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

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.”

Beto O’Rourke Speaks in Davenport at the River Music Experience on May 20, 2019

Beto O’Rourke at the River Music Experience in Davenport (5/20/19).

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. (Bill Gluba, former Mayor of Davenport, to his right, in background.)

Beto O’Rourke.

River Music Experience, May 20, 2019, Davenport, Iowa.

Beto O’Rourke rally; May 20, 2018; Davenport, IA.

Former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba at the Beto O’Rourke rally inside the River Music Experience in Davenport, IA. (5/20/19).

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

Crowd member at the Beto O’Rourke rally. (He said he’d seen JFK when he was 2.)

Alyssia Gaiman introducing Beto O’Rourke at the RME on 5/20/19.

Beto O’Rourke.

Beto O’Rourke; former Mayor Bill Gluba in background (right).

A young future voter at the Beto O’Rourke rally.

The crowd in the room at the Beto O’Rourke rally on 5/20/19. I overheard a member of the traveling press say it was the 3rd largest rally he had seen for the candidate.

Working press; Beto O’Rourke rally on 5/20/19 at the River Music Experience in Davenport, IA.

Beto O’Rourke, potential Democratic presidential nominee, came to Davenport (IA) on May 20, 2019, and spoke to a crowd of about 200 enthusiastic supporters at the River Music Experience. Introduced by former Iowa Congresswoman  Alesia Gaiman, Beto entered, stage left. He may have thanked her with a wrong first name (sounded like a different first name from the press risers), but, if it was a faux pas, it was the only one I heard.

When Beto finished with a brief introduction about his vision for unifying this divided nation, he took questions from the audience for an hour and a half.  Both Beto and the audience acquitted themselves nobly.

Were the questions arranged in advance? I don’t think so, but both the Iowans who spoke and the candidate came off as smart, alert and prepared.

Here were the topics of the questions with Beto O’Rourke displaying an impressive ability to answer without a teleprompter or notes:

Question 1: LGBQT rights and how to restore them.

Question 2: His plans to revise the criminal justice system (with a backhanded slap at former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden for not handling this well enough while in office.)

Question 3:  Advice for a first-time voter who feels overwhelmed.

Question 4:  Will you fully fund the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)?

Question 5:  Immigration issues.

Question 6:  The student debt crisis.

Question 7:  Minimum wage concerns.

Question 8:  Collective bargaining rights for teachers in Iowa (which, aside from pay, have been stripped by the GOP legislature.)

Question 9:  The national debt and what to do about it.

Question 10: Gun violence in the schools and what to do about it.

Question 11:  How would you pay for everything you propose?

Question 12:  Your Middle East policy, especially in regards to Saudi, Arabia.

Question 13:  Solar and wind power and other alternative forms of energy.

Question 14:  The opioid epidemic in this country.

I am not knowledgeable enough about the organization of Democratic politics in Iowa to be able to tell you if these questions were assigned in advance.  I can tell you that O’Rourke pirouetted gracefully from one question to the next with an impressive array of statistics at his command. Did the organizers arrange for questioners (like the  retired Muscatine defense contractor who worked in the Middle East) to be present to ask these very relevant questions? Sounds plausible; seems more likely when a small child asked in perfect English, with no hesitation, about the IDEA act. However, the teacher mentioned coming directly from another meeting about the Iowa Supreme Court decision, and most questions seemed valid and unscripted.

Still, I’ve been to many rallies, starting in 2004 and continuing through every presidential election since then.. (2008 Content Producer of the Year for Politics for Yahoo) and this was a well-organized, well-informed crowd and—perhaps most importantly—a well-informed candidate. Very well-informed.

So let’s hear Beto O’Rourke’s fix(es) for these weighty questions.

Q 1 (LGBQT rights): The individual who asked this question appeared very feminine, with long blonde hair, until the question was asked. The voice was very male. Transgender? Don’t know; can’t tell you. Beto answered the question by saying, “Every American should be treated equally.” He shared that, “In my home state of Texas, you can be fired for your sexual orientation” and condemned such practices, saying, “No state can except itself” from providing equal rights to all U.S. citizens.

Q2 (Criminal justice system). The questioner identified himself as Chris Rice. Beto’s answer to the inequities of the criminal justice system and what improvements he would like to implement as president were: 1) End the war on drugs (2) No U.S. “for profit” prisons. (3) Eliminate the cash bail bonding system.

Q3 (1st time overwhelmed voter): Sharing that he had visited 34 college campuses (as well as high schools and middle schools) Beto reassured Jimmy Feeney by saying, “I’m here and I’m listening.” He said, “Show up (at the polls) with the courage of your convictions.”

Q4 (IDEA question): Yes, Beto would fully fund the IDEA.

Q5: John Dunsheath, who asked about immigration issues was given a heartfelt response about an issue Beto O’Rourke knows only too well, being from El Paso, Texas, a border city. He talked about the train known as “the beast” that immigrants take from Central America to the Mexican border, and said, “Amy and I have these conversations” about what they would do if they were in the dire circumstances that the immigrants seeking asylum endure. He suggested that we should lift visa caps. [*I’d like to refer readers to a comprehensive discussion of Beto O’Rourke’s views on the immigration issue and “the wall” by giving you these links to previous articles on this blog in February of this year]:

https://weeklywilson.com/16733-2/; https://weeklywilson.com/beto-orourke-speaks-out-cont-the-end/; https://weeklywilson.com/beto-orourke-speaks-out-day-3/;https://weeklywilson.com/beto-orourke-speaks-out-cont-2/

Q6 (Student debt): Beto affirmed that “crisis” was the right word to use for the student debt situation. He mentioned the $1.5 trillion outstanding debt and said that 10% of those in debt are either in danger of defaulting or have already defaulted on their student loans. He suggested expanding loan forgiveness programs, making college free, and recognizing that trade occupations are a valid career  choice.

Q7- (minimum wage): Kevin O’Brien, who identified himself as a 40-year union member, brought up the current minimum wage of $7.25, which, he said, was inadequate. He has 5 children (all college graduates), but commented on how expensive his adult children’s medical insurance was in relation to his own. Beto countered that, in Texas, the largest provider of mental health services was the state. In Harris City, Texas, the City Jail costs $110 a day, which entitles the prisoner to health care (and makes the Harris City Jail the largest provider of mental health services in town.) O’Rourke suggested a form of Medicare for Americans who are uninsured or cannot afford the cost of supplemental insurance.

Q8 – (Collective bargaining for teachers in Iowa) – I was way behind the curve on this one. In my defense, I’ve been in Texas since January, but I didn’t know that the Iowa GOP-dominated legislature and governor had stripped teachers’ unions of most collective bargaining rights—-previously in existence for half a century. In reading up on this issue (which is near and dear to my heart as someone who led the charge for collective bargaining rights in Silvis, Illinois, in 1979-1980) I learned that a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision was 4 to 3 to uphold stripping this right to negotiate such items as class size, length of school day, free periods, lunch hour length and everything except pay. A teacher quoted in a Des Moines Register article said, “Morale is very low.” O’Rourke said, “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life” and called it “Penny-wise and pound foolish,” saying the teachers educated in Iowa are not willing to remain in the state to teach. Iowa’s loss is Minnesota’s gain. How will Iowa attract top-notch teachers? Teachers can go elsewhere and have collective bargaining rights, (which simply means a say about the conditions under which they must work.)

Q9 – National debt – Citing a national debt of $22 trillion, which is going up $1 trillion annually, O’Rourke noted that “The GOP can forget about representing themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility.” Pointing to the wars that added $6 trillion to our national debt, unfunded by “W,” Beto suggested that lowering the tax rate from 35% to 21% was a fiscal mistake and re-doing it would help lower our national debt.

Q10 – (gun violence) – Anna Cynthia, a student, voiced her fear over gun violence possibly reaching into her own classroom. Beto mentioned that the government mandated that gun violence and its causes could not be studied, as cigarette addiction because of nicotine was, after Big Tobacco was overruled.  He talked about the deleterious effect of the NRA and gun lobbies, stating proudly that his campaign was not taking any PAC money.

Q11 – (How to pay for all this?) – Beto stated that we must “scrutinize every cent spent” and pointed to the endless war in Afghanistan, going on for his entire lifetime (he turns 47 in September). “Do not lead with the military, but with diplomacy.”

Q12 – Middle East – While acknowledging that MBS in Saudi, Arabia had cold-bloodedly plotted the murder of U.S. journalist Khashoggi, I did not hear the solution to our continuing affiliation with Saudi, Arabia, which leads us into wars  in places like Yemen and Sudan.

Q13 – (Solar & wind power) – O’Rourke mentioned that Iowa is second only to Kansas in harnessing wind power to create electrical power. He proposed a $5 trillion increase in programs to invest in wind and solar power over the next 5 years.

Q14 – (opioid epidemic) – O’Rourke talked about how, in his travels, he has met  addicts or former addicts, sometimes veterans, who describe how they originally became addicted because of prescription drugs. Beto’s solution? Not sure, as this was the last question of the night and the natives were restless.

Overall, it was an impressive performance from the charismatic candidate from Texas. As a winter resident of Austin,(Texas), I identify and was pulling for him when he ran against Uncle Festus from The Munsters—err, Ted Cruz. An interesting ticket would be Biden/Beto.

I highly recommend “Running with Beto,” which I covered at SXSW.  You can read my review of that here or on www.TheMovieBlog.com.

(L to R) Wife Amy, daughter Molly and Beto O’Rourke onstage in Austin, Texas, at the Paramount Theater,  on March 9, 2019, at the premiere of “Running with Beto.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abortion Rights Under Attack in the U.S.

For close to half a century, the GOP has tried to overturn Roe v. Wade and curb women’s right to reproductive freedom. This concerted effort to prevent a pregnant female from deciding not to carry a child to term does not come with adequate funding or societal help to assure that the overwhelmed potential mother would be able to care for said child, in the event that she were forced to go forward with her pregnancy. While chipping away at the social network like a demented woodpecker, the GOP has simply thrown around hot-button words (“socialism,” “abortion”) knowing that they will evoke the crazy response they want in their followers. There has been no GOP up-tick in social programs to assist, for example, women of color with several children and no supportive mate.

Says Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen, “The threat to safe, legal abortion in America is at risk like never before.” In the past 9 years over 400 state laws have been passed restricting abortion services. Eight states have only one abortion clinic left. Exploiting the explosive “wedge issue” has become one of the mainstays of the GOP talking points, along with calling anyone who believes that a woman’s reproductive decision should be hers a “Libtard” or a “liberal snowflake.” Interesting to report, there are no similar liberal perjorative names aimed at the Conservative wing of the GOP, specifically designed to denigrate their political beliefs and, in some cases, not only verbally attack them but physically attack them, as well.

As for the majority of Americans on this divisive issue,  60 per cent believe abortion should remain legal and it is conceivable that one in four women of child-bearing age might decide to have an abortion in her lifetime. Some of these women may have been victims of rape or incest. Others may have health issues that would put their own lives at risk or simply not have the economic or psychological means to support a child at that time in their lives. Still, the anti-abortion foes will paint these women as monsters. The Conservative forces will misrepresent the point(s) at which ethical doctors will perform an abortion, and will continue to use unflattering semantics and Biblical backing from evangelical sects to support their point of view, irrespective of the wishes of the women, themselves. (I remember Dr. Howard Dean, campaigning in Iowa in 2004, telling us in someone’s back yard in Muscatine, Iowa, that he had gone through the records of his home state of Vermont and there had been NO record of a late-term (after the sixth month) abortion in the state of Vermont ever.  This was in response to a question from the Iowa caucus crowd).

In some states—Mississippi, for example—they are in the ongoing process of passing a fetal heartbeat law that bans abortions as early as six weeks, despite the fact that a U.S. district court has already struck down a law in the same state banning it at 15 weeks. Even if the opponents of legalized and safe abortions do not succeed in overturning the laws, the amount of time that these moves take can have an impact. Once closed, an abortion clinic may not open back up. Says Cecile Richards, former President of Planned Parenthood (currently under budget attack from the White House), “Even if Roe is still the law of the land, whether or not pregnant people can actually access abortion is another question entirely.” To all those individuals who are reading this and “tsk tsk-ing” about abortion, in general, I would recommend that you read “Cider House Rules” by John Irving before  becoming too secure in your position. Irving’s father and grandfather were obstetricians and he charts the drop in female mortality rates that accompanied Roe v. Wade. The safe abortion center in Bettendorf, Iowa, was forced to close some time ago, a result of the Conservative right’s concerted and never-ending attacks on them. With a Republican legislature in Des Moines, the service is no longer available in an area of 350,000 people, which, for the state of Iowa, is among its 3 largest metropolitan areas.

Meanwhile, proposed legal decisions like “June Medical Services v. Gee”  and 2016’s “”Whole Roman’s Health v. Hellerstedt” continue to move forward, challenging the current status quo. The packing of the courts by Trump supporters is not a good thing (think Brett Kavanaugh) and 21 of U.S. states are classified as “hostile” or “very hostile” to abortion rights, while only 4 are “supportive” or “very supportive.” Five states currently have so-called trigger laws that would immediately ban abortion if Roe v. Wade fell. The state of Arkansas has no exceptions for rape or incest and would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by 10 years in prison.

According to the National Institute for Reproductive Health, 422 bills were introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia, which were aimed at protecting reproductive rights in 2018. One hundred were fully enacted into law. “Public support for Roe v. Wade has never been higher that it is right now” says a former Planned Parenthood leader: “If you are one of the majority of Americans who care about access to safe and legal abortion, now is the time to make your voice heard.” Otherwise, the Conservative plan is to make it so hard to access this currently legal right that it will, in effect, cause the downfall of Roe v. Wade without having to actually legislate it out of existence. In 1976, only 3 years after Roe v. Wade went into effect, the Hyde Amendment blocked federal Medicaid dollars from going toward abortions and the Supreme Court upheld that as constitutional in 1980. In “Planned Parenthood v. Case” the court further determined in that 1992 decision that limitations could be put on abortion as long as they didn’t create “an undue burden. (A blanket right was turned into a circumstantial right.)

Julie Rikelman, Director of U.S. litigation for the Center for Reproductive Rights says, “Even if the Supreme Court never utters the words ‘Roe is now overruled,’ it can do a huge amount of harm.” Are the women of 2020 willing to go back to the days of back-street illegal abortions (one of which left a friend and former classmate of mine dead in her apartment in Iowa City, Iowa, back in 1964? I hope that the young women of the United States start paying attention to this area that DJT is also stirring up and, flying the false flag of Conservative evangelical piety, is attacking as he is attacking most other bulwarks of our Constitutional democracy.

Forgetabout Joe Biden’s Hugging Penchant and Concentrate on REAL Problems

Okay…I’ve waited for a while to weigh in, but I’m watching Bill Maher’s show right now and they are discussing the fact that the recent hoopla over Joe Biden’s kissing the back of a candidate’s head (which only now, many years later, she has decided offended her) is “much ado about nothing.” They are discussing the fact that this recent furor might be a generational divide.

I agree.

“Biden has to know better. This isn’t a joking matter.” This was written by a reporter commenting on the child who joined Biden onstage, where Biden actually draped his arm over the child’s shoulder(s) and said he had gotten permission to do so.

Maher says: “Humans are going to touch each other.” Someone just called former Vice President Joseph Biden “a creepy old grandfather.” (Sigh) He may be old, but so is Donald J. Trump, the likely GOP nominee. And so is Bernie Sanders.

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.

I have met Joe Biden on several occasions, primarily because I covered presidential races in 2004, 2008, 2012 and a very small part of 2016. In 2008, it was not unusual to get a phone call in the Iowa Quad Cities and be told by a Biden campaign worker that there was going to be a rally at Doc Seng’s house.

Doc Seng (veterinarian Dr. Seng) is now dead and there probably won’t be any rallies at his old place, but, if Joe Biden does run, there will be rallies somewhere, just as there were in 2008. (Did you know that Joe Biden was the National Campaign Chairman for Jimmy Carter’s campaign?)

I used to chat with Jimmy (Joe’s brother) and Hunter (Joe’s son) and I even interviewed his then-young granddaughter, Finnegan Biden. At no time did then-Senator Biden hug me inappropriately or, from what I observed, hug anyone else in an inappropriate manner. The closest I came to being hugged was probably Christopher Dodd; that wasn’t horrible, either.

It is really difficult, (especially in the light of the Access Hollywood tape), to think that this sudden focus on Vice President Joe Biden’s tendency to hug people is anything that disqualifies Joe Biden from seeking and holding the office of President of the United States.

We should put aside the nattering over nothing and direct our attention and focus to important things, like global warming, the Mexico wall that Trump wants to spend a small fortune building, Obamacare and fixing it, our crumbling infrastructure and fixing it, defending our elections against foreign adversaries, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, the looming debt that Trump has committed us to, Puerto Rico, struggling farmers, education, and any number of REAL issues and forget about whether some female now working for Bernie Sanders would rather not have had her shoulders touched when Vice President Biden was kind enough to campaign for her in her home state.

Trump Twitter Museum Is Launched at SXSW

As President Donald J. Trump continues to castigate a fallen war hero 7 months after his death, it seemed particularly timely to post the photos of the Presidential Twitter Library that Trevor Noah’s “The Daily Show” people put up at SXSW on the mezzanine of the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin.

There are counts of how many times DJT mentions President Obama; how many times he mentions various Fox News People (Greta Van Susteren won that one); how many times he mentions each of his children. (Tiffany snagged only 5 mentions, total).

There is the gold-plated toilet room—where you could have had your picture taken on the gold-plated throne.

And there were tweets—lots and lots of tweets.

Government by tweet. Insult by tweet. Etc., etc., etc.

 

 

 

 

Trevor Noah introducing visitors to the Trump Twitter Library on the mezzanine level of the Driskill Hotel during SXSW. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

“Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins:” Documentary on the Journalist at SXSW

(*Named an Audience Favorite Documentary at SXSW)

Documentary “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins” at SXSW. (SXSW Press Photo).

“Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins” showed at the Paramount Theater in Austin as part of SXSW. It premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January. Director Janice Engel has culled footage of the legendary Texas wit and journalist to entertain and inform us of her skill as a humorous columnist, a talent which was often compared to that of Mark Twain.

Ivins’ column was carried by 400 newspapers through syndication at the time of her death from cancer in 2007. Ivins, the former co-editor of the Texas Observer, who also put in time at the esteemed New York Times, was known for calling George W. Bush “Shrub” and telling her public that Dan Quayle was so stupid that if his brain were transplanted into a bumblebee, the bee would probably fly backward.

She wrote about Texas politics and Texas politicians and was a close friend of famous Texas Governor Ann Richards. Ivins once described a particular politician as having an I.Q. so low, “if it gets any lower we’ll have to water him twice a day.”

Ivins grew up in River Oaks, went to St. John’s and was a child of Texas oil and gas privilege. Much of her character was formed in conflicts with her strait-laced Republican father, who was known as General Jim or Admiral Jim because of his stern authoritarianism.

Ivins enrolled in Scripps College in 1962 but was not happy there, and transferred to Smith College in 1963. She became romantically involved with Henry “Hank” Holland, Jr., a family friend and student at Yale whom she later referred to as “the love of my life”. After he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1964, her friends said that she never seemed to find anyone else who could replace him. They suggested it was why she never married. She spent her junior year at the Institute of Political Science in Paris and received her B.A. in history in 1966, earning a master’s degree from Columbia University‘s School of Journalism in 1967.

Her first job after college was with the Minneapolis Tribune.  Molly Ivins became the first female police reporter at the paper. Ivins joined the Texas Observer in the early 1970s and later moved to The New York Times. The New York Times was not a good fit and Ivins moved back to Texas, becoming a columnist for the Dallas Times Herald in the eighties and then the Fort Worth Star-Telegram when the Times Herald was sold and shuttered. The column was subsequently syndicated by Creators Syndicate and carried by hundreds of newspapers nationwide.

The new documentary contains footage from Ivins’ numerous appearances on television, but also interviews with many of her longtime friends and acquaintances. Her witticisms are front-and-center, as when she said, “I’m not anti-gun; I’m pro-knife” or “You got to have fun while you’re fighting for freedom, ‘cause you don’t always win.”

Janice Engel, Director of “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins” at SXSW. (SXSW Press Photo).

Director Engel told interviewer Charles Ealy in an Austin American Statesman piece: “She’s not only a prophet; she’s the voice of now. She is more relevant today than she probably was when she was alive.”

The struggles of Ivins to go it alone in what was then substantially a man’s world and to overcome alcoholism and cancer are part of this engrossing documentary. As Ivins herself said of her fierce battle against cancer: “Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that.”

This one is both poignant and hilarious at the same time, and well worth a watch.

“For Sama,” Named Best Feature Documentary at SXSW: Behind the Scenes of the Siege in Syria

 

 

https://images.sxsw.com/OmkWk_NPatsx2ymZWMOMnGzSbME=/878x0:4955x2912/images.sxsw.com/57/e1a26cc7-d574-4707-8f13-52848b9384e8/under-a-falling-sky-142452 Photo of Waad al-Kateab, documenting the violence in Aleppo, Syria (SXSW Press Still)

“For Sama,” Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts’ searing documentary about the Syrian crisis, was named Best Documentary Feature at SXSW on March 12th. Said the judges, “This extraordinary and harrowing documentary captures an epic personal story of a mother’s love for her daughter and a wife’s love for her husband through the lens of the bloody and brutal siege of Aleppo.”

Waad al-Kateab stayed in Aleppo, where she had been a student in the fourth year of an economics degree at the university. When the rebellion against Assad’s corrupt regime broke out—much of it initially fomented by university rebels—the protesters were hopeful. Waad al-Kateab, a photo-journalist who continued filming for the duration, said, “To try to live a normal life in this place is to stand against the regime.”

Waad al-Kateab’s husband, Dr. Hamza el-Koteab, was one of only 32 physicians who chose to stay in the besieged city to care for the remaining residents; it is clear Aleppo’s remaining residents feel abandoned by the world. “We’re crying out to the world: Help us! ..But no one does anything to stop the regime.”

During the time that Waad al-Kateab spent in Aleppo  across a 5-year span and during 6 months of constant bombing, she and Hamza fell in love, got married, and had their first child, Sama. The film is entitled “For Sama,” their daughter, because Waad wanted to let her daughter know what they were fighting for in staying behind long after others had fled. As Waad says, “Our new life with you felt so fragile…as fragile as our life in Aleppo.”

The family eventually ends up actually living in the hospital, but the hospital is constantly being bombed by the Assad regime with Russian air support. At one point,  8 of 9 hospitals in East Aleppo have been destroyed; Hamza’s is the only one left, seeing 300 patients a day. Waad al-Kateab and Hamza had one hospital bombed while they were out of the facility, which killed 53 people, including the doctor who delivered Waad’s daughter.

There are many heart-rending scenes of adults and children being brought to the make-shift hospital only to die there or be declared DOA. There are dead bodies literally everywhere within the hospital;  one of the most ghastly scenes is of the victims of a mass execution, all of whom were civilians but showed signs of torture and had been shot in the head. Their bodies—at least 30 corpses— laid out in the street as a warning. The burial pit that forms their mass grave instantly summons memories of Nazi Germany. The scenes of the hospital being bombed evoke the “Sixty Minutes” segment that visited Aleppo hospitals  while they were under fire. One heart-warming but tragic moment is of the emergency C-section of a 9-months pregnant woman. Her child is saved, with difficulty; the mother is beyond help.

Ultimately, after 6 months under siege (December, 2016) the United Nations calls Dr. Hamza, who has become a voice for the Syrian people and whose face has become known to the world saying, “If you surrender, they will spare your lives.” The couple faces a harrowing decision regarding their small daughter. The  thought is this: She has a better chance of making it if they (the authorities) don’t know that you are her parents.

Waad al-Kateab cannot leave her daughter behind, however. The couple and their neighbors, who have three children, attempt the perilous journey out of Aleppo and into exile. As they drive, sharp shooters shoot at the ambulance. Waad says, “The silence makes you feel the city is dead.” Each check-point is dangerous. Will they all make it out alive?

The bombed ruins of a once-beautiful city confirm the diagnosis that the city, along with many of its inhabitants, is dead. Waad’s husband, Dr. Hamza says that in 20 days they saw 6,000 patients and performed 890 operations.

This is a must-see story of survival under siege from directors Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts which had its World Premiere (financing by the UK) at SXSW. Hopefully, it will air soon on PBS.

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