Category: Local Page 2 of 22
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.
[Having just finished watching both the DNC and the RNC and doing a “live” podcast discussing both, I am reprinting here the observations of another, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post.
I’ll ultimately put down my own thoughts about the two conventions, articulated “live” on Weekly Wilson podcast last night in discussion with author Michael Serrapica (author of “Conned Conservatives and Led-On Liberals,” a book about political propaganda), but here is part of Eugene Robinson’s column. Coming from a black citizen, the viewpoints offer more insight than my own :
In his first paragraph, Robinson called out what I similarly called out in a Letter to the Editor of the Quad City Times published on 8/27, a rebuttal to a Sunday letter from Lyle Miller that ran on Aug. 23rd. Said Robinson of the RNC show. I call it a DISCONNECT FROM REALITY of those swearing allegiance to DJT.
“What 176,000-plus deaths from COVID-19? What devastating shutdown and recession? What double-digit unemployment? What mass uncertainty over whether and how to open our schools? What shocking police killings of African Americans? What long overdue reckoning with systemic racism? Let me put it another way: What country does Vice President Mike Pence live in?” wrote Eugene Robinson.
If you saw my letter to the editor in the paper yesterday in response to Lyle Robinson, I referred to his completely ignoring similar shortcomings and failings of the current administration as “a disconnect with reality.” What is wrong with intelligent people that they cannot see through this charlatan’s charade and how he is playing “the fear card” to try, by any means possible, to hold on to power? It wasn’t a coincidence that Melania Trump showed up looking like a Slovenian Prison Matron the night of her speech in the Rose Garden, the garden that she completely uprooted in order to use “the people’s house” for the Trump team’s purposes.
Robinson continued: “During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, Pence sounded as though he lived in some kind of fantasyland that perhaps had encountered a few tiny little bumps in the road. His party has spent the week claiming to represent ‘the common man,’ but Pence spoke as though he knew next to nothing about the daunting challenges that Americans are having to deal with every day. The most he could muster was an acknowledgement that ‘we’re passing through a time of testing,’ as though he were consoling a motorist after a fender bender.”‘
Pence did offer ‘our prayers’ for victims of Hurricane Laura’ and he acknowledged there had been deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, though not how many. But his only pointed and specific words were his attacks against the Democratic nominee—‘You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America‘—and his full-throated endorsement of President Donald Trump’s ‘law and order’ rhetoric. The idea that “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” is complete and utter B.S. and any thinking person who was alive from 2008-2016 should be able to figure that out for himself or herself.
At this point, we could add that the violence we are all seeing and experiencing in towns like Minneapolis and Kenosha is on Trump’s watch, with his apparent tacit endorsement, as it might help him cling to power if he can convince gullible Americans that the violence breaking forth on our streets right now is not on HIS watch, but try to lay it at the feet of a rival candidate who served honorably for 47 years, 8 of them as Vice President.
Robinson continued: “The vice president rejected the idea of systemic racism, instead focusing on the protest and demanding its end. He blasted ‘violence and chaos—rioting and looting—tearing down statues”–with no mention of why those things might be happening.”
It is a fair charge to say that DJT cares more about dead Civil War heroes than he does about living flesh-and-blood American citizens.
Continuing: “Pence spoke from an iconic American setting, the site of the War of 1812 battle whose ‘rocket’s red glare’ and ‘bombs bursting in air’ inspired Francis Scott Key to write ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ Fort McHenry is meant to symbolize national unity. It was an act of defilement to use such a place for partisan political rhetoric intended to provoke division and fear.”
“But as far as this Republican convention is concerned, what else is new?”
“So far, the GOP has misused the White House—the people’s house— to have Trump and his acting Secretary of Homeland Security stage a naturalization ceremony, crassly reducing 5 newly-minted U.S. citizens to photographic props; have Trump pardon an African-American ex-convict Jon Pardon, as part of an all-out attempt to whitewash the administration’s shocking racism; and have First Lady Melania Trump deliver her convention address standing in the Rose Garden she recently renovated.”
We could interject here, “recently ruined.” The Rose Garden trees were planted by Jackie Kennedy in the sixties and the trees bore the names of other first ladies through the years, but they were all gone, dug up to make way for cables and microphones and bland-by-comparison flowers, so that Trump could squeeze 3,000 people into the Rose Garden, nearly all maskless and sitting in close proximity. If there are bigger ways to give the rest of the U.S. the finger, what are they? “Let’s rip out Jackie Kennedy’s garden and, instead, make this hallowed location a launching pad for the propaganda of our convention!” And that’s what 100% of the convention was about: propaganda. Truth rarely reared its head.
“The party also had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak to the convention from Jerusalem, playing an active partisan role in a way no sitting secretary of state has done in living memory (because of the Hatch Act)—in the middle of a taxpayer-funded diplomatic trip, no less. Pompeo is supposed to represent the entire nation, but apparently he represents only the loyal Trump base.”
“Trump and his campaign aides see this ostentatious disregard for hallowed norms (and laws, like the emoluments clause of the Constitution) as elements of ‘the Trump brand.’ Despite being in office for 3 and 1/2 years, Trump still wants to cast himself as some kind of rough-hewn outsider willing to smash all the china, if necessary, to ‘get things done.’ It’s pure razzle-dazzle (or razzle-fizzle) designed to create the illusion of blunt effectiveness and to distract from the administration’s dismal, tragic failures.”
“Pence is supposedly leading the nation’s response to the coronavirus emergency. You would think that he, of all speakers, would at least try to deal with that crisis substantively, but you would have been wrong.”
“As Pence spoke, a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm was grinding towards landfall along the Gulf Coast—one of two to hit within days. Thousands of people were trying to evacuate their homes near the Texas-Louisiana border and, because the Trump administration so bungled its response to Covid-19, they had to scramble for shelter and safety in the midst of a raging pandemic.”
“Meanwhile, Kenosha, Wisconsin, was under a tense dusk-to-dawn curfew following angry protests that were sparked by the shocking police shooting Sunday of yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, shot 7 times in the back in front of three little boys while attempting to get into his car. (and now paralyzed from the waist down). Pence apparently hadn’t noticed the reason for the Kenosha protests. And he apparently really didn’t notice the killing Tuesday of two protesters, allegedly by a 17-year-old White Racist vigilante and avid Trump supporter whose mother drove him and his automatic weapon to Kenosha from Illinois. “[The perpetrator, Kyle Rittenhouse, was even able to drive back home to Antioch, Illinois and spend the night in his own bed, while the police chief in Kenosha blamed the victims for “being out after curfew.”]
Let’s be quite clear here: all of this completely unacceptable violence is happening on DJT’s watch. The buck stops there.
I’m old enough to remember violence of this magnitude in the sixties, as various civil rights and political icons were shot down and the Black Panthers movement armed to counter police violence towards people of color. Still, the circumstances, amidst a pandemic, with a president who tacitly condones and encourages such unrest, while claiming to be trying to control it, are very different.
Robinson goes on to say: “I wasn’t surprised. Earlier in the evening the convention brought out Michael McHale, president of the Nattonal Organization of Police Organizations, to describe Biden (who authored the 1994 crime bill) and vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris (a former prosecutor) as—somehow (unbelievably)—anti-police—and to call DJT ‘the most pro-law-enforcement president we’ve ever had.'”
“Be afraid, America, be very afraid, said Eugene Robinson.
“What all of this actually reveals is Trump’s own naked fear. (Fear that he may lose because of his incompetence when handling his duties regarding the coronavirus and the subsequent economic downturn.) Even this night, masks were not being worn and social distancing was not being practiced, yet more evidence of this administration’s anti-science bent, which has contributed to the U.S. having 1/4 of the world’s deaths from the virus but only 4% of the world’s population. Trump has made us the leader of “civilized country with most deaths that could have been prevented,” but that was not what the evening’s script wanted you to believe.
Robinson sums up: “Trump and the Republicans are pulling these stunts because they know that right now they are, according to polls, they are losing this election. Badly. And, deep down, I hope at least some of them realize that defeat is what they rightly deserve.”
Let us never forget P.T. Barnum’s words, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Apparently, the Trump team thinks that they can bamboozle their way through inconvenient facts and lie their way to a second term. Be a critical thinker. Look around you. Do you see long lines at food banks? Do you have neighbors who are out of work and whose jobs probably will never return? Worse yet, do you have friends or family members who have caught this lethal disease and are gone forever? Today’s headline of the Quad City Times reads: “Iowa breaks Covid-19 Daily Records.”
It’s not business as usual, folks, and we are NOT back to “normal.” And whatever “normal” we return to will been shaped by the incompetent response of the very people tasked to address it, who, instead, told us as long ago as January 22nd, “We have it all under control.” Trump continued to spout this falsehood, even in the face of reality.
Don’t let the GOP disconnect with reality blur your own eyes and ears. Look around and ask yourself that old political question, “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” The answer is clear, and that means change of leadership. Or, actually, getting ANY national leadership in the Covid-19 fight, for a change.
Former top Trump strategist Steve Bannon was arrested for defrauding the public with a “We Build the Wall” Go Fund Me campaign that began in December of 2018 and brought in in excess of $25 million dollars.
Bannon was not really building a wall. He was collecting money from suckers to build a wall. All the while he and his co-defendants were promising that “100% of the money goes to the wall,” which was a complete fiction.
Bannon has been charged, as of today, with wire fraud and money laundering. According to an expert CNN commentator, the authorities have Bannon dead to rights, with e-mails, copies of money transfers that went directly into Bannon’s pockets, etc. His bond is set at $5 million. Of that, he had to pony up $1.75 million in cash or properties, plus a promise not to travel without the permission of the court.
The cynicism of the online “We Build the Wall” campaign cannot be over-emphasized, as these were not wealthy donors but small dollar donations from Americans who were behind Trump’s plan to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
GoFundMe online had some concerns about the campaign. How, exactly, was Kolfage going to give all this money to the government? How would he make sure the government would use it for wall-building? GoFundMe told Kolfage he needed to find a credible nonprofit organization to accept the money or else it would all be sent back to the donors.
The campaign had grown and there was a lot of money at stake, so Kolfage needed help. Enter Steve Bannon. The former head of Breitbart News, Bannon had been Trump’s campaign CEO in 2016 and served as White House chief adviser in 2017.
The penalty for these crimes can be 20 years in prison, although it is possible that Bannon may have some information useful to federal authorities with which he can bargain for a milder sentence, just like Ghislaine Maxwell (Jeffrey Epstein’s associate). Bannon and Reince Preibus and Kellyanne Conway, backed by Rebekkah Mercer money, were given a great deal of credit for the framing of the issues for the successful 2016 Trump campaign, although Trump and Bannon subsequently had a falling-out, which hinged on conflict between Bannon and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Bannon, 66, was arrested at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday near Westbook, Connecticut on a $25 million megayacht called Lady May by officers of the USPS. The yacht was owned by exiled Chinese dissident Guo Wengui. “The defendants allegedly engaged in fraud when they misrepresented the true use of donated funds,” Vox magazine said. “Not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth.”
According to “Vox:” In December 2018, Brian Kolfage, an Iraq War veteran and triple amputee, came up with an unusual idea. He set up a GoFundMe page asking Trump supporters to contribute money themselves to get the wall built. The campaign pledged that “100% of your donations” would be given to the federal government for the wall. It went massively viral on the right — $20 million in pledges poured in
Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, had been Trump’s campaign CEO in 2016 and served as White House chief adviser in 2017. (To learn more about Bannon, see the Netflix Errol Morris documentary “American Dharma.”)
According to prosecutors, Bannon, through a non-profit under his control, used more than $1 million from We Build the Wall to “secretly” pay Kolfage and cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bannon’s personal expenses.
Kolfage, according to the charges, spent more than $350,000 of the donations on personal expenses, including cosmetic surgery, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, payments toward a boat, home renovations, jewelry, personal tax payments and credit card debt.
Bannon, Kolfage and the other two defendants, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Bannon is the sixth member of Trump’s “inner circle” to face federal charges and/or go to jail.
A storm stretching 777 miles, with a diameter of 140 miles hit the Quad Cities and much of the rest of the state(s) of Iowa, Illinois an Nebrasks (among others) cut a wide swath of destruction and downed power lines.
I was on the phone at roughly 2 p.m. when the wind began throwing branches against the windows and roof. We’ve lived in the house since 1970 and been through many tornado-like episodes, but this one was the worst.
A gigantic dead tree fell between the house next door and the second house down from us as you
head into the right end of our dumb-bell shaped court. All our power was out until late Tuesday night, and this condition was quite universal, with 180,000 or so with no power in Cedar Rapids and about 75,000 each in Des Moines and the Quad Cities. The Internet was also wiped out by the storm.
I’ve canceled my Thursday night podcast and re-scheduled author Jon Land for Thursday, August 20th, when we will talk about his newest book, “Strong from the Heart,” the eleventh entry in the Caitlin Strong series about a female Texas Ranger. John has written over 43 novels, and I’ve read and reviewed three of them. This is the best one yet, and I’m sure it will be a good program, “live,” on THursday, August 20th.
But returning to the storm and its consequences.
In Cedar Rapids, a curfew was imposed. The city was dark and it was almost impossible to purchase gas. (Here, it was food).
My sister’s house in Marion supposedly lost at least 10 old trees from near her and, as he drove home, my nephew reported that his building at an architectural firm had been evacuated after the outer shingling began peeling off and blowing away, plus, there was a gas leak.
I’ve been through one tornado (too young to remember it), where we crouched in a storm shelter as the roof from the nearby St. John’s Church was ripped off and much of it was partially dropped in my back yard. (My father built me a playhouse with the wood.) I’ve been through blizzards and floods, but this “hurricane on land” was quite unique.
It doesn’t help at all to have read in my Iowa newsletter that the original definition of a decheco was described by an Iowa alum in the 19th century.
So, a pandemic, Murder Hornets, weird packets of seeds from China, Donald J. Trump and, now, the decheco storm of all storms. I read that this was much like a hurricane on land but that the name of the phenomenon comes from the fact that it goes directly through the area. Counties in Iowa were declared disaster areas and roughly 1/3 of the corn crop may have been lost to the storm.
Drive-in theaters will definitely make a “comeback,” if you want to call it a comeback when there were always a few that were still operating.
My birthday was Thursday and, in an attempt to go to a movie somewhere other than my living room, I searched for any operating theaters in a two-state area near me (IA/IL). None of the indoor theaters were operating, but there were a few drive-ins open and operating. One was in Delmar, Iowa. One was in Maquoketa, Iowa, and one was in Blue Grass, Iowa.
Since Blue Grass was the closest to us, we went to it on Friday night. I spoke with the Manager, who said it has been in operation since 2014. It is a 10-acre plot in a field near the small town of Blue Grass, Iowa, and the screen is a ‘cube.’ allowing them to show 3 different sets of double features.(They haven’t gotten the fourth side operational yet). We selected “The Rental” with “The Big Ugly,” which was premiering that night at the drive-in. I think “The Rental,” directed by Dave Franco, is also streaming on Hulu and it featured Allison Brie and 3 other young actors who had rented a lovely remote vacation spot that was, apparently, owned by a homicidal psychopath.
Who was in these movies? Well, “The Big Ugly” was a chance for Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”) to square off opposite Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy”). There were also quite a few “old reliable” character actors rounding out the cast, including Bruce McGill, who was D-Day in “Animal House” and has appeared in any number of films since then, and Nicholas Braun (“Succession”) as Will, plus a promising new-comer, Brandon Sklemar, who played Perlman’s no-good son, Junior.
I took the opportunity to speak with the manager of the complex, which makes most of its money on the popcorn and pizza and other edibles they sell and requests that you not bring your own food. (Plus, no alcohol). The tickets were $10. The large pizza, 2 large (refillable) diet cokes, and a large popcorn were about $36. All together, the cost of the evening was about $50. We took lawn chairs and watched Movie Number One sitting outside and watched Movie Number Two inside the car. The film began at about 9 p.m. and the whole evening took until about 1 a.m.
The manager told us that the owner, when he retired in a few months, wanted to make the fourth side of the cube in the middle of the 10 acres into a fourth functioning screen. Right now, they show 3 different double features. (“Grease” and “Footloose” were on one and “Iron Man” and some children’s film was on a third.) The owner has a perhaps pie-in-the-sky dream of building suites (on stilts) and running year-round, which sounds “iffy” in the midst of an Iowa winter, but this night the weather was perfect, with a slight breeze, extremely friendly employees (all masked), and radios that one could rent for $5 if you didn’t want to tune your car radio into a pre-set number and run your car all night. The only drawback was hearing the soundtrack from nearby screens while watching our film(s).
Tribeca, the film powerhouse, has recently made plans to open 160 new drive-ins around the country. The “big new” thing for touring musicians is having their filmed performance showing on a drive-in screen. One that is coming up in the future is Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Garth Brooks, and Keith Urban have all used the drive-in system, instead of the normal in-person concerts during the pandemic. At the Blue Grass Drive-in, they have no say over the ticket prices of such shows and the manager wondered, openly, why the cost for Garth Brooks was $100 per carload, versus $115 for Blake Shelton. [He felt it would be better to have a standard price for these “concerts,” but he doesn’t make the rules.]
So, the drive-in is back. I hadn’t been to a drive-in in 40 years, but I’m sure I’ll go again if all the theaters remain closed.
Some of you who hear the Suzi Quatro interview on Thursday, June 25th at 7 p.m. on the Bold Brave Media Global Network (or Tune-In Radio) may be wondering how you can find the documentary on her life and her music.