by Trump supporters, I experimented and checked to see if Fox was covering it (A: No, at that time). I went out on Twitter and Facebook to see what was being said. (A: “It was AntiFa!“)
Let the truth go forth.
To steal a line from the Austin American-Statesman editorial page, “This moment calls for accountability and truth.”
The truth is that Antifa is not to blame for the insurrection of January 6th. Here are some excerpts of the article that a Texas paper, the Austin American-Statesman, ran, proving that conclusively:
Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, addressed the large “Save America” rally (which disgraced radio D.J. Alex Jones says his company paid for) saying, “Those who stormed the Capitol yesterday were not Trump supporters. They have been confirmed to be Antifa.” He cited a tweet by Paul Sperry, a right-wing journalist, and a “Washington Times” article, stating that, “Facial recognition firm claims antifa infiltrated Trump protesters who stormed the Capitol.”
There was an incorrect Tweet that said a bus of Antifa thugs had infiltrated the peaceful demonstration.
The truth? NO….there was no bus of Antifa thugs and the “Washington Times” article, published about 8:15 p.m. by opinion writer Rowan Scarborough, has been debunked. The “Times” article cited some unnamed retired military officer, who cited a firm called XRVision, which, he said, used its facial recognition software to I.D. Antifa members
The newspaper has since retracted the erroneous report. However, Matt Graetz (R, FL) cited it later that day on the House floor, saying it was true when it was not, much like the accusations about the fraudulent election.
XRVision, a facial recognition technology company based in Singapore, has announced to PolitiFact and BuzzFeed News that it sent a cease and desist letter to the Washington Times, asking for a retraction and an apology. They did acknowledge that SRVision software identified 2 members of a neo-Nazi organization and a QAnon supporter, but not members of Antifa. The company said that the imagery was distributed only to a handful of company members for private consumption, only. The results announced by the media (and Matt Graetz) were erroneous.
XRVision said: “XRVision takes pride in its technology’s precision and deems the Washington Times publication as outright false, misleading, and defamatory.”
A correction was issued by the newspaper about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. PolitFact submitted this statement: “The Washington Times erroneously reported late Wednesday that facial recognition technology backed up that speculation and identified 2 Antifa members. In fact, XRVision has not identified any members of that far-left movement as being part of the attack.”
The pro-Trump channel OAN showed a head shot picture (amongst a crowd) of a dark-haired man they said was a member of Antifa. They gave his name as John (something). It is probable that this mis-identification from that station hinged on the erroneous story.
This is a typical Trump tactic. Always blame someone or something else. I’m just surprised that they haven’t brought up Hillary’s e-mails.
Kamala Harris official portrait (2017, Wikipedia.org)
I picked up a copy of the Los Angeles Times’ publication that profiled Kamala Harris. I plan to gift it to my granddaughters on their twelfth birthday this Monday, to show them that women can succeed at the highest levels of our society and that they must work hard to succeed, which Kamala’s entire family has done.
Kamala Harris, our first female Vice President, is 56. Her younger sister, Maya, is often described as being like RFK was to JFK, as she is an attorney active in Civil Rights.
I have reprinted some abridged comments from Ms. Harris’ acceptance of the Vice Presidential spot on the Democratic ticket, which were made before the campaign began. I wanted to share an abridged version of some of her remarks, especially in light of January 6th’s insurrection, incited by Donald J. Trump. After the usual introductory remarks about her early childhood, upbringing, and education, she talked about our country right now.
Here are (some of) those remarks:
“This is a country where we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect.
Today, that country feels distant.
Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.
If you’re a parent struggling with your child’s remote learning , or you’re a teacher struggling on the other side of that screen, you know that what we’re doing right now isn’t working.
And we see a nation that’s grieving. Grieving the loss of life, the loss of jobs, the loss of opportunities, the loss of normalcy. And, yes, the loss of certainty.
And while this virus touches us all, let’s be honest. It is not an equal opportunity offender. Black, Latino and Indigenous people are suffering and dying disproportionately. This is not a coincidence. It is the effect of structural racism…
This virus has no eyes, and yet it knows exactly how we see each other—and how we treat each other. And let’s be clear—there is no vaccine for racism. We’ve got to do the work…
We’ve got to do the work to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law. Because none of us are free until all of us are free.
We’re at an inflection point.
The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot.
And here’s the thing. We can do better and deserve so much more.
We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work.A president who will bring all of us together—Black, white, Latino, Asian, Indigenous—to achieve the future we collectively want…
Joe will bring us together to squarely face and dismantle racial injustice, furthering the work of generations.
Joe and I believe that we can build that beloved community, one that is strong and decent, just and kind. One in which we can all see ourselves. That’s the vision that our parents and grandparents fought for. The vision that made my own life possible. The vision that makes the American promise—for all its complexities and imperfections—a promise worth fighting for.
Make no mistake: the road will not be easy. We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us…
We believe in our country—all of us—will stand together for a better future. We already are. We see it in the doctors, the nurses, the home health care workers, and the frontline workers who are risking their lives to save people they’ve never met.
We see it in the teachers and truck drivers, the factory workers and farmers, the postal workers and the poll workers, all putting their own safety on the line to help us get through this pandemic.
And we see it in so many of you who are working, not just to get us through our current crises, but to somewhere better.
There’s something happening all across the country.
It’s not about Joe or me.
It’s about you.
It’s about us. People of all ages and colors and creeds who are, yes, taking to the streets, and also persuading our family members, rallying our friends, organizing our neighbors, and getting out the vote…
You are patriots who remind us that to love our country is to fight for the ideals of our country.
In this election, we have a chance to change the course of history. We’re all in this fight.
You, me and Joe—together…
Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high?
They will ask us, what was it like?
And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.
Thank you, God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”
I don’t know how many of you reading this digital page still get a REAL newspaper (i.e., paper) and, if you do get one, is it the Quad City Times?
Since I am (currently) reading the Austin American-Statesman, a 150-year-old newspaper that was named Texas Newspaper of the Year 3 times and won national reocognition for investigative reporting from the National Headliners, the Online News Association, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors, in addition to hundreds of state awards, I’ve been sharing some of the editorials highlighted in that paper.
Let me be clear: these are “the best” of the editorials I read on a regular, daily basis, and, if you, like me, find that many of the newspapers whose editorials you would most like to read are behind a “pay wall,” this is a service to those who really want to be informed.
The New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote this editorial entitled “HOW DID WE GET HERE? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY?” and you won’t face a pay wall to read it (below):
HOW DID WE GET HERE? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GOP?
“There have always been people like Donald Trump: self-centered, self-aggrandizing, believing that the rules apply only to the little people and that what happens to the little people doesn’t matter.
The modern GOP, however, isn’t like anything we’ve seen before, at least in American history. If there’s anyone who wasn’t already persuaded that one of our 2 major political parties has become an enemy, not just of democracy, but of truth, events since the election should have ended their doubts.
It’s not just that a majority of House Republicans and many Republican senators were backing Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss, even though there is no evidence of fraud or widespread irregularities. (*If you watched into the wee hours—3, 4 a.m., as I did, on Wednesday—you know that there were still substantial numbers of Republicans who argued against confirming Pennsylvania’s counted electoral votes.) Look at the way David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler campaigned in the Senate run-offs in Georgia.
They weren’t running on issues or even on real aspects of their opponents’ personal history. Instead, they claimed, with no basis in fact, that their opponents are Marxists or “involved in child abuse.” That is, the campaigns to retain Republican control of the Senate were based on lies. (*Fortunately, the GOP efforts based on blatant lies, failed and Ossoff and Warnock were elected, but, still…)
On Sunday, Mitt Romney excoriated Ted Cruz and other Congressional Republicans’ attempts to undo the presidential election, asking, “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?” But what principle does Romney think the GOP stood for in recent years? It’s hard to see anything underlying recent Republican behavior beyond the pursuit of power by any means available.
So how did we get here? What happened to the Republican Party?
The party’s degradation has been obvious for those willing to see it, for many years. (*As the child of a Democratic office-holder in the 30s and 40s, I’m old enough to see how the Republican party has changed since the days of Bob Dole, Ike, and other admirable GOP leaders.)
Way back in 2003, I wrote that Republicans had become a radical force hostile to America as it is, potentially aiming for a one-party state in which “elections are only a formality.” (*Think Ted Cruz’s remarks on the Senate floor just before all Hell broke loose in that august body, where he was proposing appointing a 10-day investigatory commission a la the Hays-Tilden election of 1876, to circumvent the will of the people in voting).
In 2012, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein warned that the GOP was “unmoved by conventional understanding of facts” and “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
If you’re surprised by the eagerness of many in the party to overturn an election based on specious claims of fraud, you weren’t paying attention.
But what is driving the Republican descent into darkness?
Is it a populist backlash against elites? It’s true that there’s resentment over a changing economy that has boosted highly educated metropolitan areas at the expense of rural and small-town America. Trump received 46% of the vote, but the counties he won represented only 29% of America’s economic output. There’s also a lot of white backlash over the nation’s growing diversity. (*”The Browning of America”).
The past 2 months have, however, been an object lesson in the extent to which “grassroots” anger is actually being orchestrated from the top. If a large part of the Republican base believes, groundlessly, that the election was stolen, it’s because that’s what leading figures in the party have been saying. Now politicians are citing widespread skepticism about the election results as a reason to reject the outcome—but they, themselves, conjured that skepticism out of thin air.
And what’s striking if you look into the background of the politicians stoking resentment against (so-called) “elites” is how privileged many of them are. Josh Hawley (R, MO), the first senator to declare that he would object to certification of the election results, rails against elites but is, himself, a graduate of Stanford and Yale Law School. Ted Cruz has degrees from Princeton and Harvard.
The point isn’t that they’re hypocrites. It is that these aren’t people who have been mistreated by the system. So why are they so eager to bring the system down?
I don’t think it’s just cynical calculation, a matter of playing to the base (*and potentially bolstering their own chances for a race in 2024). My best guess is that we’re looking at a party that has gone feral—that has been cut off from the rest of society.
People have compared the modern GOP to organized crime or a cult, but, to me, Republicans look more like the lost boys in “Lord of the Flies.” They get their information from partisan sources (*Fox, OAN, Parler) that simply don’t report inconvenient facts. They don’t face adult supervision because, in a polarized political environment, there are few competitive races.
So they’re increasingly inward-looking, engaged in ever more outlandish efforts to demonstrate their loyalty to the tribe. Their partisanship isn’t about issues, although the party remains committed to cutting taxes on the rich and punishing the poor. It’s about asserting the dominance of the “in” group and punishing outsiders.
The big question is how long America as we know it can survive in the face of this malevolent tribalism. (*Note: It’s not surprising that in the wake of a woefully mishandled pandemic, 400,000 dead citizens that Trump’s neglect of duty and poor example make him complicit in their demise, the resulting cratering of the economy, and long lines of Americans out of work and waiting literally hours in food lines, there is a sense of urgency and despair that is surfacing. The unbelievable thing is the misguided belief that “more of the same” is the cure.)
The attempt to undo the presidential election went on far longer and attracted much more support than almost anyone predicted. And unless something happens to break the grip of anti-democratic, anti-truth forces on the GOP, one day they will succeed in killing the American experiment.
On the heels of the data from the state of Texas that the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine is not set up in an equitable fashion (so far, nobody knows how, when, or where to get a shot), I read Eugene Robinson’s essay about Donald J. Trump’s attempt to overthrow our democracy. It originally appeared in the Washington Post.
Texas, where I currently am, is supposed to receive a total of about 200,000 doses of the vaccine next week. An Austin American Statesman review of the state’s online map of COVID-19 vaccine providers found that all but a handful of local providers are west of I-35. For decades, being east or west of I-35 has represented a racial and class divide in Austin.
None of the vaccination sites are in the city’s lowest-income and ethnically diverse neighborhoods, while there are 16 distribution sites in an area bounded by I-35, MoPac Boulevard, Lady Bird Lake and FM2222. Hmmmmm.
A record number of Texans are hospitalized: 13,784 across the state, setting a new record for the 5th day in a row. In Texas, only 552 beds remain available. The number in Travis County had dropped from 34 ICU spots to 24 in one day recently. These statistics are for those back in Illinois, where we also spend half our time.
On Thursday, the state health agency reported 19,598 new COVID-19 cases here in Texas.
Back in Illinois, there were 9,277 new cases, to bring the Illinois total to 1, 017, 322 known infections and 17,395 deaths, with 126 of those deaths occurring just today in Illinois.
Democrats are urging that all doses of the vaccine be administered now, rather than holding back doses for the second round of shots, which is in contrast to the Trump plan.
Against this tumultuous backdrop of a pandemic that has killed more people than died during WWII, against the backdrop of January 6th’s insurrection attempt by Donald J. Trump to wrest control of the presidency from the duly-elected president, came this insightful essay by Eugene Robinson, a Black American and an eloquent writer.
Eugene Robinson’s essay for the Washington Post was entitled “Trump Has Wounded Us. It Will Take Time to Recover.” Here it is:
“Let’s be clear: What happened Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol was an attempted coup d’etat, egged on by a lawless president desperately trying to cling to power and encouraged by his cynical Republican enablers in Congress.
It was perhaps inevitable that President Donald Trump’s chaotic and incompetent tenure in office would end with riots and tear gas. Not since British Major Gen. Robert Ross set fire to the president’s residence and the Capitol building in 1814 have we seen such a scene at the hallowed citadel of our democracy, as an angry and disillusioned mob—whipped into a frenzy by Trump himself—forced its way into the Capitol to disrupt the official certification of Trump’s electoral defeat.
Images from this shameful day will endure forever: Crowds storming the security barricades, overwhelming outnumbered and seemingly unprepared Capitol police, and breaking windows to pour into the seat of American power. Police officers inside the House of Representatives chamber, guns drawn and aimed at the main doors, where protesters threatened to force their way inside. A scarf-draped rioter sitting smugly in the chair where, an hour earlier, Vice President Mike Pence had presided over the Senate.
The central act of our democracy—the peaceful and orderly transfer of power—was not allowed to take place. Blame the rioters themselves, who must take responsibility for their own actions. But blame Trump above all.
And blame the Republican members of Congress who sought to boost their own political fortunes by validating Trump’s self-serving paranoid fantasies.
I mean you, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. And you, Sen. Ted Cruz. And you, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. And all the rest who thought that the way to succeed in GOP politics was to pretend to believe Trump’s lies rather than tell the nation the truth.
Trump told his MAGA legions that he didn’t really lose the election, that, in fact, he could not possibly have lost, and that somehow he would manage to remain their president for a second term. First, various recounts would save him—until they all confirmed Joe Biden’s victory. Then, it was going to be the certifications of the vote totals, but all the states certified their results. Then, it was going to be the courts that rode to the rescue, but courts at every level, including the U.S. Supreme Court, tossed out his frivolous lawsuits like so much scrap paper.
Finally, on January 6th,— or perhaps Pence, acting alone,— would surely throw out the electoral votes from states that Trump falsely claimed to have “won,” thus giving him the glorious victory he deserved. He urged his followers to come to Washington to “Stop the Steal,” to keep Congress from doing its constitutional duty in counting the electoral votes. And Hawley, Cruz, Scalise and scores of other congressional Republicans went along with this ridiculous fairy tale so as to not anger the president or his supports.
But then January 6th arrived. Pence issued a statement early in the day making clear that he would obey the Constitution, not Trump’s autocratic wishes. And the many thousands of Trump supports who had gathered on the Ellipse to hear Trump give a long and angry rant, and who obeyed his order to march on the Capitol, became a guided missile aimed at the heart of U.S. democracy. (*Note: was the “fix” in on guarding that heart? How did these thugs gain access to our most hallowed building, especially on the west side of the Capitol, where film exists of guards opening the barricades and welcoming the domestic terrorist hordes.)
They were like a doomsday cult when the appointed day arrives and the foretold asteroid does not strike. Trump had convinced them he could not possibly lose, yet inside the Capitol he was losing. They decided to prevent the transfer of power by force. Shots were fired, and one person—a 14-year Air Force female veteran—was struck and killed (*Note: 5 have, so far, died in the riot). Tear gas was deployed. The scenes were like those I saw in places like Paraguay and Peru as a foreign correspondent, and nothing like we’ve ever seen in the United States. (*Imagine how the rest of the world must regard us now!)
President Biden gave a televised address calling for an end to the ‘insurrection’ and the restoration of ‘decency, honor, respect, the rule of law.’ Trump posted a desultory video statement on social media urging rioters to ‘go home’ but repeating his claims that the election was ‘stolen’ (and saying ‘we love you.’)
It is possible to see better days ahead. Biden is a good man and a lifelong public servant. Inauguration Day is just a little under 2 weeks away.
But somehow our damaged nation has to make it through those next 2 weeks. Police and the National Guard are more than capable of re-establishing order in the streets.
The wounds Trump has inflicted upon the nation, however, are ragged and deep. We will be paying for the mistake of electing this bitter, twisted man as president for a long, long time.****
Finally, a suggestion: If you have not secured your copy of either “Bee Gone: A Political Parable” or the youth-oriented version (available in both paperback and hardcover, but in hard cover only by contacting me), “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” this one book is going to be the best “memento” of the end of DJT’s reign of terror.
The books were written over 2 years of time, in rhyming fashion, to serve as Tina Fey-like humor aimed at defeating the man in the White House who had proven himself dangerously unstable early on. Humor is a powerful weapon, and Gary McCluskey and I spent 2 years putting the story of the Donald’s run against Hillary Clinton into verse—adding coloring book pages and puzzles to the end of the 6-book Christmas Cats in Silly Hats.
These books (with the exception of the hard cover version of “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee”) are available on Amazon and you can read more about the entire Christmas Cats 6-book series at ConnieCWilson.com. The series was intended to be a gift for my twin granddaughters and meant to teach young elementary-school aged children (ages 3 to 11) how to behave.
It has been extremely difficult, during Donald J Trump’s 4 years in office, to teach young people how to behave, because Trump does not know how to behave appropriately. He never has known how to behave in a responsible manner, and many books on his life prove this. My XmasCats.com series would end when the girls (scheduled to celebrate their twelfth birthday this coming Sunday) were too old to believe in Santa Claus. It ended with a book about a bee who tries to seize control of the hive from the Queen Bee, and was prophetic in its worker bee refrain about the rise of the insurrectionist, who dethrones the Queen Bee, causing the worker bee to say, “Oh, no!” said the worker bee, after his rise. “This really is awful. Our whole hive might die!”
As we close in on 400,000 deaths in this country, caused by incompetence and dereliction of duty at the top since January of 2020, the worker bee’s cry seems almost prophetic. In over 100 years, we have not seen a human tragedy as great as the pandemic and much of our status as the country affected the worst by the pandemic was caused by the poor stewardship of the ship of state.
And so the Christmas Cats series ended. But the series ended with a book that is a small microcosm of what was going on in our country when written. The entire Christmas Cats series is a wholesome, entertaining series, beautifully-illustrated by Gary McCluskey, but this final book in the series is the memento, the time capsule of our time. Order up a copy from Amazon and see for yourself. If you want a beautifully bound Ingram Spark hard cover version of the children’s version (“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee”) drop me a line. [My stash of such books is back in Illinois, but I’ll happily take orders for the hard cover version (that is NOT advertised on Amazon) and get them to you by next Christmas.]
There were 4,000 deaths yesterday (January 7th) and we lost 145,000 jobs. I support President Joe Biden’s efforts to avert catastrophe and to bring this country back to a semblance of calm and normalcy. I hope that all patriotic citizens are reading widely [and not just swallowing the one-sided, often false versions of various news organizations.] Now, more than ever, we need to stick together and try to become informed members of our democracy, the United States of America.