Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

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: Of Local (Quad Cities’) Interest Page 2 of 21

“Vice” Is Not An Adam McKay Fun-Fest: Be Warned

Adam McKay’s new film “Vice” focuses on the Vice Presidency of Dick Cheney under George W. Bush. The director of “The Big Short” previously helmed “Anchorman” (2004), “Talladega Nights” and “The Other Guy.” McKay wrote and directed this film and is nominated as both Best Director and for Best Screenplay among the 6 nods from the Golden Globe awards.

The true wheat amongst the chaff here is Christian Bale’s amazing transformation from, well, Christian Bale, into the heavyset, overweight, middle-aged, follically challenged Cheney. Hats off to the make-up crew!

Amy Adams also received a Golden Globe nod for Best Supporting Actress and Sam Rockwell for Best Supporting Actor for playing a somewhat clueless George W. Bush.

Given the fact that McKay wrote for “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 and has a partnership with comic talent Will Ferrell (“Funny or Die” is their channel), this is more in the spirit of “The Big Short” than of his previously silly films, but is not nearly as story focused

THE GOOD

Obviously, when this many nominations are given for acting, the acting is great. (Not to mention the make-up.)

As for the screenplay, it is crammed with so much  that you will drown in numbers, figures, and much, much more. It was not the movie I thought I was going to see, as I thought that Hollywood directors had  this “FOCUS! FOCUS!” part down, (whereas my screenplay efforts are always accused of containing too much and being all over the place, even when they win awards).

For the “good” list, let’s just mention some of the superlative performers (besides those already mentioned above) who put in an appearance:

Steve Carrell – his wife was an early improv partner of McKay’s. He plays Donald Rumsfeld.

Alison Pill – she had a fairly large role opposite Sarah Paulson on the clown episodes of “American Horror Story.” She plays Mary Cheney (the gay one).

Justin Kirk – You will recognize Justin Kirk, who plays Scooter Libby, from “Weeds.”

Jesse Plemons – Kurt – Jesse was in both “Fargo” and “Breaking Bad.” I did not like the way in which his character was integrated (or not integrated) into the plot, and I was always told that “voice over” was lazy writing. So much for that advice.

Tyler Perry – Yes, THE Tyler Perry, plays Colin Powell

So, the cast? Uniformly good. I watched a documentary (Errol Morris) on Donald Rumsfeld called “The Unknown Known” at the 2017 Chicago International Film Festival and Rummy comes off as just as big an SOB here as he did there.

THE BAD

The acting cannot overcome the incessant barrage of facts and data, some of which are incidental to the story. We all know that there is a drug epidemic going on, but why do we see close-ups of a victim being treated with NarCan, for example, or forest fires in California? For that matter, why did Gerry Fraser photograph it in such a herky-jerky fashion that it was like rewatching Costa Gravas’ “Z”, (which pioneered hand-held camera work) or “The Blair Witch Project.” The close-ups were not fun for the audience.

There’s just too broad a net thrown over this whale. It may be nominated for Best Picture, but it was a disappointment to me, as we drove around on Christmas Day for an hour and fifteen minutes trying to get in to a 3:10 or 3:55 showing, only to ultimately give up.

The political implications and message did not offend me, a journalist (Yahoo Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics) who did not much care for George W. Bush and thought him incompetent, but Republicans won’t like it. As for me, the film is too jam-packed with too much detail to carry the plot of how Cheney became our “acting President,” (whether he ever earned the honorary title or not).

The “Manchurian” Mess We Must Address

Inside the Democratic National Convention of 2008 (Pepsi Center) in Denver, Colorado.

I drew back, apprehensive.

Was this guy at the Trump rally at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa, really going to hit me? He looked seriously angry and would have fit Hillary Clinton’s description of a “deplorable.” I had done nothing to him other than attend the same rally, as a member of the press.

It was Saturday, December 5, 2015.

Yes, I was wearing a Press badge, but SERIOUSLY?

I’m a 73-year-old retired English teacher, five foot two, and unarmed—except with a pen and camera. I routinely covered presidential politics in Iowa and beyond. I also review film (www.TheMovieBlog.com) and write everything from short stories to novels to screenplays to children’s books. As a result of this journalistic encounter, I no longer cover presidential political primaries in Iowa. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but I’d like to remain physically unimpaired.

I’d like to be as courageous as Marie Colvin, but I wouldn’t like to be as dead as Marie Colvin. I also want to keep both of my eyes, as I paid a fair chunk of change for cataract surgery this past summer.

I went home and said to my husband of 51 years: “This isn’t fun any more. It’s becoming downright dangerous.”

FAMOUS JOURNALIST’S WORDS OF WISDOM

A Private War: Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dorman.

I did review the film “A Private War” (Chicago International Film Festival, October), which told of the life experiences of courageous U.K. journalist Marie Colvin (portrayed by Rosamund Pike).

Colvin, despite losing one eye in Sri Lanka, continued to report on wars in far-flung places, saying: “I feel we’ve failed if we don’t tell what was done. There are people dying here, and nobody knows it’s happening… When you’re covering a war, you have to go places where you could be killed…You have to make that suffering part of the record…This is the rough draft of history.  You have to find it.  If you lose that, you’re not helping anybody. You’re just making yourself feel better.”

She was killed in Syria on February 22, 2012.

BACKGROUND

I started out covering presidential politics in 2004, traveling across the I-74 bridge from Illinois into Iowa and writing for the Howard Dean blog, www.blogforiowa.com. A Journalism major on a Ferner-Hearst Scholarship when at the University of Iowa, I felt this was something I could do for the cause of taking our country back (Howard’s slogan).

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).

I tried to give people on the blogs I wrote for who were not able to be there a firsthand view of the process of selecting presidential candidates. Volume I of my 2 books was about the run-up to  of the candidates. Volume two was about the campaign that followed. The books are filled with photographs of all the candidates, pictures that I took during this wonderful experience.

 

Starting in 2004, I continued to write for a variety of blogs until, in 2008, I was sent to the DNC and the RNC (and elsewhere) by Yahoo and named their Content Contributor of the Year 2008 for Politics. My pieces (over 1,000) were “hit” 3 million times. I’ve written two books entitled “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vols. 1 & 2. (Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book).

But here I was facing a possible assault because I was Press.

TAKE-AWAYS

This is a watershed year for journalists and journalism. The number of journalists has dropped from 114,000 to 88,000 between 2009 and 2017, according to the December 31, 2018 “Time” magazine. That same issue reports that in 1983 there were 50 corporations controlling what most Americans see or hear, but now it is down to five.

A record number of journalists (262) were imprisoned in 2017 (*Committee to Protect Journalists). Fifty-two journalists around the globe were killed. Five of the Capital Gazette (Annapolis, MD) journalists were slain in their office on December 9th. White House reporter Jim Acosta was stripped of his credentials by a peeved Donald J. Trump on November 7, 2018 and a doctored tape from “Infowars” was used to justify this unprecedented action. Jamal Khashoggi, a member of the Washington Post press corps, was cold-bloodedly killed and dismembered by Saudi Arabian goons inside the Istanbul consulate at the direction of Prince Mohammed bin Salman on October 2, 2018.

Around the world: Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam: jailed for more than 100 days after criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Sudan: freelance journalist Amal Habani arrested, beaten with electrical cords, and detained for 34 days. Brazil: Reporter Patricia Campos Mello- targeted with threats. Hong Kong: Asian news editor for the Financial Times forced out of Hong Kong because he invited an activist to speak at a press club event against the wishes of the Chinese government. The Philippines: Maria Ressa of the “Rappler” news site and her reporters were banned from presidential events and charged with tax fraud as a crackdown on “Rappler.” [That charge could send Ressa to prison for 10 years.]

Maria Ressa’s remark is worth repeating: “I think the biggest problem we face right now is that the beacon of democracy, the one that stood up for both human rights and press freedom—the United States—now is very confused. What are the values of the United States?”

Russian operatives in troll farms seeded Facebook (126 million reached on Facebook, alone, according to CNN on December 17th) with posts intended to help the Trump campaign. One USSR technique was to create a group called The Army of God, which enlisted those suffering from sex addiction(s). It is thought that the USSR hoped to blackmail some of these U.S. citizens into becoming Russian assets. The Facebook and Twitter and Instagram posts sought to sow unrest and dissension amongst the populace.

It worked.

Democratic National Convention, 2008, Denver.

A good friend of my son’s—his former neighbor in Texas—engaged me on my thread on “Facebook” and immediately took to name-calling. I was a “libtard.” He and his family would move to Cabo San Lucas if Hillary Clinton were elected. I had been in this young man’s house. I had been at numerous gatherings where he prepared brisket. His son played with my 9-year-old twin granddaughters. Now I was “the enemy” because I might have a different political opinion than his. I was to be called names and generally put down.

Did I respond in kind? No, I did not.

“Jimmy,” I said, “We are never going to agree on politics, so let’s not discuss it.”

Despite my polite request that we NOT talk politics (since we would never agree), he persisted, telling me he would say “whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, wherever he wanted.”

My response was to first beg my son to come throw cold water (figuratively speaking) on his fanatical friend, before the trip I had planned to Cabo San Lucas over Thanksgiving to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary at Sunset Beach (where Jimmy’s family would be vacationing at the same time as us in their time share), went down the tubes. My son did not see my e-mail(s).

A day passed.

Jimmy persisted, returning to my Facebook thread, growing increasingly more unpleasant and adamant, telling me how he was going to say “whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, wherever he wanted.” I finally said, “I don’t think that’s the way it works on Facebook, Jimmy,” and blocked him.

I allow anyone to speak their mind on either side of an issue on my Facebook thread, but there is to be no name-calling. Name calling is not allowed from either side of the aisle. That is MY “control.” Later, this good friend of my son’s texted my son to apologize to HIM. [Last time I checked, it was not my son who was called names].

I have not received an apology from Jimmy and the trip to Cabo rather pointedly left my husband and me out of the reunion with his family. They had moved to North Carolina before all this occurred—(a state I am sure is more in tune with Jimmy’s politics than Austin (Texas) was).

I like Jimmy and his wife and sons, and I regret that he could not treat a woman at least twenty-five years his senior, the mother of his close friend, with more respect. I regret even more that Jimmy is representative of the divide in this country that has been fostered by our president and social media.

This is what has overtaken our country in the wake of the election of 2016. I don’t think this country will ever be quite the same, unless certain controls that existed in the past are re-instituted or new ones are imposed.

CONTROLS

What do I mean by “controls”?

For one thing, money, politics and religion were always considered to be “off limits” as conversational topics in polite society in my day. We no longer have a polite society, largely due to the lack of decorum at the top. It is creeping into our schools and seeping into our culture. I even wrote a six-book series of Christmas books for children aged 3 to 10 to try to keep these virtues and values alive, “The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats.” The cats go about doing good deeds and helping other animals in distress. From ages 3 to 6 the granddaughters (twins, now aged 9) helped select the animals. We quickly moved through cats, rats and bats and, as their interest in the project waned in favor of their IPads and Minecraft, I selected deer and bear for the last two books. Next year’s book, “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee” will have Donnie Drone scheming to take over the hive. Draw your own conclusions. The illustrations by Hallmark artist Gary McCluskey are wonderful. He says it is the most fun he has had at work.

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

This year, “The Christmas Cats Care for the Bear” has a promotion on e-book that enters the purchaser into an Amazon $500 give-away as they read this anti-bullying tract to their 3 to 10 year old charges. I said I’d do these books as Christmas presents for my granddaughters until they no longer believe(d) in Santa Claus. They turn 10 on January 11, 2019. Six books will remain to convey to them what I have tried to pass on about behaving the way I was taught to behave towards others. [Obviously, I was not very convincing in my conversation(s) with Jimmy on Facebook, but I do still have both eyes (in good working condition) and for that I am grateful.]

These are “throwback” books that try to teach young people to be helpful, to be polite, to respect all human life, not to be prejudiced, not to bully and to try to get along with others in rhyming Seussical quatrains, with interactive activities at the back for the little ones. (www.TheXmasCats.com). In other words, the books reaffirm all the pillars of society and values that, along with what I will mention next, will hopefully return, once we select a different leader.

The Federal Communications Commission enforced the Fairness Doctrine until 1987. It required stations to cover public controversies and present both sides of the controversy. That FCC doctrine was repealed in 1987. Fox News was founded in 1996; MSNBC four months prior. The years of polite decorum in debate would soon be under attack and possibly become a thing of the past in an Internet world. We, as a society, are under constant attack from all sides. It is not hard to conceive of a Putin or a Xi chuckling at how we are being destroyed from the inside out.

 I used to say that the 1962 movie “The Manchurian Candidate” was my favorite movie. Those of you who remember it will also remember that it disappeared for a very long time. That was because of the assassination of JFK. That was a “control” move, to keep anybody from thinking that a political assassination was a “good” thing.

We need to take similar action to rid ourselves or control all of the disruptive elements that are tearing us apart, and you can put the very reasonable concept of gun control in that category. I admired “The Manchurian Candidate” until fiction became fact.

I see children being torn from their parents at the border of this great land. These poor folks have dared greatly to reach a country that, previously, said, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.” (Emma Lazarus on the base of the Statue of Liberty).

What does our country say to immigrants—to the world—to you— now?

“Give me your white only immigrants from countries like Norway? Don’t dare to hope that we’ll welcome you graciously, because now we are solely a Me First nation? Go back to your s******* country and leave us alone?”

Is that the new United States of America message to the world at large?

As I grieve the death of all the initiatives that our last president championed (Obamacare, solar power, LGBQT rights, good relations with our allies), I urge everyone in the field of journalism or right-thinking to stand up to  obvious falsehoods and untruths and misdeeds, seemingly committed to benefit those in power. Unprecedented abuses of our First Amendment freedoms occur and are occurring each day. Let’s restore this great country and save the entire planet from global warming before it’s too late. (A film at the Field Museum, “Antarctica on the Edge” says 2020 is the deadline; the film was made in 2014).

This assault on the freedom of the press may presage democracy’s last stand. Will you take an active part in helping maintain the United States as one of only 13% of the world’s countries that enjoy complete freedom of the press? Or will you side with someone who wants the satirical TV show “Saturday Night Live” prosecuted for making fun of presidents, (as the show  has done for decades?)

To me, it’s not a difficult choice.  I grew up in a very Republican state (Iowa) with a Democratic office-holder (my father, John Corcoran, Jr.) who only got the job as Buchanan County Treasurer after his Republican opponent died before being sworn in.  (“John—your opponent died. Do you want the job?”) I was tacking up political posters on telephone poles at the age of 5 and listening to my father say, “Don’t go into politics, Con. It’s a dirty business!” Nevertheless, he served four terms as County Treasurer of Buchanan County, Iowa before starting a bank in 1941, the Security State Bank of Independence, Iowa, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary.

I’m used to being considered out-of-step with those around me, politically, but I always extend respect and courtesy to those who differ from me in their beliefs. My godmother (Arlene Raymond) was a Republican lobbyist for chiropractors in the state of Iowa for years.

What I won’t do is swallow, wholesale, lies and untruths. You have to really stay on top of things in this day and age, reading BOTH sides of the aisle, especially since the advent of news organizations that are geared at presenting only one side of any argument. [Fortunately, my vision is 20/20, thanks to the miraculous surgery of Eye Surgeon Associates on July 27 through September 11th].

With candidate John Edwards at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa, during the 2008 caucus run (wearing an Obama sticker in the photo).

At one point in time during the 2008 presidential primaries, I was a John Edwards supporter. When the facts showed that he was lying to all of us and was not as represented, naturally I was crestfallen, but I did not continue to insist that it was the nasty news media that had made him into a philandering husband who fathered a child with a girlfriend while his wife was dying of cancer. It was a bitter pill for many of us to recognize that John Edwards truly had feet of clay, but we ate crow and admitted the facts. Rudy Giuiliani now says “Facts aren’t facts.” Au contraire, Rudy. Facts are what will set us free.

This will run before Christmas and I would like to end by saying, “Peace on Earth, good will towards men.” Help save our country by opening your mind(s) to all possibilities. No one is above the law and this great country needs to remain the beacon of hope it has always been for the entire world.

PG-13 | | DramaThriller | 24 October 1962 (USA)
The Manchurian Candidate Poster
A former prisoner of war is brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international Communist conspiracy. A Russian “asset” is intended to be placed in the White House by the manipulation of Angela Lansbury at a political convention.

Writers:

Richard Condon (based upon a novel by), George Axelrod (screenplay)

Holocaust Survivor Steen Metz Speaks on November 13th in Moline, Illinois

Steen Metz, who is an 83-year-old survivor of the Holocaust from Denmark, spoke to an audience of roughly 200 interested audience members on Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 at the Moline Public Library.

Steen grew up in Odense, Denmark, a small town 100 miles west of Copenhagen, where only .2% of the population was Jewish. Neither Steen’s father, an attorney, nor his mother were practicing Jews, although Steen’s father was raised in a practicing Jewish family.

On October 2, 1943, when Steen was 8 years old, his family was herded into a cattle car and spent 3 days traveling to Terezin Concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. They had no food, no water, no bathroom facilities and the adults had to take turns standing or sitting during the 3-day journey. He recalled that one elderly adult in another car committed suicide on the journey.

The camp was called Theresienstadt in German; it was not an extermination camp with gas chambers.  150,000 people were held there and only 17, 247 survived. Steen and his mother somehow managed to be placed together in the barracks. His “job” as an 8-year-old was to be a messenger boy. When asked if he ever read any of the missives he explained that he did not speak or read German. He did, however, occasionally steal a potato when he had the chance, as he and his mother and all the prisoners were starving.

Hitler had invaded Denmark by land, sea and air on April 9, 1940. For three years Danes were allowed to go about their lives in roughly the same way they always had. His father continued to practice law. He continued to attend public school. Part of the reason for this was that, in a country of 4 and 1/2 million people, only 8,000 were Jewish, and most had already fled to Sweden, which was neutral and opened its borders. Another difference for Steen was that he was not tattooed, as we assume all Holocaust survivors were. Also, in the later stages of the incarceration, the inmates were allowed to receive packages, but sometimes the guards would open them, remove the goods or food, and replace the contents with rocks.

The Danish people were very supportive of the Jewish citizens and hid many of them, at great personal risk. The normal life Steen had experienced came to a screeching halt in the fall of 1943. [He projected a picture of the people of his small town being assembled in a school yard to be transported to the concentration camp.]

Steen’s father was made to dig ditches and ultimately died of pneumonia. His mother survived and remarried in 1951. She lived to be 91.

The camp where Steen and his mother were held was made to appear to be a “model” camp and filmed for use in propaganda films. A gazebo was constructed, the facades of shops were freshly painted (there was no running water anywhere) and healthy French children were brought in to play in the streets. On June 23, 1944, a group from “outside” came to Terezin to tour, proving to the rest of the world that the camps were not systematically starving people, as they were. There were 470 Danes in Terrazen, of whom 420 were liberated. 50 died of starvation. 4 babies were born there and 2 of them survived. All but 4 of Steen’s family survived and, when he and his mother returned to their small village, his father’s firm had put their belongings in storage and most belongings were returned to the pair.

Steen joined a Danish food company after he grew to adulthood and was sent to Canada. He met his wife there (a British citizen) and they came to the United States in 1962. He retired in 1999. He estimates he has spoken to 65,000 people about the Holocaust and each of us was to tell 4 other people that the Holocaust was real. He warned about the current climate of hate and  anti-Semitism abroad both here and in Europe, pointing to the Pittsburgh of 11 Jewish worshipper at a synagogue there.

When asked if his experiences had made him  a more intense follower of the Jewish faith, he answered, “No” and explained that he had not been brought up in a religious home and that claiming that distinction in post-war Europe was not really that good an idea.

Thoughts on Films & Politics on November 5th, 2018

Some thoughts of the day, on Monday, the day before the election.

I am asked if I think there will be a Blue Wave.

I respond that my biggest fear is that the Kavanaugh hearings will function like the Comey memo about Hillary’s e-mails. If the Kavanaugh hearings energize Trump’s base…..(finish that thought).

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Joe’ Seafood, Prime Steaks and Crab House, Chicago.

On another topic, I saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” AND “First Man” and I can highly recommend both.

Years ago, at the Chicago Film Festival, I saw a bio-pic on Freddie Mercury of clips of all his public appearances put together by the man responsible for curating same. It was terrific! One thing that was not covered as well as it could have been was Freddy’s collaboration with an opera singer of the day.

Damien Chazelle, Writer/Director of “La La Land” and “Whiplash.”

First Man” was also wonderful and a tribute to Damien Chazelle’s directing as much as Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Neil Armstrong.

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Visited the Field Museum today and saw 2 films, one on ancient Egypt and one on Antarctica. Both were informative and educational.

The rest of the past few days were spent participating in a SLAM (Culture Club)

The Field Museum.

on Friday night and dining at Joe’s on Saturday night. I learned, the hard way, that I should always ask for the “market value” on crab values. (A: $70!) But it is a lovely place and the food was good.

 

Connie’s Cliff Notes, FEAR: Chapter 4

Image result for google images of James Clapper
James Clapper (Image courtesy of www.deadline.com)

The summer of 2015 saw the first sign of digital intrusions into our voting apparatus, first appearing in Illinois and later spreading to 21 states. Russian hacking and tampering put then-President Obama in a bad position. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, was concerned that Russia might be using the data to change votes. “Russia?” he wondered.

The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) security briefing [something Trump supposedly rarely pays much attention to]contained this information. But what should Obama do? In July of 2016 WikiLeaks and DC Leaks began publishing e-mails from the DNC, obtained by Russian hackers calling themselves “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear.” The National Security Council was deeply concerned as the intelligence regarding Russian hacking grew more and more convincing.

Obama was torn. If he went on prime-time national television and announced the findings it might look like he was attacking Trump, linking the Republican nominee with Russia. (*This would have been a very good idea, since his wife is Russian, his heroes are Russian and, in all likelihood, his secret helpers were Russian in the election of 2016). Obama did not want to appear as though he were meddling in the U.S. election by trying to tip the scales, but NOT telling the public could create a backlash in the (very unlikely) case that Trump did win.

Image result for google images of John Brennan

John Brennan (Image courtesy of cnn.com)

John Brennan of the FBI argued against telling the public. He was protective of the department’s sources. Brennan, however, did tell Russian Intelligence Chief Alexander Bortnikov that we were aware of the hacking. (Bortnikov, like Trump, simply denied it.

 

Image result for google images of Mike Morrell

Mike Morrell (Image courtesy of CNN.com)

Mike Morrell, acting director of the CIA twice, published an op-ed in the New York Times on August 5th that read: “I Ran the CIA: Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton.” Morrell  flat-out accused Trump of “being an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” Clapper was selected to brief the Gang of Eight consisting of 4 Republican and  Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, plus the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.

Clapper was shocked by the partisan nature of the gathering, as the Republicans disliked everything. The Democrats loved every bit of the information. He left the briefing feeling that the intelligence apparatus in the country was becoming a political football.

Even though everyone still felt that Clinton was likely to win, Vladimir Putin’s influence campaign to undermine HRC’s campaign and coming presidency went into high gear.

Meanwhile, Clapper and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson wanted to alert the public to Russian hacking. Friday, October 7th, they released a joint statement accusing Russia of trying to interfere in the United States election.  “The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromise of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions.  These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” The announcement went on to say that the authorization to do this must have come from the top in Russia. They sat back and waited for this to be a Big News Story.

ACCESS HOLLYWOOD TAPE

One hour later, at 4:05 p.m., David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post released a headlined story: “Trump Recorded Having Extremely Lewd Conversation About Women in 2005.” This would later become known as the Access Hollywood tape. It literally blew away all other important news of the hour and day, such as the Russian hacking story. The “Grab them by the pussy” tape became “a political earthquake” and the announcement about Russia’s hacking in our election was lost in the shuffle.

WIKILEAKS

Less than half an hour later, at 4:30 p.m., WikiLeaks dumped thousands of e-mails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s personal account. It included information about HRC’s speeches to Wall Street financiers. E-mails between Podesta and Donna Brazile (Chair of the DNC) were also released.

ACCESS HOLLYWOOD TAPE AFTERMATH

“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person…these words don’treflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong and I apologize. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.” (Donald J. Trump) Trump went on to pivot to Bill Clinton and saying he had done far worse and concluded, “See you at the debate on Sunday.”

A summit of the top advisers to Donald J. Trump convened and Priebus said, “It’s over.” Bannon did not agree (“What do you mean, it’s over?”) Mike Pence was dubious. “Are you fucking kidding me?” was Bannon’s response. “It’s a tape, dude.” Priebus insisted, “You don’t understand; it’s over.” Trump asked each of them to weigh in on the situation. Priebus felt he should drop out right now and avoid the worst loss in American history. Bannon insisted “Cut the bullshit; that’s bullshit.” Priebus floated the idea of Mike Pence stepping up and running with Condoleeza Rice, “W’s” former national security adviser and secretary of state. “That’s never going to happen,” Bannon said loudly. Chris Christie of New Jersey felt Trump should resign in order to protect his brand. Rudy Giuiliani felt that “Basically, you’ve got a 40% chance of winning.” Kellyanne Conway suggested contacting “60 Minutes” and doing a sort of public confessional with Ivanka on one side and Melania on the other, the women crying and Trump apologizing. Melania flatly refused.

Trump asked Bannon, “What do you think?

Bannon responded, “100%”

“100% what?”

“100% metaphysical certitude you’re going to win.”

Trump responded, “Cut the shit. I’m tired of 100%. I need to know what you really think.”

Although Priebus obviously was not a 100%-er, and he didn’t think Trump was, either, Bannon kept maintaining that Trump would win. He told the room: “We’re going to compare your talk with Bill Clinton’s action.”

“How are we going to do that?” (Trump)

Bannon suggested a Hilton Hotel ballroom at 8 p.m. that night with a hammerhead rally—which was a Bannon term for the diehard Trump fans wearing the MAGA baseball caps. Trump was delighted, while the others were opposed and a huge fight resulted with a compromise position at the end of it: Conway would have David muir of ABC helicopter in and do a 10 minute interview.

Bannon felt this was political suicide. Priebus again felt that Trump was toast. (“You guys don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going to go down.”) Various Republicans were coming out of the woodwork and telling Trump he should step aside for Mike Pence. Pence even released a statement: (“As a husband and a father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released Saturday.  I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.  I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people.  We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”

There were rumors that Pence had given Bannon a sealed letter that urged him to drop off the ticket.

Two hours later Melania released a statement defending her husband and saying, “I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”

At 3:40 p.m. Trump tweeted: I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA Preparations for the ABC interview were underway. Giuiliani and Christie gave Trump an apology statement to read. Trump was surly about reading the “all political” statement that screamed Giuliani and Christie. “I can’t do this. This is bullshit. This is weak.  You guys are weak.”

Christie interjected, “Donald, you don’t understand” and Giuliani told Trump that he had to do this. Trump turned to Kellyanne Conway and asked her what were the steps to cancel out on the Muir interview. She waffled, saying all her credibility was on the line, but Bannon said, “It’s not going to happen. He ain’t going to do it. If he does do an introduction you can’t have him do a live interview.  He’ll f****** get cut to pieces.” The apology was re-written, but it was still all Giuliani and Christie and polito-speak and Trump said, “I’m not doing this.” He delcared that he was going to go down to the roaring crowd gathered for the rally. The Secret Service insisted to Trump that he was NOT going to go outside. Trump headed out, saying “I’m going downstairs. This is great.” (*One cautious word for DJT: watch the movie about Huey Long.) Conway was telling Trump that he couldn’t cancel on ABC, but DJT said, “I don’t care. It was a dumb idea. I never wanted to do it.”

OUTSIDE THE ELEVATOR

Chris Christie (then Governor of New Jersey) and Steve Bannon had words outside the elevator. Christie said, to Bannon, “You’re the fucking problem. You’ve been the problem since the beginning.”

Bannon, dismayed, wanted to know what Bannon was talking about. Bannon, dismayed, said, “What are you talking about?” Christie responded, “You’re the enabler. You play to every one of his worst instincts…” The 2 men faced off and Bannon said, “Governor, the plane leaves tomorrow. If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team.”

Christie was not on the plane the next day. Trump, however, was, and, following on the heels of Rudy Giuliani doing all 5 networks, defending his client, he was the only one who completed a full Ginsburg (a term used for Monica Lewinsky’s attorney who appeared on all 5 network Sunday programs on Feb. 1, 1998.)

ON THE PLANE

After Giuliani had made the full Ginsburg–-a daunting task that must have been quit embarrassing and humiliating in many ways—the exhausted former Mayor of New York City who had pulled out every stop got to hear Trump say to him:  “Rudy, you’re a baby! I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life.  They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?” When Bannon defended Giuliani as the only one of the Trump forces who had gone to the wall for his boss, Trump responded, “I don’t want to hear it. It was a mistake. He shouldn’t have gone on. He’s weak. You’re weak, Rudy. You’ve lost it.”

Giuliani just took the abuse with a blank face as the plane took off.

 

“FEAR:” Chapter One

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                     Steve Bannon, The Man Behind the Throne

In Chapter One, Bob Woodward concentrates on Steve Bannon. He traces Bannon’s meeting with Trump back to August of 2010, when David Bossie, longtme House Republican investigator and conservative activist wanted to put Bannon, then 57, together with the Trumpster.

The chapter conveys Bannon’s linguistic style as very casual (“Dude” is one of the terms he uses repeatedly when speaking to Bossie). Bossie asks Bannon to come with him to New York to meet Donald Trump.:

“What about?” says Bannon.

“He’s thinking of running for president,” Bossie answers.

“Of what country?” Bannon responds.

It is casual insouciance like that exchange that gives us our first glimpse of the evil genie behind the throne, the Breitbach editor turned kingmaker. Bannon responds, “I don’t have time to jerk off, dude.” [Again, the casual insouciance].

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David Bossie (“Politico” image).

Finally, the meeting does take place, and Bannon and Bossie inform Trump that his plan to potentially run against Obama in 2012 has some problems. For one thing, his record shows him to have bankrolled those who might be considered liberal, and to have underwritten causes for candidates who are pro abortion, while, they tell him, he must be “pro life.” They suggest that he become a “Populist” president, but Trump never seems to be able to repeat the word “Populist” correctly, repeatedly calling it “Popularist.”

At that point in time, Bannon found Trump to be “engaged and quick. He was in great physical shape.  His presence was bigger than the man, and took over the room, a command presence. He had something.” Bannon felt that Trump was: “Archie Bunker, but a really focused Archie Bunker.” (Just what we all hoped for: Archie Bunker for President!) It is interesting to note how Omarosa talks about Trump’s physical and mental deterioration in her book “Unhinged”, based on having known and worked with the man for 15 years. It would be hard to imagine anyone today saying that Donald J. Trump was either “engaged” or “quick” and he is definitely not “in great physical shape.”

They reveal, to Trump’s amazement, that there are voting records that show he has only voted once in a primary in his entire life. (For Rudy Giuiliani, in 1989). Trump seems woefully ignorant of the most basic political facts and realities, but he keeps repeating that “that can be fixed.” The two old pols tell him to run in 3 states as though he were running for Governor. The three states are Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first 3 caucus or primary states. They instruct him to start contributing $2,400 (the maximum allowed by law) to Republican candidates in a handful of battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida. They suggest he produce a policy book. (“You ought to do a book about what you think about America and these policies.”).

Later, leaving the meeting, the two men discuss the potential candidate. Bossie asks: “What about the policy book?”

Bannon responds:  “He’ll never do a policy book.  Give me a f****** break.  First off, nobody will buy it.  It was a waste of time except for the fact that it was insanely entertaining.”

And that (plus perhaps the Correspondents’ dinner roasting of Trump by Seth Meyer and Obama?) gave birth to the perfect storm of 2016 and Donald J. Trump’s candidacy.

Bob Woodward’s Book “FEAR”

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(Image from “The Headline”)

Bob Woodward’s new book “FEAR” came out today, and I am reading it.

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Bob Woodward (Twitter image), co-author of “All the President’s Men” and “Fear”

As with Omarosa’s book about the goings-on inside the White House (“Unhinged”), I will attempt to share with those of you with less idle time on their hands some of its revelations.

Today’s installment will deal only with the first 1% (I ordered it in e-book format), the Prologue. First, let it be known that Woodward had A LOT of help from his research assistant Evelyn M. Duffy, who has worked with him on five previous books.

PROLOGUE:

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(General Mattis, Gary Kohn, and General Kelly from the ArmWood Opinion Blog)

Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs and one of the president’s top economic advisers comes off as one of those who is trying to keep Trump from screwing up by signing things he shouldn’t. Cohn, who spent 27 years at Goldman Sachs, is 6′ 3″ and full of self-confidence, notes Woodward. He is also from GOLDMAN SACHS, and, if you remember, Trump made a Big Deal of Hillary Clinton’s speech to Goldman Sachs, but now brings its president on as one of his most trusted advisers. (Go figure).

The Prologue deals with Trump’s unhinged (Omarosa’s book title) efforts to withdraw from the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS. It isn’t so much that we get economic good from this agreement as that we get the ability to detect any attack that might  be heading towards the U.S. mainland from North Korea because of the work of the military infrastructure present in South Korea, which has been there ever since I was a little girl (the early fifties). The U.S. stationed 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea and operates the most highly classified and sensitive Special Access Program (SAP) providing sophisticated Top Secret codeword intelligence and military capabilities.

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(Image from 9news.com.au)

Woodward’s book (“FEAR”) notes that a missile from North Korea would take 38 minutes to reach Los Angeles. Thanks to this treaty and the intelligence apparatus in place there as a result of it, we would know that it was headed for us in 7 seconds. Compare that to the time it would take for Alaska to let us know if an attack from the Russians (15 minutes) and you realize that the ability to detect a lunch “in seven seconds” would give the United States military the time to shoot down a North Korean missile.”

Does Trump recognize that fact?

Apparently not. Woodward notes that it is “Perhaps the most important and most secret operation in the United States government. The American presence in South Korea represents the essence of national security.”

Why, then, did Trump want to withdraw from this important strategic alliance? Because he was angry that the U.S. had an $18 billion annual trade deficit with South Korea, plus our troops there cost us $3.5 billion a year to maintain.

Woodward notes, “Trump was always shifting, rarely fixed, erratic.” Prior to that, Woodward says, “Despite almost daily reports of chaos and discord in the White House, the public did not know how bad the internal situation actually was.” (Or should we say “is”?).

The letter, which Woodward displays on the page, was dated September 5, 2017. It was the trigger to a potential national and international security catastrophe. And Cohn, therefore, removed the letter draft from the Resolute Desk and placed it in a blue folder marked “KEEP.”

Woodward: “In the anarchy and disorder of the White House, and Trump’s mind, the president never noticed the missing letter.” Rob Porter is then noted as contributing to this attempt to stop Trump from doing something stupid. Porter attended Harvard and Harvard Law School and was a Rhodes Scholar, something no one has accused Trump of being.  “Cohn and Porter worked together to derail what they believed were Trump’s most impulsive and dangerous orders.” “Cohn at times would just yank it (an order), and the president would forget about it. But if it was on his desk, he’d sign it.”

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(No copyright infringement is intended & there is no profit from the reprinting of this cartoon image.)

Cohn: “It’s not what we did for the country.  It’s what we saved him (Trump) from doing.” Porter said, “A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he (Trump) had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas.” After citing the technique of “slow walking” a bill or order that Trump might unwisely sign, Porter said:  “It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually…It was like you were always walking right there on the edge.”

When confronted with arguments as to why the treaty with South Korea needed to remain in place, Trump said, “I don’t care. I’m tired of these arguments! I don’t want to hear about it any more.  We’re getting out of KORUS.” The cooler heads told son-in-law Jared Kushner that a good draft needed to be prepared and, from there, “Cohn and Porter did not prepare a next draft. So there was nothing to show the president. The issue, for the moment, disappeared in the haze of presidential decision making.”

Concludes Woodward, as the Prologue winds to a halt:  “The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader…It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”

Michael Kutza To Be Honored as Retiring Head of Chicago Film Festival

In 1964, film buff Michael Kutza founded the Chicago International Film Festival, with silent screen star Colleen Moore. The debut of the Chicago International Film Festival (now in its 54th year) was at the Carnegie Theatre at Rush and Oak Streets, on November 9, 1965. (Photo of Michael Kutza by Connie Wilson)

Mimi Plauche will become Artistic Director of the Chicago International Film Festival, while Vivan Teng will remain Managing Editor. (Photo by Connie Wilson)

Kutza, then 22, has served as Artistic Director longer than any other film festival director in the country (55 years). The Chicago International Film Festival is the oldest film festival in North America; it is often called a Director’s Festival. Kutza will be passing the torch to Mimi Plauche as Artistic Director and VivianTeng as Managing Director.

Michael Kutza. (Photo by Connie Wilson)

Kutza’s illustrious 55-year career heading up the festival and Cinema Chicago and his contributions to film as a visionary helping advance the careers of so many luminaries in the industry will be celebrated on July 14th. He is being honored (Saturday, July 14th) with “Celebrating Michael,” an event that will take place beginning at 6 p.m. at Loews Hotel Chicago and will culminate in the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Kutza.

ORGANIZERS

Chaz Ebert, one of the “Celebrate Michael”organizers. (Photo by Connie Wilson)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner are Honorary Chairmen and the event chairs are Chaz Ebert (widow of famed critic Roger Ebert), Candace Jordan and Maria Pappas. Many celebrities will be in attendance, either in person or via video-taped salute, including Kathleen Turner (“Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Romancing the Stone”) and producer Paula Wagner (“Mission Impossible I-III”).

GALA AUCTION ITEMS

Exclusive items will be available for purchase at the Gala, including an autographed “Black Panther” movie poster, an autographed Special Edition “Star Wars” poster (one of only 25 in existence), a signed “Godfather” poster, and a guitar signed by Tom Petty, a trip to Naples, Florida and much, much more.

HONORS

Michael Kutza with Michael Douglas at the 1997 Chicago International Film Festival. (Cinema/Chicago Archives).

Kutza has been a ubiquitous presence on the Chicago International Film Festival scene and he will remain affiliated with Cinema Chicago as Emeritus CEO. Over the course of his 55-year career he has received many awards, including the Chevalier de l’Order des Arts et des Lettres from French Minister of Culture Jacques Lang at Cannes in 1984, the Silver Lion Award at the 32nd Venice International Film Festival, the Chicago “Sun Times” award for “Exceptional Contribution to Chicago” and, in 2010, placement by “Chicago Magazine” on their list of the Top 40 Chicago Visionaries. Also weighing in with awards have been the President of the French Republic for Kutza’s achievements as “an internationally recognized graphic designer, filmmaker and the Founder of the Chicago International Film Festival” in June of 2015. In 2017 Kutza was awarded the Onorificenza di Cavalierato, the highest honor awarded to someone in the arts, bestowed by the President of the Italian Republic.

CELEBRITIES

The list of those whose careers Kutza has fostered is long. A partial list would include Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbender, Krzysztof Zanussi, Claude Lelouch, Wim Wenders, Margarethe von Trotta, Tsai Ming-liang, Mike Leigh, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, John Carpenter, Joe Swanberg, and Taylor Hackford.

Clint Eastwood with Michael Kutza at the 38th
Chicago International Film Festival. (Official Cinema/Chicago archives).

Among those who have attended the Chicago International Film Festival over the years, a partial list would include: Harold Lloyd, Bette Davis, Jack Lemmon, Vincent Minnelli, Sophia Loren, Jack Nicholson, Shirley Maclaine, Francois Truffaut, Director Spike Lee, Director Oliver Stone, Director Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Clint Eastood, Liv Ullmann, Dustin Hoffman, Will Farrell, Jodie Foster, Director Kevin Smith, Halle Berry, composer Howard Shore, Director Richard Zemeckis, Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood, Sidney Poitier, Helen Mirren, Director Claude LeLouche, Director Philip Kaufman, Jane Fonda, Chadwick Boseman, Vanessa Redgrave, John C. Reilly, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Director Guillermo del Toro, Director Danny Boyle, Director Peter Bogdanovich, Ed Burns, Alan Cumming, Robert Downey, Jr., Forest Whitaker, Director Steve McQueen, Writer/Director Charlie Kaufman, Sterling K. Brown, Geraldine Chaplin, Gary Cole, Colin Farrell, Jessica Chastain, Helen Hunt, Dennis Farino, Joan Allen,Directors Lilly and Lana Wachowski, Mark and Jay Duplass, Ron Perlman, and the director of “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle.

Said Executive Board Member Byron Pollack, “Michael has had a tremendous impact on the film industry world-wide as well as on the cultural vibrancy of Chicago.” Gala co-chair Candace Jordan said, “We are pulling out all the stops to make this the most spectacular Cinema/Chicago gala ever!”

For tickets to this event, call 312-683-0121, x108, or visit chicagofilmfestival.com. Tickets start at $500.

Teaching in America Today From the Prism of 37 Years in the Field

It is Tuesday and I have not posted since last Tuesday, May 22nd. In keeping with the title of this blog (WEEKLY Wilson), I will now share some of Fareed Zakaria’s Sunday morning show statistics, leavened with a few personal observations on teachers and teaching in America today.

Fahreed began his Sunday morning GPS show on May 27th with this quote from John Steinbeck’s (1902-1968) “East of Eden:”

“In the country, the teacher was not only an intellectual paragon and a social leader, but also the matrimonial catch of the countryside.  A family could, indeed, walk proudly if a son married the schoolteacher.” Fareed went on to say that Steinbeck’s quote, written in the early part of the 20th century, was “now unrecognizable” as far as the status of teachers in America today.

Nobody knows that better than I do, someone whose mother began teaching school in 1927 and who encouraged her two daughters (my sister Kay and me) to follow in her footsteps.

I went to Iowa on a Ferner/Hearst Journalism Scholarship and a Freshman Merit Scholarship awarded to the entering 5% of the freshman class, and I intended to be where the action was—reporting the news, living in the moment. Then I saw what beginning journalists were paid, and my mother began her refrain of “Get your teaching credential so you have something to fall back on.” (As Richard Dreyfuss said in “The Competition,” “The problem with having a career to ‘fall back on’ is that you tend to fall back.” (He played an aspiring pianist in that one, believe it or not.)

So, I continued as a Journalism major for 3 years and then was forced with the Sophie’s choice of either working all day at the Daily Iowan, helping turn out that student newspaper, or student teaching, which usually meant getting on a bus and being trucked 53 miles down the road to Davenport, Iowa. (*In my case, I lucked out and was given an assignment at the University Lab School which university professors children attended, now defunct, but only because I was a member of Old Gold Singers and needed to be present for practice at noon each day at the Union.)

After marriage and the birth of my first child, I first tried to go to work for our local newspaper, but the pay was  pathetic. Teaching wasn’t much better back in 1969, but it was actually better than being a reporter, and I began teaching for $5,280 a year. If this sounds incredibly low, you’re right.

Silvis (Illinois) was always the worst paid district in the Quad Cities and in those days, we still had the Rock Island Lines Railroad paying taxes AND the John Deere Foundary in Silvis, neither of which still pays taxes to the city and neither of which has really been replaced in the tax base of the Silvis Public Schools.

My pay rose if I went back to school and got additional hours, so I finished my Master’s degree in record time (under 2 years) and my pay eventually rose to the less-than-impressive amount of $25,000 my final year on the job (1984-1985). It was 1985 and I quit to write a book for a New Jersey firm (Performance Learning Systems, Inc.)  which promised they could match my pay level, which wasn’t difficult. The condition was that I had to quit my tenured full-time job as Department Chairperson. (I had asked if I could write it during my summers off.) I was supposed to travel for them, as well, and do interviews for their newsletter. In fact, I was scheduled to interview the “Teacher in Space”—until they blew Christa McAuliffe up.

When I asked what would happen to me AFTER the book came out, no one (including me) seemed to know, but, after 4 terms as Co Chair of the Silvis Education Association, during which I worked tirelessly to earn recognition for our teachers’ union (and succeeded, after 3 contentious years), I was ready to move on.

I had taught 5 years of 7th grade Language Arts, 5 years of 8th grade Language Arts (by request), taken a one-year leave of absence to try to find gainful employment at a higher level, and, unsuccessful, returned to teach a mixture of 7th AND 8th graders. Most of my friends from the struggle to achieve recognition, [which ended when the League of Women Voters was brought in and the district’s 50 or so employees voted to have them recognized as their bargaining agent] had left. Some left teaching all together. Some went to the high school level or to another district, where the pay was better.

It should be noted that our school board first had to be changed to allow us to even HAVE such a revolutionary vote. And it shouldn’t have BEEN a revolutionary vote, since the Silvis Education Association had been formed in 1962,  when I was still in high school! This was 1979-1980, so why wasn’t it “recognized” and why weren’t the teachers being asked for input on their teaching conditions, class size, materials, and pay? (Every other district had been meeting with their teachers’ bargaining representatives for years, but we got to read ours in the paper and it sometimes went down.) 

In order to be allowed to bring in the League of Women Voters we had to first elect 3 members of a 7 member board that would agree it was a good idea; that was the difficult part. The old board would not have allowed it.

We backed some concerned citizens in the community who agreed that Silvis was a bit behind the times ( about 20 years behind) in terms of  agreeing to bargain with its employees in a hopefully constructive manner, and we did not tumble to the IEA (Illinois Education Association’s) advice that we do “bullet voting” and try to elect one member at a time over a longer period. We took on getting 3 board members on at once and we succeeded, which the Powers-That-Be in Springfield said was one of the few times in Illinois history this had occurred. I was even asked to lead workshops around the state to explain exactly how we had pulled off this small miracle.

So, I left Silvis, Illinois as Chairman of the English Department making $25,000 a year, went to work for PLS (Perfomance Learning Systems, Inc.) making the same amount, wrote their book (“Training the Teacher As A Champion”) and handling their news letter, and, at the end of my time writing the book (which was published in 1989), no one had any idea what to do with me.

Thus, I became the founder of a Sylvan Learning Center (2nd in the state of Iowa) and an adjunct faculty member at 6 colleges in my spare time, and performed my duties as CEO, chief marketing director, H&R, community representative, and sometime substitute teacher uninterruptedly until I sold that business and the Prometric Testing Center that I had also founded within our walls in 1995, in April of 2003.

I had noticed that the students coming to me from the elementary grades over the years were coming in with less and less basic knowledge and less and less parental support. The parents usually sided with the student and the teacher was at fault if little Johnny failed. Respect for the profession was sliding even then. As an example of how the students were losing ground I often cite a short story writing contest I ran at Halloween time to write a “scary” story.

When I started teaching, the students wrote fairly good stories of more than one paragraph. By the middle of my 15 years in Silvis, the students had difficulty knowing enough about good grammar and punctuation to even write 3 paragraphs. By the end of my time in Silvis, I was teaching them how to write 5-line paragraphs and we had scrapped the entire idea of writing fiction.

And United Township’s High School Creative Writing Class, which had blind judged the stories and picked the winners, had also been scrapped, so we no longer had judges for my junior high school students’ work. I persisted in teaching Literature, Grammar (yes, we diagrammed sentences), Spelling (a separate grade), and Writing/Composition.

I made sure that my students always were entering any writing competition that was being offered in the Quad City area. (They often won.) I was always correcting papers while waiting in a dentist’s office or a doctor’s office and once left a stack of them there and had to go back to retrieve them. ALL of my students wrote, but, because of the excessive amount of time it takes to truly critique and proof a paper, I had to schedule one class at a time to do their writing assignment, and I did.

I worked at Sylvan for 3 years taking no pay, since we were a new business, and I had an acrimonious break-up with the woman I had invited to join me over ‘creative differences’ in our vision for the business. Since I was the President, founder and CEO, I bought her out and started over again from the bottom of the ladder, right after the birth of my second child in 1987. (She opened one in Cedar Rapids, but it no longer exists, either.)

Here are some facts about teaching today, some of which I researched for the book for PLS entitled “Training the Teacher As A Champion” and some of which Fareed Zakaria highlighted on May 27, 2018:

  1.  The average pay for teachers has declined over the last 15 years, while health care costs have risen substantially.
  2. In 2003, the median household income was $63,777, but teachers made only $59,141.
  3. In 2009, the median household income was $64,803, but teachers made only $58,257.
  4. In 2016, the median household income was $61,768, but teachers made only $61,675.
  5. Teachers are 5 times as likely as the average full-time workers to have a second job; adjunct faculty even approach the poverty level and qualify for food stamps (especially in Chicago, it seems). Colleges are fond of what I term “the sponge mentality,” where they  hire teachers with advanced degrees, but only allow them to have just under the maximum number of hours that would make them full-time, squeeze out all the good, and then cast them aside; hence, no benefits need be paid, like health insurance or retirement pension moneys.
  6. Teachers make 60% less than a professional in another career with a comparable education (I had a Master’s + 30 hours,  the equivalent of a PhD)
  7. Because of low wages and teacher stress, teachers burn out at two  times the rate of other workers. (Linda Hammond of the Lang Policy Institute). the Boston Women’s Study I remember reading for the PLS book pegged the “burn out” time as ten years.
  8. Enrollment in teacher preparation courses is down 35%.
  9. We are facing a massive teacher shortage at at time when teachers are being asked to put their lives on the line for their students and a debate rages nationwide about arming teachers.
  10. The shortage of teachers from the U.S. is so bad that 100,000 teachers are being recruited from countries like the Philippines.
  11. There is a significant link between teacher pay and student achievement.
  12. Singapore/Finland and South Korea can recruit the top graduates because they pay well and there is respect for the profession in those countries, unlike in this country.
  13. “Over the last 30 years, being a teacher in America has become a thankless job. And that is the one profession that makes all the other professions possible.” (Fareed Zakaria)
  14. My own observation(s), from a family that has logged about 200 teacher years (Mother, sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law): When I graduated from high school (1963), I was offered 3 possible job options: nurse, teacher or office worker.
  15. I graduated second in my class, but no one said I could become an engineer, a doctor, or a lawyer. In fact, when I took the LSAT (Law School Aptitude Test) 3 times as I was graduating from the University of Iowa in 1967, scoring in the top 1/2 of 1% on the English portions, I was told, by my old-fashioned parents that they would help finance a post graduate career in English, but that I shouldn’t aspire to go to law school. Several law students (all male, of course) seconded that assessment, noting how much the professors disliked having females in their classes. [up the spaceLest you think I am making this up, just look for Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s remarks about how her law professors told her that she and her 8 female classmate were “taking  for 9 male students.”] I took the LSAT in the chemistry auditorium, which holds roughly  500 students, and only one other woman was there taking the examination, and she was Forrest Evaschevski’s daughter-in-law.[ *If you don’t know who Forrest Evaschevski was, he would be the equivalent in that day and age of Hayden Fry or Iowa’s current long-time coach, Kirk Ferentz.]

Fareed went on to say, “Have you thanked a teacher for his or her service, like you thank the military?”

There have been 17 shootings in 2018 alone in classrooms, the highest number during any year since at least 1999 according to a Washington Post data base. The debate is raging here in Texas and across the nation about arming teachers in the schools. If I had been approached to carry a gun and be prepared to use it, I would have changed majors so fast it would make your head spin.

An Indiana Middle School teacher (my teaching level), Jason Seaman, was just released from the hospital after being shot 4 times defending his class from a young student who entered with a hand gun and opened fire. Jason Seaman played for Southern Illinois University’s Salukis’ football team from 2007 to 2010 and is 29 years old. He was a defensive end, tallying 88 tackles and 8 sacks with 2 forced fumbles in 47 games. He was a three-sport athlete in Mahomet, Illinois. He ran at the shooter and pinned him to the wall and immobilized him, despite being shot in the abdomen, hip and forearm.

As a student witness, Ethan Stonebraker, described it:  “Immediately, Mr. Seaman was yelling and running right at him and tackled him to the ground. I was trying to stay crouched behind the back table, but also see what’s going on and that’s when Mr. Seaman was running right at him with his arms in front of him, and then he just tackled him against the wall. Then they were on the ground after Mr. Seamans swatted the gun from him an Mr. Seamans just laid on the shooter so he couldn’t do anything else.”

During my teaching years, I was aged 24 to 40. I had played intramural basketball as a point guard who was small and quick, and I had been a cheerleader for 2 years. I once ran out of my own non-air-conditioned classroom when a horde of ground bees invaded through our windows [which had no screens], in the heat of August, followed by most of my class. I was also told I was “too small” to be a lifeguard when in high school, despite having passed all of the coursework. I am 5′ 2″ and weighed about 130 pounds when I was a junior high school teacher. I know nothing about tackling young males who might assault me or my class, either with or without a weapon, and soon learned that, if I had contentious students who were going to throw punches at each other (which happened), I should quickly summon Mr. Pyevich or Mr. White, whose classrooms were on my left and on my right.

How effective do you think I would have been in a shoot-out? Why should my good friend Karen Schootman’s daughter now have to run drills for her classes to decide where they will hide and how they will barricade themselves against shooters when they come in armed to the teeth and start shooting innocent students and teachers? GET IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE. WE NEED GUN CONTROL LAWS LIKE EVERY OTHER CIVILIZED NATION!

And, yes, the cream of the crop does NOT seem to go into teaching any more. (Do you wonder why?) I even quit an Honorary Educators’ group (Delta Kappa Gamma) that was encouraging youngsters to go into teaching, because how could I, in good conscience, tell them this is a “good” job today?

Mr. Seamans, after his shooting, released this statement:  “I want to let everyone know that I was injured but I am doing great. To all students, you are all wonderful and I thank you for your support. You are the reason I teach.”

Ella Whistler, the 13-year-old girl shot in the head by the attacker, is still in critical but stable condition in the hospital.

A small footnote to the screed above: at least 10 states have laws allowing teachers to carry guns on K-12 campuses and 17 states have considered bills to arm school staff since the Parkland shooting. Mississippi, for one, has been interested in this “solution.” But here’s where it gets interesting:insurance firms balk at selling policies to schools if educators are armed. The Pro-Gun NRA (which has been infiltrated by Russians) says this is because the insurance providers are notorious liberals, trying to turn this into a political decision.

The Associate Executive Director for the Kansas Association of School Boards, Mark Tallman, said:  “I don’t think insurance companies are notorious anti-gun liberals. We think they’ve got good reasons for not doing it.” The 2007 Virginia Tech shooting where a student gunman killed 32 people and wounded 17 more cost at least $50 million in security upgrades and lawsuit settlement costs. And all this at a time when federal money is being directed away from education and into militaristic pursuits and Betsy DeVos—the most incompetent and unqualified Secretary of Education in history—is running the show.

In 2014, a sixth grade teacher in Utah mistakenly shot a school toilet. As I said in a previous post, I have known teachers who should not be allowed to operate a pencil sharpener in their classrooms, let alone come in packing a gun!

And so it goes. Comments welcome.

AP, CNN Reporters Barred from Scott Pruitt Public Meeting

Difficult as it is to believe, today journalists from CNN and the AP (Associated Press) were physically shoved out of a public meeting chaired by EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, with only those whose names were on a White House list being allowed to enter and report on this public meeting of the PFAS National Leadership Summit. The information being shared was not classified and it was a public meeting. Journalists being banned from a public meeting or mistreated when attempting to attend is why I no longer cover presidential races in the U.S., but focus on film.

The official excuse used by EPA spokesman Jehan Wilcox was that “there wasn’t sufficient room.” Photographs from journalists who were allowed inside showed plenty of room. 

Oliver Darcy, Senior Media Reporter for CNN, was nearly apoplectic as he was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer and Sally Buzbee, AP (Associated Press) Executive Editor also issued a statement denouncing this obvious attempt to stifle the press press.

Wake up, people. This is how dictatorships seize and hang on to power.

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