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 2 of 17

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.

“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.

 

AntiFa Activists Not Responsible for the Insurrection at the Capitol

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

Immediately after the breaching of the Capitol by Trump supporters, I experimented and checked to see if Fox was covering it (A: No, at that time). I went out on Twitter and Facebook to see what was being said. (A: “It was AntiFa!“)

Let the truth go forth.

To steal a line from the Austin American-Statesman editorial page, “This moment calls for accountability and truth.”

The truth is that Antifa is not to blame for the insurrection of January 6th. Here are some excerpts of the article that a Texas paper, the Austin American-Statesman, ran, proving that conclusively:

Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, addressed the large “Save America” rally (which disgraced radio D.J. Alex Jones says his company paid for) saying, “Those who stormed the Capitol yesterday were not Trump supporters. They have been confirmed to be Antifa.” He cited a tweet by Paul Sperry, a right-wing journalist, and a “Washington Times” article, stating that, “Facial recognition firm claims antifa infiltrated Trump protesters who stormed the Capitol.”

There was an incorrect Tweet that said a bus of Antifa thugs had infiltrated the peaceful demonstration.

The truth? NO….there was no bus of Antifa thugs and the “Washington Times” article, published about 8:15 p.m. by opinion writer Rowan Scarborough, has been debunked. The “Times” article cited some unnamed retired military officer, who cited a firm called XRVision, which, he said, used its facial recognition software to I.D. Antifa members

The newspaper has since retracted the erroneous report. However, Matt Graetz (R, FL) cited it later that day on the House floor, saying it was true when it was not, much like the accusations about the fraudulent election.

XRVision, a facial recognition technology company based in Singapore, has announced to PolitiFact and BuzzFeed News that it sent a cease and desist letter to the Washington Times, asking for a retraction and an apology. They did acknowledge that SRVision software identified 2 members of a neo-Nazi organization and a QAnon supporter, but not members of Antifa.  The company said that the imagery was distributed only to a handful of company members for private consumption, only. The results announced by the media (and Matt Graetz) were erroneous.

XRVision said: “XRVision takes pride in its technology’s precision and deems the Washington Times publication as outright false, misleading, and defamatory.”

A correction was issued by the newspaper about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. PolitFact submitted this statement:  “The Washington Times erroneously reported late Wednesday that facial recognition technology backed up that speculation and identified 2 Antifa members.  In fact, XRVision has not identified any members of that far-left movement as being part of the attack.”

The pro-Trump channel OAN showed a head shot picture (amongst a crowd) of a dark-haired man they said was a member of Antifa. They gave his name as John (something). It is probable that this mis-identification from that station hinged on the erroneous story.

This is a typical Trump tactic. Always blame someone or something else. I’m just surprised that they haven’t brought up Hillary’s e-mails.

How Did We Get Here? What’s Happened to the GOP?

I don’t know how many of you reading this digital page still get a REAL newspaper (i.e., paper) and, if you do get one, is it the Quad City Times?

Since I am (currently) reading the Austin American-Statesman, a 150-year-old newspaper that was named Texas Newspaper of the Year 3 times and won national reocognition for investigative reporting from the National Headliners, the Online News Association, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors, in addition to hundreds of state awards, I’ve been sharing some of the editorials highlighted in that paper.

Let me be clear: these are “the best” of the editorials I read on a regular, daily basis, and, if you, like me, find that many of the newspapers whose editorials you would most like to read are behind a “pay wall,” this is a service to those who really want to be informed.

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote this editorial entitled “HOW DID WE GET HERE?  WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY?” and you won’t face a pay wall to read it (below):

HOW DID WE GET HERE? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GOP?

“Don’t touch the chair arms!” (say with spirit). Me, in Sydney, Australia, for my dedicated Australian reader! (All one of you!)

“There have always been people like Donald Trump:  self-centered, self-aggrandizing, believing that the rules apply only to the little people and that what happens to the little people doesn’t matter.

The modern GOP, however, isn’t like anything we’ve seen before, at least in American history.  If there’s anyone who wasn’t already persuaded that one of our 2 major political parties has become an enemy, not just of democracy, but of truth, events since the election should have ended their doubts.

It’s not just that a majority of House Republicans and many Republican senators were backing Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss, even though there is no evidence of fraud or widespread irregularities. (*If you watched into the wee hours—3, 4 a.m., as I did, on Wednesday—you know that there were still substantial numbers of Republicans who argued against confirming Pennsylvania’s counted electoral votes.Look at the way David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler campaigned in the Senate run-offs in Georgia.

They weren’t running on issues or even on real aspects of their opponents’ personal history.  Instead, they claimed, with no basis in fact, that their opponents are Marxists or “involved in child abuse.” That is, the campaigns to retain Republican control of the Senate were based on lies. (*Fortunately, the GOP efforts based on blatant lies, failed and Ossoff and Warnock were elected, but, still…)

On Sunday, Mitt Romney excoriated Ted Cruz and other Congressional Republicans’ attempts to undo the presidential election, asking, “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”  But what principle does Romney think the GOP stood for in recent years?  It’s hard to see anything underlying recent Republican behavior beyond the pursuit of power by any means available.

So how did we get here?  What happened to the Republican Party?

The party’s degradation has been obvious for those willing to see it, for many years. (*As the child of a Democratic office-holder in the 30s and 40s, I’m old enough to see how the Republican party has changed since the days of Bob Dole, Ike, and other admirable GOP leaders.)

Way back in 2003, I wrote that Republicans had become a radical force hostile to America as it is, potentially aiming for a one-party state in which “elections are only a formality.” (*Think Ted Cruz’s remarks on the Senate floor just before all Hell broke loose in that august body, where he was proposing appointing a 10-day investigatory commission a la the Hays-Tilden election of 1876, to circumvent the will of the people in voting).

In 2012, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein warned that the GOP was “unmoved by conventional understanding of facts” and “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

If you’re surprised by the eagerness of many in the party to overturn an election based on specious claims of fraud, you weren’t paying attention.

But what is driving the Republican descent into darkness?

Is it a populist backlash against elites?  It’s true that there’s resentment over a changing economy that has boosted highly educated metropolitan areas at the expense of rural and small-town America. Trump received 46% of the vote, but the counties he won represented only 29% of America’s economic output.  There’s also a lot of white backlash over the nation’s growing diversity. (*”The Browning of America”).

The past 2 months have, however, been an object lesson in the extent to which “grassroots” anger is actually being orchestrated from the top.  If a large part of the Republican base believes, groundlessly, that the election was stolen, it’s because that’s what leading figures in the party have been saying. Now politicians are citing widespread skepticism about the election results as a reason to reject the outcome—but they, themselves, conjured that skepticism out of thin air.

And what’s striking if you look into the background of the politicians stoking resentment against (so-called) “elites” is how privileged many of them are.  Josh Hawley (R, MO), the first senator to declare that he would object to certification of the election results, rails against elites but is, himself, a graduate of Stanford and Yale Law School.  Ted Cruz has degrees from Princeton and Harvard.

The point isn’t that they’re hypocrites.  It is that these aren’t people who have been mistreated by the system. So why are they so eager to bring the system down?

I don’t think it’s just cynical calculation, a matter of playing to the base (*and potentially bolstering their own chances for a race in 2024).  My best guess is that we’re looking at a party that has gone feral—that has been cut off from the rest of society.

People have compared the modern GOP to organized crime or a cult, but, to me, Republicans look more like the lost boys in “Lord of the Flies.” They get their information from partisan sources (*Fox, OAN, Parler) that simply don’t report inconvenient facts.  They don’t face adult supervision because, in a polarized political environment, there are few competitive races.

So they’re increasingly inward-looking, engaged in ever more outlandish efforts to demonstrate their loyalty to the tribe.  Their partisanship isn’t about issues, although the party remains committed to cutting taxes on the rich and punishing the poor. It’s about asserting the dominance of the “in” group and punishing outsiders.

The big question is how long America as we know it can survive in the face of this malevolent tribalism. (*Note: It’s not surprising that in the wake of a woefully mishandled pandemic, 400,000 dead citizens that Trump’s neglect of duty and poor example make him complicit in their demise, the resulting cratering of the economy, and long lines of Americans out of work and waiting literally hours in food lines, there is a sense of urgency and despair that is surfacing. The unbelievable thing is  the misguided belief that “more of the same” is the cure.)

The attempt to undo the presidential election went on far longer and attracted much more support than almost anyone predicted.  And unless something happens to break the grip of anti-democratic, anti-truth forces on the GOP, one day they will succeed in killing the American experiment.

Trump’s Lawless Masses Breach Capitol, Endanger Lawmakers

I’m watching CNN “live” and listening to the voice of Manu Raju, Senior Congressional Corespondent, as Vice President Pence is being escorted from the building.

The Trump protesters have breached the building and the Vice President of the United States has been evacuated.

Both chambers are now in recess and one U.S. female representative said she had been told to evacuate her office because of a pipe bomb. You can see the protesters inside Statuary Hall, carrying their Trump flags and draped in American flags. They are just walking through, carrying their cell phones, but soon they begin breaking windows and climbing into the interior of the Capitol building.

“This is an incredibly dangerous situation that is unfolding.” (Jake Tapper) Trump is on Twitter complaining about Pence’s unwillingness to go along with his plans to wrest control of the election process.

One yo-ho is waving a U.S. flag outside of the roped-off walkway. The CNN commentators are remarking that “this is beyond anything I’ve seen in covering the Capitol for 20 years.” One tweet: Shame on POTUS for not doing anything to stop it. Jim Acosta says that, like Nero fiddling while Rome burns, the current president is “pouring fuel on the fire.” This is “a bonfire of the insanities” that has been going on for weeks now. “And now, this is what we’re left with.”

Acosta: “And, Jake: what is the plan to get these people out of there? This is just bedlam. What is Trump’s plan to get these people out of there?”

Manu Raju: “Very very tense. There is an armed stand-off at the front door of the Capitol. The D.C. Mayor is ordering a 6 p.m. curfew.”

“Bee Gone: A Political Parable”

House members are sheltering in place in their offices, but they are being told to evacuate. Pence has been evacuated. The protesters are all over this building.”

The protesters all look like yo-hos. They are attired in MAGA hats and plaid that makes them look like they’ve all just wandered in from plowing the north 40. The members of Congress are being given gas masks because tear gas was used in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Chief Ramsey (P.D.) is being asked how the members of Congress can perform their Constitutional duties today? He says, “You’ve gotta’ force them out. This is absolutely ridiculous.” Transit police can be seen walking outside, on the steps of the Capitol. There are people climbing up walls and tromping around. The president is stirring the pot and has unleashed something he cannot control. The Chief of Police says: “It never should have gotten this far.”

Charles Ramsey, the former D.C. Police Chief, says “He stirred them up. This is as close to a coup attempt as this country has ever seen. This is sedition. This is attempting to undermine the rule of law by using force.”

An unattractive man has just given the middle finger to the cameraman while shouting obscenities.

Jake Tapper is asking why more steps were not taken to insure that the Capitol would be safe. It seems pretty clear that the man in charge (Trump) has encouraged this. “I haven’t seen anything like this. This is the United States of America. This is the American Capitol!”

Tapper points out that this is Charles Ramsey’s “worst nightmare” and he mentions “major demonstrations in the city.” But, he said,  “We never had anything that came close to coming this far. They’ve got to take the gloves off and maintain control.” Ramsey seems quite perturbed that more force is not being used against the protesters who are storming the Capitol.

Tapper: “I don’t know if anything has happened like this since the days of the Vietnam War.”

I lived through the days of the Vietnam War. There was no disrespect shown to the Capitol during the anti-war protesters. “I haven’t seen anything like it since then. It doesn’t go that far even then,” said Charles Ramsey. (Very true).

The real question is when law enforcement is going to show up, in force.

There is at least one woman in critical condition after being shot in the chest on the Capitol grounds.

 

January 6th: History Is Made on Capitol Hill During Ceremonial Meeting to Certify Election

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

Texas politicians have been involved in the contesting of the presidential election results far more than those of other states including: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (recently reported by his staff for taking bribes in the service of a wealthy realtor), U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert. The “Metro & State” portion of the Austin American Statesman, today, had an entire story entitled: “Four Texas Republicans Who Have Humiliated Us.”

Cruz is going to contest Arizona’s election returns today—in just a few moments, in fact, inside Capitol Hill on the Senate Floor. (See some of those remarks at the end of this article.) Gohmert has had various legal actions thrown out of court. Former Ken Paxton aides reported him to the FBI and then began resigning in droves. An anti-trust lawsuit against Google was underway, but now, because Paxton’s former deputies are all accusing him of crimes in the service of wealthy donor Nate Paul (an Austin real estate investor), Paxton is seeking $43 million to go forward with the Google lawsuit with outside legal help. Paxton hired outside firms to conduct the suit, saying, “The legal services cannot be adequately performed by the attorneys and supporting personnel of the attorney general’s office.”

This was not true before Paxton was reported for misconduct in office, as the Attorney General’s office had thousands of employees and Deputy Attorney General Darren McCarty was leading the investigation, prior to Paxton’s misconduct in office.  Mateer, McCarty and Ryan Bangert, another senior lawyer involved in the case, all resigned after reporting Paxton to the FBI. All 8 of Paxton’s accusers have quit or been fired and 4 alleged in a lawsuit that the attorney general created a hostile work environment, including deploying armed guards, to force them out.

Google, of course, has assembled “the best lawyers unlimited money can buy.” Now, Texas tax-payers are being asked to foot the bill for hiring outside counsel to the tune of millions. The allocated amount to pay the monthly bills is $43 million, if approved by the Legislature.  If Google doesn’t end up paying those charges, Texas will try to recoup its costs in court. A second firm (Keller Lenkner) has laid out a similar payment plan. Texas has the largest Republican-controlled state attorney general’s office in the country.  With roughly 750 lawyers and 4,000 total employees. It’s  for the state to hire outside counsel. Paxton most recently hired outside lawyers last month, for his failed suit seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

Today, in the Austin American Statesman opinion piece (see below) entitled “Cruz’s Stunt Shows Contempt for Voters’ Will” the newspaper had this to say about all the shenanigans ongoing today on Capitol Hill:

“The Electoral College challenge planned by Senator Ted Cruz and other Republicans reeks of an audacious stunt, a desperate act to keep Donald Trump in the White House.

But this is no political game.  Something far greater is at stake here, something Americans hold dear: our nation’s standing as a democracy, the legitimacy of its government coming from the consent of the governed.

Cruz, a dozen other senators and about 140 Republicans in the U.S. House—including newly elected Rep. Pete Sessions, whose district includes a swath of northern Travis County, and Williamson County’s Rep. John Carter—plan Wednesday to stymie the confirmation of the Electoral college results.

They won’t succeed in preventing Joe Biden from being sworn in January 20th as president.  But they risk inflicting lasting and unspeakable damage, cratering the public’s confidence in our elections and deepening the partisan divides that make it harder for Americans to confront the pandemic, achieve an economic recovery and tackle other pressing challenges.

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

No kidding. It’s amazing that number isn’t higher, given the barrage of disinformation from Trump and conspiracy theories on social media.  Equally disingenuous, Cruz says “the unprecedented allegations of voter fraud” demand Congress’ intervention, ignoring the lead role he and other GOP officials played in amplifying those baseless claims.

Cruz would have Americans believe that a new “Electoral Commission” is needed to scrutinize the elections administered and certified by the states, opening the door for legislatures to pick a different president than the people did.  Nevermind the fact that at least 86 judges across the political spectrum have heard—and dismissed—all claims of election irregularities.  Or the fact that former Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department found no widespread fraud that would change the outcome of the election.  Or that a national coalition of election security officials, including some appointed by Trump, said “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

Cruz’s crusade is not about election security  It’s about pandering to a diehard Trump base that he hopes will propel him to the White House in 2024.  It’s about the flurry of fundraising emails from Cruz, Carter and others seeking campaign donations to “join the fight”—as if it costs them anything to show up Wednesday and raise objections on the floor of Congress,

To no one’s surprise, Trump has handled defeat the same way he’s managed other political setbacks:  Spread lies and conspiracy theories.  Pressure key officials to bend the rules.  The appalling audio of Trump’s hour-long phone call last weekend with Georgia elections officials shows the leader of the free world demanding a “recalculation” of the votes to keep him in power–as if the results of an election were negotiable.

Trump’s antics have tested our nation’s commitment to self-governance and created a rift within the Republican Party.  Our democracy still stands because others within the GOP—from local elections officials to Republican-appointed judges—have shown their fidelity to the Constitution and the will of voters.

Laudably, a growing chorus of Congressional Republicans, including Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Chip Roy of Hays County, have refused to take part in challenging the election results on Wednesday.  In a statement with 6 other members of the U.S. House, Roy said taking such an action would “unconstitutionally insert Congress into the center of the presidential election process…(and) would amount to stealing power from the people and the states.”

Taken during a McCain rally at the Cedar Rapids Municipal Airport during the 2008 presidential campaign. Cover of Volume II of “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House.” (Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book).

Plenty of issues, from tax policies to judicial nominees, are fair game for partisan fights.  But the underpinnings of our democracy, the very notion that voters decide the elections must be sacrosanct.

Honoring the will of the voters should not be a Republican or a Democratic norm, but an American one.  The efforts to subvert that, first in failed lawsuits by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Rep. Louie Gohmert, now in the charge led by Cruz, are nothing short of seditious.

Cruz’ gambit on Wednesday will fail, too.

But what a shameful spectacle!

*******

“We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids!” (Mitch McConnell) If we overrule the election results, we damage our democracy. This election was not even unusually close The electoral college count was almost identical to what it was in 2016.

If this election were overturned by unsupported allegations from the other side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. Every 4 years would be a scramble for power. If we overrule the voters, we can damage the Republic forever.

The effects would go even beyond the elections themselves. Self government requires a shared commitment to the truth and a shared respect for the ground rules of our system. We cannot keep drifting apart into 2 separate tribes with a separate set of facts with nothing in common but a respect for the common institutions we share.

Every time since 2000, said McConnell, such a dispute took place. Republicans condemned those baseless attacks back then, said McConnell. “There can be no double standard.” We must not imitate and escalate what we repudiate,” said McConnell. It must not be “an endless spiral of partisan venom.”

Belmont Town Hall meeting on campus in Nashville, Tennessee, 2008.

“Honor the people’s decision,” said McConnell. “Show that we can still muster the patriotic fervor not only in victory, but in defeat.”

“It would be unfair and wrong to overrule the voters on this extraordinarily thin premise.”

I will vote to defend our system of government as we know it”

(The above from Mitch McConnell)

******

From Chuck Schumer:

The Congress does not decide the outcome of elections; the people do.

American people elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be the next Pres. and VP of the U.S. And yet a number of our colleagues have organized an effort to challenge our free and fair election. They have no evidence of widespread voter fraud to change our election. That’s because there is none. They know that President Trump and his allies have lost no fewer than 62 legal challenges, rendered by many Republican judges appointed by President Trump.

In the process of objecting, they will embarrass themselves, their party and the United States of America. Merely accepting the results of an election is considered an act of political courage.

Barack Obama in Davenport, Iowa (River Center) during the 2008 caucus season.

That anyone, much less an elected official, would be willing to tarnish our democracy in order to burnish their personal political future, senators of good will from both sides of the aisle will explain why these challenges must be dismissed.

What message will we send today? What message will we send to every dark corner of the world where elections are stolen? What will we show those people? Will we show them that truth matters. There will always be a stronger coalition ready to push back, ready to defend everything we hold dear.

Let those words ring in the ears of every Senator. Let us do our duty to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help us God.”

(From Chuck Schumer)

****

Biden on the caucus campaign trail in Iowa prior to the 2008 presidential race. Don’t worry: I’ll be back to politics by the end of the week.

From Ted Cruz:

We have seen and will continue to see a great deal of moralizing from both sides of the aisle. We are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis. Recent polling show that 39% of Americans believe that the election was rigged. That is a profound threat to this country and any administrations that will come.

I believe that there is a better way. Let me be clear: I am not arguing for setting aside the results of this election.

The Hays-Tilden election of 1876 appointed a 10-day investigatory commission. (Cruz wants to establish such a commission).

 

 

Racism in Trumpland

Democratic National Convention, 2008, Denver: CNN Headquarters.

Today is January 5th. Congress is meeting in Washington, D.C., preparing to certify Joe Biden’s presidential win. Voting for 2 Georgia Senators is imminent.

While browsing news channels at 3 a.m., I stumbled upon Don Lemon, interviewing Mitt Romney’s old campaign manager and paired with a former campaign manager for Barack Obama. Both were talking about the true motive for much of what is going on and, in fact. the true motive for the weird Georgia state rules for selecting senators.

According to these learned gentlemen (and the New York Times editorial I am about to reprint), it’s all part of that age-old story about minority disenfranchisement. Rather than make black voters guess how many jelly beans are in a jar to be allowed to vote (depicted in one memorable movie,  with Oprah Winfrey portraying said black female voter)— the country—or, I should say, the Republican party—has moved on to high-tech digital disenfranchisement. All of the outcry that DJT has aimed at his election loss centers on predominantly black cities and states. Georgia is certainly no exception.

Here is today’s New York Times editorial, entitled “Trump Tries to Drag Jim Crow Into the Digital Age,” written by Charles M. Blow for that newspaper. At the same time I reprint this article, I mention the Twitter thread that explains how Trump will (probably) take the Republican party down with him, in the same way that the Whig party was taken down in disputes over slavery in 1854:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/1/2/2005496/-In-epic-Twitter-thread-Steve-Schmidt-explains-why-1-6-21-will-be-the-end-of-the-Republican-Party?detail=emaildkreicymi

Without further ado, here are Charles M. Blow’s thoughts on racism in Trump-land:

“Regardless of what has happened since the election 2 months ago, or what may happen in the next few weeks, Joe Biden will almost assuredly be inaugurated the president on January 20th, and Donald J. Trump’s official reign of presidential terror will end that day.

But that is cold comfort as we have trudged through these last few months of Trump trying, at every turn, to overthrow the will of the people by overturning the election he lost in November. Even if his ultimate loss is inevitably secure Trump’s loss in the election, it seems as if he is burning down the village as he retreats.” (*Note: I’ve likened Trump’s time in office not tending to the Coronavirus as Nero fiddling while Rome burns, and Trump’s reaction to his defeat this past several weeks as Sherman’s March to the Sea.)

Trump has essentially claimed that fraud occurred during the election in large swing-state cities within counties that have large African-American populations—cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia.  But there is a problem with that implicit theory, as the New York Times pointed out in November:  “All  three of those cities voted pretty much the same way they did in 2016.  Turnout barely budged, relative to turnout in other areas of the state.  Joseph R. Biden saw no remarkable surge in support—certainly nothing that would bolster claims of ballot stuffing or tampered vote tallies.  Mr. Trump even picked up marginally more votes this year in all 3 cities than he did 4 years ago.”

Liberty Bell, 2008, Denver, Illinois delegate

Trump didn’t lose this election in the cities; he lost it in the suburbs. But that thought is antithetical to the war Trump wants to wage within America between the suburbs and what he decries as ‘Democrat-run-cities,’—code for where concentrations of Black people and other people of color live.  That prevailing racialized perception in conservative politics is part of the danger that Trump’s campaign to undermine the election poses:  It threatens to strengthen efforts to disenfranchise in the future Black voters and other voters of color  who disproportionately voted for Democrats. (*Note: As an attendee inside the DNC in Denver in 2008 and the RNC in St. Paul that year, I can testify to the diversity that was evident within the Democratic Convention that nominated Obama and the complete lack of anything similar within the Republican Convention in St. Paul, MN, that year.)

Trump has contended that his challenge to the election is about “ensuring that Americans can have faith in this election and in all future elections.” As Jay Willis pointed out in The Washington Post, “Even afterTrump’s presidency endsthat message will pave the way for GOP politicians and judges to further one of their party’s and the conservative movement’s most important ongoing projects: restricting voting rights.”

Trump lost this election, but he can still help Republicans win in the future.

Conservatives in America, whether they were acting under the banner of Democrats 100 years ago or under the banner of Republicans of today, have engaged in a campaign for racial exclusion at the ballot box ever since Black people (only Black men, at first) gained access to the franchise.

Trump not only attempted to erase Black votes after they were cast, he attempted to suppress them before they were cast. This is nothing new among Conservatives, but Trump has dragged the practice out of the backrooms and into the light of day once again, giving it a telegenic, digitally contagious persona.

And the Republican Party, or at least large portions of it, seem to have embraced Trump’s approach of making voter suppression a front-and-center, out-in-the-open central tenet of their electoral strategy.

As Eric Levitz pointed out in New York Magazine:  “The GOP is now a party that has no compunction about nullifying the voting rights of its opposition to retain power.  And once a party has liberated itself from the shackles of respecting its detractors’ rights, much else becomes permissible.” (*Note: I’m reminded of Susan Collins’ librarian-like admonition following the impeachment fiasco, that Trump would have “learned a lesson” from being impeached in the House. No, Susan, he learned that doubling down works and that he can push any boundary he wants, which has become painfully clear in the wake of the phone call to Brad Raffensperger in Georgia yesterday, 1/4/2021).

We have heard much talk about how Trump’s bogus battle weakens democracy by causing people to lose their faith in our honest and fair elections.  But we don’t talk enough about how Black people and other racial minorities, this isn’t just about faith.  For Blacks and other minorities, it is about being able to participate in elections at all. (*Note: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would have seemed to have solidifed our nation’s position that “ALL” men are created equal and have an equal right to access the ballot box for change, but Trump seems to be trying to turn the clock back on that precept. The MAGA hats should say MAWA: Make America White Again—which, let’s face it, isn’t going to happen.)

Now Trump’s battle moves to Congress, where a group of Republicans plan to challenge the counting of state Electoral College votes.  This effort, too, is expected to fail.  But it will provide yet another spectacle on a grand stage for the lie that Trump and his sycophantic courtiers have sown: that the political machine in liberal cities full of Blacks, hipsters (*Note: are ‘hipsters’ still a thing?), gays and gangs stole elections from the real Americans in the hinterlands.

What we are seeing unfold before our eyes is not about building trust in elections, it is anti-patriotic.  It is not about ensuring that every legal vote is counted.  It is about attempting to legally limit whose ballots can be counted.

Trump is attempting to drag Jim Crow into the Twitter era.

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