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!
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.
The Austin American-Statesman Editorial Board (Austin, TX) posted this on Sunday, January 10, 2021:
“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)
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 radioD.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 (andMatt 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?
“Don’t touch the chair arms!” (say with spirit). Me, in Sydney, Australia, for my dedicated Australian reader! (All one of you!)
“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 fora 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.
“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” sixth book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).
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.
Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.
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!)
Future President of the United States?
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 countrywhen 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.
I’m watching CNN “live” and listening to the voice of Manu Raju, Senior Congressional Corespondent, as Vice President Pence is being escorted from the building.
The Trump protesters have breached the building and the Vice President of the United States has been evacuated.
Both chambers are now in recess and one U.S. female representative said she had been told to evacuate her office because of a pipe bomb. You can see the protesters inside Statuary Hall, carrying their Trump flags and draped in American flags. They are just walking through, carrying their cell phones, but soon they begin breaking windows and climbing into the interior of the Capitol building.
“This is an incredibly dangerous situation that is unfolding.” (Jake Tapper) Trump is on Twitter complaining about Pence’s unwillingness to go along with his plans to wrest control of the election process.
One yo-ho is waving a U.S. flag outside of the roped-off walkway. The CNN commentators are remarking that “this is beyond anything I’ve seen in covering the Capitol for 20 years.” One tweet: Shame on POTUS for not doing anything to stop it. Jim Acosta says that, like Nero fiddling while Rome burns, the current president is “pouring fuel on the fire.” This is “a bonfire of the insanities” that has been going on for weeks now. “And now, this is what we’re left with.”
Acosta: “And, Jake: what is the plan to get these people out of there? This is just bedlam. What is Trump’s plan to get these people out of there?”
Manu Raju: “Very very tense. There is an armed stand-off at the front door of the Capitol. The D.C. Mayor is ordering a 6 p.m. curfew.”
“Bee Gone: A Political Parable”
House members are sheltering in place in their offices, but they are being told to evacuate. Pence has been evacuated. The protesters are all over this building.”
The protesters all look like yo-hos. They are attired in MAGA hats and plaid that makes them look like they’ve all just wandered in from plowing the north 40. The members of Congress are being given gas masks because tear gas was used in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Chief Ramsey (P.D.) is being asked how the members of Congress can perform their Constitutional duties today? He says, “You’ve gotta’ force them out. This is absolutely ridiculous.” Transit police can be seen walking outside, on the steps of the Capitol. There are people climbing up walls and tromping around. The president is stirring the pot and has unleashed something he cannot control. The Chief of Police says: “It never should have gotten this far.”
Charles Ramsey, the former D.C. Police Chief, says “He stirred them up. This is as close to a coup attempt as this country has ever seen. This is sedition. This is attempting to undermine the rule of law by using force.”
An unattractive man has just given the middle finger to the cameraman while shouting obscenities.
Jake Tapper is asking why more steps were not taken to insure that the Capitol would be safe. It seems pretty clear that the man in charge (Trump) has encouraged this. “I haven’t seen anything like this. This is the United States of America. This is the American Capitol!”
Tapper points out that this is Charles Ramsey’s “worst nightmare” and he mentions “major demonstrations in the city.” But, he said, “We never had anything that came close to coming this far. They’ve got to take the gloves off and maintain control.” Ramsey seems quite perturbed that more force is not being used against the protesters who are storming the Capitol.
Tapper: “I don’t know if anything has happened like this since the days of the Vietnam War.”
I lived through the days of the Vietnam War. There was no disrespect shown to the Capitol during the anti-war protesters. “I haven’t seen anything like it since then. It doesn’t go that far even then,” said Charles Ramsey. (Very true).
The real question is when law enforcement is going to show up, in force.
There is at least one woman in critical condition after being shot in the chest on the Capitol grounds.
Texas politicians have been involved in the contesting of the presidential election results far more than those of other states including: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (recently reported by his staff for taking bribes in the service of a wealthy realtor), U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert. The “Metro & State” portion of the Austin American Statesman, today, had an entire story entitled: “Four Texas Republicans Who Have Humiliated Us.”
Cruz is going to contest Arizona’s election returns today—in just a few moments, in fact, inside Capitol Hill on the Senate Floor. (See some of those remarks at the end of this article.) Gohmert has had various legal actions thrown out of court. Former Ken Paxton aides reported him to the FBI and then began resigning in droves. An anti-trust lawsuit against Google was underway, but now, because Paxton’s former deputies are all accusing him of crimes in the service of wealthy donor Nate Paul (an Austin real estate investor), Paxton is seeking $43 million to go forward with the Google lawsuit with outside legal help. Paxton hired outside firms to conduct the suit, saying, “The legal services cannot be adequately performed by the attorneys and supporting personnel of the attorney general’s office.”
This was not true before Paxton was reported for misconduct in office, as the Attorney General’s office had thousands of employees and Deputy Attorney General Darren McCarty was leading the investigation, prior to Paxton’s misconduct in office. Mateer, McCarty and Ryan Bangert, another senior lawyer involved in the case, all resigned after reporting Paxton to the FBI. All 8 of Paxton’s accusers have quit or been fired and 4 alleged in a lawsuit that the attorney general created a hostile work environment, including deploying armed guards, to force them out.
Google, of course, has assembled “the best lawyers unlimited money can buy.” Now, Texas tax-payers are being asked to foot the bill for hiring outside counsel to the tune of millions. The allocated amount to pay the monthly bills is $43 million, if approved by the Legislature. If Google doesn’t end up paying those charges, Texas will try to recoup its costs in court. A second firm (Keller Lenkner) has laid out a similar payment plan. Texas has the largest Republican-controlled state attorney general’s office in the country. With roughly 750 lawyersand 4,000 total employees. It’s for the state to hire outside counsel. Paxton most recently hired outside lawyers last month, for his failed suit seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
Today, in the Austin American Statesman opinion piece (see below) entitled “Cruz’s Stunt Shows Contempt for Voters’ Will” the newspaper had this to say about all the shenanigans ongoing today on Capitol Hill:
“The Electoral College challenge planned by Senator Ted Cruz and other Republicans reeks of an audacious stunt, a desperate act to keep Donald Trump in the White House.
But this is no political game. Something far greater is at stake here, something Americans hold dear: our nation’s standing as a democracy, the legitimacy of its government coming from the consent of the governed.
Cruz, a dozen other senators and about 140 Republicans in the U.S. House—including newly elected Rep. Pete Sessions, whose district includes a swath of northern Travis County, and Williamson County’s Rep. John Carter—plan Wednesday to stymie the confirmation of the Electoral college results.
They won’t succeed in preventing Joe Biden from being sworn in January 20th as president. But they risk inflicting lasting and unspeakable damage, cratering the public’s confidence in our elections and deepening the partisan divides that make it harder for Americans to confront the pandemic, achieve an economic recovery and tackle other pressing challenges.
“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” sixth book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).
No kidding. It’s amazing that number isn’t higher, given the barrage of disinformation from Trump and conspiracy theories on social media. Equally disingenuous, Cruz says “the unprecedented allegations of voter fraud” demand Congress’ intervention, ignoring the lead role he and other GOP officials played in amplifying those baseless claims.
Cruz would have Americans believe that a new “Electoral Commission” is needed to scrutinize the elections administered and certified by the states, opening the door for legislatures to pick a different president than the people did. Nevermind the fact that at least 86 judges across the political spectrum have heard—and dismissed—all claims of election irregularities. Or the fact that former Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department found no widespread fraud that would change the outcome of the election. Or that a national coalition of election security officials, including some appointed by Trump, said “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Cruz’s crusade is not about election security It’s about pandering to a diehard Trump base that he hopes will propel him to the White House in 2024. It’s about the flurry of fundraising emails from Cruz, Carter and others seeking campaign donations to “join the fight”—as if it costs them anything to show up Wednesday and raise objections on the floor of Congress,
To no one’s surprise, Trump has handled defeat the same way he’s managed other political setbacks: Spread lies and conspiracy theories. Pressure key officials to bend the rules. The appalling audio of Trump’s hour-long phone call last weekend with Georgia elections officials shows the leader of the free world demanding a “recalculation” of the votes to keep him in power–as if the results of an election were negotiable.
Trump’s antics have tested our nation’s commitment to self-governance and created a rift within the Republican Party. Our democracy still stands because others within the GOP—from local elections officials to Republican-appointed judges—have shown their fidelity to the Constitution and the will of voters.
Laudably, a growing chorus of Congressional Republicans, including Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Chip Roy of Hays County, have refused to take part in challenging the election results on Wednesday. In a statement with 6 other members of the U.S. House, Roy said taking such an action would “unconstitutionally insert Congress into the center of the presidential election process…(and) would amount to stealing power from the people and the states.”
Taken during a McCain rally at the Cedar Rapids Municipal Airport during the 2008 presidential campaign. Cover of Volume II of “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House.” (Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book).
Plenty of issues, from tax policies to judicial nominees, are fair game for partisan fights. But the underpinnings of our democracy, the very notion that voters decide the elections must be sacrosanct.
Honoring the will of the voters should not be a Republican or a Democratic norm, but an American one. The efforts to subvert that, first in failed lawsuits by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Rep. Louie Gohmert, now in the charge led by Cruz, are nothing short of seditious.
Cruz’ gambit on Wednesday will fail, too.
But what a shameful spectacle!
“We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids!” (Mitch McConnell) If we overrule the election results, we damage our democracy. This election was not even unusually close The electoral college count was almost identical to what it was in 2016.
If this election were overturned by unsupported allegations from the other side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. Every 4 years would be a scramble for power. If we overrule the voters, we can damage the Republic forever.
The effects would go even beyond the elections themselves. Self government requires a shared commitment to the truth and a shared respect for the ground rules of our system. We cannot keep drifting apart into 2 separate tribes with a separate set of facts with nothing in common but a respect for the common institutions we share.
Every time since 2000, said McConnell, such a dispute took place. Republicans condemned those baseless attacks back then, said McConnell. “There can be no double standard.” We must not imitate and escalate what we repudiate,” said McConnell. It must not be “an endless spiral of partisan venom.”
Belmont Town Hall meeting on campus in Nashville, Tennessee, 2008.
“Honor the people’s decision,” said McConnell. “Show that we can still muster the patriotic fervor not only in victory, but in defeat.”
“It would be unfair and wrong to overrule the voters on this extraordinarily thin premise.”
I will vote to defend our system of government as we know it”
(The above from Mitch McConnell)
From Chuck Schumer:
The Congress does not decide the outcome of elections; the people do.
American people elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be the next Pres. and VP of the U.S. And yet a number of our colleagues have organized an effort to challenge our free and fair election. They have no evidence of widespread voter fraud to change our election. That’s because there is none. They know that President Trump and his allies have lost no fewer than 62 legal challenges, rendered by many Republican judges appointed by President Trump.
In the process of objecting, they will embarrass themselves, their party and the United States of America. Merely accepting the results of an election is considered an act of political courage.
Barack Obama in Davenport, Iowa (River Center) during the 2008 caucus season.
That anyone, much less an elected official, would be willing to tarnish our democracy in order to burnish their personal political future, senators of good will from both sides of the aisle will explain why these challenges must be dismissed.
What message will we send today? What message will we send to every dark corner of the world where elections are stolen? What will we show those people? Will we show them that truth matters. There will always be a stronger coalition ready to push back, ready to defend everything we hold dear.
Let those words ring in the ears of every Senator. Let us do our duty to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help us God.”
(From Chuck Schumer)
Biden on the caucus campaign trail in Iowa prior to the 2008 presidential race. Don’t worry: I’ll be back to politics by the end of the week.
From Ted Cruz:
We have seen and will continue to see a great deal of moralizing from both sides of the aisle. We are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis. Recent polling show that 39% of Americans believe that the election was rigged. That is a profound threat to this country and any administrations that will come.
I believe that there is a better way. Let me be clear: I am not arguing for setting aside the results of this election.
The Hays-Tilden election of 1876 appointed a 10-day investigatory commission. (Cruz wants to establish such a commission).
Today was two days after Christmas in Austin (Tx). It was 78 degrees at the airport.
The holiday has also provided other 70+ days—all sunny—and, since arriving in early December, there have been at least 2 83 degree days.
We celebrated Christmas Eve at my son’s house opening presents and, on Christmas Day, between the two households, we prepared a feast of prime rib, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn on the cob, salad, rolls and a mixed berry pie with ice cream.
We have played euchre, rummy, Code Word, Upwords, Monopoly and Scrabble.
Daughter Stacey traveled in from Nashville. While here, Nashville suffered the explosion. This affected her Dec. 28th start on a new job, so she traveled back one day later than planned.
Everyone liked the presents they received and we have gone back and forth to each other’s homes, dining, playing games (in some cases, outisde) and it has been a stress-free holiday period. It is the culmination of the cancellation of all holidays since Halloween
Craig, Stacey, Connie, Wrigley the dog, Elise and Ava
Sad news reached me concerning the death of my first cousin (Rollie Monson’s) son’s death while hunting (a heart attack) and my former brother-in-law, Ed Castelein, had a stroke.
Otherwise, no news is good news and, aside from trips to my son’s house, we have remained close to home.
Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.
Paul Krugman is a columnist for the New York Times, but he was reprinted in the Austin “American Statesman” today talking about why Republicans seem to have such a tenuous grip on facts. He has a point. I think some of the explanation behind Krugman’s thesis can be laid at the feet of the fractured nature of today’s news—where even the Facebook-like meeting grounds have splintered into those that are far right, those that are far left, and Facebook, itself. So, here is Paul Krugman’s “When Did Republicans Start Hating Facts?”
I reprint it here because not all of you can re-read it on the pages of the Austin “American Statesman” (p. A11) and, in my own experience, there is always a pay wall up on the NY Times.
“Republicans spent most of 2020 rejecting science in the face of a runaway pandemic; now they’re rejecting democracy in the face of a clear election loss.
What do these rejections have in common? In each case, one of America’s two major parties simply refused to accept facts it didn’t like.
I’m sure it’s not right to insist that Republicans ‘believe’ that, say, wearing face masks is useless or that there was widespread voter fraud. Framing the issue as one of belief suggests that some kind of evidence might change party loyalists’ minds.
In reality, what Republicans say they believe flows from what they want to do, whether it’s ignore a deadly disease or stay in power despite the voters’ verdict.
In other words, the point isn’t that the GOP believes untrue things. It is, rather, that the party has become very hostile to the idea that there’s an objective reality that might conflict with its political goals.
Democratic National Convention, 2008, Denver: CNN Headquarters.
Notice, by the way, that I’m not including qualifiers, like saying “some” Republicans. We’re talking about most of the party here. The Texas lawsuit calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the election was both absurd and deeply un-American, but 60% of Republicans in the House signed a brief supporting it, and only a handful of elected Republicans denounced the suit.
At this point, you aren’t considered a proper Republican unless you hate facts.
But when and how did the GOP get that way? If you think it started with Donald Trump and will end when he leaves the scene (if he ever does), you’re naive.
Republicans have been heading in this direction for decades. I’m not sure whether we can pinpoint the moment when the party began its descent into malignant madness, but the trajectory that led to this madness probably became irreversible under Ronald Reagan.
Republicans have, of course, turned Ronald Reagan into an icon, portraying him as the Savior of a desperate, declining nation. Mostly, however that is just propaganda. You’d never know from the legend that economic growth under Reagan was only slightly more robust than it had been under Jimmy Carter, and slower than it would be under Bill Clinton.
And rapidly rising income inequality meant that a disproportionate share of the benefits from economic growth went to a small elite, with only a bit trickling down to most of the population. Poverty, measured properly, was higher in 1989 than it had been a decade earlier.
Other measures suggest that we were already veering off course.
For example, in 1980, life expectancy in America was similar to other wealthy nations; but the Reagan years represent the beginning of the Great Mortality Divergence of the United States from the rest of the advanced world. Today, Americans, on average, can expect to live almost 4 fewer years than their counterparts in comparable countries.
The main point, however, is that under Reagan, irrationality and hatred for the facts began to take over the GOP.
There has always been a conspiracy-theorizing, science-hating, anti-democratic faction to America. Before Reagan, however, mainstream conservatives and the Republican establishment refused to make alliance with that faction, keeping it on the political fringe.
Reagan, by contrast, brought the crazies inside the tent.
Many Americans are, I think, unaware that Reagan embraced a crank economic doctrine—belief in the magical power of tax cuts. I’m not sure how many Americans remember that the Reagan administration was also remarkably hostile to science.
Reagan’s ability to act on his hostility was limited by Democratic control of the House and the fact that the Senate still contained a number of genuinely moderate Republicans. Still, Reagan and his officials spent years denying the effect of acid rain, while insisting that evolution was “just a theory” and promoting the teaching of Creationism in schools.
This rejection of science partly reflected deference to special interests that didn’t want science-based regulation. Even more important, however, was the influence of the religious right, which
Good Old Boy Fred Thompson, running as a Republican, in 2008.
first became a major political force under Reagan, has become ever more central to the Republican coalition and is now a major denier of the party’s rejection of facts—and democracy.
For rejecting facts come naturally to people who insist that they’re acting on behalf of God. So does refusing to accept election results that don’t go their way.
Sure enough, a few days ago, televangelist Pat Robertson—who first became politically influential under Reagan—pronounced the Texas lawsuit “a miracle,” an intervention by God that would keep Trump in office.
The point is that the GOP rejection of facts that has been so conspicuous this year wasn’t an aberration. What we’re seeing is the culmination of a degradation that began a long time and and is almost surely irreversible.
“The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats,” Book #1. (www.TheXmasCats.com for all 5 in the series, currently).
I posted the scheduled appearances for the rest of 2020 previously. This Thursday (Dec. 17) will, in fact, involve telling the audience about books for sale, but whether it will be Sean Leary’s book or not remains to be seen. The evening will focus on the six-book series “The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats” if previously scheduled guest Sean Leary cannot make it, [due to a soccer game this time]. Always have a “Plan B,” when preparing a program, whether it is a radio show, a podcast, a television show, or something else. I’ve done very little talking about my own books on the 38 programs so far. Maybe this is the week—a week before Christmas—to talk about a 6-book Christmas series? I guess we’ll know by Thursday. One way or the other, you’ll get to hear about an appropriate literary purchase for the holiday ahead.
On December 24th there will be a replay of a previous program, and on December 31st (New Year’s Eve) that will happen again.
There are six books in “The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats” series, all of which can be seen by going to www.TheXmasCats.com. I would urge potential listeners to go out to the website while they are listening to me talk about how the books came to be.
Again, this is not a “for sure” program listing, as perhaps Sean will be able to join us to talk about his new book “Subliminal Cartography.” Maybe. Maybe not.
If not, you’ll hear the story of the newest book (“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee”) first, as it is the newest release. I’m on schedule with completing the series for my granddaughters, as I always vowed to discontinue the series when the girls had outgrown Santa Claus. Their twelfth birthday is January 11th; the final book is out, and all six of the books are available on Amazon in time for Christmas gift giving, if you hurry.
So, what are the books and what were the ideas behind them?
Book #1: The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats
This book came out of the non-stop fighting between our two cats, the older cat and a new arrival, who joined us from the ravine as winter came on. They had to learn how to get along, and that is the “moral” of Book #1.
Book #2: The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats
The girls were three when I began the series and they were selecting the next animal that the Christmas Cats, a gang of do-gooders, would aid. Rats came up next. Among other morals of this book it includes an admonition against prejudice and a plea to be helpful and kind to others.
Book #3: The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats
Living here in Austin, as I am currently, this one should be a big seller at Book People, but, alas, it has no “spine” and I learned the valuable lesson that books in Book People (the largest independent bookstore in Austin) must have a spine, so that readers can read the title as they browse in the store (not that there is much “browsing” during the pandemic. The moral: do not fear or destroy animals simply because you are unfamiliar with them. There is a “master plan” for every creature and that bat or insect or snake also has a reason for living.
Book #4: The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer
Inspired by the deer kill staged at Scott County Park in Scott County, Iowa, the Christmas Cats rescue the hapless deer in the park and hustle them to the North Pole, where they learn to help Santa in his annual delivery of gifts. The illustrations by Gary McCluskey for this one are outstanding, and it is one of my two favorite books in the series. For the first time, a hard cover edition was available, although it is not listed on Amazon, which doesn’t help.
Book #5: The Christmas Cats Care for the Bear
This one should be one of the most popular, as it is an anti-bullying tome. The little bear is being bullied because he has funny fur and is chubby. The good lesson to be learned: bullying is wrong.
Book #6: The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee
Donnie Drone wants to take over the hive because he doesn’t like the Queen Bee. He colludes with a less-successful hive to wrest control of the hive. All the worker bees in the hive begin to realize that they could all die if Donnie Drone remains in power, and they unite to drive him off. A timely political parable for our current time(s).