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: Politics Page 1 of 20

Revolution or Evolution? New Hampshire & Politics

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the 4th of July.

The New Hampshire primary election results are in, and the political choice between revolution and evolution continues.  I liked Chris Matthews characterization of the race as this: “Americans are looking for a designated driver. They just want someone to safely drive the car so they can say, ‘You got this’ and go do anything else.” (loosely paraphrased) Matthews went on to say that he was afraid that voters had lost confidence in Joe Biden as a good designated driver for our careening country. And so it goes.

Millennials, having officially eclipsed Baby Boomers as the most populous group in the United States, love the messages of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and have since 2016. David Axelrod said the candidate race, this year, is a choice between revolution and evolution.

The younger generation, saddled with onerous debt from their college loans and eager to make the 1% pay their fair share of taxes, are tired of living in their parents’ basements because they are unable to find affordable housing. Bernie’s message resonates. (Warren’s did, for a while, until her spat with Bernie onstage.)

When I am told I am too “middle-of-the-road” and that my gut instinct that Bernie Sanders is not the best candidate to successfully head up the Democratic ticket in a national race, I am either shouted down with “OK, Boomer” or told (by a millennial Facebook crowd) that “Joe Biden is just a desiccated corpse looking for a grave to fall into.”

Not only is that maligning Joe Biden, it’s wrong in my own case. (I’m the Silent Generation, I think—although I get them mixed up.)

It’s looking like the “best” ticket to potentially win nationally for Democrats, at this point, might be Bloomberg/Klobuchar, but, again, cries of “OK Boomer” tell me that I know nothing about politics, and Bernie is the revolution that millennials want, with free college and all the rest of it.

As a one-time Berkeley (Ca) college student and activist during CORE and SNCC and the Vietnam War, I’d just like to remind the Millennials celebrating the Sanders surge, that middle-of-the-road Democrats are not the enemy. Nor are we indifferent to the causes that dominate the news cycles now. Here are the lyrics of a Quicksilver Messenger song “What About Me.” (The band formed in 1965, 55 years ago.)

 

You poisoned my sweet water.
You cut down my green trees.
The food you fed my children
Was the cause of their disease.

My world is slowly fallin’ down
And the air’s not good to breathe.
And those of us who care enough,
We have to do something…….

[Chorus]
Oh… oh What you gonna do about me?
Oh… oh What you gonna do about me?

Your newspapers,
They just put you on.
They never tell you
The whole story.

They just put your
Young ideas down.
I was wonderin’ could this be the end
Of your pride and glory?

[Chorus]

I work in your factory.
I study in your schools.
I fill your penitentiaries.
And your military too!

And I feel the future trembling,
As the word is passed around.
“If you stand up for what you do believe,
Be prepared to be shot down.”

[Chorus]

And I feel like a stranger
In the land where I was born
And I live like an outlaw.
An’ I’m always on the run…

An I’m always getting busted
And I got to take a stand….
I believe the revolution
Must be mighty close at hand…

Chaos and Confusion in the Corn State

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

Iowa drops the ball on caucus night, February 3. We still don’t know the results of the Iowa caucuses of Monday night, and it’s Tuesday afternoon.

Donald J. Trump will, no doubt, say something along the lines of, “Look at the Democrats. They can’t even hold an election. How can they run a country?” when he makes his State of the Union address tonight. I’d like to see the Iowa Democratic Party delay releasing the tardy results until the exact moment that the Orange One begins talking. That would be poetic justice.

I’ve actually been to the Iowa caucuses, in 2008. I wasn’t voting, but observing. What I observed in Des Moines was orchestrated chaos that was very home-spun and folksy, but not that efficient. There were all sorts of journalists from all over the globe snaking through the lunch room of the elementary school where my college roommate and I went so that she could caucus.

One thing that remained constant from 2008 to 2020 is that Joe Biden was among those one could vote for at both times. So was John Edwards back then, and I was an early Edwards supporter, while friend Pam caucused for Joe.

I’ve been watching the results (or non-results) of the caucus last night “live” on television since last night. I watched Precinct 38 in Des Moines weigh in, with 2 delegates going for Warren, 2 for Mayor Pete, and 1 to Sanders. Then, the talking heads switched to Cedar Rapids where 437 caucus goers  had gathered. There were 2 ruined ballots, we were told, but Mayor Pete got 26.5%, Warren 19.8%, Amy 18.4%, Sanders 18.4% and Joe Biden 16.8%.

The talking heads today are saying, “Old School was faster.” The back-up of paper ballots is what the Iowa Democratic party is now falling back on to laboriously count them by hand in 1700 caucus locations. “It’s beyond Old School. It’s really rudimentary,” says CNN’s Dana Bash.

During the evening, we viewers were also taken inside Drake University’s Field House (gymnasium) where 400 people had turned out. Sixty-six people would make a “viable” candidate.

In North Liberty, Iowa, just outside Iowa City, bigger numbers were expected than appeared. 591 showed up. Eighty-nine caucus goers meant that one’s candidate was “viable.”

In Cedar Rapids, 900 voters were expected, but 437 showed up. It appeared that Pete, Warren and Sanders prevailed with Biden in 4th and Klobuchar down there in the standings with the former VP. In another Des Moines precinct, 356 people showed up and we were told that fifty-six people would make for a viable candidate. Pete, Sanders and Warren were prevailing. Would the more rural districts weighing in change all this? Don’t know; can’t tell you. Just like the Iowa Democratic Party.

One group, forming 16%, refused to be categorized. They were originally Cory Booker delegates, but there were not enough bodies for Cory to prevail without throwing in with others, and that is what happened, with Biden and Klobuchar people forming an “uncomittted” group. It was weird.

“State of the Union” tonight.

By midnight, nobody knew anything, although, in Grinnell, large screens were lowered from the ceiling that showed the images of Warren, Biden and Pete, at one precinct in this college town.

Overall, it was complete confusion and the much-vaunted “app” seems to have been part of the reason why. One wonders if older volunteers who had done this “the old-fashioned way” for over 20 years were quick to pick up on “the app.” I was reminded of me trying to teach my mom how to program her VCR.

When all was said and done, it appears that Mayor Pete and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie seem to have done well, while Biden is in trouble, both monetarily and in terms of live bodies that showed up. It is now 12:15 p.m., the afternoon of the day AFTER the caucus, and there are still no definitive results known. There are 41 delegates at stake, which is not that many, but the real fall-out is going to be for Iowa.

If Iowa loses its “First in the nation” designation, the millions spent on television and radio spots go away. The economic boom for housing and feeding all of the campaign workers who come from afar goes away. The idea that Iowa can give candidates a boost, as it did for Obama in ’08, goes away. Iowa’s position as national “influencers” goes away.

I would posit the idea that this is a very bad day for Iowa and Iowans. The state looks like it doesn’t know how to conduct a caucus, and they’ve had many, many years to get the process down.  Now the talking heads are all saying they want to see the caucuses “go away.” That means no more visits from national candidates to the Hawkeye state, and it is the state itself that will be hurt the most.

The delay in reporting results may work to the benefit of such old soldiers as Joe Biden, who did not seem to be doing well early in the evening. It seems that the new kid on the block, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were the ones who came on strong, from what little we know. It remains to be seen if the money is going to be sufficient for candidates like Klobuchar and Biden, whose coffers are becoming increasingly bare.

It makes one wonder if Mike Bloomberg of the bottomless pockets had thought this through and decided to go all in on being there as an alternative candidate when former Vice President Biden collapsed. Did the “smear” in the Senate (the Ukraine thing) take its toll? These are points that will be debated for years.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on in New Hampshire.

E-book Titles on Sale & Radio Show Coming

I’ve been offering some titles for sale (on Kindle) for $1.99 this month, and it seems like a good time to mention which ones are (still) going to be reduced in price for the rest of January and February.

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).

January 26, “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vol. 2, will be on sale for $1.99.

February 1, (Sat.), the second volume of “Obama’s Odyssey” will remain on sale for this one day only for $1.99.

February 8 (Sat), 2020:  “The Color of Evil,” Book #1 of the 3-book series. This book is currently priced at something like $7.95 in e-book and will be $1.99 for one day.

February 15 (Sat.), 2020:  “Red Is for Rage,” Second book in THE COLOR OF EVIL series.

February 22 (Sat), 2020:  “Khaki = Killer”, Third book in THE COLOR OF EVIL series.

I’ll be starting a radio show entitled WEEKLY WILSON on Bold Brave Media, discussing movies, politics, books and whatever else interests me. Expect me to start off with politics; my newest book is BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE. Call in format at  866-451-1451.

Dr. Jill Biden Addresses Supporters in Clinton on January 2, 2020

Dr. Jill Biden and Eric VanLanken in Clinton (IA) on Thursday, January 2, 2020, at Biden Headquarters on 2nd Street.

Dr. Jill Biden came to Clinton, Iowa’s Biden headquarters at 415 South 2nd Street and spoke to a crowd of approximately 30 faithful Democratic supporters who agree with former Vice President Joseph Biden’s wife that, “Anyone can tell you what they want to do, but Joe Biden can tell you what he’s done.”

Dr. Jill Biden in Cinton, Iowa, on January 2, 2020.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of VP Joe Biden, in Clinton, Iowa on January 2, 2020.

Most of us also agree with her assessment that Biden is the one candidate in the field with the national reputation and experience to defeat Trump in 2020.

A career educator (over three decades teaching at high school and community college levels), Jill Biden holds two Master’s degrees in English, education and reading, as well as PhD degrees, and continued to teach full-time throughout Vice President Biden’s time in office. She is thought to be the first wife of a Vice President to continue her full-time job while her husband was in office.

The granddaughter of Italian immigrant signalman Dominicki Giacoppa, the family anglicized the name to Jacobs and Jill Biden’s maiden name was Jill Tracy Jacobs. Her father, Donald C. Jacobs (1927-1999) became President of a Savings and Loan in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia.

The attractive blonde was due in Clinton at 4:00 p.m., but, with 3 previous stops on Thursday, she arrived about 5 p.m. and was introduced by Eric VanLanker, Commissioner of Elections and County Auditor.

Dr. Biden talked about such initiatives as education, alternative energy (wind and solar), the Affordable Care Act and promised that there would be “no late-night tweet storms” if Biden were elected. With only 32 days until the Iowa caucuses, the push was on to secure Iowa voters who would commit to caucus for Biden on February 3rd and to find others to volunteer in various capacities.

No Tweet storms at 3 a.m.! Yeah!

In the most amusing malapropism of the early evening, Dr. Biden noted (to her amusement and that of the assembled crowd), “We can’t stand 4 more years of a Donald J. Trump pregnancy.” Quickly correcting pregnancy to presidency, the personable blonde posed post remarks with each and every person willing to line up for a selfie.

With packing for warmer climes on my mind, I was forced to depart immediately after her remarks, leaving three books in the care of a staffer to deliver to Dr. Biden,  including “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Volumes 1 and 2, and BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE.

Finnegan Biden, granddaughter of VP Joseph Biden, son of Hunter Biden, in 2008.

I hope she enjoys the books, including the picture of Joe Biden’s granddaughter Finnegan Biden in “Obama’s Odyssey,” Volume I, taken in 2008, when I interviewed her at the annual Jefferson/Jackson dinner in Davenport, Iowa. Hunter Biden’s daughter, the lovely 10-year-old, is now twelve years older and, no doubt, just as lovely a young lady.

“Joker” May Bring Joaquin an Oscar

JOKER

Joaquin Phoenix has turned in another riveting, intense performance in “Joker,” this time as Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill young man who lives with his invalid mother and works as a clown. In the opening scene, he is twirling a sign on the rat-infested, garbage-strewn streets of Gotham (1970s New York City) when 5 young men steal his “Everything must go!” sign and beat him up in an alley.

If you think this is grim, just wait.

Joaquin has pretty much made a career out of playing character parts that Bruce Dern of 30 years ago, Crispin Glover of 20 years ago, or Michael Shannon of today might play. He is intense and strange, excelling, as one critic put it, in films that depict “exquisite isolation.” In this film, for which he lost 15 pounds, he looks emaciated, like Christian Bale in “The Mechanic.” He claims it helped him with his weirdly artistic dance moves to be lighter on his feet. Arthur (Phoenix) laughs inappropriately and compulsively and may suffer from pseudobulbar affect disorder (or any of a series of ailments often related to traumatic brain injury and/or schizophrenia). It is off-putting and uncomfortable; he even carries a small card explaining his condition to strangers, much like the deaf have used.

The tour-de-force part of Arthur Fleck is eerily reminiscent of Travis Bickle in 1976’s “Taxi Driver.” This part also builds on Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker in “The Dark Knight Rises” and gives us a back story for Joker that is different from the ones in other “Batman” films. Oscar history could repeat itself with a gold statuette for Joaquin, but the film, itself, does not seem Oscar-worthy, to me.

Joaquin has been acting since the early eighties. Many of his best performances have utilized his personal projection of a sense of strange intensity. I remember seeing him on David Letterman’s show on February 11th, 2009, when he claimed he was giving up acting for good to become a rapper. He acted weird, strange and was monosyllabic. Letterman played off that, as he used to do when Crispin Glover came on the show and acted like a World Class Weirdo. (Remember the kicking sequence with Glover on the show?)

At the time, Joaquin was making the movie “I’m Still Here” with his then brother-in-law (Casey Affleck). As it turned out, they thought it would be a good promotional stunt to have Joaquin claim he was quitting acting to become a rapper. Later, on September 22, 2010, Joaquin returned to Letterman’s “Tonight” show to admit that he was actually not finished with acting. Each time, Phoenix came across as supremely weird, strange, and intense. He’s supposed to be engaged to frequent co-star Mara Rooney now, so perhaps both of those television appearances were just good examples of his acting ability.

Whatever. He fooled most of us, and, therefore, his persona with the public and the press has been close to that of Arthur Fleck. The part of “Joker” was perfect for him.  Director/Writer Todd Phillips (the “Hangover” movies) said that he never wanted to develop a Plan B for any other casting, because he always intended to cast Phoenix in the part.

When New York Times writer David Itzkoff pointed out while interviewing Phoenix that he seemed to be the “go to” character actor for such over-the-top intense performances  and that Phoenix could continue acting characters like this for a very long time, the actor responded, “Oh, really?” in a sarcastic voice as dry as sandpaper. “Well, good. Thank you so much. That’s great. I was worried.”

Then, said Itzkoff, “he grinned and let out a laugh to let me know he was kidding. (Or was he?”)

THE GOOD

The Acting

Joaquin Phoenix is a good bet for an Oscar nomination and, potentially, for a win, although it’s still early for making those predictions.

The film is powerful, but about as grim a film as you can find. Still, there were many great supporting turns from the rest of the cast including Frances Conroy (“Six Feet Under,” “American Horror Story”) as his mother, Robert DeNiro as  talk show host Murray Franklin and Zazee Beetz as his next-door neighbor Sophie Dumond. The use of DeNiro as the late night talk show host modeled on Johnny Carson elicited echoes of Jerry Lewis’ 1982 film “King of Comedy,” where DeNiro played Rupert Pupkin.

Cinematography & Editing:

Director/Writer Todd Phillips (who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver) has used an interesting mix of “Is this really happening?” cinema, woven together to leave it up to the audience to determine whether what Arthur Fleck is experiencing is wishful thinking or really happening. Audiences today are fairly savvy. We are used to having to figure out some of the connecting tissue of a film on our own, and Phillips handles that beautifully, along with the assistance of cinematographer Lawrence Sher, who seems to love to dwell on Phoenix in close-up. Phillips does a good job of incorporating the seamy, rat-infested city of Gotham as almost a character in itself, and the many nods to Scorsese’s classic films show that, “Hangover” or no “Hangover,” Phillips recognizes a modern-day cinematic icon’s quality work when he sees it. All nice touches.

THE BAD:

Music:

I was not a fan of the cello-heavy score by the 31 people listed as being in charge of the music for the film. It was overpoweringly dark, screaming, “Feel sorry for Arthur” at every plot turn.

Plot:

That last remark brings me to the fact that we are primed to feel sorry for/excuse Arthur for his misdeeds. There isn’t a single murder that takes place (and there are plenty, most of them bloody) that some rationale or excuse as to why Arthur would have committed the bloodthirsty crime can’t be ginned up to defend or excuse this poor mentally-ill man (who seems completely amoral by film’s end, if not before).

When Arthur first turns homicidal on a subway train,  he has acted in self defense. The plot channels Bernard Goetz, who shot and wounded four African-American youths on a Manhattan subway train in 1984. Only this time “the enemy” is Wall Street and it is three young white Wall Street brokers, insensitive louts all, who abuse and mistreat poor Arthur before he snaps. That brings about the violence. The viewer does feel that the audience is supposed to sympathize with the poor beaten-down loser that Joaquin is portraying so well. We’re rooting for “the little guy” standing up for himself, even if you feel that a sane person would have taken his chances with the NYPD, since the subway shootings seem justified.

After that, while excuses/rationales/reasons are still given for every single murder, feeling sorry for poor Arthur goes downhill fast.

The entire idea of the poor versus the rich is elevated to new heights when portions of Arthur’s comedy act showing him laughing hysterically and uncontrollably are broadcast on Murray Franklin’s show. Arthur becomes a lightning rod for the general sense of malaise and unrest abroad in the land. “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Arthur, at one point.

It’s not just you, Arthur. It IS getting crazier out there, and most of us know why.

It is interesting to have a homicidal, mentally-ill killer elevated, by film’s end, almost to the point of “leader of the pack,” but maybe not such a great idea. We can always bring back Steve Bannon, who wants to tear down everything in order to create “the Fourth Turning” (as he himself articulated in the Erroll Morris “American Dharma” documentary).

Permissive nods towards out-of-control violence of any kind should be quickly squelched, whenever and wherever they crop up. Arthur’s sad plight illustrates many of the issues this country is facing. Indeed, problems that the entire world is facing: the ‘haves vs have nots” battle, etc. But letting anarchy rule doesn’t seem like the best solution, regardless of our emotional empathy for Arthur Fleck and embattled little people the world over.

Bee Gone: A Political Parable & new Christmas Cats Book Are Discussed on CUTV News on July 31st

“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” 6th book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).

Bee Gone: A Political Parable is up on Amazon Kindle (Kindle only, at this point) in a pre-sale due to go “live” on July 31st for $2.99. If you order early from the link at the bottom of this article, it will automatically be delivered to your Kindle that day. If you DO order this amusing book, please leave a review on Amazon. (Thank you!)

July 31st was selected because Connie will be interviewed “live” for 30 minutes that day by New York radio station CUTV’s Jim Masters.  Connie is the author representative for their current female empowerment series of programs.

Anyone wanting to ask a question on July 31st (Wednesday) can phone in at  347-996-3389 at 1 p.m. CDT (2 p.m. EDT)

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

Connie will be talking about her new illustrated rhyming book “Bee Gone: A Political Parable” and the sixth book in her Christmas Cats series, entitled “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” scheduled for release closer to Christmas. “Bee Gone: A Political Parable” is available in e-book only, but the Christmas Cats book will be available in paperback, hard cover and e-book. (www.TheXmasCats.com).

Bee Gone: A Political Parable is a rhyming, illustrated short e-book that examines the thought (articulated by Barack Obama), “Elections have consequences.” Given its timing, perhaps it will encourage those who did not vote in 2016 to go to the polls and vote in 2020.

In a very short story about a disgruntled drone in a bee hive who wants to take over the hive from the queen bee, the key take-away can be described (in the words of the book) this way: “So, the hive lost its honey, its Queen, and its money. It was really a mess, and that isn’t funny.”

The outstanding illustrations by illustrator Gary McCluskey are spot-on. They are both amusing and illustrative of today’s political situation. (Gary says, “It’s the most fun I ever had at work.”)

No matter what your political affiliation, no matter how divided in our individual beliefs, we all agree that citizens in a democracy must exercise their right to vote in order to insure that our democracy continues to function properly. Elections must be fair. Citizens must participate. Elections must be supervised to assure that they are not influenced illegally by outside forces.

If you’re a Democratic or Independent voter, you will probably chuckle all the way through this book.

If you’re a die-hard Trump supporter, maybe not so much.

Whatever your political leanings, enjoy the excellent illustrations and let’s try to remember that, so far, in this country, we all are allowed to express our opinion(s) under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Let’s hope we never lose that.

Lighten up and enjoy Bee Gone: A Political Parable! Order your copy today.

 

Independence: “Our Fame Is In Our Name” on July 4, 2019

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

I’m from a little town in northeast Iowa called Independence. It is 38 miles north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and  20 miles to the east of Waterloo/Cedar Falls,at the junction of Highways 150 and 218. It is the Fourth of July and it is an election year.

The last line of the paragraph above reminds me of the famous line from “The Blues Brothers” that laid out the situation for Belushi and Ackroyd in that film. Elwood: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Joliet Jake:  “Hit it!”

Beto O’Rourke in Independence, Iowa, for the Fourth of July parade.

[It should be noted right about now that the Blues Brothers were traveling to Chicago from Rock Island, Illinois, which is where I’ve lived the last 52 years of my life, in the Illinois Quad Cities.]

So, for today, the operative line goes like this.

Woman on the far left is gaining on the candidate in Independence (Iowa).

Future President of the United States?

Go, Joe, Go!!!

Joe Biden: “It’s 38 miles from Cedar Rapids, we’ve got me,  Beto O’Rourke, a street full of voters in lawn chairs (plus one woman huffing and puffing alongside me like she’s running in the Boston marathon), Beto’s got a kid on his shoulders, and we’re both wearing sunscreen.”

Beto O’Rourke and unidentified child in Independence, Iowa, Fourth of July parade.

Beto O’Rourke: “Hit it!”

So it was in my small hometown this day—the day that DJT chose to threaten the infrastructure of Washington, D.C., with both tanks and planes for his politically themed Fourth of July celebration in our nation’s capitol, a departure from hundreds of years of decorum. (When asked, DJT said, “Decorum? What’s that?”)

I called my partner in political gate-crashing, Sue Ann Raymond, who also involved Dorothy Malek, I believe, in securing images of the Independence (Iowa) parade this fine July day. Sue Ann and I once crashed a “W” rally in Denver, Colorado, and she took a photo of an elderly man being dragged away by the Secret Service (after he held up a sign that read: “You lied and my son died”)  She appeared on the evening television news, much to the dismay of her friends in the community. [It isn’t every day that an Episcopalian minister ends up on the evening news as the photographer of the day, but Sue Ann, now the pastor of St. James Episcopalian Church, is just that good!]

Watching the scene in downtown Independence took me back to the many times my dad—the town banker—would load us into the car and drive us out towards the Mental Health Institute (or the dump, it varied) to watch the fireworks in Buchanan County, Iowa. Dad spent 4 terms as the Democratic County Treasurer before starting the Security State Bank on the corner of the downtown (right across from the Farmers’ State Bank and, in my day, Infelt’s Drug Store, which is long gone)

                     Go, Joe, Go!!!

Dad would have enjoyed the parade today, which consisted of more photographers than marchers, from the looks of it, and was well-attended. I still remember Dad driving a team of Clydesdale horses down the street and throwing out wooden nickels to the crowd from the Security State Bank when Independence had its sesqui-centennial many years ago. (We sat on top of the bank and, when the Blue Angels flew over, we were so startled that we nearly fell off!) Robert Ray was the Governor and all was right in the state—then.

Let it be known, for purposes of figuring out whether Donald J. Trump’s parade cost taxpayers $2.5 million—stolen from national parks moneys—or $92 million, as reported elsewhere, that running an F135 jet for an hour costs $140,000 and a Blue Angel plane costs $10,000 per hour to run. No Blue Angel planes in Independence this day.

Happy Fourth of July, America! Happy Moment in the Sun, Independence. “Our fame IS in our name!”

National Federation of Press Women Conference Winds Down as June Ends

Hotel one block from the Old Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Attending the National Federation of Press Women conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was an informational experience. We were treated to a keynote address from Peter Kovacs, editor of The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s local newspaper, and a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Walt Handelsman. Also featured as speakers were Jeff Cowart of San Antonio, who talked about Creative Story telling, and Scott Sternberg, an attorney and First Amendment expert who talked about attacks on First Amendment freedoms.

Scott Sternberg readies his presentation about attacks on the First Amendment (freedom of speech).

A panel of book authors featured Stanley Nelson, editor of the Concordia (La) Sentinel and author of “Devils Walking: Klan Murders Along the Mississippi in the 1960s,” Rachel Emanuel, author of “A More Noble Cause: A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana,” and Leo Honeycutt, former television journalist and author of several books including “Edwin Edwards: Governor of Louisiana: An Authorized Biography.”

National Federation of Press Women attendees (approximately 80) in the Old Capitol Senate chamber.

Peter Kovacs, who started off the convention on Thursday, June 27 shared with us that his father, then 25 years old, was in Baton Rouge staying at this very hotel when Huey Long was shot. Why was he there? He was a traveling condom salesman. Kovacs went on from that shared glimpse into Louisiana history to talk about the Pulitzer his paper won for a series on jury law in Louisiana that allowed the accused to be sent to prison even if the jury could not find them guilty. It had to do with a now-outlawed law that allowed juries to find someone guilty with only 9 or 10 of 12 jurors agreeing on the guilt, a hold-over from the Jim Crow years.

Old Capitol. Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

On Friday, the noon luncheon at the Old Senate building one block away yielded many interesting and amusing stories conveyed by Jay Dardenne. The building, itself, is a National Historic Landmark and received an Excellence for Architectural Award. According to Dardenne, the building was more than adequate to serve as the Capitol building but Huey Long wanted the tallest Senate building and decreed that a new Capitol building must be built, which it was. (Huey Long is buried in the front lawn).

Voted 11th best stained glass window in a recent poll.

For those of us who have seen Sean Penn play Huey “Catfish” Long in the movies, we may not have realized that he was a very real threat as a Presidential candidate to FDR in the election of 1936, but was assassinated on September 10, 1942, at age 42 in Baton Rouge before his 8 million followers in many other states could band together to put him in office. In his first year in office, Huey Long

Outside the convention center hotel.

paved 8,000 miles of formerly dirt roads, provided for free text books for all Louisiana students, and had placed 23 members on the family payroll. Each employee was required to contribute 10% of his or her pay check to a fund known as the Deduc fund, which was used to support Huey’s chosen candidates in their races. When told this was not kosher, Huey said, “I’ve made them pay it momentarily.”

Jay Dardenne, Commissioner of Administration for Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. He oversees the state budget and general government operations and served for 8 years as Louisiana’s Lt. Gov. 4 years as Secretary of State, 15 years as a state senator, and 3 years as a Baton Rouge metro Councilman. (Speaker on 6/28 inside the Old Capitol).

Ultimately, Huey’s domineering very Trump-like ways caused a move to impeach him. The Senators met in the very room where we had lunch, but they had all been placed in office by Huey and, after deliberating for one hour, refused to impeach him (“We will not vote to impeach.”).  They all signed in a circle, so that no one could see who had signed first, forming the famous “Round Robin Signature.” Chief Justice O’Neal of the Louisiana Supreme Court, when asked about the prospect of impeachment for Huey Long, said, “Don’t you think I’d give the thieving son-of-a-bitch a fair trial?”

The 6/28 luncheon was held within the very Senate room where Senators met to vote on whether to impeach then-Governor Huey Long.

When Huey was finally gunned down, he was no longer the Governor, but was serving as Senator. On September 8, 1935, Long was at the State Capitol attempting to oust a long-time opponent, Judge Benjamin Henry Pavy. At 9:20 p.m., just after passage of the bill effectively removing Pavy, Pavy’s son-in-law Carl Weiss, a physician from Baton Rouge, approached Long, and, according to the generally accepted version of events, shot him in the torso with a handgun from four feet (1.2 m) away. Long’s bodyguards responded by firing at Weiss with their own pistols, killing him; an autopsy found that Weiss had been shot more than sixty times by Long’s bodyguards. Long died on September 10 at 4:10 a.m.[109] According to different sources, his last words were either, “I wonder what will happen to my poor university boys,” or “I have so much to do.”

Speaker Dardenne shared details of another Louisiana politician,  Cat Dusett, who spoke Parisian French and did not speak English well. He once declared he would “win by a landscape” and said, “I talk out of my head.” When asked about his policy on juvenile delinquency, he said, “If it’s good for the kids, I’m for it.” Asked about Civil Rights, his response was, “If we owe it, we ought to pay it.”

Incoming President Gwen Larson.

Dardenne moved on to humorous stories of a snake oil remedy called Hadacall. (When asked why it was named Hadacall, the entrepreneur and patent medicine salesman inventor said, “I hadda call it something!”) In addition to advertising that the potion could cure cancer and insomnia, it was eventually marketed as an aphrodisiac and Jerry Lee Lewis even composed a chorus in one song, which went like this:  “It takes a knock-kneed woman and a bow-legged man to do the Hadacall boogie on a sardine can.”

 

 

 

Walt Handelsman, who has won 3 Pulitzer Prizes for his cartooning and his animated drawings, delighted the crowd with a presentation featuring some of his better-known cartoons. Some cartoons we were not allowed to photograph, but this one, featuring Bill Clinton, earned a second laugh when Handelsman told us that the next day he got a phone call from an elderly woman who wanted to know, “Who is Bill talking to? Is it Monica?”

The caption on the cartoon, (for those who cannot enlarge it on their screens)  shows (Bill) Clinton saying, “Well, this is ANOTHER fine mess you’ve gotten us into.”

 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Leave White House Post

                Sarah Huckabee Sanders

OPEN ON C-SPAN LOGO OVER CAPITOL:
ANNCR. V.O.: Earlier today former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders testified before the House Special Committee on Impeachment. Ms. Sanders was questioned by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York about various statements she has made to the media that she later acknowledged were not true.
FADE IN: HOUSE HEARING ROOM. SFX: CAMERA SHUTTERS.
SARAH SANDERS IS IN THE WITNESS CHAIR AND IS EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE.
MR. NADLER: Ms. Sanders, thank you for responding to the court order that you appear.
MS. SANDERS: Well, it was a court order.
MR. NADLER: And had you not obeyed it, you could have gone to prison. Is that why you came today?
MS. SANDERS: …yes.
MR. NADLER: Ms. Sanders, the Mueller Report quotes you as acknowledging to the Special Counsel that you lied to the White House press corps about why the president fired FBI Director Comey. Is that correct?
MS. SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: You told the White House press corps that the reason the president fired Mr. Comey was that the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in Comey. Was that a true statement?
MS. SANDERS: No.
NADLER: And what did you tell Mr. Mueller about why you had told the press corps that “the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in Comey?
SHE IS SQUIRMING.
SANDERS: I told Mr. Mueller that I had said that, quote, “in the heat of the moment.”
NADLER: And was that statement true? That you lied to the press corps in the heat of the moment?
SANDERS: Yes. It…it was in the heat of the moment. That happens. People blurt out untrue things in the heat of the moment all the time.
NADLER: Now, you told the Special Counsel something else about that untrue statement, didn’t you?
MS. SANDER: Yes. I admitted that saying that Comey had lost the support of rank-and-file members was, quote, “not founded in anything whatsoever.”
MR. NADLER: You also told the Special Counsel that when you told the White House press corps that you personally had been contacted by “countless members of the FBI,” that had been, quote, “a slip of the tongue.”
MS. SANDERS: Yes. A slip of the tongue.
MR. NADLER: And, in fact, you told my staff in a pre-interview that you had not been contacted by countless members of the FBI complaining about their lack of confidence in Director Comey.
MS. SANDERS: Yes, that had been an outright lie. And I admitted that to Special Counsel Mueller and to your staff.
MR. NADLER: In fact, you admitted that you had been contacted by exactly zero members of the FBI.
SANDERS: Yes. Not one.
NADLER: And you also told us that you felt compelled to tell the truth to the Special Counsel because your testimony to him was given under penalty of perjury?
SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: And that the reason you told the truth in that instance was that you were afraid of going to prison?
SANDERS: Yes. Very much so.
MR. NADLER: And you know the testimony you’re giving before this committee is also under penalty of perjury.
SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: And the reason you are telling us the truth right now also is that you are afraid of going to prison?
SANDERS: Yes. I am very, very afraid of going to prison.
MR. NADLER: And yet, two days after the Mueller Report came out saying that you had admitted lying repeatedly to the media, you lied to the media again?
SANDERS: Yes. I lied to George Stephanopoulos.
MR. NADLER: You told Mr. Stephanopoulos that when you lied about the reason Director Comey was fired that, quote: “It was in the heat of the moment, meaning that it wasn’t a scripted talking point. I’m sorry I wasn’t a robot like the Democratic Party.” Am I quoting you accurately?
SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: But what you told Mr. Stephanopoulos was not true, was it?
SANDERS: No.
MR. NADLER: And it was a lie because, in fact, it had been a talking point, hadn’t it?
SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: And are you admitting that only because you are under oath here, and you knew if you lied, you could go to prison?
SANDERS CONSULTS WITH HER ATTORNEY
SANDERS: Yes. That is correct.
NADLER: And why, after admitting in the Mueller Report that you had lied to the White House press corps, did you lie to Mr. Stephanopoulos?
SANDERS: I misspoke because I was freaked out and didn’t know what I was saying.
NADLER: You were freaked out?
SANDERS: Yes, I was.
NADLER: Are you freaked out now, Ms. Sanders?
HER ATTORNEY LEANS IN AND WHISPERS IN HER EAR. SHE WHISPERS BACK. THERE ARE A FEW BACK AND FORTHS. NADLER WAITS IMPATIENTLY.
SANDERS: Let me clarify. I was freaked out when I lied to Mr. Stephanopoulos. I am a little freaked out now, but not as freaked out as I was when I was on with Mr. Stephanopoulos.
HER ATTORNEY NODS
NADLER: Ms. Sanders, you swore to tell the truth to this committee.
SANDERS: Yes. And I have. To the best of my ability. Really, Mr. Chairman. I am not good at this. And that is the honest truth.
NADLER: I believe you. But you know that being freaked out is not a legal defense if you lie to the committee?
SANDERS: Yes. And that is why I am just trying so very, very hard to be truthful.
NADLER: So you don’t go to prison?
SANDLER: Yes. That is why I’m freaked out. Because I so, so do not want to go to prison. And I am doing the very best I can to be every bit as honest as I know how. (CORRECTING HERSELF) I mean, even more honest than that. I really don’t want to go to prison.
NADLER: Well then just tell us the truth.
SANDERS: Okay. The truth is I am especially scared of people who do not look like me.
NADLER: Oh, no, no, no. No. You don’t have to bare your soul. Just answer the questions truthfully.
SANDERS: Oh. So, I probably shouldn’t have said that?
NADLER: Well…what you said is very ugly and sad. But I know it was honest.
SANDERS: Thank you. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.
NADLER: Right. Let me ask you something. You’re about to leave the White House, and I imagine you are looking for a job with some public relations firm or maybe setting up your own shop. Do you intend to continue lying to the public and to the media wherever it is you land?
SANDERS CONSULTS WITH HER ATTORNEY. THIS IS A LONG ONE. FINALLY…
SANDERS: Yes. But only if there is no other way to help my clients.
NADLER: Okay. Just know that if you lie again publicly that we reserve the right to call you back.
SANDERS: I understand.
NADLER: But it would be great not to have to call you again.
SANDERS: Tell me about it.
NADLER: You may be excused.
SANDERS: Thank you. Am I still under oath?
NADLER: Actually, no.
SANDERS: Great! (TURNS UGLY) This whole hearing is a witch hunt! The ones you should be investigating are the lefty SPIES in the FBI who bugged Trump Tower!
NADLER: Oh boy. We will stand adjourned until tomorrow morning.
HE HITS THE GAVEL. AS A FOX NEWS CAMERAMAN STEPS IN WITH HIS HANDHELD CAMERA POINTED AT SARAH…
SANDERS: You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Chairman! To insinuate that I had been lying when this president is presiding over the strongest economy in the history of humankind!
SHE ADDRESSES THE FOX CAMERAMAN
SANDERS (CONT’D): You got that?
AS HE GIVES HER THE THUMBS UP…
FADE

(*The above courtesy of former Senator Al Franken’s Facebook Page).

Warning Re War with Iran: Congress Must Decide

Here’s the quote for the day:  “Now is not the time to trust an untrustworthy Administration. But now is exactly the time for Congress to reassert its constitutional authority.” (“Time” columnist David French on p. 32 of the June 3-10, 2019 issue).

You may think I’m referencing the recent decision by the House to issue Contempt of Congress citations for a few key Trump employees, but this was actually a quote in reference to NOT blundering into a war with Iran. It was written by a man (David French, lawyer, senior fellow at the National Review Institute, “Time” columnist) who served in Iraq during the surge and was deployed close to the Iranian border.

Here are a few of the key take-aways from David French’s short piece entitled “The View Opener.” On May 13th the New York Times reported that the White House was reviewing updated military plans that would send a total of 120,000 troops to the Middle East. That is near the troop total at the height of the Iraq War.

On May 15th the state department ordered all “non-emergency” personnel out of Iraq.  Why? Trump pulled us out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and then declared Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to be “a terrorist organization.” This increasingly worrisome Iran situation may also be one of Trump’s attempts to deflect attention away from impeachment rumblings, (which is, likewise, true of his Mexican tariff talk) but, if so, Trump may be playing with fire and we may all get burnt.

It wasn’t until May 21st that the administration finally briefed Congress on the alleged nature of the Iranian threats. Lawmakers are divided. Some of the Lindsey Graham Trump-enabler camp were impressed; key Democrats were unimpressed. Meanwhile, the public, the people who would have to fight and die in this potential war, are left in the dark.

War with Iran would be a war against a country whose military is intact and a country which has substantial missile assets. It has the ability to attack American forces throughout the Middle East and possibly beyond. And it would not be an effort with our allies.

“Stable genius?”

So, what sort of diplomacy does the “stable genius” in the White House employ? He TWEETS: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” In a taped Fox News interview he says, “I’m not somebody that wants to go into war.” So, as usual, back and forth. Bad cop/good cop. And fortunes are made during war, as many can attest.

Nancy Pelosi has detailed Trump’s M.O.  He will first try to flatter you, to butter you up, to get his way. That seems to work with the Lindsey Graham element, which is a sad commentary on the man who used to hold forth that he was John McCain’s “wing man.” (With friends like Lindsey, who needs enemies?) When buttering up doesn’t work, Trump will resort to bullying, as he seems to have done since infancy.  There is name-calling, doctored videos, lies, lies, and more lies, which topped 10,000 some months ago. Trump shows such shifting stances on Syria, North Korea, and every other major issue that he has faced since 2016.

The key thing to remember is that John Bolton has had a long-standing hostility towards Iran. Bolton is a hawk among hawks; he really wants a war with Iran and—make no mistake about this—the cheese would stand alone. No allies would want to be involved, and who can blame them? The article stresses that “tactical decisions made short of war can ratchet up tensions more than the president understands.” Our experiences in Vietnam should have convinced us of that, not to mention some instances in WWII.

This informed veteran’s (David French’s) warning? “Given Trump’s fundamental dishonesty and alarming ignorance, Americans should have zero assurance that their president or his administration is accurately describing the nature of the Iranian threat. More importantly, we, the people, deserve to know what these unnamed ‘threats’ may be.”

Merely receiving an intelligence briefing is not enough.

He concludes:  “The message to the Trump Administration should be bipartisan and emphatic.  There can be no new war without informed congressional consent.”

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