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!

Category: Local Page 2 of 24

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.

Republicans and Their Dubious Relationship with Facts

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.

Podcast of December 17th: Christmas Book(s) for Sale!

“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).

New Boston, Texas, on Night Three

Day 3 found us driving from St. Louis to New Boston, Texas.

The land was flat and uninspiring. I took several pictures along the way, especially one of a city sign for Pocahontas, Arkansas, in honor of our dear friends who used to live in Pocahontas, Iowa.

Naturally, none of the pictures I took has appeared in my mail, which is par for the course. I’ve sent them from my phone 3 times, but they are not coming through. (Sigh).

I did learn a lot about Pocahontas, Arkansas, today, a community of just over 6,000 residents, according to the 2010 census, versus the 1,910 who lives in Pocahontas, Iowa. It is a community on the Black River and, during the Civil War, when they seceded, it ended up having 35,000 Confederate soliders billeted there during the war at one point. Unfortunately for the town, the Yankees broke through the defenses and burned the downtown to the ground at one point. There were 3 Indian tribes that lived in this area back in the day.

The news tonight says there are 99,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19. I did a division problem that showed that the number of cases identified in November meant that each of the 50 states had 80,000 people ill with Covid-19. (Obviously, this was a simple division problem and some states—notably Maine and Hawaii—have done better than others.

St. Louis, Night #2

We had considered driving straight through to Austin, but an accident on the road slowed traffic to a crawl. I persevered and read on in “The Cartel” (p. 192), but darkness fell and we are now sheltering at the Holiday Inn in New Boston, Texas, just outside of Texarkana, where we ordered a pizza from Pizza Hut.

The news tonight in the U.K. “Guardian” says that Trump’s group is being investigated in a pardons-for-pay scheme.

Interestingly enough, the gas in St. Louis was cheaper than in the Quad Cities, but the gas here in Austin (lowest I’ve seen) was $1.63 a gallon. While picking up groceries, I noticed that the 90% ground beef was $4.57 a pound, while it was $6.47 a pound at the Jewel/Osco store on Kennedy Drive and Avenue of the Cities.

Travels to Texas: Night One

Chicago

On the road again.

We’ve made it to Chicago and here is the view from my window. Way more lights in the South Loop than last year.

On the way in on I-55 there was some sort of accident, so the 40 miles to the heart of Chicago took longer than usual, but we’re here now and on to St. Louis tomorrow.

I brought pork chops from our freezer at home and cooked them (also had an onion from home) and made green beans (also from QC) and there was a little bit of left over chicken from the 5.6 pound chicken (Wilbur) we made for Thanksgiving.

The weather has taken a turn for the colder. You can feel it.

We watched the end of “The Undoing” (disappointed that it ended the way it did) and “Fargo” (also a disappointing and confusing ending) and now I’ve managed to make it through all the morning news

Chicago

shows, so it’s off to bed.

RoboCalls Number One in the State of Iowa (No Wonder No One Has A Land Line Any More)

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

According to James Q. Lynch of the Des Moines “Gazette” bureau, Iowa was Number One with a Bullet in receiving robo calls this election season. Transaction Network Services which analyzes over 1 billion calls a day determined that Iowa voters received more than 610,000 robocalls—most of them political in nature—during the presidential election. On November 2nd, the day before the election, Iowans received more than 270,000 robocalls.”

This works out to be about 19.5 per 100 Iowans, making Iowa Number One in the nation with calls per population.

Most of the calls were being made on behalf of candidates on the ballot. “Lucky, lucky you,” said Jim Tyrrell, a senior director at the firm, noting that most recipients were happy that this political period was over.

Every morning, as I sat down to read my morning paper, I took 4 things: 1) the morning paper (2) my land line phone (3) my cell phone and (4) my morning coffee.

I am not technically “in” the state of Iowa, but being on the border means that the Quad Cities television and radio stations and our newspapers are carrying political ads non-stop. I would have to get up at least 3 times during this time period, unless I had taken the phones with me.

Dominion Voting Machine Conspiracy Theories: Only Crackpots Need Apply

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute warns that the crack-pot Dominion Voting Machine conspiracy theories are harming cyber-security:

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

Last week, Julian Sanchez wrote about a crackpot conspiracy theory making the rounds: The allegation that voting machines or tabulation software produced by Dominion Voting Systems had somehow been “hacked” or “rigged” to alter the outcome of the presidential election. At the time, I worried I might be giving undue attention to an outlandish claim that—given how thin and easily debunked was the “evidence” for it—would surely fade away on its own. Apparently, I need not have worried. Since then, the Dominion Theory has not only led to the firing of Chris Krebs, the well‐​respected head of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, but featured in a press conference held by Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who made it the centerpiece of a wildly implausible case that Donald Trump had won the presidency by a “landslide” and been deprived of victory by massive and systematic vote fraud. According to Powell’s increasingly byzantine version of the theory:

“The Dominion Voting Systems, the Smartmatic technology software, and the software that goes in other computerized voting systems here as well, not just Dominion, were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election after one constitutional referendum came out the way he did not want it to come out.”

None of this is true. Dominion and Smartmatic are separate companies, and indeed competitors; the tenuous connection between them is that Dominion once purchased assets from a firm that had been owned and sold off by Smartmatic years earlier. Smartmatic is an American company, though its founders are Venezuelan, and its software was not used in any of the swing states currently under scrutiny. (It has provided software used in Venezuelan elections, but the company itself has called out electoral fraud there.) Powell’s claim appears to be little more than an effort to insinuate guilt by (very indirect) association with an authoritarian regime.

The other supposed “evidence” for chicanery linked to Dominion is equally shoddy. Election‐​night tabulation errors in Michigan—detected and corrected almost instantly—were speculatively attributed to Dominion software by online conspiracy theorists, but local election officials have since explained that they were the result of human errors, not computers misbehaving. Claims amplified by Trump that millions of votes had been “deleted” in Pennsylvania were unequivocally refuted by state officials. Trump appears to have picked up the notion from a report on the One America News Network, which got the idea from a blog post citing data from the polling firm Edison Research—though Edison itself had produced no such report.

Evidence against the theory is overwhelming, and has only become stronger in the week since my original post. Georgia recently completed a manual recount of paper ballots, supervised by the Republican secretary of state, and found no sign of any significant tabulation errors. (The states electronic voting machines generate voter‐​verifiable paper records, and in most battleground states the in‐​person votes that would have used such voting machines favored Trump, with Biden having the advantage in hand‐​marked mail ballots.) In an open letter, 59 of the country’s most prominent election security experts said they’d found no evidence of systemic fraud—cyber or otherwise.

None of this, alas, was enough to save Chris Krebs, until recently director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within the Department of Homeland Security. For the sin of issuing a statement that the agency had found no evidence of voting systems being compromised, Krebs was summarily terminated by tweet, with Trump declaring the agency’s expert analysis “highly inaccurate.”

“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)

Since the evidence‐​free Dominion theory is unlikely to persuade any court, Krebs’ dismissal may be its most damaging consequence, at least in the short term. This is not merely because Krebs was widely respected and viewed as highly competent, but because the firing sends a clear signal to all government employees: if your own analysis contradicts the president’s claims about vote fraud, you shouldn’t expect to remain employed for long. This undermines CISA’s core mission, which includes assisting and coordinating with states which may lack the federal government’s capabilities when it comes to monitoring and detecting sophisticated cyber‐​threats. Now the specter of political interference hangs over any warnings the agency may provide in the future. The agency may now hesitate to provide state officials—and the general public—with reassurances about the integrity of local elections, while warnings about actual threats may be viewed with suspicion given Trump’s clear desire to find evidence of fraud. Nor is the harm limited to CISA. The Intelligence Community at large is on notice: produce reporting at odds with the president’s public claims, and you place your career at risk.

This is particularly poisonous because it distorts what’s known as the “intelligence cycle”: the process by which agencies gather intelligence, analyze it, disseminate reporting, and then use that information to allocate resources and prioritize the next round of intelligence collection. Any distorting effect on what is reported—either because employees feel obliged to emphasize information that confirms what the president wants to hear or suppress information that contradicts his presuppositions—risks creating a feedback loop, infecting the next round of planning and intelligence collection, and diverting resources and energy away from genuine threats and toward spurious ones. We should hope the president‐​elect has the wisdom to avoid such potentially toxic interference.

“The Comeback Trail” Will Leave You Laughing—and That’s Just What We Need!

George Gallo and Josh Posner took an old idea (based on a 1982 film of the same name  by Harry Hurwitz) and tweaked the basic idea of “The Producers” to give us the comedy “The Comeback Trail.” The movie stars Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones, Zach Braff, Morgan Freeman, Emile Hirsch and there is an uncredited cameo from Jason Bateman.

Gallo was the creative force behind “Wise Guys,” “Midnight Run,” and “Bad Boys,” among other amusing films. This is a World Class Cast and the music by Aldo Schllaku and cinematography by Lukasz Bielan are top-notch. Budget was estimated to be $25 million.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell (as revealed in numerous trailers): Max Barber (DeNiro) and his nephew Walter Creason (Zach Braff) have just released “Killer Nuns” (“They’re nuns with a bad habit.”). It’s another bomb from Miracle Pictures. [In fact, the Miracle Pictures slogan is, “If it’s good, it’s a miracle.”]

Walter borrowed $350,000 from Reggie Fontaine (Morgan Freeman) to make the picture, and Reggie wants his money back. Since Reggie isn’t kidding about wanting repayment, Max goes to James Moore (Emile Hirsch), a wealthy investor, and James (call him Jamie) demands that the great script for a film called “Paradise” be signed over to Jamie, in exchange for helping bail Max out.

It is while at Jamie’s mansion, where filming is taking place on yet another picture, that Zach Braff, seeking an autograph, inadvertently causes Frank Pierce, the star of the picture (uncredited cameo by Jason Bateman) to fall off a building.  (I wondered if Frank Pierce was modeled on Tom Cruise?) Pierce is killed,— but he was insured for $5 million.

That is the germ of the idea for Max: Hire an over-the-hill movie star of yesteryear, insure him heavily, and kill him off while making a picture. Then, collect the insurance. This isn’t too far off the idea behind “The Producers” when another Max planned to make a terrible Broadway bomb and collect for its failure. That original film with Dick Shawn (“Springtime for Hitler,” anyone?) unfortunately goes on to be a roaring success, which ruins Zero Mostel’s (Max Bialystock’s) plans.

Tommy Lee Jones is the over-the-hill Western star, Duke Montana, who is reduced to doing commercials for Big Earl’s Used Cars, while living in a retired actors’ home, where he is suicidal over his long-lost love, Bess.

THE GOOD

The dialogue frequently references famous movies of yesteryear. At one point, for instance, Morgan Freeman tells Max’s character that, if he is not promptly paid within 72 hours, “I’ll hunt you down like Redford and Newman in ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’” There is an amusing exchange when Morgan Freeman—a frequent investor in numerous film projects—-marvels to his sidekick, Devin, that they are on the movie set where “Gunga Din” was filmed.

“This is where they shot Gunga Din!” says Morgan’s character.

Devin responds, “Who is Gunga Din and why did they shoot him?”

It’s throw-away lines like this, plus the stunt horse Buttermilk (an homage to Dale Evans) that will tickle the fancy of true movie buffs.

The horse (Buttermilk) has various tricks that he’ll perform upon the uttering of a code word. Say “rocket” and he’s off running like one. Say “mattress” and he’ll lie down. Say “Rhubarb” and watch out! There is also a bull whose intentions towards the cast are deadly and a hanging footbridge over a canyon that makes Duke ‘fess up that he is afraid of heights.

THE BAD

I’ve never thought that Robert DeNiro played comedy as well as drama. He always seems to be over-the-top hammy in fare like “Meet the Fockers,” but the movies were still funny. His mugging for the camera (again) doesn’t keep the lines and situations from being laugh-out-loud humor at a time when we desperately need more laughter in our lives.

The movie was filmed in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico, and will be streaming by December 18th. Be sure to stay after the credits to see the hilarious phoney ads for “Killer Nuns” and films like “Cows from Beyond” by the mythical Miracle Films.

 

“Meat the Future” Explains How Meat Can Be Grown in Labs and Replace “Real” Meat

Now playing the 43rd Denver Film Festival, “Meat the Future” is a Liz Marshall documentary that explains the brainchild of cardiac surgeon Uma Valeti, who has formed Memphis Meats to bring meat grown in laboratories to market.

Dr. Valeti actually was a trained cardiac surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, but he had been haunted for years by the idea that, in order to eat meat, animals must be grown to adulthood and then slaughtered. Not only did the idea that “in the midst of life, we are in death” affect him as a child, he also became aware of the growing demand for meat that cannot be met by standard methods.

In the course of this film, we meet Ira Van Eelen, whose father in Amsterdam may have been the Godfather of Clean Meat, starting experiments with growing meat in a lab as far back as 2010. Dr. Valeti took the idea and has made it a reality—if an expensive reality—making it possible to cultivate meat that tastes like meat, from the cells of chickens and ducks and beef cattle, in a cultured lab setting over the course of 4 weeks, whereas it takes from 14 to 24 months to raise an animal from birth to slaughter.

SLAUGHTER

In order to feed humans, pigs and cows and other living mammals are slaughtered. It’s a reality that has driven many to become vegetarians. Even Dr. Valeti admits having tried vegetarianism for a while. The success of things like tofu burgers, however, has not been nearly as close to “the real thing” as the cultured meats that Valeti’s Memphis Meats has been able to produce.

Early news articles (April, 2016) showed a pound of what appeared to be ground beef with the label $18,000 – 1 lb. of ground beef from Memphis Meats. The three original investors put $3.1 million together but, since their successes, investors like Bill Gates and Richard Branson, along with David McLennan, the CEO of Cargill, have come onboard to underwrite the group’s efforts.  Draper Fisher Jurveston, an investment firm for those looking to underwrite promising technologies, reports that the group now has “more money coming at them than they want to take” and mentioned a figure of $4 billion.

What are the “good” and the “bad” things about “clean meat”? (“clean meat,” as a term,has tested more positively than “cultured meat” in P.R. studies).

THE GOOD:

  • Animals are a big part of the carbon footprint problem and, with this technology, the need to raise so many animals on feed lots, is bypassed, thereby decreasing the carbon footprint of the industries that are now producing our meat. The film mentions a timeline of 20 to 30 years by which time animals would not need to be raised for meat. This is, as the film put it, ‘a huge paradigm shift.”
  • Supply – The documentary posits the belief that, despite all the efforts that currently exist to feed the world’s people, we need to step up production. Comparing 4 weeks of preparation time (clean meat)  to 14 to 24 months (real meat) is educational.
  • No more slaughtering living creatures for our beef, pork, poultry or fish.

 

THE BAD:

  • As you can imagine, meat producers are not at all sure that this idea is a “good” thing for them, their industry, or the public They maintain that the government must learn how to regulate cell-based meats. Both Sonny Perdue (Secretary of Agriculture) and Dr. Scott Gottlieb of “Face the Nation” appearances talk about “clean meat.”
  • The Good Food Institute says we need the equivalent of a Manhattan Project to move the initiative forward. Why do I get the feeling that, just like the electric car, the “old way” meat people will kill the idea of cultured cells becoming edible meat, just as the fossil fuel industry killed the electric car?
  • Expense – currently, it is prohibitively expensive to create “clean meat” with figures of $1700 per pound mentioned. The use of markets and technology to solve problems cannot be supported enthusiastically enough, but I do wonder if this Bold Brave Idea might end up like the hydrogen car. (Remember that one?)

“A Perfect Enemy” Is a Film To Intrigue from Director Kike Maillo

The intriguing film “A Perfect Enemy” starring Tomasz Kot (Cold War), was directed by 45-year-old Spanish-born director Kike Maillo. Maillo helmed the 2012 film “Eva,” when 37, and it won him the Best New Director award from the Cinema Writers Circle Award in Spain and an award for Best Special Effects (2012). This time out, the basis for the complicated story is a novel by Amelie Nothomb, “Cosmetique de l’ennemi,” but the script was written by Maillo, aided by screenwriters Cristina Clemente and Fernando Navarro.

Architect Jeremiasz August has just concluded a lecture about architecture (“Perfection is when there is nothing left to take away.”) and is in a cab on his way to the airport.

Furthermore, it is an airport that Jeremiasz actually designed, with a beautiful model of his work in the center of a spacious waiting area.

Amidst a deluge outside the lecture hall, a young blonde traveler asks if she can share a cab with the architect. Tessel Textor (Athena Straites)—a petite blonde—does clamber inside the cab in the downpour and begins a pretty much non-stop barrage of information about herself. The Good Samaritan act of allowing her to share the cab causes both the architect and the young blonde to miss their flights, so their conversation continues—more or less—-in the VIP lounge of the airport.

August appears to be growing very tired of the non-stop chatter. There is some symbolism overtly explained. When Tessel first enters the cab,she explains that her name can mean “weaver of words,” although she is not a writer. (August tells her it’s not too late to start.)

There is a third character—a beautiful woman named Isabelle, who was married to August but disappeared  twenty years earlier. We see Isabelle (Marta Nieto) primarily strolling about a charming cemetery and, later, in her apartment. Her relationship with August is confirmed further along in the film by photos of the couple that adorn her apartment.

Things begin to become very surreal and fantastical at the airport. There are clear signs that Tessel is “not right in the head” (if she is even there) and her annoying monologue is beginning to irritate the reserved architect. There are several trips to view a model of the airport. Each time,  airport model has small changes occurring involving splotches of blood, etc. (Take note). The exchanges in the rest room(s) are even more central to the plot and even weirder.

Ultimately, August is on his flight. We anticipate that violence will occur at any moment, especially since Tessel followed August into the men’s lavatory and spends a fair amount of time playing with a knife throughout the film.

Now, August is on his flight. Tessel says to August, “Lower your voice.”

“Why?” asks August.

“Because you’re still on the plane,” responds Tessel. That was not where we thought August was when he raised his voice, so settings are shifting and mysterious things are occurring; the endless stories that Tessel tells are beginning to form a mosaic of sorts, coming together to form one tapestry.

The best comparison, for the viewer, to capture what may be going on in this film is to mention “Fight Club” and how it dealt with reality.

I enjoyed the film. First of all, it was well acted, (although Tessel would have been more convincing if she hadn’t been wearing 10 pounds of colored eye make-up in every scene plus what looked like camouflage pajamas).

Aside from that faux pas on the costuming, the principals carry out the somewhat confusing exchanges of dialogue proficiently, the music is good (Alex Baranowski), the sets are great, the cinematography is above average (Rita Noriega)  and the ultimate resolution of the plot is clear.

Another plus: the actors are all speaking English. I finally gave up on the subtitles of an Iranian film that was supposed to feature a burning theater. Did not make it through to the end of that one. Gave it my best shot; that’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back.

 Enjoyed this one all the way through to its thought-provoking conclusion.

How Trump Might Try to Cheat to Win

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

This is a slightly truncated version of the original “Washington Post” article that explains one of the likely methods that DJT will/would try to use to steal the November 3rd presidential election.

Could Trump steal the election? Here’s one way to find out. (Sept. 30, 2020)

The disastrous debate that unfolded in Ohio should prompt us to take the possibility that President Trump will try to steal the election far more seriously — even as it also renders that outcome much less likely to succeed.

Trump exhorted his far-right army to mobilize for a sustained conflict over the election results. He refused to say whether he’d accept a legitimate loss. And he confirmed he’s expecting the Supreme Court to help invalidate countless legally cast ballots.

It’s this last point that presents a way to gauge Trump’s chances of executing some version of his corrupt designs.

The short version is this. At Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, Democrats can press a line of questioning that might illuminate whether Trump can pull off one of his most-discussed means for rigging the election: getting a GOP state legislature to appoint substitute pro-Trump electors to the electoral college, regardless of the popular vote in that state. 

Trump is telegraphing his scheme

At the debate, Trump said he “can’t go along” with a result tallied up from millions of mail-in ballots, which will mean “fraud like you’ve never seen.” He urged supporters to “watch” the voting “very carefully,” i.e., to engage in voter intimidation.

And asked what he expects of the high court and Barrett, Trump said:I’m counting on them to look at the ballots.”

Trump did also say he might not “need” the court to settle “the election itself.” But that only inadvertently confirms that he believes the court is at his beck and call on this matter.

As far-fetched as it seems that a state legislature might appoint pro-Trump electors, it’s important to note that some Republicans are already claiming that the fictional mass fraud in large-scale mail balloting could serve as the justification for doing just this.

As one Trump legal adviser told the Atlantic, they might say: “We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state.”

And so, when Trump casts doubt on the legitimacy of a prolonged count after Election Day — as he did at the debate — he’s opening the possibility of using exactly this justification for precisely this endgame.

As Edward Foley outlined in a prescient 2019 article, if Trump were ahead in the Election Day count, he’d likely put this scheme in motion while claiming “machine politicians in Philadelphia” are trying to steal the election with fabricated mail votes.

Could this work?

Democratic National Convention

To be clear, it shouldn’t.

The Constitution does assign to each state the authority to “appoint” its electors, in a “manner” that the legislature “may direct.”

But in a terrific piece, three legal scholars — Grace Brosofsky, Michael Dorf and Laurence Tribe — explain that precedent shows this means the legislature must “direct” how the state appoints its electors by making laws that create and define the process for doing so.

Virtually all states have made laws that provide for electors to be appointed in accordance with the popular vote outcome in them. (Maine and Nebraska do this by congressional district.) Thus, those scholars argue, legislatures can’t appoint pro-Trump electors without making a new law providing for appointment of electors based on legislators’ own will, not that of the voters.

Such a new law would require the governor’s signature. And in three states where this appears most likely to be tried — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — Democratic governors would veto any such effort by GOP-controlled legislatures.

The Supreme Court has upheld the principle that a governor can veto such an effort, those scholars note. In the 1932 case Smiley v. Holm, the court ruled that the Minnesota state legislature could not change election rules unilaterally in the face of such a veto.

This ruling confirmed that for the court, “state legislatures cannot alter” laws governing the selection of electors “except through their ordinary state lawmaking procedures,” which would require a gubernatorial signature and be subject to veto, the scholars argue.

So friendly legislatures can’t do this on Trump’s whim without a new law, no matter how loudly they scream that ongoing counting of mail ballots is fraudulent.

Such a case might again find its way to the Supreme Court. But how would it rule?

The question for Barrett

Democratic senators can press Trump’s nominee on this question — by asking whether she believes Smiley is settled law, and on whether she believes the Constitution does or does not allow state legislatures to appoint electors outside the lawmaking process.

Dorf, a professor at Cornell Law School, told me Barrett would likely evade this question, by merely promising to “respect precedent” while declining comment on a question that might soon be before the court.

Still, this might be worth trying. Given that Trump has explicitly said he expects the court — and Barrett — to help him pull off something like this, we’re in an extraordinary situation. By confirming that Smiley is settled law, Barrett could strongly suggest that such an effort will fail, sparing the country from it.

“She could certainly throw cold water on it,” Dorf told me. “She could make it clear that she’s not likely to be receptive to an argument” that legislators can appoint electors without a new law.

As for other justices — such as John G. Roberts Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — they might also look askance at such an effort. In Bush v. Gore, the court described the process for appointing electors as a “legislative” scheme. Dorf says they might see this as invalidating any effort to appoint them outside the lawmaking process.

To be clear, Trump’s disastrous debate performance makes it more likely Biden will win the “blue wall” states by a comfortable enough margin that Trump won’t even try such a scheme.

But Trump also made it clear at the debate that he’s unhinged enough to try anything — and is perfectly happy to rile up millions of supporters behind an effort to overturn a legitimate loss. So if there’s any way to take this off the table now, we should try it.

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