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: News Page 1 of 16

This category will, no doubt, be spending time reporting on the antics of the Trump Administration, but natural disasters and other such news will also qualify.

Republicans Double-Down on Anti-Immigration Stance

Former Trump administration neo-Nazi and Breitbart spawn Steven Miller has been invited to address GOP members of Congress about the Democratic plan for an 8-year path to citizenship for illegal aliens.

This won’t be Miller’s first time trying to stop pro-immigrant legislation. Back when he worked for then-Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Miller “played a key role in ensuring the failure of a comprehensive immigration bill introduced by a bipartisan group of senators who became known as the Gang of Eight,” the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said. Miller in fact “drafted a 30-page memo that Mr. Sessions shared with the House Republican caucus,” [The New York Times, 2019].

While the Senate under former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid passed legislation by a wide, bipartisan 67-27, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner blocked it in his chamber. Now House Republicans are bringing Miller back.

“This comes on the heels of news that Donald Trump’s will address immigration in his upcoming CPAC speech. Clearly, the Republican Party is still the Party of Trump,” immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice said. “The GOP is doubling down on ugly xenophobia and racism rather than trying to grow its appeal and reclaim lost suburban voters.” They are also trying to clamp down on absentee voting and are actively trying to gerrymander districts that didn’t go GOP in the last presidential election.

The organization said that the “ongoing political transformation of Georgia captures the perils of this approach.”

“In Georgia, a multiracial majority—sparked by the combination of bottom-up organizing by Stacey Abrams, Republican extremism, and changing demographics—delivered two Senate seats for Democrats and flipped an important electoral college state for President Biden,” the group said in the statement. It points to a new NBC News report finding that Democrats’ most significant gains from 2008 to 2020 came from three suburban Georgia counties.

In a testament to this shift, one of those Georgia counties, Gwinnett, elected a sheriff who ran and won on ending a racist and flawed agreement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Joining Miller to “brief” House Republicans are two other notoriously anti-immigrant officials from the previous administration: former acting ICE director Tom Homan, and former acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan. Mark recently became an official hate group member, joining the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigrant organization deemed a hate group by the SPLC, as a “Senior Fellow.”

“Instead of changing course, working to reclaim suburban voters, and trying to expand their appeal, Republicans seem intent on speaking only to the cul-de-sac of the Trump base, re-emphasizing that white power is the beating heart of the party,” America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry said. “They seem to gloss over the fact that Trump’s demonization of immigrants and refugees backfired badly, helping the Republican Party in the past four years to lose the White House, the Senate and the House.”

Texas Tales of Mismanagement on Feb. 21, 2021

Texas Tales:  “Our Government in Texas Failed Us This Week”

That quote from a Texas representative Lizzzie Fletcher interviewed on CNN at 2:17 p.m. (CT).

Other words of wisdom come from folks like John Bridges, the Executive editor of the Austin American-Statesman.

In Texas, the buck doesn’t stop here; it just gets on a plane to Mexico, [making Ted Cruz one of the first Latinos to flee the United States for a better life in Mexico]. 

Governor Abbott spent more time in his 4-days-too-late Press Conference talking about the Green New Deal than he did talking about the raw deal he and his cronies have dealt the state of Texas. The recommendations for winterization of the power grid were decades old, but Texas authorities in power sought to shift the blame to wind and solar panel, when that is not the truth.

The very idea of a Republican politician lying to protect his political future is not new, but it was refined to a daily performance art under DJT. And, in Texas, the man who said of his initial time in office in a 2013 speech to fellow Republicans,”I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home,” now has had to ask the federal government for help in a crisis that could be more costly than Hurricanes as famous as Katrina. President Biden will visit Texas this week to see how the federal government can help the state—14 million of us still boiling our water, if we have any—recover from the debilitating effects of a severe weather event that combined freezing temperatures with power and water failures.

First, in an attempt to shove the responsibility off onto solar and wind power not performing during the freak winter storm, Abbott went on Sean Hannity’s television show and blamed the entire mess on Green renewable energy. This was false. The power outages were due to freezing temperatures affecting natural gas plants, with uninsulated pipes causing gases with heavy carbon chains to liquify and intake or outtake pipes freezing. Oil wells can freeze up and did.

According to ERCOT’s Fuel Mix report, the state’s largest energy source last year was natural gas as 46% of the state’s energy needs. Wind supplied 23% and, if properly weatherized as experts had warned the blades should be, these fixtures continue working in sub-freezing temperatures. Coal supplied 18% of the state’s power, nuclear 11% and solar only 2%.

Actually, although half of the state’s wind supply turbines were frozen, on Tuesday the unfrozen turbines collectively produced up to 1,000 megawatts more energy than grid operators expected, because of the high winds that the snowstorm brought. ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said, “It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system at large.”

In an editorial headlined “Texans Deserve to Have Government That Works” Executive Editor John Bridges (Austin American-Statesman) noted that, “For too long, Texans have elected people more interested inn dismantling government than actually running one.  As we painfully learned this week, small government sounds good right up until the power goes out and the faucets run dry.”

Bridges further noted that the priorities of our elected officials, like Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Paxton, have been (1) their own political futures (2) their cronies and (3) their business interests. Right now, in fact, Paxton is embroiled in several legal investigations into impropriety with a local real estate developer, and his entire staff has blown the whistle on him, calling his behavior towards them punitive. Those lawsuits and others involving Paxton highlight why he was the Attorney General who filed the complaint attempting to throw out the electoral college votes of 6 other states on behalf of former President Trump. (The Trump administration didn’t really want Paxton, because of his unsavory reputation and the various investigations into his unethical behavior, but he was the only volunteer to come forward to lodge the spurious lawsuit.)

Bridges goes on to focus on the issues that these elected officials chose to waste time on, rather than making sure our power and water would work if there were a catastrophic weather event.  What were those other oh-so-important issues that tied up much of the Texas legislatures time?

  • The use of transgender bathrooms.
  • Restricting access to abortion.
  • Promoting or protecting the out-of-control gun culture.
  • Suing the federal government for political sport—at least 44 lawsuits during the Obama years by Abbott.
  • Restricting local taxing authority, much of which is spent on public safety.
  • Forbidding cities from controlling their own police budgets.
  • Finding ways to further restrict voter access, such as the ONE mailbox that was to serve as the drop-box for voters in a large Texas city of millions.

Rick Perry—-Abbott’s predecessor as Governor of Texas—famously said that Texans would rather endure a few days of blackouts than have the feds (the department he recently and ironically ran as U.S. energy secretary) involved in Texas’ energy grid. Let’s not forget that this is the same Rick Perry that Donald Trump mocked, saying he put glasses on to “make himself look smarter” and the student who got a grade of “D-“ in a college class entitled “Meat.”

So, as Bridges says, “Speak for yourself, Rick!”

Texans shivering in their own homes, burning candles and their own wood furniture for warmth, and harvesting snow to flush toilets do not agree. If Texas wants its own power grid and wants to run it “the Texas way,” its government must tirelessly regulate, inspect, and enforce the efficiency of that power grid.

An Abilene man froze to death in his bed.  The 60-year-old’s death was one of six tied to the freezing cold reported in and around that western Texas city this week, the Associated Press reported.  A Houston woman and her child died from carbon monoxide poisoning after seeking warmth in their car. As snow blanketed much of Texas on Sunday, an 11-year-old boy in the Houston area gleefully played outside. Seeing the snow was a first for the boy, who came to the U.S. from Honduras two years ago with his mother, she told the Houston Chronicle.

Less than 24 hours later, as temperatures plunged to near single digits and homes across the state lost power, that boy died.

Early that same morning, a San Antonio man left his house for a dialysis appointment — but he never arrived. His wife found him unresponsive nearly two hours later in the frigid weather.

A Black Austin renter described how he grabbed a few belongings from his back-of-the-house apartment and ran for his life. The couple in the front of the house, who had tried to heat the building with their barbecue grill, died in the fire.

The Houston Chronicle reports that more than two dozen people in Harris County alone have died from events related to this week’s icy weather. And the threat is far from over. Thousands of Texans are still without electricity, food and clean water. The entire state is under a boil order for water.

Texas was not prepared for the lowest temperatures it has experienced in 70 years and recent inspections of the power grid that declared it ready for the winter were wrong. It wasn’t.

Much like the unwillingness to acknowledge the problem, Texas stuck its governmental head firmly in the Trumpian sand and did very little to prepare for the onslaught of the pandemic that has now killed 41,000 Texans. Given months to develop a plan for the vaccine rollout, both state and local governments failed to develop and communicate a workable plan.

We are in the “1b” group of citizens with pre-existing conditions, older than 75, who should have been contacted to schedule an appointment for a Covid-19 shot. We have been trying for literally months to find any source of vaccine. The state website crashes immediately. Once you fill out your name, rank and serial number, including selecting a password, you learn that you must “check back later” to see if there is any vaccine availability. (There never is). Lately, when we attempt to sign in, the site says our passwords are wrong, despite having noted them upon entry. We then try to get a “new” password and the site promises to send a note to our mailboxes, but does not. Therefore, the state health site is worthless.

Then there are the sign-up lists for Walgreen’s, CVS, HEB, and the like. Yes, we’re on all of them, too, plus lists that exist in cities as far-flung as Houston and Dallas. It is nearly March and our constant “checking back” yields only the words “No vaccine available. Check back later.”

I even went so far as to secure a local doctor, hoping that having a local doctor for our winter months’ residence, might help. It hasn’t. I fear that our April trip to Mexico is going to see us as the only older members of the family group who have not had even one Covid-19 shot. While we may have some small amount of immunity from contracting a mild case in October, will that be enough? Or will we, too, become victims of this failure to try to protect the citizens of Texas and the United States.

As Bridges says, in his concluding remarks, “Texans don’t ask much of our government. But is it too much to ask that government not try to kill us?”

Texas in Turmoil: Firsthand from the Front

Store shelves in Texas on Saturday, 2/20/2021.

From this morning’s “Austin American-Statesman,” comes this assessment of our Texas water problem. 

We’re here in Austin (TX), experiencing the black-outs and lack of water along with the rest of the state. The cold weather meant below freezing. As a northeast Iowa native, not impressed by the cold part. However, down here, things immediately went to hell in a hand basket. Nobody could/would/should drive! So, that’s how it started, but that’s not how it’s ending. Now that it’s back in the above freezing range, things are changing, but there are still major, massive issues that we are right in the middle of, unfortunately.

“Tens of thousands of leaks in the system have wreaked havoc on Austin’s water supply,” said Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros.  That has been compounded by an untold number of burst pipes in homes. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning Austin Water saw 325 million gallons leak out of the system, where, typically Austinites typically use 100 million gallons a day.

Meszaros:  “That is an incredible amount of water and nothing I’ve ever seen before at that rate,” said Meszaros, “So that’s what we’re managing is to not return to that state of affairs, where 100 million gallons of water could leak out of our system in one night.”

This means that Austin Water will need to methodically restart portions of the system to prevent leaks.

“It’s going to be a multiday process to restore pressure and service and then clear the system for use.  It’s really difficult to give precise timelines for portions of our section of our system.  We don’t know what we don’t know. And we don’t know how long some of them are going to take to fix.”

Reservoirs are now being refilled.  Thirteen million Texans are under boil water notices, including us. The effect has been acutely felt in the city, where a loss in water pressure forced evacuations at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center late Wednesday. All surrounding cities (Pfugerville, Bastrop, etc.) are also affected by the boil order.

Water systems under a boil water notice likely will face a logjam from state regulators as water pressure stabilizes.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires testing to ensure no unsafe bacteria is in the supply before lifting the advisories. Timelines for water service to return to normal remain elusive.  Said one official, “I just feel like this is such a catastrophic failure on every level. If I wasn’t so consumed with finding a functioning shower or a functioning toilet, I would be so angry.”

Supposedly, 13 million of us have no water, at the moment. Thirty-plus people have died, estimated.

Now, say the officials, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires testing to ensure no unsafe bacteria is in the supply before lifting the advisories.  The environmental commission is coordinating with the EPA to bring in mobile testing labs from out of state.

PULLING A CRUZ:  I have suggested that we go home to Illinois temporarily. Craig is always in such a Big Hurry to go home to “do taxes”, so I’m not sure why he is resistant to going back to Illinois, but he is. I refer to it as “pulling a Cruz.”  When we hit Wednesday and I’ve gone one full week without a shower/bath or hair wash, that could change. And we cannot, for the life of us (literally) get a Covid-19 shot here, despite putting ourselves on lists in Houston, Dallas, and about 10 places in Austin. We are definitely old enough for 1B and I have 4 underlying health conditions (things like asthma), so there’s that. I even went so far as to go find a doctor, thinking that might help. No such luck.

If I were to try to go home alone, I’d face all kinds of things that have been “turned off” that I know nothing about turning back on. I have to admit that I did not go to the basement and fart around with the water heater, etc. so if I go home alone, I’d face figuring out how to get things to “work” at home, or I’d be in pretty much the same situation I am here. I’m not afraid to fly (despite the pandemic) and we can fly free, thanks to the daughter’s job with Southwest Airlines, but it pretty much needs to be both of us going and only one of us votes for returning to the deep freeze so that we have running water.

Stacey, the daughter, who lives in Nashville has been with us since last Saturday. She is going to make a pilgrimage to the Walgreen’s (which finally opened for restricted hours and closes at 6 p.m.) to try to get us some dry shampoo.

I last had a bath and washed my hair on Wednesday, February 17th. It is now Saturday, February 20th.

I had 4 prescriptions that I had phoned in before the deluge. I was fearful that they would go back on the shelves. When Walgreen’s opened for limited hours (closes at 6 p.m.) I was Car #12; it took 35 minutes to get to the drive-through window to pick  up my prescriptions. Mission accomplished.

We have no water.  We tried to order pizza to eat, but very few pizza places were open. The one we found that WAS open had run out of pizza dough, but we were able to get lasagna, as long as we ordered right then, because they were closing down at 6 p.m. (It was 4:30 p.m. and we ordered right then.) Many gas stations are closed, because they are out of gas.

Beto O’Rourke taking questions in Davenport on 5/20/19.

El Paso has largely avoided this disaster because they learned from the 2011 freeze that hit. They planned for colder weather and, as a result, the built-in redundancies that should have been built in WERE built in. It is also not on the same power grid as the rest of Texas. They are on the western power grid. Texas is the only state to have its very own power grid. ERCOT failed Big Time. Other states can turn to their neighbors, but Texans, in general, don’t want to depend on their neighbors. El Paso took itself OFF the Texas power grid (ERCOT) and went ON to the western power grid (there are only 3 power grids, nationwide) after a 2011 bad freeze. Therefore, El Paso avoided the woes we are currently experiencing, firsthand. And I do acknowledge that, initially, we had power (pretty much throughout) and only lost our water completely yesterday. Before, we had very low water pressure, but we had a little bit of water. No more. Our laundry and dirty dishes are building up. There was talk of putting a garbage bag in the toilet and pooping into it, to keep flushing down.  I’ll be on a plane to the Midwest before it comes to that. People are putting saran wrap on plates, so that they don’t have to deal with a “dirty” plate that cannot be washed.

I’m planning on a small spaghetti jar for tonight’s dinner, as we had one lb. of hamburger in the freezer and we have spaghetti noodles. The hard part will be the water. While we have a bathtub full of water, we have very little bottled water. The feds are supposedly sending water in, but where is it? No idea. [Probably the same place our Covid-19 shot is: unavailable to us and met with the response, “We don’t have any.”]

After the spaghetti and some grilled cheese, we have a few frozen things (that, fortunately, did not go bad because our power stayed on), so we can eat our way through a couple steaks, some frozen pot pies. We have some canned food (soups, vegetables), but we are leaving the land of “What’s for dinner?” with a regular menu. I’ve made salmon and steak and a 10-lb. turkey and we are pretty much “out” of food, with no grocery stores having any for sale, apparently, since Craig just came back from Randall’s a few minutes ago declaring the shelves bare. The HEB stores warehouse all of their stuff in San Antonio warehouses and, until today, roads were considered pretty impassable. Now, with the warming temperatures, driving up to restock their stores from their warehouses is do-able, but did the warehouses storing the food lose power when the outage was statewide, like the stores did, and, if so, is there anything up in San Antonio that is still good that can restock the HEB stores here in Austin? I know that one employee had half-gallon jugs of milk in a wheelbarrow on her front porch in our subdivision, inviting the neighbors to “help themselves.” All were gone within minutes and good luck in finding eggs or milk or water, since then.

We are using water we melted from the snow to flush the toilets, sparingly. I’m pretty much treating the flushing like when we took the lobster dinner cruise on those old pirate ship look-alikes, which would not let you put paper in the water because, although they had toilets, they were not great toilets.

So, yes, we have power.

(Craig just tried going to the grocery store: no eggs, no milk, no chicken, no water. A line waiting to get in. I had to wait for 35 minutes in my car to get the prescriptions that I had phoned in well before the cold weather arrived. I was the 12th car in line. They were closing down early and have adopted early closing as their norm now.)

So, I’m not sure what is going to go down here in the next week. I’ve agreed to give this “we are camping out” lifestyle a green light for the week, but I honestly do not think they will have this situation “fixed” in a week, and I wonder how long it WILL take.

Obviously, there are going to be investigations and studies about the power failures. The headline on p. 5B today reads: “Just crippling: Texans Devastated.” It details the people trying to find food at HEB, which had to close 10 stores in the chain, because they, too, lost power. By Thursday the number in Texas without power was down to 450,000 from 4 million.  Harris County officials have a feature where residents can click through and see which major food stores are open. As bad as this was, it was almost worse, being second or minutes away from a catastrophic power outage. Texas makes more power than any other state in the union, but the weather disaster was unparalleled. Coldest it had been in 70 years, and it wasn’t really THAT cold, but it was below freezing, and that’s all it takes, in Texas.

The charges that wind turbines froze, were bogus. Forty %  of power is natural gas; 18% from coal; 11% nuclear; Wind power was under 30%—more like 27%. “No single fuel source can be blamed for this event.” Neil Chatterjee, the head commissioner of the energy commission.

The lesson is that the entire system has to be prepared for severe weather conditions. “Clearly, they have got to winterize everything.” The coal, nuclear, natural gas could have been winterized. “Climate change is having a dramatic change on weather.”

To me, it seems as though—just as Trump’s time in office revealed the true frailty of the U.S. in so many areas and destroyed our image abroad—this Texas freeze has revealed Texas’ image under Republican Governor Abbott as being full of holes. Texans like to think of themselves as hardy and “can do” types (just like Americans, in general, come to think of it).  Well, we can do as long as we have power and water. When we have no water, things become dire fast.

To me—especially in light of our complete and total inability to secure Covid-19 shots here, either—I feel like YOYO is the prevailing Texan and U.S. philosophy, these days. What do I mean?

“You’re On Your Own.”

Rush Limbaugh Dies; Leaves Legacy of Hate & Divisiveness

In the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s recent death, “Newsone” compiled a list of some of Limbaugh’s most offensive remarks. A companion piece to these quotes would be the article in the most recent issue of “Rolling Stone.”  He did more than anybody to create the conditions for an ever-more-radical GOP that drove straight around the bend when Trump took the wheel.

Rush Limbaugh Did His Best to Ruin America

Without further ado, here are some verified Rush Limbaugh quotes:

  1. “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?
  2. “Right. So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela — who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing.”
  3. “Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”
  4. “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”
  5. “They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?”
  6. [To an African American female caller]: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”
  7.  “I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.  They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well.  I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve.”
  8. Limbaugh’s many attacks on Obama.

Limbaugh has called Obama a ‘halfrican American’ has said that Obama was not Black but Arab because Kenya is an Arab region, even though Arabs are less than one percent of Kenya. Since mainstream America has become more accepting of African-Americans, Limbaugh has decided to play against its new racial fears, Arabs and Muslims.

Despite the fact Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law school, Limbaugh called him an ‘affirmative action candidate.’ Limbaugh even has repeatedly played a song on his radio show ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ using an antiquated Jim Crow era term for Black a man who many Americans are supporting for president.

Rush Limbaugh made racist attacks on four of the most admired and respected people of African descent in the past one hundred years, in Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Colin Powell and Barack Obama. He  claimed that Joe the Plumber, who isn’t even a plumber is more important in this election than Colin Powell, a decorated military veteran who served honorably in three administrations.

  1. “We need segregated buses… This is Obama’s America.”
  2. “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations.”

THE TWO CONTESTED QUOTES

We ran these two quotes as part of our original list of ten. However, in the fall of 2009, this post surfaced in the debate that followed Limbaugh’s dismissal from an investment group attempting to purchase the St. Louis Rams. NewsOne has, as yet, not been able to determine the veracity of these quotes. We note the following for the record:

  • These two quotes were both sourced from a book by Jack Huberman called “101 People Who Are Really Screwing America,” published by Nation Books in 2006. The author of this book, in turn, claims that he procured these quotes from a source which he has refused to reveal “on advice of counsel.”
  • Rush Limbaugh has vigorously denied that he said these things.

In sum, NewsOne can no longer vouch for the accuracy of these quotes. Nor can we trust Limbaugh, who never denied saying the other eight racist quotes on our original list. We keep them in our post for their news value as a controversial, and perhaps dubious attribution. Segregated, of course. Which should make some  very happy.

  1. “I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”
  2. “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray [the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King]. We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

 

Smile All the While (And Don’t Forget to Boil Your Water)

 

Tilting at Windmills

Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah touched on the issues Texas has faced this week after a winter storm overwhelmed the state’s power grid, leaving millions of people without hea

“I know people were praying for Texas to go blue, but not like this,” Noah joked. “I mean, is it too much to ask for just one apocalypse at a time?”

“Some people are putting up Scotch tape and blankets. That’s not how people should keep heat in their house; that’s how you hide the weed smell from your R.A.” — TREVOR NOAH

The electricity crisis in Texas, which has its own grid to avoid federal regulation, was largely caused by freezing in the natural gas pipelines that provide the majority of the state’s power supply. But conservatives and fossil fuel advocates have blamed wind power and even the Green New Deal, a climate proposal co-sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“The main reason Texas has plunged into darkness is that its natural gas industry has been crippled by this storm. And that might — might — have been preventable, except that Texas deregulated its power supply in the ’90s, which was clearly not the wisest decision. I mean, trust me, as a man who lived through the ’90s, you should probably rethink most of the decisions you made in that decade.” — TREVOR NOAH

“And this just goes to show you, you can’t put profits over quality and safety. Money’s not worth a whole lot if you have to burn it to keep warm.” — TREVOR NOAH

“I mean, this is the state that prides itself on its oil and gas industry, and now, that industry has failed spectacularly. This would be like Jason Momoa needing help opening a pickle jar, which is probably why state officials and their allies on cable news are working so hard to blame someone else.” — TREVOR NOAH

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas “has been working hard to somehow push the blame to Democrats and the Green New Deal, which doesn’t even exist yet. And Tucker Carlson is helping him out by blaming it on windmills.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“These guys are so desperate to just let fossil fuels off the hook, that they’re blaming A.O.C. and the Green New Deal — which, by the way, hasn’t even happened yet — for something that’s happening in Texas right now? But this just shows you, no matter what happens, no matter how far removed she is from the problem, conservatives can and will always find a way to blame the boogeyman, A.O.C. Rick Perry could have broken his arm as a kid and he would have blamed it on A.O.C.” — TREVOR NOAH

“Let’s kick off the show with the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the reason you keep refreshing vaccine websites like they’re selling Coachella tickets.” — TREVOR NOAH

“Last night, Biden promised the vaccine will be available to every American who wants it by the end of July. And then we can get back to spreading the old stuff — herpes, gonorrhea and good times!” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“The White House is said to be in talks with Amazon right now to help distribute the vaccine. The way it will work is any Prime member who can prove they’ve watched all six seasons of ‘Bosch’ will get vaccinated.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“And with over a million Americans getting vaccinated every day, everyone is anxiously looking forward to a time when they can get back to doing normal things again, like going out to eat, or not thinking about the welfare of the people who deliver their packages.” — TREVOR NOAH

“Coming Home in the Dark” at Sundance on HBO Max: Engrossing!

Daniel Gillies as Mandrake in “Coming Home After Dark.” (Courtesy of Sundance Institute.)

The New Zealand offering “Coming Home in the Dark,” from Director James Ashcroft unleashes a fast, high-energy road trip with a family that is set upon by two psychopaths with a grudge. The short story of the same name, written by Owen Marshall, was altered by Ashcroft and screenwriter Eli Kent, who had already adapted another of Marshall’s short stories prior to this feature film premiere outing.

The 93-minute film never loses its edge and, despite the warnings about graphic violence, it was far from “Saw”- like. But, yes, there is violence.

As the director explained in a brief message to the press at Sundance, the two screenwriters, working together, tried to incorporate historic New Zealand issues as background for the main character, the father of twin boys, who has been a teacher in a variety of schools. These were touches that the original short story character lacked. Alan/Hoaggie, is well-played by Erik Thomson, but Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) is evil incarnate.

The film opens with a beautiful sunset in the New Zealand countryside. It is worth mentioning that the feature film comes full circle at film’s end with that same beautiful panorama, only at sunrise. The circularity of structure is something I’ve enjoyed in films by Spike Lee and Brian DePalma over the years, and use in my own writing on occasion. There are many deft cinematic touches like this, including the failure of wife Jill to take her husband’s hand in the car, after she has just learned some disquieting information about his past. She remarks, “There is a difference between doing something and letting it happen, but they live on the same street.” The shots through grasses by cinematographer Matt Henley were outstanding.

PLOT

James Ashcroft, director of Coming Home in the Dark, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Stan Alley.

The family of four—Alan, Jill and their twin teenaged boys, Jordan and Maika—are off on holiday when they stop alongside a gorgeous but remote New Zealand hillside in the Greater Wellington Region for a hike and a picnic. Ominously, two drifters appear on a cliff overhead and wave at the family below. It is not long after that a confrontation occurs.

Alan—known as Hoaggie—the father, and Jill, the mother, reassure their twin teenaged sons that it will be all right if they just give the men what they want. They promptly do so, divesting of their cash and valuables and every phone but one that Jill took from Alan and put in the glove box of their car when he began playing an annoying game on it while she was driving. But will it? Will giving the tall Maori-tattooed silent man known as Tubs and the shorter thug, who calls himself Mandrake, what they want save all their lives? At one point, a panel truck drives into the area where the confrontation is happening, and Mandrake instructs the family to wave in a friendly fashion, which they do. The paneled truck departs, honking back, and Mandrake remarks, “Later, this may be the point where you’ll wish you’d done something different.”

The film quickly spirals into a road trip to hell.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The shots through grasses by cinematographer Matt Henley were gorgeous, as were the sunrise/sunset scenes over a glorious New Zealand landscape. I’ve been to New Zealand, and, yes, it really looks that beautiful (Great Wellington Region).

ACTING

The acting by Erik Thomson, as the father, and Miriame McDowell as the grief-stricken mother is matched in acting chops by the intensity of evil radiating from the two criminals, Tubs and Mandrake (Matthias Luafut and Daniel Gillies.) Ashcroft uses the taller of the two assailants, played by Matthias Luafut, to good effect and Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) is the worst thing you can encounter at a picnic in the wild: a polite psychopath.

Ashcroft, from Aotearoa, New Zealand, was the artistic director of the indigenous Maori Theatre Taki Rua from 2007-2013 and his native name is Nga Puhi/Ngati Kahu.  This is his first feature film, but he has plans to move in the direction of Blumhouse horror films. This is a great start.

The film is slated to stream on HBO Max. Check it out. It was the best of 5 feature films I’ve seen at Sundance in the past 2 days.

George Will’s Remarks on Inauguration Day Address

Remarks from George Will, abridged, Washington Post of 1/22/2021

Re Joe Biden’s presidency:

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

“There’s some things that I’m going to be able to do by executive order,” Biden said, “and I’m not going to hesitate to do it…but I am not going to violate the Constitution.  Executive authority that my progressive fans talk about (e.g., banning assault weapons) is way beyond the bounds.”

Fifteen days later, resisting pressure to unilaterally erase billions of dollars of student debt, he said, “I’ve spent most of my life arguing against the imperial presidency.”

Progressives yearning for New Deal 2.0 will notice that Biden did not speak, as Franklin D. Roosevelt did in his first inaugural address, of perhaps seeking “broad Executive powers” as great as he would need “if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

Biden is an adult. 74 million voters voted for 4 more years of infantilism…

Why are strange people proliferating in government?

 President of the United States

One reason, Ben Sasse (R, Neb.) said, is “America’s junk food media diet,” the underlying economics of which involve “dialing up the rhetoric” to increase “clicks, eyeballs and revenue.” (*Note: See the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix).

Another reason is “the digital collapse” as “the digital revolution erodes geographic communities in favor of place-less ones. Many people who yell at strangers on Twitter don’t know their own local officials or even their own neighbors across the street.”

Biden’s Inaugural address, the essence of which was to stop the shouting and lower the temperature and end the “exhausting outrage” had the unadorned rhetoric of a teacher telling disorderly students to sit down and shut up. In tone, it was pitch perfect for intimating to his dissatisfied fellow countrymen that they should not be self-satisfied.

 

 

Who Is Scott Perry, and What Are They Saying About Him?

The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Who is Scott Perry, and why are people calling for him to resign?

Scott Perry (R, PA),s a retired Pennsylvania Army National Guard brigadier General. He served for nearly 40 years and had multiple deployments, including combat in Iraq.

Perry was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature in 2012, a Republican from York County in Pennsylvania.

Perry made Donald Trump aware that Jeffrey Clark (“a relatively obscure Justice Department official”), acting chief of the civil division, supported Trump’s “the election was stolen” propaganda. The president would have been unaware of Clark, if not for Perry.

Says the New York Times in a new article:  “As the date for Congress to affirm Mr. Biden’s victory neared, Mr. Perry and Mr. Clark discussed a plan to have the Justice Department send a letter to Georgia state lawmakers, informing them of an investigation into voter fraud that could invalidate the state’s Electoral College results. Former officials who were briefed on the plan said that the department’s dozens of voter fraud investigations nationwide had not turned up enough instances of fraud to alter the outcome of the election.”

It is interesting that, in the same issue of the Austin American-Statesman, there is a story about Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s bounty, offered for any proof of voter fraud, which was a cash award of $25,000. Patrick—who is a bit of a loon—said the incentive was necessary to ferret out potential illegal voting and to “restore faith in future elections.”

Interestingly enough, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, is demanding that Patrick pay up after 3 Republicans in Pennsylvania were arrested on charges that they voted illegally. One of these tipsters, a Pennsylvania poll worker, told police he witnessed a Republican vote 2 times in one day.

Eric Frank told the Morning News, “I don’t know what avenue to take in order to request the reward.” He is not optimistic that Patrick will pay up.

Hereford cattle on LBJ Ranch.

Patrick famously told the press that older citizens should be willing to die during this pandemic. He later reversed this cavalier attitude for all legislators in the Texas Congress, requiring that they wear masks and have testing to join that august body.

Patrick, in a press release, announced the rewards and said the money would be available to “anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and final conviction of voter fraud.” He set aside $1 million for the rewards, in total, but it does not appear that he is paying up. Is this all bull s***? Ask Dan Patrick.

Today’s Thought of the Day from the Letters to the Editor in Austin, TX

From Renee Potenza (of Austin, TX)

“Get Off the Trump Train and Admit Your Mistake”

To those friends and family members who voted for Donald J. Trump:

Perhaps you are a life-long Republican.  Maybe you have deeply held beliefs about those values for which the Republican Party used to stand. Maybe you got on the Trump train early on, and your enthusiasm in being part of a popular group carried you along.

I ask you now:  Please get off the Trump train. He’s not worthy of your trust.

Disengage your identity as a follower of the Donald, and think critically, questioning everything.  Utter those three little words, which are the hallmarks of honest, healthy communication:  “I was wrong.”

(A Letter to the Editor from the Austin American-Statesman of Wednesday, January 20th, 2021.)

January 13th is Historic Second Impeachment of Donald J. Trump

“Never trust politicians.

They are craven.

It’s an occupational attribute.”

So began Charles M Blow of the New York Times in his essay today.

I could relate to Mr. Blow, an African American essayist.

I wrote this poem, entitled “Words” when I was 16 years old, in Independence, Iowa:

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said,

If deeds alone were the mark of a man,

Not the ‘catch’ of an eloquent pledge.

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said,

If, for all the fake forensics, there were simple words instead,

And a man stated just what he started to state,

Without false fuss or further ado.

If you weren’t a politician,

I’d probably listen to you.

So, I’m in agreement with Charles M. Blow as he continued:

“Sure, there are some politicians who are good people, who tell the truth most of the time and choose careers in politics for the right reasons—public service rather than political aggrandizement.

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

But power, as a genre, is about power. And power corrupts. (*And absolute power corrupts absolutely).

Generally speaking, the higher up the political ladder a politician climbs, the more vicious they have had to be, and the more viciousness they have had to endure.”

As a young girl, going around with my Democratic father to help put up yard signs, I remember him saying to me, a then elementary-school-aged child, “Stay away from politics, Con. It’s a dirty business.”

Charles Blow continued:  “Politicians have had to shake more and more hands to raise the obscene amounts of money now needed to run campaigns, and they have likely had to make unsavory compromises in order to protect their own advancement.

I do not seek to draw a false equivalence between the political parties in America. While I find all politicians suspect, the utter moral collapse of Republican conscience and character under Donald Trump still stands out as an outrageous aberration.

Republican politicians, by and large, knew how lacking in every aspect Donald Trump was, not just in experience, but also character, morality and intellect.  Many said as much before he was elected.

Ted Cruz called Trump ‘utterly amoral,’ a ‘serial philanderer,’ and ‘a narcissist at a level that I don’t think this country has ever seen.’ He also said of Trump:
‘This man is a pathological liar.  He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies.  He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.’

Lindsey Graham said:  ‘He’s a race-baiting xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party.  He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.’

Marco Rubio said: ‘We’re on the verge of having someone take over the conservative movement who is a con artist,’ and called Trump, ‘the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency.’

All of this was true  When these people were Trump’s opponents in the quest for the nomination, none of them shied away from telling the truth about him.  Now they have been cowed into obsequiousness.

Trump didn’t change, but his relationship to power did: when he won he had it, and the Republicans swarmed to him like moths to a flame, [or more like vultures to a corpse].

Power, in politics, changes everything.  Politicians are desperate for power the way a drowning person is desperate for air.  But in politics, there are levels of proximity:  The closer you are, the stronger you are  You can possess or be in proximity to it.

Republicans in Washington turned their backs on everything they believed.  Trump created a mob.  He recruited traditional conservatives into it.  He was in full control of it.

To a politician, a mob can look like a movement.   It can look like power. So, they caved to that which they could consort with: they feigned ignorance of the ways they had accurately derided Trump so that, one day, they might harness the white nationalist throngs he unleashed.”

 

I attended a rally for Jeb Bush back in Davenport, Iowa at St. Ambrose University, accompanied by a Republican friend, and we listened to Jeb Bush (in 2016) say, “You can’t insult your way to the White House.” As it turns out, Jeb was wrong, and you actually CAN insult your way to the White House and remain there for 4 long years insulting friends and foe alike! And some of those insults were aimed at our long-time allies, which is even more damaging.

Republicans put their personal ambitions over the preservation of America.  Maybe they thought that whatever damage Trump did would be easily repaired, so they would simply trudge through it until his time in office was at its end.

Well, it is now at its end, and he seems to be doing more damage than ever—or as much damage as ever.

The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a shocking thing to behold.  But so much of what has occurred during  the Trump presidency has been shocking.

There is no telling what Trump might attempt to do in his final days in office.”

 

“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” sixth book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).

For those of us who have read his niece, Mary Trump’s, book “Too Much and Never Enough” or have viewed “Unfit,” Dan Partland’s fine Amazon documentary, we realize that there is nothing this man, this criminal, will stop at. Nothing.

“Even if Trump leaves office without further damage, the damage he has done is lasting and many of the people who blindly support him will persist. (The militias, the Proud Boys, QAnon, the white nationalists, are not going away).

We may be getting rid of Trump. But we are not getting rid of “Trumpism.” The aftertaste of this toxic presidency will linger.

Now we have to ask a very serious question:  What do we do now as a society and as a body politic?  Do we simply turn the page and hope for a better day, “let bygones be bygones”? (It seems, to me that most Republicans speaking on the floor today want to simply sweep aside what has occurred, punish the common street flunkies who are being rounded up, but ignore the head of the serpent, DJT.) Or do we seek some form of justice, to hold people accountable for taking this country to the brink? (And let it be known that this extends to those at the very top.)

I say that we must prosecute all people who have committed crimes and punish all those who have broken rules.  The rule of law can’t simply be for the common man. It must also be for the exalted man.  Because only then will the ideas of fairness and justice for all have meaning.

 

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