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!

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In this age of Donald J. Trump and the Mueller investigation, you can expect updates on what is happening to our country and its Constitution.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Holds Rally on May 13th, 2024 in Austin, Texas

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Holds Campaign Rally in Austin, TX is now available for viewing in the C-SPAN Video Library.

Let’s not forget that I covered the Presidential races of 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 and wrote 3 books on the candidates, often focusing as they came through the Iowa caucuses. I was named Content Producer of the Year for Politics in 2008 by Yahoo and my two books on that race are “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vols. I & II. I am also responsible for BEE GONE about the 2016 election, which I was not allowed to advertise during DJT’s tenure, since it is a comic book rhyming presentation that was hilarious, but which the MAGA folk did not like at all. [One of them called me “Hitler with breasts.” Perhaps that one did not hear about my breast cancer diagnosis?]

If you want to try to find THAT one, your best bet is to go to ConnieCWilson.com and scroll down to “other” books and look it up that way. It is truly hard to find on Amazon and, last time I looked, they only had one copy (which I sent to a friend), If you want one, send me a note.)

 

 

I traveled to downtown Austin tonight to hear Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., deliver a speech. The main message of the evening was that RFK, Jr., has gathered enough signatures (more than enough) to get on the ballot in Texas.When I got there, I was told that the speech was not going to be held at that venue. It had been moved to somewhere on Brazos Street and was going to be live-streamed by CNN. The nice volunteer said she doubted that I could get in, but told me it would be available on C-span, live-streamed, which suited me fine.

I left the book that had RFK, Jr.’s picture in it (p. 33“Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vol. II) and went home, where I watched the speech on C-Span. This was a good thing, because out of an hour and 39 minutes, Bobby Kennedy (Jr.) didn’t come on for a very long time. With it being live-streamed, you could fast forward past the introductions and Nicole Shanahan’s speech.

The wealthy Nicole Shanahan, his running mate, gave a speech about soil.

Interesting, I thought. Something that everyone came for—[NOT].

I fast forwarded past all the greeters and announcers and the VP who is helping finance RFK, Jr.’s campaign (and paid for his SuperBowl ad) and listened to what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the doppelganger of his famous father, had to say. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Holds Campaign Rally in Austin, TX is now available for viewing in the C-SPAN Video Library.

The first 2/3 of the speech (look it up on the C-Span archives) was random.

Then came RFK, Jr. Bobby told a lengthy story about an Amish farmer who does a podcast. This sounded like a contradiction in terms. Kennedy addressed that by saying that the 35-year-old young man (apparently an Ohio expert on soil and pesticides with very bright blue eyes) could not allow himself to be photographed. RFK (Jr.) had promised not to show the tape of his comments to the world. The conversation concerning the young Amish man’s encyclopedic knowledge of pesticides went on (and on) describing 2 rows of melons on the Amish podcaster’s farm, one of them grown without pesticides and, therefore, far healthier and more pest-free than the other. One was healthy. One was sickly. What this had to do with anything was hard to determine (but keep in mind that I skipped past the Shanahan soil speech, so shame on me). I am onboard with the idea that pesticides and pollution and the variety of pollutants that are covered so well in the documentary “Plastic People” that I reviewed during SXSW are harming us irreparably, so I will assume that RFK (Jr.) is as concerned about this as the Canadian documentary-filmmakers.

After talking about soil and Amish farmers for a rather lengthy time, the 70-year-old Kennedy talked about what a sick country we are, sharing the data that we have only 4% of the world’s population but, during the Covid pandemic, we had 16% of the world’s deaths. There were more remarks about how good health is not found at the end of a hypodermic needle (anti-vaccine position). I just watched (and reviewed) a documentary called “Plastic People,” mentioned above, and much of what RFK, Jr., was talking about this Canadian documentary supported, so I’m not throwing stones here. I have an interest in such things as why the incidence of breast cancer in young women is so much higher than in years of yore. Not to mention colon cancer in younger people, infertiity, and autism disorders.

The reason the CDC said so many of us succumbed to Covid, (said Kennedy), was that those who died had 3.8 pre-existing chronic diseases. Chronic disease was a recurring phrase and topic.  Kennedy named cancer, asthma, food allergies and then blanked out. He sought a disease to represent the fourth chronic disease, soliciting it from the predominantly young crowd. The crowd finally coughed up “diabetes.” (Heart disease did not rear its ugly head, and I wasn’t sure that food allergies qualified, but nevermind. Obesity might have made the list, based on another statistic he threw out about 40% of us being obese. No idea if any of these facts and figures were precisely accurate; just reporting what the candidate said,)

This is not a fact-checking article—so go ahead and listen to the speech (link above) for yourself. But don’t omit reading up about the candidate’s background, because we have already been “conned” once in 2016 and elected someone who built a totally fabricated background for himself based on being a success in business, when, in reality, that was very far from the truth. And don’t fail to check the candidate(s) out for their strength of character. We’ve seen THAT happen before (John Edwards, anyone?) and we don’t want to constantly be conned into accepting uncritically media presentations (Fox News, I’m talking about you.)

TRUST IN GOVERNMENT

One refrain that did strike a responsive chord for this seasoned political reporter was the remark that we no longer trust our government, because it’s been lying to us for years. To illustrate this, Kennedy repeated the Francis Gary Powers story.

For those of you who are too young to remember that 1960 U-2 event, Powers was shot down over Russia in a super-secret plane. Wikipedia:  “On May 1, 1960, Powers’ U-2A, 56-6693, departed from a military airbase in Peshawar, Pakistan,[13] with support from the U.S. Air Station at Badaber (Peshawar Air Station). This was to be the first attempt “to fly all the way across the Soviet Union. Powers was shot down by an S-75 Dvina (SA-2 “Guideline”) surface-to-air missile[15] over Sverdlovsk. A total of 14 Dvinas were launched,[16] one of which hit a MiG-19 jet fighter which was sent to intercept the U-2 but could not reach a high enough altitude.”

Attempted deception by the U.S. government

“When the U.S. government learned of Powers’ disappearance over the Soviet Union, they lied that a “weather plane” had strayed off course after its pilot had “difficulties with his oxygen equipment”. What CIA officials did not realize was that the plane crashed almost fully intact and that the Soviets had recovered its pilot and much of the plane’s equipment, including its new top-secret high-altitude camera. Powers was interrogated extensively by the KGB for months before he made a confession and a public apology for his part in the espionage.”

Kennedy’s point: that the American public quit trusting their government about the time that JFK was shot dead in the streets of Dallas and Bobby’s father was shot dead in Los Angeles, California, as a result of lies like the Francis Gary Powers incident, rang a bell with me. I am not a conspiracy theorist,  but I have always doubted the “single bullet” theory of JFK’s death. So did RFK, Sr.

If Bobby Kennedy (Sr.) had gone on to be elected, he had vowed to get to the bottom of his brother’s assassination. (I know this from reading the book by his nephew, Christopher Lawford.) I don’t doubt that there  would have been a much better inquiry than the Warren Commission provided. An investigation that Bobby (Sr.) would have conducted might have come to different conclusions about who was responsible for the death of his brother Jack (JFK).

RFK (Jr.) took a few shots at the national debt and how it is chewing up half of our tax moneys now, simply to service the interest on the debt. He pointed out that neither of the geriatric candidates has really addressed that very important issue. I do have one tiny bit of rebuttal there. While it is true that, “The national debt has increased by around $3.5 trillion under the Biden administration, as data from Statista shows, currently standing at $31.46 trillion. Year-on-year the debt has never decreased since 1957, according to Treasury data.”

However, it is also true that Biden is far from indifferent to the pressing need to reduce the national debt. Between 2020 and 2022, he was responsible for $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction. The exact quote that Biden gave was, “”I might note parenthetically: In my first two years, I reduced the debt by $1.7 trillion. No President has ever done that.” Obviously that is a drop in the deficit bucket and the GOP immediately began  to see investigating to see if it held up. (Does anyone besides me remember when Democratic President Bill Clinton left us with a budget surplus?)

Biden gets precious little credit for all of the good things he HAS done and selling a national debt decrease is going to be a hard sell. But it IS true that the debt went way up under DJT. (And the GOP would point fingers at Obama, before him.) We could also point out that desperate times call for desperate measures and some of those increases in 2020 on were created by the pandemic crisis. Was there graft and corruption during a tough time when we were navigating a nationwide pandemic? Is the Pope Catholic?

Fleeting references to the Issues of the Day (abortion, the border) were made. Bobby seemed more critical of the Republican candidate than of the Democratic candidate,  (despite the YouTube video that says the opposite). In fact, Bobby said that he, like his supporters in the room, needed to be independent of party noise. He added that he, therefore, had divorced himself from the Democratic party which so many of his relatives served. He said that divorce from being a Democrat was painful, as it went waaay back, even unto grandfathers and beyond. Traditionally, running as a third party has not worked well, even for Teddy Roosevelt and his Bull Moose Party,

The opening of the rally should be mentioned, as it had his famous father repeating some of his most famous quotes in that memorable voice (which, sadly, the younger Bobby cannot emulate because of spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that causes his voice to quaver and makes speech difficult). He traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to have a titanium bridge inserted between his vocal cords to treat the condition.[315

]The film that  ran at the opening of the rally was very professionally done. It was certainly better than listening to a choir of January 6th miscreants singing from prison (and being hailed incorrectly as “hostages.”) Bobby Kennedy, Jr., was onscreen in this opening film introduction, but the voice was his famous father’s.

Many of the people introducing RFK, Jr. were Hispanic. The Big Announcement of the night was that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s name will be on the ballot in Texas with over 235,000 signatures and that the campaign will next move to New York to get on the ballot. He described these two states as the most difficult states to get on the ballot. Kennedy claimed that Texas had actually introduced legislation raising the threshold from a smaller number (150,000?) to one that the Texas legislature thought was too high to ever be reached.

I think the number the team actually secured was more than what they needed. I remember it as being 235,000, but I’d have to wade through the speech on the CNN archives all over again to actually establish that. Feel free to do so and correct me.

To me, it seemed like getting on the ballot was so difficult that, in some way, RFK, Jr., has conflated that  with actually getting the electorate to vote for him. Lord knows the country would like a younger leader.  Bobby Kennedy is 70, so is that what is meant by “younger?” He is the 5th member of his family to run for President, said Wikipedia. (Don’t ask me to cough up the names of the others: I could only think of JFK, Bobby Kennedy Sr., Ted Kennedy and—-? Maybe running for VP counts? Didn’t Maria Shriver’s father have a flirtation with elective office? Help me out here!)

Bill Maehr on his show criticized Kennedy’s lack of government experience, We all know about putting someone in office, an office for which they have literally no training or experience, and how that works. Or doesn’t. RFK, Jr., doesn’t fall into that category, as you will see for yourself if you visit his Wikipedia page. There’s a lot there to unpack. There is also this Internet page:https://www.kennedy24.com/

And then the rally was over after 1 hour and 39 minutes.

How DJT Was Groomed By Russia; The Tragic End of Alexei Navalny

Reflections on Barbra Streisand’s Autobiography “My Name Is Barbra”

James Brolin & Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand & Husband James Brolin.

  • Has unresolved issues about her mother.
  • Has issues regarding a “father figure.”
  • Somewhat downplays the gift her voice has been to her life path.
  • Seems to have OCD tendencies, even as to placement of flowers.
  • Naturally curious.
  • Seems to have built a “family” from those she found more supportive of her.
  • Takes a few swipes at good old “Marty” (her manager),and at Mandy Patimken and others. Seems to want to portray herself as someone who others were constantly seeking for intimacy, yet she doesn’t share much about her “lovers.” In fact, she seems to be rather coy about whether or not a certain famous individual was or was not someone with whom she shared physical intimacy.
  • James Newton Howard seems to re-surface as someone who had a crush on her.
  • The Jon Peters guy sounds like a real shyster and opportunist, and that seems to have been how he was viewed by the Hollywood community, as well.
  • Loyalty to Prince—now King—Charles and to Pierre Trudeau. Probably explains her views on Meghan Markle, recently articulated.
  • Doesn’t say much about Elliott Gould, with whom she shares her son, Jason. Kind of implies that they just drifted apart, he wasn’t good-looking enough, and he had a gambling problem and possibly a drug problem later in life. Discusses Jason’s homosexuality in passing and claims he has a phenomenal voice. Jason is now 58 years old and, while he did release an album some years ago and sang with his mother on one of her tours, he doesn’t seem to have done much creating, musically speaking.
  • Seems to have found a man in James Brolin who can take her independent attitude in stride.
  • Starred or appeared in 19 films, but sounds like she is done.
  • Music seems to be the thing that she might continue doing to the bitter end, a la Tony Bennett, especially if it doesn’t involve touring or appearing in person.
  • Very detail oriented, to the point that would drive many people insane. (Lighting, rewriting lyrics, etc.). She actually requested that famous songwriters like Stephen Sondheim rewrite song lyrics for various reasons and other “pushy” things.
  • Tells some interesting stories about her famous friends (Donna Karan is one, Prince Charles, Secretary of State Madeline Albright, the Clintons) but doesn’t really dish much new dirt. Before I read the book, the Big Story seemed to be her rejecting Mandy Patimkin as a potential fling, saying she did not find him attractive. The truth hurts, but good for you, Barbara. [Nobody finds Mandy Patimkin attractive.]

    Mandy Patimken.

*Barbra’s father, Emmanuel Streisand, died at 35 and she was told by her cold mother that she kept waiting for him to return for days, sitting by the window. In her own words, “In some ways, I’m still waiting.”

*Her book is dedicated this way:  “This book is dedicated to the father I never knew, and the mother I did…” She, basically, says she loved her mother but she didn’t “like” her. Her mother seems to have had serious jealousy issues about Barbra’s phenomenal success and hurt her many times, both intentionally and unintentionally. Fortunately, Babs bonded with many women who were older than she is and they served as “surrogate” mothers. One of the more famous was Bill Clinton’s mother.

*She talks about how she doesn’t really take care of her voice and doesn’t like to warm up, etc. She also has crippling stage fright, brought on by having forgotten the words to a song while performing at a free concert in Central Park.

*Outspoken – Recently, Babs came out swinging against Megan Markle. She criticized everything about the woman, from her acting prowess to her relationship with the Royal Family. It has made all the tabloids and seems to be a throwback to her great friendship with King Charles and loyalty to him. Barbara doesn’t say that she and Charles had “a fling,” but she tells a semi-racy story about his dog coming in to get in bed with her one morning when she is visiting England.

Barbra Streisand with her only child, Jason Gould (age 58).

Jason Gould and Mom Barbra Streisand.

*The Jon Peters romance (he was her hairdresser) was one of the chapters in her life that she attributes to her “hippy” phase. He sounds like a real piece of work! He is portrayed in the movie “Licorice Pizza” and it isn’t pretty. He did rise to become the head of a studio, but he sounds like a real insecure opportunist. One thing that attracted her to him was that they both had sons about the same age.

*Barbra seems to have a fairly ruthless way of dealing with disloyalty. In her own words, “When I’m done with something, I’m done!” She describes cutting Agent Sue Mengers out of her life when she suspected that the woman had leaked some things to the media.

*She reveals that she has heard weird noises in her head since childhood.

*Several times in the book Barbra repeats this line from George Bernard Shaw’s play “St. Joan:” “It is an old saying that he who tells too much truth is sure to be hanged.” She also says, “I’ve always believed in telling the truth, but it has gotten me in trouble over the years.” We saw Barbra in concert in Chicago right before a presidential election and her remarks to the audience supportive of the Democratic candidate caused the couple next to us to yell (loudly), “Just shut up and sing.” I happen to agree with most of her political opinions, so I’m not one of the MAGA crowd who would be this rude. It was an “okay” concert, but it was not the Experience of a Lifetime I had hoped it might be, as I had been a fan for years.

*The book goes down easy and is a good read, but she goes into detail after detail after detail about every outfit she ever wore in her life, which reminded me of my own dear mother, who resembled Barbra’s mom in that she was not one to praise or express warm, fuzzy things, but I have tried to understand her chilly treatment of me in light of her own career and its demands. Barbra has had years of therapy and she tries to be even-handed about her mother’s indifference or jealousy towards her.

There is no question that Barbra Streisand is a formidable talent. She is a lot. I love her singing; I like most of her movies, so I enjoyed reading the behind-the-scenes stuff but I felt she put entirely too much time describing every outfit she ever wore in her life and casting herself in the most positive light possible, with all kinds of effusive notes of praise and uber-flattering photos.

 

Random Thoughts on the Iowa Caucuses of January 15, 2024

With Monday’s Iowa caucuses scheduled to go forward despite wind chills that could be as low as -30 below zero, the last polls I saw put Trump ahead but DeSantis and Nikki Haley separated by only one percentage point.

The real test on Monday, January 15th, is going to be “Whose ground organization is strongest and can guarantee that the caucus-goers will actually trot out to caucus for their candidate?” Is Trump’s ground organization better (or at least equal to) DeSantis’? What about Haley’s?

I have actually attended the Iowa caucuses. It was winter and it was cold, but this time is going to be the coldest on record. The night I attended the caucuses in Des Moines in 2008 I was not an Iowa resident and, therefore, not there to actually line up behind a particular candidate. In fact, when they learned that I had been a teacher, they put me in charge of a random pack of children whose parents were actually voting. [That was fun for no one.]

When the Republicans caucus, they vote on paper ballots. The Democrats, however—who are not involved in this year’s caucus season in Iowa—did not use ballots. Instead, it was sheer un-orchestrated chaos with all kinds of voting and lobbying for viability and many other things that seem(ed) to belong in an elementary school election. Its refreshingly primitive. The cameramen from Sweden could not believe how basic the process was. Because the process is that basic, I would not be surprised if Iowa loses out on holding these things completely.  There have always been complaints that Iowa is too white-bread and not diverse enough. Then there was the complete SNAFU season. Then there is this year’s weather. I’m thinking that the caucuses in Iowa of either party may well go the way of the dodo bird in 2028.

I watched the Town Hall meetings that focused on DeSantis and Haley and the things covered there were much like the final debate that involved just those two candidates. Until the offhand remark from Haley about New Hampshire voters “correcting” Iowa’s missteps, she was surging. She seems sane and has a far less authoritarian demeanor than the two men with whom she is competing.

DeSantis

There is little I like about Ron DeSantis. The “Sixty Minutes” special that detailed how he screwed over immigrants in ferrying them to Martha’s Vineyard showed a despicable lack of human compassion and empathy. It’s one thing to give the northern states a little taste of what the border states like Texas are dealing with; it’s totally another to have glossy brochures made up that promise desperate immigrants jobs when they land in Martha’s Vineyard. Maybe this would be the point to say WWJD (What would Jesus do?) Certainly not that. The fight with Disney over their position on homosexuality. The “don’t wear masks” attitude during Covid that DeSantis displayed (with masked high school students in the background). The preening over how he “took on” the teachers’ unions (and George Soros), as though that were something to be proud of. The inability to smile like a normal human being, which has been commented on by every late-night host. Why do I dislike him? Let me count the ways. Or not. He’s easy to dislike on sight. (That’s a large part of his problem.)

Haley

Nikki Haley.

Nikki Haley comes off as more reasonable on the issue of abortion. She is a female, after all, and a mother.

Her position on supporting Ukraine is a good one. As the former Ambassador to the United Nations she understands and articulates well the basic fact that, right now, Ukraine is doing the fighting and dying in opposing Putin, who might well set his sights on other European nations. DeSantis (and other GOP leaders) want to tie support for Ukraine to better border control. That phrase about being against it before I was for it (or something close) applies more to DeSantis’ positions than those of Haley.

I was bothered by the fact that neither candidate would answer the question posed by Jake Tapper about whether Donald J. Trump has the moral character to be President. It was just about as bad as the Ivy League Presidents testifying before Congress who couldn’t answer easy questions about anti-Semitic behavior on their college campuses. (Both lost their jobs).We lost Chris Christie in the mix, and he seems to be the only one who had the guts to call out his former friend of 22 years. It  seems as though Christie—who helped prep Trump for the debates in 2020—is trying to make amends for his past misdeeds. I will miss Christie onstage calling out the obnoxious Vivek Ramaswamy as the most obnoxious blowhard in America. You don’t get truthful answers like that during political debates very often.

Border Control

Ron DeSantis.

The Big Issue that the Republicans will be trotting out in the months to come will be the border. The Democrats will be making just as much noise over the roll-back of Roe v. Wade. Nikki Haley offered a much more realistic and even-tempered attitude for the GOP to promulgate in a national election. Everyone agrees that the border is now (and has been for decades) a big problem that needs to be solved. But Congress needs to be involved in completely overhauling our immigration system. It looks, right now, as though the current  Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas is being set up to take the fall for what most Americans view as a failure at the border. Biden’s attempt to portray America as that shining beacon on the hill that both Reagan and Romney alluded to may (or may not) be the reason for the influx of illegal immigrants, but you can be sure that the GOP will portray him as practically the sole cause of our recent border crisis. It is true that the border situation needs to be solved. It may be true that Biden’s words made the influx worse.  (Trump’s separation of small children and infants from their parents and then losing them was not Great Policy, but that goes unremarked in Iowa.) However, totally blaming Biden for this unprecedented horde of immigrants ignores the many economic and political reasons that drive residents of Central and Latin America to risk death to come to this country. We need to be welcoming, but practical. Restructuring our immigrations policies and laws is necessary, just like we need to address gun control (which also hasn’t occurred) and we needed to overhaul health care (which hasn’t totally happened, but least the Affordable Care Act has survived, despite repeated GOP attempts to dismantle it) A physical wall, DJT’s solution, was never going to work without additional reforms of a more substantial sort. In regard to Mayorkas, it is fairly interesting that he has been notably absent from the Sunday morning talk shows and the Republicans now want to impeach him. Mayorkas seems to have missed out on the media training. He isn’t able to demonstrate progress on the border and he has the diplomatic skills of a basset hound. He neither looks nor acts the part he has been assigned to play.

Monday Predictions?

Until Nikki Haley’s misstep (verbally) in New Hampshire and the last debate, where she kept referring listeners to DeSantislies.com website (14 times by one talking head’s count), I thought she was going to top DeSantis on January 15th. She is currently focusing her efforts on suburban areas in the state of Iowa, while DeSantis did “the full Grassley,” visiting all 99 Iowa counties, and is counting on rural support. DeSantis also out-spent Ms. Haley and, until the final debate, was doing much less well during televised Q&A opportunities.

However, DeSantis has picked up his game on the occasion of the final debate (as well as the Town Hall that preceded it). I agree with David Axelrod who has said that the True Test of who Triumphs at the caucuses will be which team can actually mobilize its committed delegates to turn out in frigid sub-zero weather. Pollsters say it will be Trump’s MAGA hordes coming in first.

The second place finish in the last poll I saw was 11% for Haley and 12% for DeSantis. It could go either way. I’d like to see a woman President, so I’m pulling for Nikki Haley. There are things about her policies (she is very pro gun) that I disagree with, but she seems more reasonable about hot-button issues, and certainly has stood up well under pressure. Plus, she has a nice smile, which puts her head and shoulders above DeSantis. Haley has far more international experience. It seems unlikely that the GOP would nominate a woman for the top of the ticket; I am not happy that she has dodged the question of whether she would run with Trump. She and DeSantis have not exactly been straightforward in their responses to questions that are touchy. True of all politicians, it seems. Makes me think of the poem I wrote at the tender age of 16, which I shall print below these ramblings.

I would like to know if Vivek Ramaswamy is the “secret” VP pick that Trump has alluded to; he seems like a very “out there.” He has gone off on various conspiracy theories ad nauseum. Maybe Trump has promised the second spot on the GOP ticket to a female Governor who will probably be about as good a pick as Sarah Palin was (which means a very bad one).

My Poem “Words” (written in 1960, the year I campaigned for JFK):

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said.

If deeds, alone, were the mark of a man,

Not the “catch” of an eloquent pledge.

 

If fewer words were spoken,

If fewer words were said

If, for all the fake forensics,

There were simple words, instead.

 

And a man stated just what he started to state,

Without false fuss or further ado,

If you weren’t a politician

I’d probably listen to you

Dec. 19th: One Week Until Christmas, 2023

         Stacey & Scott Wilson.

These are my two children, Scott (now aged 55) and Stacey (now aged 36).

Yes, I understand that that is a long time between children, but there you have it: a son who was going off to college when he learned that his parents were having a second child.

I still remember Scott looking at the sonogram of the sister then residing in my 42-year-old womb. He was unsure of the sex and said, “Oh, great! I can throw a football at him!”

I said, “At HER.”

So, Stacey Kristin Corcoran Wilson joined our family in 1987 and  we would be poorer for it if she had not.

Scott (and his wife and twins Ava & Elise, now aged 14), reside in Austin, Texas, as of this writing, and we all—minus Stacey— had a family dinner last night.

(L to R) Scott, Stacey, Connie, Ava, Jessica, Elise, Craig.

Meanwhile we are eagerly awaiting Stacey’s arrival for the Christmas holiday, but her duties as a flight attendant for SW airlines will take precedence until she can break free and join us. During the pandemic we all hunkered down in Austin (Stacey normally resides in Nashville) and it was a wonderful treat to have my original nuclear family all together for an extended stay because, keep in mind, Scott was raised as an only child until he left for college and Stacey came along after that (and went off to college, herself, in 2005).December 19th Thoughts on the Passing

So, it is almost 20 years since my nuclear family expanded to one son and one daughter and I couldn’t be happier that I have one of each.

Gained a new grand niece today (Ruthie Kay Wilson) when nephew Michael Wilson and Rachel in St. Louis had a brand new baby girl, who will grow up alongside Winnie Wilson, age 2, the daughter of Megan and Aaron Eddy,

Welcome to the world, Ruthie Kay!

“Iowa Nice” Comes Through in CNN Town Hall Meetings with DeSantis & Ramaswamy

Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022. (Photo by Wade Vandervort / AFP) (Photo by WADE VANDERVORT/AFP via Getty Images)

There’s Iowa Nice, and then there’s Iowa Smart. Both were on display on Tuesday and Wednesday nights (12/12 and 12/13) on CNN at 8 p.m. (CDT).

After watching the GOP Town Hall Meetings on CNN with Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy I have to say that the people of my home state did Iowa proud. Their questions were so much better than any of those asked by the professional media people moderating the “real” debates recently that there really was no comparison.

Instead of  dwelling on the issue of trans-gender sex change operations for youth—a topic that  affected fewer than 1,200 people in 2019, the peak year for such surgeries—-these rank-and-file Iowans asked questions that matter to all of us,  on the following topics:

  • U.S. Economic prosperity
  • Israel vs. Ukraine support from the U.S.
  • The border issue
  • Fentanyl
  • Social Security
  • Abortion (a notable exception during the GOP debate hosted by Megan Kelly)
  • Trade relations with China
  • Why DeSantis would be different/better than Trump as President
  • Nikki Haley’s support from big business
  • DeSantis’ position on fracking

Yes, there was a question on a purely Iowa issue, the Satanic Temple display at the State Capitol in Des Moines. And the Pork-on-a-stick at the Iowa State Fair was, perhaps, not a Biggie, but kudos, Iowans!

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy on Dec. 13 during the CNN Town Hall in Des Moines, Iowa, at Grandview College.

When Vivek Ramaswamy graced the Grandview College stage on Wednesday night, December 12, 2023, the people of Iowa came through again, asking Vivek Ramaswamy how he would be different from Trump; the border; Vivek’s Hindu religion in a largely Christian state and nation; Putin’s response to Ramaswamy’s proposed Ukraine solution; inequity in wealth between the top 1% wealthiest Americans and the middle class; a president’s demeanor while serving as the nation’s leader; challenges he had experienced as a candidate because of his age and his position on diversity programs.

The questioning did go off the rails a bit when Ramaswamy (his own worst enemy) went on and on and on about various debunked conspiracy theories and what he had learned about Iowans, in general. (They don’t call it “Iowa Nice” for no reason.)

I’ll write more about their responses in the next few days, but…Damn! You did us proud, questioners. Give those Talking Heads some tips for future debates.

Will the Real Ron DeSantis Please Stand Up

Red State/Blue State Debate: Whose Idea Was This?

Ron DeSantis.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022. (Photo by Wade Vandervort / AFP) (Photo by WADE VANDERVORT/AFP via Getty Images)

We watched the debate between Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, and Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, and, the entire time, what was going through my mind was, “Why?”

The debate was staged by Fox News and Sean Hannity was the moderator, but the obvious take-away, up front, is that this thing is not going to be “fair and equal” because it is being run (some would say “rigged”) by Fox News.

After the debate was over there were charges that DeSantis had been fed the questions ahead of time, that he was talking with his “team” during the debate (accusations made of both), that a screen was slanted towards DeSantis and not towards Newsom. After the debate had lurched to a close, the moderator said the mismatched duo were going to stay on and continue.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

But that didn’t happen. There were reports that Newsom’s wife, Jennfer Seibel Newsom, marched onstage and barked “We’re done.” Some reports said that she was particularly ticked off that her father (Newsom’s father-in-law) was cited by DeSantis as having introduced himself to the Florida governor and endorsed Florida’s superiority to California as a state in which one wished to live, having just relocated from California to Florida himself.

I keep asking myself why Newsom would agree to participate in what was most certainly going to be a rigged presentation, with Fox News attempting to bolster DeSantis’ race for the White House and Newsom not even being a candidate this election cycle. Or is he?

DeSantis kept referencing Newsom’s “shadow campaign” for the White House, while each liberally insulted the other. Meanwhile Hannity threw up a variety of charts and graphs that favored Florida, as you just knew it would.

For this reason my spouse (who says he is Independent but is from good Republican stock) declared DeSantis to have been “the winner.” I felt that the statistics would favor Florida, everyone’s favorite retirement destination. However, I felt that the presentation and command of the stage and facts win went to Newsom.

I admit to being quite concerned about Newsom’s judgment when I think about the fact that he was once married to Kimberly Guilfoyle, now Donald Trump, Jr.’s main squeeze, but his new blonde wife looked like a massive step up. Wife #2 recognized that this debate would feel so good once it ended and helped facilitate that, which was probably smart.

One of the contentious things that came out of the debate was DeSantis holding up a picture of a graph he claimed represented the most heavily feced areas of San Francisco. Later, Newsom said this was a violation of the rules agreed upon beforehand.  The placards and other such debate aids that Hannity put up onscreen were also being argued about, after the debate had concluded. Supposedly, they were not to be allowed, although Hannity disputed this contention. (Don’t they all?)

Gavin Newsom.

California Governor Gavin Newsom.

I just kept wondering, “What’s in this for Gavin Newsom? Who thought up this entire idea?”

One idea that did make sense was this one: If Biden were to pull out of the presidential race at the last minute for any reason, who would the Democrats belatedly run? Naturally, one thinks immediately of Vice President Kamala Harris, who is, if polls are right, is even less popular right now than Biden himself.

She is from California. So is Gavin Newsom. According to the 12th amendment to the Constitution, electors may not vote for presidential and vice-presidential candidates who both reside in the elector’s state—at least one of them must be an inhabitant of another state.

Is all of this part of some behind-the-scenes plan to hedge all bets and find a way to exclude the unpopular Harris? Who thought up the entire ordeal that Newsom just endured ?

We are a house divided and, while I agree that the placards carried the day for Florida over California, DeSantis’ sickly smile and poor debate skills couldn’t hold a candle to the much smoother Newsom. DeSantis kept trying to “diss” Newsom as “slick.” If you think back, that perjorative term was applied to Bill Clinton and, later, to Barack Obama. I’m perfectly fine with “slick” if it means competent, poised and articulate. The fact that Newsom is so poised is surprising considering his life-long history of dyslexia, which continues to the present.

Setting aside my reservations about Newsom’s poor judgment in selecting a Screaming Mimi as his first wife in 2001 and being married to her until 2005, there is also this.  He had an ill-advised affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the wife of his good friend and Chief of Staff, Alex Tourk, a woman who worked for him. Newsom met and married film-maker Jennifer Siebel in 2007 and the couple has four children.

Chris Christie

Former New Jersey Governor and potential presidential hopeful (2024) Chris Christie.

The bench for successor to Biden is not currently very deep.  The GOP party is a shadow of its former self and Nikki Haley is looking like a more viable candidate than DeSantis, while preliminary reports are that Chris Christie may not even make the ballot in one state. (Who knows if he’ll make another debate stage?)

Whatever Democratic strategist gave the go-ahead for Newsom to take a thrashing, factually, but prevail in the personality department should be brought forth to explain to the rest of us what is really going on here.

“Remember This” Documentary at Nashville Film Festival Stars David Straithairn

David Straithairn as Jan Karski in “Remember This” at the Nashville Film Festival.

Academy Award nominee David Straithairn portrays Polish Underground hero Jan Karski in this 95-minute documentary from the Nashville Jewish Film Festival. Straithorne will be better known to audiences as Tom Cruise’s convict older brother in “The Firm” or as the Oscar nominee for 2006’s “Good Night, and Good Luck.” More recently Straithairn was the male lead opposite Frances McDormand in the Oscar-winning Best Picture of the Year, 2021’s “Nomadland.”

In this Jeff Hutchens and Derek Goldman directed tour de force one-man show, Straithairn is onstage with just a table and a chair and must carry the entire story of the Polish war hero and the Nazi genocide without benefit of anything but some accompanying music. It’s a tall order with Straitharn, an actor in his 70s, portraying over 30 characters. It is the spare black-and-white no frills approach that kept the budget to $500,000.

The film is based on the play “Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski” by Clark Young and Derek Goldman. As a play, it ran with Straitharn “live” at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. The film was shot on a Brooklyn soundstage in July of 2020 at the height of the pandemic, and was completed in 2022. The play was originally prepared for the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University.

Karski was a Polish Catholic with a photographic memory; he was a true Polish patriot. Said Karski, “I am a 28-year-old machine.  I am an insignificant little man.” He volunteered to become a sort of human tape recorder, documenting the genocide of the Jewish population of Poland and Germany. Captured at various points in his perilous journey, he narrowly escaped death at many points, attempted suicide at least once, and maintained that he was an ordinary man until the end of his life. We see a short snippet of the real Jan Karski, and he breaks down while trying to recount his adventures.

Throughout the film about World War II a viewer cannot stop thinking of the Ukraine/Russia conflict that is ongoing. Repeated throughout the film is the question, “What can we do?” The only suggestion during the film consisted of hunger strikes to publicize the atrocities.

The seeming indifference of the top leaders of the Allied powers in the UK and the US is underscored, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Felix Frankfurter flat-out telling Jan during their meeting that he does not believe him. Likewise, President Roosevelt was being urged by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to do more for the beleaguered Jewish population. She wanted him to allow more Holocaust victims to flee to the United States, but he followed the lead of Sir Anthony Eden of Great Britain, who said only, “The matter will take its proper course.”

Meanwhile, as Karski is told by his Superior in London, Szmul Zgielbojm (Polish government in exile), “Tell them in London and the U.S. that we are dying.  Remember this.” Repeatedly Karski is told, “Perhaps this will shake the conscience of the world.” The message that echoes throughout: “Governments have no souls.  They have only their interests.  Individuals have souls.”‘

While Straithairn does what he can with the part, this is no “Schindler’s List.” The filmmakers did insert some sound effects and music that aids a bit, but it is truly up to Straithairn to convey the horror of a systematic attempt to wipe out three and one-half million Jewish residents of Poland and 6 million throughout Europe. The numbers of Jewish survivors in Poland are reduced to a few thousand survivors.

The letter to Roosevelt and Churchill that laid it out quite baldly said, “The surviving Jews of Poland beg you to find a way to save them.  The greatest crime in human history.  Force the Nazi murderers to stop the systematic extinction of our people.”Karski also had meetings with the top diplomats of the U.K. and the U.S., including Roosevelt  I recently completed Robert Dallek’s biography of FDR entitled “Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A Political Life.” That comprehensive history of FDR’s years in office confirms the stories that Jan Karski tells about the slow pace of world leaders; those leaders would later claim that they had not been told of the full extent of the Holocaust.

One of the most telling historical stories depicted in the film is that of Szmul Mordeko Zgielbojm, the member of the Polish government-in-exile in London to whom Jan Karski reported.  Zgielbojm was a Polish Socialist politician and Bund trans-union activist. He and Karski sought every avenue to publicize to the world the atrocities being committed in Poland, Germany and throughout Nazi-dominated Europe. On May 11th, 1943, after the brutal crushing of the Polish Warsaw Rebellion by units under the control of SS-Brigadefuhrer Jeugen Stroop, Zbielbojm committed suicide to protest the inaction of the western Allied powers.

The testimony is important for history, especially in an age when there are still Holocaust deniers. Straitharn does what he can with a bare bones production. Checking out some of the original recordings of Jan Karski (the Shoah Project) is a worthwhile pursuit. You can find some links at RememberThisKarskifilm.com.

“Another Body” Traces Deep-Fake Porno in Timely Documentary

A timely issue for our time is the use of deep-fake video. It was one of the sticking points during the recent 148-day Hollywood entertainment strike. It is bound to rear its ugly head again during the 2024 presidential race. Porno videos with famous people’s faces super-imposed on the bodies of others are out there. In this documentary, it is a college student who makes the discovery that there is “Another Body,” represented as hers, circulating on the Internet. The supreme irony is that, in able to testify to the damage being done to victims like the fictional Taylor Klein, she had to “deep fake” her own testimony, (which made it all the way to the White House.)

In the timely documentary “Another Body,” directed by Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn (co-written by Isabel Freeman), a college student discovers deep fakes represented as being Taylor, circulating online. Using video diaries, synthetic media, and 2D and 3D animation, the documentary takes you behind the scenes: who did this and why and how can it be stopped and rectified? :”I kept asking myself who would do this and why would they want to do this? I worry that they are going to do something more drastic? I believe that, in his mind, he is getting back at us for rejecting him.”

THE GOOD

I marveled at the expertise that the filmmakers showed in presenting this complicated story to us, using dummy-like automatons to represent the fictional “Mike” (the perpetrator that Taylor and friends track down over time.) It was very impressive in regard to its technical achievements.Bravo!

I empathized with statements like, “I’ve had to deal with all the consequences that he should have had to deal with. I’ve had to leave the fun group, but he hasn’t.” 9,500 porno sites with 14 million hits a month sounds like the death throes of a decadent society. Are sites like PornHub that “normal” in this country’s incel culture that this sort of thing is doubling every six months, as the film says? Do those who use such sites routinely end up on a roof with a gun, shooting at spectators at a Fourth of July Parade in Illinois? What-the-heck is going on? Yes, Trump is the poster boy for such bad behavior, but…really?

I also recognized that the misogyny that today’s women of the MeToo movement are not willing to put up with has been going on for decades. DJT is a throwback to those decades when it truly was “a man’s world” and, as he bragged on video, if you were male you could get away with just about anything, because that is what women were told they had to put up with in order to be “good” female citizens. Women were not supposed to “take a man’s job” and we were supposed to stay barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, waiting on our man. R-i-i-i-g-h-t. So, I enjoyed seeing the new generation of women take on the male establishment. Maybe the good guys—err girls—will win, this time. I hope so. The request that she be respected for her professional achievements and viewed as “good” is not a pie-in-the-sky goal for the fictional Taylor of this tale; it is what women deserve, but have seldom achieved without a fight.

THE BAD

Like many other documentaries, this one could have been shorter. A half hour trim would not have taken away from the film, which became repetitive. Some of the interactions between Taylor and other victims could have been shortened.

Worst of all, the conclusion that Taylor draws near the end of the film is depressing:  Sometimes the bad guys win.

 

GOP Second Debate on September 27th, 2023, Ends Up As Shout-Fest

Will the Real Ron DeSantis Please Stand UpI just watched the second GOP debate. I feel like I need a shower and a stiff drink. Maybe some ear plugs, too, since at least four of the seven candidates for the Republican nomination for president were usually talking at once.

We watched the debate on Fox “live,” as it was held from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California because I’m in Nashville for the film festival, which starts tomorrow, and the daughter’s set has mainly streaming services. We finally located it “live” on YouTube.

A British guy named Stuart Varney started this cluster-f*** off by totally mangling the name of his Hispanic co-host, Ilia Calderone of Noticias Univision. How Ms. Calderone got on this panel is a good question; she did bring some interesting questions to the candidates, including one on LGBQT people that saw Mike Pence move from a statement about protecting all Americans to one saying he would ban all transgender efforts in the United States. It’s quite a stretch from asking how you would protect LGBQT Americans, who, Ms. Calderone noted, are far more likely to be violently attacked, to vowing to attack them yourself using legal means. (Yikes!)

The three hosts were Ilia Calderone and Dana Perino and the British badly balding Stuart Varney. Not the “A” team.

Not only did Varney basically mutilate Ms. Calderone’s name in a fashion that we hadn’t heard since John Travolta  mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name as Adele Dazeem at the 2014 Oscars, but Varney had absolutely no control over the combatants, although he kicked off the evening by saying, “Keep it civilized.” (Ha!)

I switched between a YouTube Live showing of the contestants and what we used to call Twitter (now “X”). Several “X” users had posted pictures of Vivek Ramaswamy’s mile-high hair next to pictures of Beavis or Butthead. (I can never tell them apart; not a regular fan.) One other “X” user had posted a picture of Vivek’s mile-high hair next to an Afro wearer, mentioning that Ramaswamy was really trying hard to get the Black vote tonight.

One analyst commented on Tim Scott’s dumb take on the UAW strike, saying something to the effect that they (the auto workers) should get fired like the air traffic controllers were fired under Reagan. Citing $86 billion in aid for union pensions, (which Scott claimed was “the1 st bill under Joe Biden,”) Scott criticized the auto workers desire for shorter work week but more pay and added, “Joe Biden shouldn’t be on the picket line. He should be on the Southern border.” Apparently Tim Scott has missed out on hearing about the phenomenal salaries that the Big Three CEO’s are pulling down, while, because of the financial crisis in 2008/2009, auto workers gave up many perks of their jobs at that time to help save the car companies and now would like a fair share of the record profits they are raking in. The GOP haranguing against unions is nothing new, however. I was surprised that they didn’t attempt to drag teachers’ unions through the mud with mis-statements, once again.

As the MSNBC analysts pointed out, to hear these candidates tonight, the very worst thing that Donald J. Trump has done is to not  show up for the GOP debate. No mention of his planning and executing a coup. No mention of his recent suggestion that General Mark Milley be executed or his willingness to let his VP be hanged on January 6th.  This ignoring the elephant in the room seems to be the norm of the new Republican party. Tonight Trump took heat from several of the candidates, including Ron DeSantis, who had meticulously avoided criticizing Trump by name until tonight, but only for his failure to appear to shout over the others. No harsh words for the man about his 91 criminal indictments or how he was recently found guilty of decades of fraud in his business practices, other than wondering why he couldn’t be here this night to join in the general chaos and talk over the other candidates, which he most certainly would have done. (My daughter wanted to know when civility and behaving in a polite fashion while debating went out of style, and my answer was, “When the GOP elevated a con-man like Donald Trump to the top spot in their party.” Which, by the way, he still occupies, even if his hold on the party is tenuous as the charges against him mount.

IMHO, it was very difficult to understand Ilia Calderon. And Stuart Varney just seemed out of his element. Dana Perino seemed to perform the best of the three moderators, but all were underwhelming.

There was a lot of criticism of the failure to control immigration at the border, with very little acknowledgement of how longstanding a problem this is. It is not just Joe Biden who has dropped the ball on immigration reform. The system is broken and Congress needs to act to fix it, but never let the truth get in the way of a good debate.

Both Mike Pence and others threw shade at Ramaswamy for doing business with China as an entrepreneur. If I heard correctly, Ramaswamyy had done business with the same organization that Hunter Biden is accused of doing business with. Pence, mentioning that Ramaswamy had withdrawn from the business deal with China in 2018, asked if that was the year Vivek began voting for president. Ramaswamy took a lot of incoming; he seemed in high spirits throughout. Ramaswamy and Chris Christie laughed at the chaos unleashed by the complete disregard for civility that these debates seem to have devolved into, with Christie literally lounging against the lectern with a big smile on his face when things were going down the tubes.

Most of the specific mentions of policies were one candidate attacking another, as when Haley attacked DeSantis or Scott attacked Haley over a gas tax. (I liked Nikki Haley’s remark of “Bring it” and how hard she worked to correct the misinformation about a gas tax in her state.)

Some mentioned that the Hispanic moderator brought up some facts that Fox viewers do not normally get to hear, like the fact that 90% of illegal drugs are sought by purchasers in the U.S. and are caught at the border (so much for the tough talk on  how tough each would be on the drug cartels) or how LGBQT people are more likely to become victims of vicious attacks.

One of my favorite moments was when Chris Christie looked directly into the camera, saying that he knew DJT would be watching, and then said, of Donald J. Trump, “He’s divided people all over this country.  He needs to be voted off the island and be voted out of this process.”

Neither Christie nor Burgum got much of a chance to contribute, tonight, even when the topic was something that Burgum of North Dakota claimed expertise in, energy security. This despite the fact that Nikki Haley said, “Energy security is national security.” Pence, who looked extremely tired this evening, noted that, during his stint as Vice President under the man who plotted to overthrow our national election, we (the U.S.) became a national exporter of energy for “the first time in 75 years.” Pence did not seem to give much credence to the fact that our dependence on fossil fuels has contributed to the wacky weather that we have all experienced this past year, (including the hottest day on the planet in July). The Biden administration’s attempts to move us off fossil fuels and onto other alternatives, plus the efforts to get the United States car manufacturers making electric vehicles (which China is way ahead of us on doing) is directly linked to the global warming that human mistreatment of the planet, including using coal and oil instead of wind or nuclear or solar power], has created.

I hope that someone more dedicated than me investigates whether Floridians did or did not get to vote on fracking before DeSantis’s actions on fracking and drilling. There was a heated debate between Nikki Haley and DeSantis on that very point; she seemed to be winning. DeSantis, in the manner of politicians from forever, fielded a question about the cost of college by pivoting to his own educational achievements and his military record (“I’ll be the first person since 1988 who has also served.”) It was absolutely not answering the question asked and smacked of a self-serving stroll down memory lane

I wish that Cassidy Hutchison’s insights into the January 6th riots had been viewed by as many people as viewed tonight’s so-called “debate” because they were far more relevant to selecting the right people to run our country in 2024.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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