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!

Tag: Ray LaHood

Update on the Status of 40 Foreign Nationals Detained in Egypt

Sam LaHood and recent bride, Katie.

From “The Daily Beast.” Sam LaHood, son of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and his wife are among those foreign nationals being refused permission to leave the country as of January 31, 2012.

2. Egypt Refuses to Release Americans
Egypt’s justice minister on Tuesday returned a letter to a U.S. ambassador asking Egypt to end a travel ban on Americans who are being investigated for illegally funding pro-democracy groups in the country. The minister said publicly that the letter should have been sent to the investigating justice, and that only those affected by the ban were entitled to make such a request. Egypt’s Parliament speaker, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said the letter was “interference by the American embassy.” Several Americans were banned from leaving Egypt after their nongovernmental organizations were raided by the Egyptian military and are currently taking refuge at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

Sam LaHood, Son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Detained in Egypt

Sam LaHood and new bride Katie.

Current Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s, youngest son, Sam, is among 10 American and European citizens denied permission to leave Egypt.  I was instantly taken back to the day when Sam, our next-door neighbor (then aged about five), wandered down our court one day, while the family down the street was at the cemetery burying a family member. When the family returned and entered their unlocked house, they found little “Sammy,” who had climbed up on the counter-top to help himself to a snack. “Sammy” was a darling little guy and has grown into a handsome young man who was married to new wife Katie on September 5, 2011, in Bermuda.

Transportation Secretary LaHood told the (Moline, IL) Dispatch (Jan. 27, 2012, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services) that his son’s detention is “absolutely an escalation. It’s de facto detention.” Last month, Egyptian officials raided Sam LaHood’s Cairo offices where he was director of the Washington-based International Republican Institute’s Egyptian program.  This week, Egyptian newspapers announced that as many as forty foreigners were to appear in court next month on charges of “illicit foreign funding.”  The move detaining so many foreign nationals is viewed as a crackdown on foreign pro-democracy groups by the generals in power.

 When the LaHood family lived near us in East Moline, Illinois, Sam’s father, Ray LaHood, was director of the Rock Island County Youth Service Bureau and served for three years as chief planner at the Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission, (now called the Bi-State Regional Commission.) The elder LaHood, a Republican, also worked for former U.S. Representatives Tom Railsback and Bob Michel before serving in the House for 14 years from Peoria. LaHood has announced plans to retire at the end of Obama’s first term.

Ray LaHood’s oldest son, Darin, was  appointed to the Illinois State Senate on February 27, 2010, and took office on March 1, 2010, the day after incumbent Dale Risinger retired from representing the seven-county thirty-seventh legislative district in Illinois.

Ray LaHood’s Remarks To Congress Set off Toyota Tempest

Today’s big gaffe by the Obama administration was made by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood—-coincidentally, my former neighbor in East Moline, Illinois, and a great guy (also, a Republican, most recently residing in Peoria, Illinois and representing that district in Illinois before his decision to retire.)

Ray was testifying before Congress about the sticking pedal on certain Toyota models, a number of which have been recalled by the company for fixing. The problem seemed to be that Ray was not speaking officially…or he didn’t think that he was, at the time he was testifying…but the man-in-the-street heard Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, telling them to quit driving their Toyotas and drive immediately to the nearest Toyota dealership for a fix of the problem. (Oh, oh.)

In Ray’s defense, he corrected himself within 2 hours and admitted he had “misspoken,” but the harm was done. In Florida, where I am now, various channels had Floridians from all walks of life saying things like, “How will I get home from work?” (I’m not making this up, Folks. One of the interview subjects actually told the reporter this, with a very worried look.)


I am the proud owner of 2 Toyota Prius vehicles (I’ve written on this subject on AC before). I also owned a third, which is now in my son’s possession in Chicago. Of course, currently I’m not in Illinois, where my green Prius (the grasshopper) is sitting in the garage, waiting for me to make the final five payments to say that I own it. But I can assure you that I would not be panicking at the thought of driving that car home from work (if I had work to drive home from, that is.)

I read, elsewhere, that the co-founder of Apple says that his Prius will automatically escalate up to 97 mph when he uses his cruise control. [My answer to that would be, “Don’t use the cruise control.”]


Where has common sense gone in all the hoopla over the really unfortunate, although isolated, incidents involving (some) Toyota vehicles? The Lexus accident that precipitated the recall (of floor mats, initially) was truly horrifying, and it did take an inordinate amount of time for Toyota to own up to the fact that there was something going on with their vehicles, but things seem to be getting out of hand.

As I type this, I’m watching a satirical take-off on “American Idol’s” auditions on Jimmy Kimmel.  I watched the young man talk about how his father was eaten by an alligator (leg shown sticking out of alligator’s mouth) and, on the way home from the funeral service, someone threw a bucket at his mother from a bridge overpass as she drove underneath in a convertible. She had to be buried with the bucket on her head. (Okay…questionable taste and graphic there, but it was Jimmy Kimmel, not me.)

Given the panic that a simple misstatement by our current Secretary of Transportation (Ray LaHood) caused on February 3rd after his inadvertent remark before Congress, the Toyota Tempest caused by Ray’s remark today (not the need for a fix for a real problem, but the foot-in-mouth comment) is ripe for a “Saturday Night Live” skit. I can see it now:

First, a shot of LaHood telling people not to drive their Toyota vehicles, but to take them immediately to dealerships.

Next, a shot of hordes of screaming villagers jamming the entrances to Toyota dealerships, nationwide, demanding the chip or floor mat or whatever it is that is supposed to end this madness, and demanding it RIGHT NOW! Maybe some of them could be carrying torches. Or, failing that, discarded rubber floor mats.

Next, a scene depicting those wusses who are still at work as the hour grows late, sitting there staring timidly at their parked Toyota vehicles but too afraid to climb in and drive 3 blocks home.

I’m obviously watching too much television while on vacation in the Sunshine State, where a shark ate a surfer today. (New Smyrna Beach is “the shark bite capital of the United States.”) To quote David Letterman, “Hep me! Hep me! I been hip-no-tized!”  watching this Toyota Tempest play out on television.

 RayLaHoodAnd, Ray: I mean no disrespect. You’re doing a great job. Just get us that railroad paralleling I-80 (Chicago to the Quad Cities to Des Moines) and all is forgiven. I’ll even ask “Saturday Night Live” to call off the skit.

Christopher Dodd, Ray LaHood and Me

When I read David Broder’s “Viewpoint” column (Washington Post) on November 6th, I was surprised to read this:  “On Tuesday night, I asked two of the wisest and most broadminded people I know in Washington what they thought of Obama’s prospects.  One of them, U.S. Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, had opposed Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year.  The other, retiring Republican U.S. Representative Ray LaHood of Illinois (Peoria, actually), was an early and ardent supporter of McCain. Both of them are very upbeat about what comes next.”

Ray LaHood was my neighbor for many years in East Moline, Illinois on our 3rd St. B court street. At that time, he worked for the Bi-state Metropolitan Planning Commission, and his son, Darren, was an 8th grade classmate of my son, Scott.

One summer day, Scott came running into the house, breathlessly exclaiming that Darren had built a ramp for his skateboard and, sans helmet, had driven over it at warp speed, fallen and apparently knocked himself out. I was a schoolteacher at the time and home on summer vacation, but Darren’s dad was at work and his mom was not at home at the time. Darren was groggy, but semi-conscious, and it appeared safe to move him by car to the emergency room in Silvis, Illinois (Illini Hospital), which I did. I called Ray, who immediately came to the hospital, and Darren was none the worse for wear.

As for Senator Dodd, when he was campaigning in Iowa during the winter  caucus season, he actually moved to a house in Des Moines. He appeared as one of the speakers at the Scott County Red-White-and-Blue Banquet in Davenport, Iowa, along with Joe Biden and Walter Mondale. I also covered him at a downtown Irish pub very near the end of his campaign. The crowd was so small that I got quite a bit of face-time with the then-candidate.

On the night of the Iowa caucuses, I drove to Des Moines, Iowa, as I had done during the year that Howard Dean campaigned for president. My friend’s daughter, Emily, wanted a ride downtown and my Prius in the driveway was blocking their family cars. Emily was in the market for an auto, so I told her to drive my hybrid and we struck off for the downtown, where I would drop her off. With Emily at the wheel, I spied a white-haired man I would have sworn was Chris Dodd. I told Emily, “Stop!” and leaped from the car to chase Chris Dodd for fully 3 blocks through the streets of downtown Des Moines. He was surrounded by a small entourage, but I drew near his left elbow, looked him in the eye, and realized that this man wasn’t Senator Christopher Dodd.

“Hi,” the stranger said, somewhat startled.

“Hi,” I said, sheepishly. I immediately retreated to the car, where Emily was convulsed with laughter.

Emily and I then went to the downtown hotel where John Edwards’ campaign group was staying. we saw Madeline Stowe, Jean Smart and James Denton (the plumber on “Desperate Housewives”) in the lobby. We also ended up in the elevator with Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, John’s parents, and chatted with them about their impending move to New Hampshire on the morrow. [All of this was pre-Reilly Hunter Affair/Scandal days.]

Since the party seemed to be over, Emily and I retreated and I dropped her off at her destination and I returned to my friend’s Des Moines home. But as I drove, I was thinking of the foot race I had run to chase down the bogus Christopher Dodd and how I’d be fending off jokes about that for years to come!

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