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!

Our Wounds Are Deep: Let’s Bind Them Up!

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

On the heels of the data from the state of Texas that the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine is not set up in an equitable fashion (so far, nobody knows how, when, or where to get a shot), I read Eugene Robinson’s essay about Donald J. Trump’s attempt to overthrow our democracy. It originally appeared in the Washington Post.

Texas, where I currently am, is supposed to receive a total of about 200,000 doses of the vaccine next week. An Austin American Statesman review of the state’s online map of COVID-19 vaccine providers found that all but a handful of local providers are west of I-35. For decades, being east or west of I-35 has represented a racial and class divide in Austin.

None of the vaccination sites are in the city’s lowest-income and ethnically diverse neighborhoods, while there are 16 distribution sites in an area bounded by I-35, MoPac Boulevard, Lady Bird Lake and FM2222. Hmmmmm.

A record number of Texans are hospitalized: 13,784 across the state, setting a new record for the 5th day in a row. In Texas, only 552 beds remain available. The number in Travis County had dropped from 34 ICU spots to 24 in one day recently. These statistics are for those back in Illinois, where we also spend half our time.

On Thursday, the state health agency reported 19,598 new COVID-19 cases here in Texas.

Back in Illinois, there were 9,277 new cases, to bring the Illinois total to 1, 017, 322 known infections and 17,395 deaths, with 126 of those deaths occurring just today in Illinois.

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

Democrats are urging that all doses of the vaccine be administered now, rather than holding back doses for the second round of shots, which is in contrast to the Trump plan.

Against this tumultuous backdrop of a pandemic that has killed more people than died during WWII, against the backdrop of January 6th’s insurrection attempt by Donald J. Trump to wrest control of the presidency from the duly-elected president, came this insightful essay by Eugene Robinson, a Black American and an eloquent writer.

Eugene Robinson’s essay for the Washington Post was entitled “Trump Has Wounded Us.  It Will Take Time to Recover.” Here it is:

“Let’s be clear:  What happened Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol was an attempted coup d’etat, egged on by a lawless president desperately trying to cling to power and encouraged by his cynical Republican enablers in Congress.

It was perhaps inevitable that President Donald Trump’s chaotic and incompetent tenure in office would end with riots and tear gas.  Not since British Major Gen. Robert Ross set fire to the president’s residence and the Capitol building in 1814 have we seen such a scene at the hallowed citadel of our democracy, as an angry and disillusioned mob—whipped into a frenzy by Trump himself—forced its way into the Capitol to disrupt the official certification of Trump’s electoral defeat.

Images from this shameful day will endure forever:  Crowds storming the security barricades, overwhelming outnumbered and seemingly unprepared Capitol police, and breaking windows to pour into the seat of American power.  Police officers inside the House of Representatives chamber, guns drawn and aimed at the main doors, where protesters threatened to force their way inside.  A scarf-draped rioter sitting smugly in the chair where, an hour earlier, Vice President Mike Pence had presided over the Senate.

The central act of our democracy—the peaceful and orderly transfer of power—was not allowed to take place.  Blame the rioters themselves, who must take responsibility for their own actions.  But blame Trump above all.

And blame the Republican members of Congress who sought to boost their own political fortunes by validating Trump’s self-serving paranoid fantasies.

I mean you, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.  And you, Sen. Ted Cruz.  And you, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.  And all the rest who thought that the way to succeed in GOP politics was to pretend to believe Trump’s lies rather than tell the nation the truth.

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

Trump told his MAGA legions that he didn’t really lose the election, that, in fact, he could not possibly have lost, and that somehow he would manage to remain their president for a second term.  First, various recounts would save him—until they all confirmed Joe Biden’s victory.  Then, it was going to be the certifications of the vote totals, but all the states certified their results. Then, it was going to be the courts that rode to the rescue, but courts at every level, including the U.S. Supreme Court, tossed out his frivolous lawsuits like so much scrap paper.

Finally, on January 6th,— or perhaps Pence, acting alone,— would surely throw out the electoral votes from states that Trump falsely claimed to have “won,” thus giving him the glorious victory he deserved.  He urged his followers to come to Washington to “Stop the Steal,” to keep Congress from doing its constitutional duty in counting the electoral votes.  And Hawley, Cruz, Scalise and scores of other congressional Republicans went along with this ridiculous fairy tale so as to not anger the president or his supports.

But then January 6th arrived.  Pence issued a statement early in the day making clear that he would obey the Constitution, not Trump’s autocratic wishes.  And the many thousands of Trump supports who had gathered on the Ellipse to hear Trump give a long and angry rant, and who obeyed his order to march on the Capitol, became a guided missile aimed at the heart of U.S. democracy. (*Note: was the “fix” in on guarding that heart? How did these thugs gain access to our most hallowed building, especially on the west side of the Capitol, where film exists of guards opening the barricades and welcoming the domestic terrorist hordes.)

They were like a doomsday cult when the appointed day arrives and the foretold asteroid does not strike.  Trump had convinced them he could not possibly lose, yet inside the Capitol he was losing.  They decided to prevent the transfer of power by force.  Shots were fired, and one person—a 14-year Air Force female veteran—was struck and killed (*Note: 5 have, so far, died in the riot). Tear gas was deployed.  The scenes were like those I saw in places like Paraguay and Peru as a foreign correspondent, and nothing like we’ve ever seen in the United States. (*Imagine how the rest of the world must regard us now!)

Future President of the United States?

President Biden gave a televised address calling for an end to the ‘insurrection’ and the restoration of ‘decency, honor, respect, the rule of law.’ Trump posted a desultory video statement on social media urging rioters to ‘go home’ but repeating his claims that the election was ‘stolen’ (and saying ‘we love you.’)

It is possible to see better days ahead.  Biden is a good man and a lifelong public servant.  Inauguration Day is just a little under 2 weeks away.

But somehow our damaged nation has to make it through those next 2 weeks.  Police and the National Guard are more than capable of re-establishing order in the streets. 

The wounds Trump has inflicted upon the nation, however, are ragged and deep.  We will be paying for the mistake of electing this bitter, twisted man as president for a long, long time.****

***

Finally, a suggestion:  If you have not secured your copy of either “Bee Gone: A Political Parable” or the youth-oriented version (available in both paperback and hardcover, but in hard cover only by contacting me), “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” this one book is going to be the best “memento” of the end of DJT’s reign of terror.

The books were written over 2 years of time, in rhyming fashion, to serve as Tina Fey-like humor aimed at defeating the man in the White House who had proven himself dangerously unstable early on. Humor is a powerful weapon, and Gary McCluskey and I spent 2 years putting the story of the Donald’s run against Hillary Clinton into verse—adding coloring book pages and puzzles to the end of the 6-book Christmas Cats in Silly Hats.

These books (with the exception of the hard cover version of “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee”) are available on Amazon and you can read more about the entire Christmas Cats 6-book series at ConnieCWilson.com. The series was intended to be a gift for my twin granddaughters and meant to teach young elementary-school aged children (ages 3 to 11) how to behave.

It has been extremely difficult, during Donald J Trump’s 4 years in office, to teach young people how to behave, because Trump does not know how to behave appropriately. He never has known how to behave in a responsible manner, and many books on his life prove this. My XmasCats.com series would end when the girls (scheduled to celebrate their twelfth birthday this coming Sunday) were too old to believe in Santa Claus. It ended with a book about a bee who tries to seize control of the hive from the Queen Bee, and was prophetic in its worker bee refrain about the rise of the insurrectionist, who dethrones the Queen Bee, causing the worker bee to say, “Oh, no!” said the worker bee, after his rise. “This really is awful. Our whole hive might die!”

As we close in on 400,000 deaths in this country, caused by incompetence and dereliction of duty at the top since January of 2020, the worker bee’s cry seems almost prophetic. In over 100 years, we have not seen a human tragedy as great as the pandemic and much of our status as the country affected the worst by the pandemic was caused by the poor stewardship of the ship of state.

And so the Christmas Cats series ended. But the series ended with a book that is a small microcosm of what was going on in our country when written. The entire Christmas Cats series is a wholesome, entertaining series, beautifully-illustrated by Gary McCluskey, but this final book in the series is the memento, the time capsule of our time. Order up a copy from Amazon and see for yourself. If you want a beautifully bound Ingram Spark hard cover version of the children’s version (“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee”) drop me a line. [My stash of such books is back in Illinois, but I’ll happily take orders for the hard cover version (that is NOT advertised on Amazon) and get them to you by next Christmas.]

There were 4,000 deaths yesterday (January 7th) and we lost 145,000 jobs. I support President Joe Biden’s efforts to avert catastrophe and to bring this country back to a semblance of calm and normalcy. I hope that all patriotic citizens are reading widely [and not just swallowing the one-sided, often false versions of various news organizations.]  Now, more than ever, we need to stick together and try to become informed members of our democracy, the United States of America.

 

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.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to You !

Stacey opens a present.

Today was two days after Christmas in Austin (Tx). It was 78 degrees at the airport.

The holiday has also provided other 70+ days—all sunny—and, since arriving in early December, there have been at least 2 83 degree days.

We celebrated Christmas Eve at my son’s house opening presents and, on Christmas Day, between the two households, we prepared a feast of prime rib, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn on the cob, salad, rolls and a mixed berry pie with ice cream.

We have played euchre, rummy, Code Word, Upwords, Monopoly and Scrabble.

Daughter Stacey traveled in from Nashville. While here, Nashville suffered the explosion. This affected her Dec. 28th start on a new job, so she traveled back one day later than planned.

Everyone liked the presents they received and we have gone back and forth to each other’s homes, dining, playing games (in some cases, outisde) and it has been a stress-free holiday period. It is the culmination of the cancellation of all holidays since Halloween

Craig, Stacey, Connie,
Wrigley the dog, Elise and Ava

Sad news reached me concerning the death of my first cousin (Rollie Monson’s) son’s death while hunting (a heart attack) and my former brother-in-law, Ed Castelein, had a stroke.

Otherwise, no news is good news and, aside from trips to my son’s house, we have remained close to home.

Happy New Year upcoming on Thursday!

Sunset.

Republicans and Their Dubious Relationship with Facts

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

Paul Krugman is a columnist for the New York Times, but he was reprinted in the Austin “American Statesman” today talking about why Republicans seem to have such a tenuous grip on facts. He has a point. I think some of the explanation behind Krugman’s thesis can be laid at the feet of the fractured nature of today’s news—where even the Facebook-like meeting grounds have splintered into those that are far right, those that are far left, and Facebook, itself. So, here is Paul Krugman’s “When Did Republicans Start Hating Facts?”

I reprint it here because not all of you can re-read it on the pages of the Austin “American Statesman” (p. A11) and, in my own experience, there is always a pay wall up on the NY Times.

“Republicans spent most of 2020 rejecting science in the face of a runaway pandemic; now they’re rejecting democracy in the face of a clear election loss.

What do these rejections have in common? In each case, one of America’s two major parties simply refused to accept facts it didn’t like.

I’m sure it’s not right to insist that Republicans ‘believe’ that, say, wearing face masks is useless or that there was widespread voter fraud. Framing the issue as one of belief suggests that some kind of evidence might change party loyalists’ minds.

In reality, what Republicans say they believe flows from what they want to do, whether it’s ignore a deadly disease or stay in power despite the voters’ verdict.

In other words, the point isn’t that the GOP believes untrue things. It is, rather, that the party has become very hostile to the idea that there’s an objective reality that might conflict with its political goals.

Democratic National Convention, 2008, Denver: CNN Headquarters.

Notice, by the way, that I’m not including qualifiers, like saying “some” Republicans.  We’re talking about most of the party here. The Texas lawsuit calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the election was both absurd and deeply un-American, but 60% of Republicans in the House signed a brief supporting it, and only a handful of elected Republicans denounced the suit.

At this point, you aren’t considered a proper Republican unless you hate facts.

But when and how did the GOP get that way?  If you think it started with Donald Trump and will end when he leaves the scene (if he ever does), you’re naive.

Republicans have been heading in this direction for decades. I’m not sure whether we can pinpoint the moment when the party began its descent into malignant madness, but the trajectory that led to this madness probably became irreversible under Ronald Reagan.

Republicans have, of course, turned Ronald Reagan into an icon, portraying him as the Savior of a desperate, declining nation.  Mostly, however that is just propaganda.  You’d never know from the legend that economic growth under Reagan was only slightly more robust than it had been under Jimmy Carter, and slower than it would be under Bill Clinton.

And rapidly rising income inequality meant that a disproportionate share of the benefits from economic growth went to a small elite, with only a bit trickling down to most of the population.  Poverty, measured properly, was higher in 1989 than it had been a decade earlier.

Other measures suggest that we were already veering off course.

For example, in 1980, life expectancy in America was similar to other wealthy nations; but the Reagan years represent the beginning of the Great Mortality Divergence of the United States from the rest of the advanced world.  Today, Americans, on average, can expect to live almost 4 fewer years than their counterparts in comparable countries.

The main point, however, is that under Reagan, irrationality and hatred for the facts began to take over the GOP.

There has always been a conspiracy-theorizing, science-hating, anti-democratic faction to America.  Before Reagan, however, mainstream conservatives and the Republican establishment refused to make alliance with that faction, keeping it on the political fringe.

Reagan, by contrast, brought the crazies inside the tent.

Many Americans are, I think, unaware that Reagan embraced a crank economic doctrine—belief in the magical power of tax cuts. I’m not sure how many Americans remember that the Reagan administration was also remarkably hostile to science.

Reagan’s ability to act on his hostility was limited by Democratic control of the House and the fact that the Senate still contained a number of genuinely moderate Republicans.  Still, Reagan and his officials spent years denying the effect of acid rain, while insisting that evolution was “just a theory” and promoting the teaching of Creationism in schools.

This rejection of science partly reflected deference to special interests that didn’t want science-based regulation.  Even more important, however, was the influence of the religious right, which

Good Old Boy Fred Thompson, running as a Republican, in 2008.

 

first became a major political force under Reagan, has become ever more central to the Republican coalition and is now a major denier of the party’s rejection of facts—and democracy.

For rejecting facts come naturally to people who insist that they’re acting on behalf of God. So does refusing to accept election results that don’t go their way.

Sure enough, a few days ago, televangelist Pat Robertson—who first became politically influential under Reagan—pronounced the Texas lawsuit “a miracle,” an intervention by God that would keep Trump in office.

The point is that the GOP rejection of facts that has been so conspicuous this year wasn’t an aberration.  What we’re seeing is the culmination of a degradation that began a long time and and is almost surely irreversible.

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

“The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats,” Book #1. (www.TheXmasCats.com for all 5 in the series, currently).

I posted the scheduled appearances for the rest of 2020 previously. This Thursday (Dec. 17) will, in fact, involve telling the audience about  books for sale, but whether it will be Sean Leary’s book or not remains to be seen. The evening will focus on the six-book series “The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats” if previously scheduled guest Sean Leary cannot make it, [due to a soccer game this time]. Always have a “Plan B,” when preparing a program, whether it is a radio show, a podcast, a television show, or something else. I’ve done very little talking about my own books on the 38 programs so far. Maybe this is the week—a week before Christmas—to talk about a 6-book Christmas series? I guess we’ll know by Thursday. One way or the other, you’ll get to hear about an appropriate literary purchase for the holiday ahead.

On December 24th there will be a replay of a previous program, and on December 31st (New Year’s Eve) that will happen again.

There are six books in “The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats” series, all of which can be seen by going to www.TheXmasCats.com. I would urge potential listeners to go out to the website while they are listening to me talk about how the books came to be.

Again, this is not a “for sure” program listing, as perhaps Sean will be able to join us to talk about his new book “Subliminal Cartography.” Maybe. Maybe not.

If not, you’ll hear the story of the newest book (“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee”) first, as it is the newest release. I’m on schedule with completing the series for my granddaughters, as I always vowed to discontinue the series when the girls had outgrown Santa Claus. Their twelfth birthday is January 11th; the final book is out, and all six of the books are available on Amazon in time for Christmas gift giving, if you hurry.

So, what are the books and what were the ideas behind them?

Book #1: The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats

This book came out of the non-stop fighting between our two cats, the older cat and a new arrival, who joined us from the ravine as winter came on. They had to learn how to get along, and that is the “moral” of Book #1.

Book #2: The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats

The girls were three when I began the series and they were selecting the next animal that the Christmas Cats, a gang of do-gooders, would aid. Rats came up next. Among other morals of this book it includes an admonition against prejudice and a plea to be helpful and kind to others.

Book #3:  The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats

Living here in Austin, as I am currently, this one should be a big seller at Book People, but, alas, it has no “spine” and I learned the valuable lesson that books in Book People (the largest independent bookstore in Austin) must have a spine, so that readers can read the title as they browse in the store (not that there is much “browsing” during the pandemic.  The moral: do not fear or destroy animals simply because you are unfamiliar with them. There is a “master plan” for every creature and that bat or insect or snake also has a reason for living.

Book #4:  The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer

Inspired by the deer kill staged at Scott County Park in Scott County, Iowa, the Christmas Cats rescue the hapless deer in the park and hustle them to the North Pole, where they learn to help Santa in his annual delivery of gifts. The illustrations by Gary McCluskey for this one are outstanding, and it is one of my two favorite books in the series. For the first time, a hard cover edition was available, although it is not listed on Amazon, which doesn’t help.

Book #5:  The Christmas Cats Care for the Bear

This one should be one of the most popular, as it is an anti-bullying tome. The little bear is being bullied because he has funny fur and is chubby. The good lesson to be learned:  bullying is wrong.

Book #6:  The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee

Donnie Drone wants to take over the hive because he doesn’t like the Queen Bee. He colludes with a less-successful hive to wrest control of the hive. All the worker bees in the hive begin to realize that they could all die if Donnie Drone remains in power, and they unite to drive him off. A timely political parable for our current time(s).

Podcast Guests in December Limned

Tonight’s guest on the 7 p.m. (CDT) Weekly Wilson podcast is Dylan Kai Dempsey, a New York-based writer/filmmaker and film critic.  He covers all the major festivals and his reviews have been published in “Vanity Fair,” “Variety,” “NoFilmSchool,” “Nonfiction.fr” and “IonCinema.com.

In addition, Dylan is developing a graphic novel, #LikesforLukas” plus a TV series based on his own award-winning pilot script.

Dylan has also taught film, both at Tufts University, his alma mater, and in Paris.  He began hi career as a development intern for Bona Fide Productions in Los Angeles and Rainmaker Productions in London.

Tune in “live” tonight (Thursday, December 10th) as Dylan and I discuss the future of cinema: “Can the movies survive the pandemic?” “If they do, what will the theaters of the future be like?”

On December 17th, the guest will be Quad City author Sean Leary, talking about his newest book.

On December 24th and December 31st, since those dates are Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, respectively, you can expect re-runs of some of the previous 37 interviews done since February of 2020, with the replays available, as always on the blog and on the Bold Brave Media Global Network blog.

January will see some more political discussions as a new president is sworn in. What will happen between now and January 20th? Stay tuned for further developments and discussions.

Texas’ Lt. Gov./Texas’ Attorney General: Time for Changes Here?

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2020 at 3:20 PM

From San Antonio; Reposted on Tuesday, Dec. 8th

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick - WIKIMDIA COMMONS / GAGE SKIDMORE

  • Wikimdia Commons / Gage Skidmore
  • Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

After telling seniors they should be willing to risk contracting COVID-19 to protect the economy (see previous WeeklyWilson article), Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick doesn’t seem to be willing to make a similar sacrifice to serve in the Texas Legislature next year.

Hereford cattle on LBJ Ranch.

Patrick, 70, who presides over the upper chamber, informed state senators Friday that people testifying before committees may need to register three days ahead and take a quick-turnaround coronavirus test 24 hours before they’re allowed into the Capitol building, the Texas Tribune reports.

During past sessions, people have been able to sign up and speak on the same day.

Patrick, a Republican, discussed the safeguards on conference call with the Senate Democrat Caucus, the Tribune reports. During those discussions, Patrick he wants the National Guard to conduct the tests, handling 10 to 12 people per hour.
Such caution seems at odds with Patrick’s partisan pronouncements about COVID earlier this year during TV talk show appearances.

In addition to telling grandma and grandpa they should be willing to risk death to save the economy, Patrick downplayed Texas’ infection numbers and accused the media of ginning up panic. He also dismissed warnings from Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying the nation’s top infectious disease expert “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

And, to top off the crazy from Texas, where I currently am, the Attorney General of Texas, who is under indictment for Securities fraud and under investigation for bribery, filed a lawsuit alleging that the states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona shouldn’t be allowed to confirm their votes on today’s “safe harbor” date (Dec. 8th) which comes in advance of the Dec. 14th vote of the electoral college. Supposedly, the man is angling for a pardon from the departing DJT and is a huge Trump loyalist.

Grape Creek Winery

It is Texas officials like these that drive one to travel far into the countryside (Fredricksburg) and visit wine tastings in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. Time for a change, politically, perhaps?

It was 75 degrees out today and, from the highway (I-290) we could see people swimming in their pool! We also decided to take a leisurely drive through LBJ’s old ranch, something the spouse and I had done but the son and daughter had not done.
Tomorrow, it is supposed to be 82 degrees. Not sure if this is a record, but it certainly beats the Illinois temperatures on a December day.
Aside from the wine tasting, daughter Stacey has traveled to Austin to be with us and her brother took off half a day of work to join us on our wine-tasting adventure. Then, we watched Iowa (#3 nationally) beat North Carolina (#16 nationally) in basketball. Following that, the younger members of the family got in the hot tub, but—once the sun went down—the evening temperatures did not convince me that I’d be warm enough.

LBJ Ranch, with deer.

I re-started my subscription to the “Austin Statesman” newspaper (REAL newspaper) and it was to have started this morning.

It didn’t. (Sigh)
[Other observations above from Sanford Nowlin who writes for the digital edition of the San Antonio paper.]

New Boston, Texas, on Night Three

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

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

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

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

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

St. Louis, Night #2

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

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

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

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