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: News Page 1 of 24

This category will, no doubt, be spending time reporting on the antics of the Trump Administration, but natural disasters and other such news will also qualify.

“Tired of Winning” by Jonathan Karl Tells It Like It Is

Excerpts from “Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party,” by Jonathan Karl of ABC News:

Jonathan Karl's Biography - ABC News

Jonathan Karl of ABC News

 

“He lacks any  shred of human decency, humility, or caring,” a former White House official wrote of Trump, the man he had served for more than a year. “He is morally bankrupt, breathtakingly dishonest, lethally incompetent, and stunningly ignorant of virtually anything related to governing, history, geography, human events or world affairs.  He is a traitor and a malignancy in our nation and represents a clear and present danger to our democracy and the rule of law.” (p. 263, Jonathan Karl, CBS Political Affairs Reporter)

Jonathan Karl's book "Tired of Winning"

“Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party” by Jonathan Karl of ABC News.

“Two and a half years after January 6th, the man whom many of the rioters said was ultimately responsible for the carnage seemed on the way to finally being held accountable…He faces a maximum of 55 years in prison—the maximum in the documents case is higher—but because Trump stands accused of betraying the very oath of office he hopes to take once again. The charges include defrauding the United States and depriving Americans of their right to have their votes count—a right central to the meaning of democracy.” (p. 269)

“President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.  No question about it.” (Mitch McConnell on Feb. 13, 2021.)

“Remnants of the Trump era will be a strange reminder of how Trump operated—his disregard for history and for the law—in this case, the Presidential Records Act of 1978—says that official presidential records are the property of the American people, not of any individual, not even a president. Trump destroyed some of them, others he took home to Mar-a-Lago as if they were personal souvenirs of his time as commander in chief.  Fortunately for future historians—and current criminal investigators—many of the documents he attempted to pilfer were returned, and many of those he tried to destroy were gathered, taped back together, and preserved  by government employees attempting to comply with a law their boss had no intention of following.” (p. 272).

The MITT ROMNEY IS A TOTAL LOSER napkin:  “One of the more unusual documents now under seal at the National Archives is a paper napkin from Air Force One.  The napkin—the existence of which has never been made public—is hardly a state secret, but it reveals much more than the words written on it by Donald Trump with a Black sharpie: MITT ROMNEY IS A TOTAL LOSER.” We don’t know the exact content of this presidential musing—or even the date it was retrieved—or  why Trump chose to scrawl those words on a napkin. Did he write it after Romney became the only Republican to vote to convict him in his first impeachment trial? Or when Romney became one of seven Republicans to vote to impeach him in his second impeachment trial? Or maybe it was after Romney and his wife, Ann, congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on winning the 2020 election.  “We know both of them as people of good will and admirable character,” Senator Romney said in a statement issued minutes after Biden and Harris were projected as winners of the election. “We pray that God may bless them in the days and years ahead.”

Trump had called Romney a loser many times, but the context of the words scrawled on the napkin—TOTAL LOSER—were different than those he blurted out on Twitter or during speeches. The napkin was a private note, probably one he had written to himself, and an indication Trump had Romney on his mind, and perhaps a reflection of the obsession with the man who won the Republican nomination four years before Trump did. Of course, the note wasn’t completely wrong—Romney, like Trump, was a loser.  Both men had lost a presidential election. But, unlike Trump, Romney took his loss with grace and dignity.  He did what Trump would never do.  He congratulated his opponent—Barack Obama—and put the country above himself, offering words of support to the man who had defeated him.

Sam Houston, 1859–1861 - Friends of the Governor's Mansion
Sam Houston, 1859–1861

SAM HOUSTON STORY:  Sam Houston, the former Governor of Tennessee, battlefield hero, and founding father of Texas independence.  Houston was the first president of the Independent Republic of Texas, the first senator from the state of Texas and  one of the most independent, unique, popular, forceful and dramatic individuals ever to enter the Senate chamber.  Houston put all of that on the line beginning with a vote he took in the Senate in 1854 against what would become the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  To Houston’s fellow Democrats, it was a must-pass bill, a test of Southern unity and survival.  Houston saw the bill for what it was—a way to reopen the the issue of expanding slavery that would set America on a path to civil war. Not a single Senate Democrat joined him in voting against it...His stand against Southern secession was so forceful, Houston received a few votes to be Abraham Lincoln’s vice president. He traveled around his state to make what had become a very unpopular case for Texas to remain in the Union. While he was campaigning in the city of Waco, a bomb exploded behind the hotel he was staying in—an unsuccessful attempt to either kill or intimidate him. He survived the bombing, but he lost the battle.  And when Texas officially seceded  from the Union and joined the Confederacy, Houston was once again defeated, removed from office after he refused to take the oath of the new Confederate state of Texas. Sam Houston was far from perfect, but at the end of his life, he stood up to the madness of his own party—and the madness of his own constituents.  Despite the steep personal price he paid, his place in history was secure—and it started with a vote, an act of political courage—made inside the Senate Chamber.” (p. 279).

“Trump’s betrayal shows just how vulnerable our democracy is and how much it depends on people who are in positions of responsibility to act responsibly.” (p. 281).

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.  Everything that followed (January 6th) was his doing.  None of this would have happened without the President.  There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” (Liz Cheney, R, Wyoming, while heading the January 6th Commission.) (p. 285).

Of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump the second time, the vote of Representative Tom Rice of South Carolina to impeach was among the most surprising. Rice’s reason for voting to impeach, articulated in Jonathan Karl’s book:  “When Trump watched the Capitol, the People’s House, being sacked, when he watched the Capitol Police officers being beaten for those three or four hours and he lifted not one finger or did one thing to stop it—I was livid then and I’m livid today about it.” (p. 285)

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

“Porcelain War” Is Documentary Grand Jury Winner at Sundance, 2024

  • “Porcelain War” won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance 2024 and added to the ever-proliferating number of documentaries that are coming out of the horrific Russia/Ukraine War. The front-runner for an Oscar in the upcoming Academy Awards is “20 Days in Mariupol” from Ukrainian journalist Mstyslav Chernov. The “Porcelain War” is a joint project from Brendan Bellomo of the United States and Slava Leontyev, shooting inside Ukraine. Close friend Andrey Stefanov served as cameraman for the sequences within Ukraine and he and Slava deserve great admiration for their courage and resolve under pressure.

Having just seen “20 Days at Mariupol,” comparisons, for me, were inescapable. Plus, I am currently mid-way through a course at the University of Texas that traces Putin’s rise to power, leading to today’s invasion of Ukraine and the war that has dragged on since February 2022.

Both films show the “before” and “after” of a beautiful country now reduced to rubble. In the case of Mariupol (available on most major platforms and a “must see”) we see the city of Mariupol before it is totally ravaged by the Russians. The Writer/Director of “20 Days at Mariupol,” a Ukrainian AP reporter, chose to stay on with the troops and depict the true horrors of those left behind, including the young boy who was shooting baskets outdoors when a missile blew off his legs, ultimately killing him. The blood and grief mirror the scenes in Gaza that are horrifying in their brutality.

“Porcelain War” uses the metaphor of porcelain, which, as the film drives home relentlessly is this:

“Ukraine is like porcelain — easy to break, but impossible to destroy.” 

This is because the Ukrainian participants we become acquainted with are artists who work in porcelain.

The United States director, Brendan Bellomo, won a student Academy Award when he was a student at NYU and his expertise is quite evident here.

THE BAD

Cast of “Porcelain War,” including co-directors (front) and Frodo, the dog..

For me, it is the very slickness of the porcelain metaphor and the well-done visual effects in “Porcelain War” that detract when compared with the effect that the raw footage of “20 Days in Mariupol” evokes. There is somewhat a looking away from the horrors of war a bit more in “Porcelain War” than in the shorter “20 Days in Mariupol” film. In “Porcelain War” we see idyllic footage of  Ukrainian artists Slava, Anya, and Andrey coping with life in a war zone but also surrounded by great beauty. As “Variety” said in its review, “An accomplished visual effects supervisor whose credits include the 2012 Sundance smash ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ Bellomo is attuned to the jolting sensations of combat both on the ground and above it.” It is precisely the excellence of Bellomo’s visual work in depicting the porcelain figures that takes away slightly from the less polished, but more visceral power of the shorter film (“20 Days in Mariupol.”) The porcelain work is beautiful and delicate. I, for one, wanted more of the brutal truth of war in Ukraine, to help me understand and process this latest aggression.

We do learn about the history of Russia’s land grab of Crimea in 2014. Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for promises of non-aggression from Russia, but those promises were bogus. Russia has a long history of not living up to its word. Putin seized Crimea in 2014 and collaborating director Slava Leontyev lived in Crimea at the time. He moved to Ukraine and he and others began re-establishing the military that they had abandoned when they believed Russia’s promises. So, for the past 10 years there has been an attempt to re-establish some kind of defense system for Ukraine, and Slava—who was present at Sundance along with Frodo, the dog in the film— has been instrumental in that effort, as we see.

A recent “New York Times” article speculated on the outcome of the Ukraine/Russia conflict. It said the Russian defense of parts of Ukraine it now occupies currently seems impenetrable. The war, it said, is beginning to resemble the WWI stalemate during which neither side seemed able to advance and the human toll inexorably rose. The article stated that Ukraine has lost 20% of its area and wants ALL of its country back. The odds of that happening (on Russia’s part) don’t seem good. With the Republican support for Ukraine seemingly mired in political gamesmanship that might re-install a leader who seems to think emulating Putin is a good thing, can we assume that our technical support and weaponry, that allowed Ukraine early in the fight to score some impressive wins, will continue after the November election if Trump were to win?

United States financial aid and expertise is necessary for Ukraine to move forward; there was a mention in the article of the potential firing of the Ukrainian Minister of Defense by Zelenskyy. If he IS fired, he was said to be the chief rival who might run against Zelenskyy. If Russia is feeling the crunch and would agree to settlement talks, said the article, it would almost certainly be predicated on Ukraine not joining NATO or other such groups. Meanwhile, Russia recruits from prison and will march those men forward to certain death simply to find out where their adversaries are concealed. The brutality of the Russian troops is legendary. The firsthand accounts of what has occurred are absolutely sickening; that, too, is not likely to improve over time.

Nobody trusts Putin to honor agreements he makes. The general feeling that would come from such a “settlement” would be anger that so many Ukrainians have given so much only to potentially be given back only a portion of their native land with conditions on how they might best defend themselves against future Russian aggression. The odds for the West and for democracy and for Europe are very large if you accept the premise that Putin will never stop his characteristic aggressive behavior and his dream of re-establishing the USSR as a Super Power. And, although Putin is 71, is a successor likely to be a change for the better? (Unlikely).

Ukraine’s largest military aid partner since the start of the war, the United States, has committed a total of €71.4 billion in aid to Ukraine when also considering financial and humanitarian support. Martin Armstrong on “Statista” (Dec. 13,2023) had these figures of support for Ukraine:

“Thanks chiefly to the €77.1 billion in pledged financial aid, European Union institutions are the largest aid donors to Ukraine. This is based on data from the IfW Kiel Ukraine Support Tracker which currently covers the period January 24, 2022 to October 31, 2023.

But will U.S. aid continue if Donald J. Trump is elected? And if Biden remains president, can he successfully negotiate continued support with the current GOP House and with the Senate’s current iteration?

All of these considerations enter into election year 2024. The analogy of porcelain (“Easy to break, but impossible to destroy”) may weaken in its appropriateness with the conflagration dragging on.

THE GOOD

Slava Leonytev is shown holding Frodo, the dog, with the cast of "Porcelain War."

Entire cast of “Porcelain War,” many of them direct from Ukraine.

Slava Leontyev became a weapons expert and has been training other civilians in how to load and fire weapons, in preparation for the war that Ukraine feared was coming. As one of the characters says, alluding to Russia’s history of aggression against the nations that broke away, “After 400 years we’re going to finally take care of it.” From watching Slava at work as a Ukrainian defense officer we get a better understanding of the reality of the current war.

The action in “Porcelain War” is centered in Kharkiv, which is 25 miles from the Russian border. In “Porcelain War,” we get to see the nuts-and-bolts of fighting the war in Ukraine. The emphasis on drone use is shown. We see “ordinary people in extraordinary situations” learning to fire weapons. We don’t see as much of the blood and guts and heartbreaking grief as in “20 Days in Mariupol,” but the horror of war is ubiquitous, emphasizing the message.

One line in the film is “Because of the invasion, we lost the substance of our lives.” Another analogy is that refugees are like snails without their shells. As Anya and Sonya are sent to Lithuania for their safety, their parents describe what an ordeal it was to get the girls out of the country by way of Poland. It reminded me of London residents, during the Blitz, sending their children to the countryside to protect them.  As the family says, “What is absolutely predictable is death.” We see face-time chats between the family members. The Ukraine residents feel that, “We’re fighting against evil. This is a historic opportunity to destroy aggressors.” The script adds, “It will keep pushing until it reaches you.”

The music is particularly effective. It is a fevered, clattering score from DakhaBrakha, a self-described “ethnic chaos” band based in Kyiv. The musical refrain is “A time to laugh, a time to cry. A time to live. A time to die.”

This film gives us a focused look at how the local populace, with aid from the United States and the European Union, is responding to Russian aggression. As Slava says, “Crimea ended in the blink of an eye, and we retreated to Ukraine.” At another point, as the struggle drags on, the line is “Armageddon is happening in Bakhmut.”

The drone group, decorated by the local artists, is dubbed “Saigon.” The reference to that Vietnamese city seems to be a nod to the effective guerilla fighting that the local populace employed against a super power.

CONCLUSION:

This is a film that is well worth watching. I would suggest viewing “20 Days in Mariupol” at the same time. One will give a very polished look at the Ukraine/Russia war; the other is more visceral, but both are terrific.

 

The Eagles with Steely Dan in Austin at the Moody Center on Feb. 3, 2024

DeSantis Backs Down, Despite Slogan “Never Back Down” on January 21, 2024

Wasn’t Ron DeSantis’ slogan for his campaign “Never back down”?

Well, today (Sunday, January 21st) he backed down.

I happened to be watching CNN when the live video of DeSantis—now back in much warmer Florida—kissed off the idea of being President in 2024. (Some sources say he’ll be back in 2028).

As I watched Dana Bash interview Nikki Haley in New Hampshire and listened to what DeSantis said in his closing statement, I felt very sorry for the last woman standing, who seems to be being treated particularly badly by the good old boy network.

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)

Today, arch rival Ron DeSantis said as he quit the 2024 race: “We can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”

Just quit, Ron. You backed down, Give it up like a gentleman.

First, Nikki has to contend with being female while running for the top office in the land. We all know how well that turned out for Hillary. It didn’t work out well for Geraldine Ferraro or Kamala Harris as VPs, either. So let’s just agree that there is a reluctance on the part of the electorate to vote for a woman.

Second, she and DeSantis have been going at one another for weeks in Iowa, so I can understand that there would be no love lost as he permanently departs. Hence, DeSantis’ parting shot, (which has little to no basis in fact.) But it still seemed unduly harsh to leave with a scathing assessment of Haley and an embrace of the crazy one in the race (DJT), even if it was simply repeating that he would vote for the eventual GOP nominee, as pledged.

Third (from Wikipedia): “Nikki Haley, who was then governor of South Carolina, appointed Scott to the U.S. Senate in 2013 to fill a vacancy. He retained his Senate seat after winning a special election in 2014, and was elected to a full term in 2016 and reelected in 2022. He became the first African-American senator to be elected from the Southern United States since the Reconstruction era.[

Tim Scott told CNN that he had contacted Nikki Haley’s team before endorsing Donald Trump for President. Dana Bash asked Ms. Haley if this was true, and received an emphatic “No.” When Dana followed up by asking if it was possible that Scott’s people had talked to Nikki Haley’s people, Haley once again answered no, and added that her campaign had attempted to touch bases Scott’s campaign workers, in the hopes that he might endorse her. Instead, Mr. Scott, who owed his Senate Seat to Nikki Haley chose to endorse the much-maligned and much-indicted DJT.

Doesn’t seem fair or sporting, does it?

Nikki Haley

2024 Presidential Campaign of Nikki Halley

I’m not a Nikki Haley fan, although I thought her answers to questions on the topic of abortion were much more reasonable, compassionate and logical than DeSantis’. DeSantis came out denouncing the U.N., which Haley was Ambassador to for Trump. Another bad mark for the Florida Governor who took many other bad stands before, during and after his brief campaign. People just did not seem to cotton to DeSantis, his team couldn’t get along, his Twitter announcement was a disaster, and his decision to put all his eggs in the Iowa basket may have been a bad one. Visiting all 99 Iowa counties during the worst winter in decades was not really something we can blame on bad decision-making, but let’s just say that DeSantis may be regretting all that effort expended in a losing cause during the worst caucus season in recorded history.

But the concerted verbal attacks by Trump, coupled with DeSantis’ vindictive parting shot and Tim Scott’s lack of loyalty towards the woman who put him where he is tells me all any of us needs to know about the Republican party in 2024. It also tells us that the Good Old Boy Network is alive and well and bound and determined to keep a good woman down.

Sad, that.

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.

 

Iowa Caucuses (Jan. 15, 2024) Will Set Low Temperature Records

Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley

CNN Republican Presidential Debate (final one)

I am thinking back to the Iowa Caucus nights in 2004, 2008 and 2012that my college roommate and I went out to caucus at a local Des Moines high school when the temperature was 17 degrees (2004). It was, until now, the coldest caucus night in history. My hope was that Howard Dean was going to prevail, as he had been leading during the “sleepless summer,” as the press called it.

I dropped her off at the doorway and then had to drive blocks away to park my car. During that time, those in charge attempted to close the doors to late-comers, but she stood by the door to allow me to gain access. (They said they were running out of GOP ballots, for one thing.) Then we were thrown into the chaos of the classroom, with Democratic groups milling about trying to achieve the 15% viability that would allow them to continue. (The Republicans use paper ballots, but the Democrats, at that time, simply stand around in small clumps of people and it is sheer lunacy.)

The 2020 SNAFU in Iowa, when the results weren’t know for days, led to the resignation of the guy in charge, even though there still is debate as to whether an app called Shadow, Inc., developed by someone named Tara McGowan, was at fault. There were charges that both the Buttigieg campaign and the Hillary Clinton campaign had had dealings with the company that developed the app. The entire night was catastrophic for the Iowa caucuses and, this year, the Dems did not come. When you read that 8 precinct results went missing in 2012 and were never counted, you begin to get the idea that this entire throwback town hall meeting thing will soon cease. After all, the success rate of predicting who the standard bearer for each candidate will be is not great. The success rate for predicting the Democratic winner nationally is only 55% and for the GOP it is only 43%.

Is it any wonder that voices are being raised saying the caucuses in Iowa don’t “work” and should go the way of the Dodo bird? Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said, “I think the Democratic caucus in Iowa is a quirky, quaint tradition which should come to an end. As we try to make voting easier for people across America, the Iowa caucus is the most painful situation we currently face for voting.” Former presidential candidate Julian Castro said, “It’s a mess. What we saw out there and heard about are, consistently, errors in the way that this process was done, whether in the initial phase or the realignment.  Inconsistencies in how it was done across precinct sites. It is a total mess.” And let’s not forget that campaigning in Iowa is probably not real pleasant when the weather in the Midwest doesn’t cooperate. DeSantis and Trump are from Florida. Haley is from South Carolina. Talk about culture shock!

So, how did this “total mess” come to be at all?

Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley on the GOP debate stage

One book written on the topic (“The Iowa Caucuses and the Presidential Nominating Process” by Peverill Squire of the University of Missouri) says, “Iowa became first in the nation pretty much as an accident of the calendar.” One explanation even blames the entire thing on the slow duplicating machine that Iowa used at the time, which required Iowa to set their voting date up earlier and earlier to make sure that materials could be turned out in time. Supposedly, the party wasn’t really angling to be “first in the nation” but that’s what happened.

As for the GOP, they used to use an August “straw poll” thing, which turned out to be totally unreliable and was discontinued. It became a question of who could buy the straw poll. You could argue that that is also true of the caucuses as they now exist, with huge amounts of money being spent by the candidates running in the state. It is easy to see why a state like Iowa would want to continue being the center of attention and raking in advertising (and other) dollars. But will that happen, given the deep freeze that Iowa is going to be on the night of the caucuses this year? Thirty and Forty below zero is life-threatening. Iowans are hardy souls and take politics seriously, but the turnout is definitely going to be affected.

In 1976 then-candidate Jimmy Carter used the Iowa caucuses to give himself the national recognition that he did not have prior to winning there. In 1972 George McGovern won the caucuses, but they had not yet turned into any kind of national launching pad. After Iowa, Carter received attention and invitations to speak and be interviewed that gave him the momentum he needed to go on to win the nomination and be elected as the party standard-bearer and win the presidency. Since then, candidates have been attempting to duplicate that feat, with Barack Obama actually achieving it in 2008, the year I followed the caucuses for 24 months and wrote 2 books on the experience. The Iowa caucuses actually predicted the eventual national nominee  and winner twice: Obama in 2008 and Bush in 2000. In 2004 the caucus winner in Des Moines (John Kerry) did go on to become the national nominee, but he did not win office. It is particularly interesting when you learn that Jimmy Carter only campaigned for 17 days in the state in 1976.

Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis.

I did not become involved in following the caucuses in person until 2004, which was the year that John Kerry won the Iowa caucuses, John Edwards came in second, and Howard Dean came in third. The Kerry forces double-miked Howard Dean’s impassioned plea to his followers at the post party (I was there) and made him look totally foolish by replaying it what seemed like millions of times on television.

2008:  January 3rd at 7 p.m. Temperature that year was 30 degrees above zero, warmer than in 2004 when it was only 16 degrees. In 2012, my last year of following, the temperature was 40, but it was a very quiet night for Democrats, who had an incumbent president in the White House. This year’s thirty below zero prediction is going to be the coldest on record, and one wonders how many will show up to caucus for their candidate.

2012:  January 3rd. Supposedly, Romney won by 8 points, but then a recount showed that Rick Santorum might have won by 34 votes and Ron Paul came in third. This was the year that 8 missing precinct reports caused problems and the “win” was also taken from Santorum and awarded to Paul at one point. Not reliable, in other words.

2016:  In the Democratic race, Hillary got 45% of the vote and Bernie Saunders came in second. Ted Cruz won the GOP contest, with votes going to Trump, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, as well.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy on the GOP debate stage.

2020:  Monday, February 3rd. This was the year of the Shadow, Inc. app that was, apparently, never reliably field-tested. Then, the phone number that was supposed to be used as a fall-back method for voting was totally jammed up with calls. Days went by where national talking heads could not report who had won, and the person in charge resigned.

Results over time:

1972 – McGovern

1976 – Jimmy Carter

1980 – Jimmy Carter (Ted Kennedy got votes)

1984 – Walter Mondale

1988 – Dick Gephardt (who withdrew from the race shortly thereafter)

1992 – Tom Harkin (a native son)

1996 – Bill Clinton

2000 – Al Gore

2004 – John Kerry (38%) John Edwards (32%). Howard Dean (18%). Dick Gephardt (11%). Dennis Kucinich (1%). GOP – George W. Bush

2008 – Barack Obama – 38%, John Edwards  – (30%), Hillary Clinton (29%)  Elliot Richardson got 2% and Joe Biden got 1%.

2012 – Obama – 98% (a very quiet night in Des Moines) Mike Huckabee on the Republican side, prompting my headline: “Huckaboom or Huckabust?”

2016 – Hillary (50%). Bernie Saunders (49%) Ted Cruz on the GOP side.

2020 – Trump

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.

Tennessee Tornado Hits Daughter’s Madison Neighborhood:

Nesbitt Lane in Madison, TN after tornado

Madison, Tennessee Tornado of December 10th.

We received a phone call about 5 p.m. from our daughter, Stacey, in Madison, Tennessee, on December 10th; she was absolutely terrified. Her terror was justified. The EF-3 tornado that struck Nashville went right over/past her house. It was pitch black. She doesn’t really have a basement, but only a crawl space. She was huddled in the tub with the neighbor’s cat, whom she has dubbed “Squeaky.”

She sent the attached picture of the street next door (Nesbitt Lane) to her small home in Madison, TN, which she has only been in for a brief time. I’m not sure I’ve ever received a more stressful phone call. Three people died in Madison on Nesbitt Lane. When you get a phone call like that it’s like talking to someone on a plane that is crashing. We talked to her throughout the ordeal (no power for 3 days) and she says “it’s crazy here.”
Tornado blows up transformer

Madison, TN, Dec. 10 Tornado

I had seen that this storm was (possibly) going to hit both Memphis and Nashville while doing my nightly Wordle, Spelling Bee, Connections and Quordle night time ritual, so I wrote her about the horrible weather that, it said, was going to start outside Houston and then cross the Midwest in a sort of diagonal before heading out East.

I always try to pass these nuggets along to her because she is always traveling for work as a flight attendant, and I am always trying to find out if the weather is likely to be a bad thing for her work day.  They had predicted 40 million people would be affected by flooding in cities like New York and Philadelphia. So, I was not unaware of this Monster Storm (as they termed it on the late night news summary) but you never know if our children are paying as much attention to mundane stuff like weather as I am.
Tornado

Tornado in Madison, Tennessee.

nyway, she was really upset, and with good cause.  The air became pitch black and the wind did damage to her singles and her chimney.

Take a look at the street next door to her Heritage Drive location in Madison, TN, which is to the North and East of Nashville. (We visited her there in September for the Nashville Film Festival.) Her house appears to have escaped serious damage, although the new grill we bought her when we were on Nashville was pushed all the way across her small deck and the umbrella fell on a potted plant and broke. Six people were killed in Madison.
Stacey says there are giant trees down everywhere and no access to the Interstate and her recycling bin went all the way to the end of the street and it was full of stuff.  Stacey went to her friend Kayla’s house, which had power, and for whom she was cat-sitting. However, after arriving at Kayla’s house, Kayla’s house lost power. The street lights were all out. She said her house is like a dead zone: she cannot send calls. All regular cell towers must be down.
It  rained there until 11 p.m. Sunday. Nesbitt Lane, near her house, is just rubble and the Home Depot that Stacey and Craig shopped at during our trip, for the grill (etc.) was hit hard.
Very scary.

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