The first time I said those words on the US Pacific Fleet watchfloor, I got a weird look from my Intelligence Specialist, a Navy Sailor who only recently joined our team from his basic school. “A blog? Sir, we work in intelligence, not blogging.”
My watchfloor, a small group of 4 enlisted Sailors and one officer, maintained the intelligence plot for Commander, US Pacific Fleet (at first Admiral Harris, and later Admiral Swift). We watched all of Pacific Fleet’s area, a huge swath of the world that covers everything from Pakistan to China, North Korea and Russia to Indonesia, and up to the west coast of the US. When I came to the team, I learned how we partnered with a lot of other organizations and put together one neat picture for the Commander to make decisions. It was (and still is) a really important job. I watched our Commander use our information to make decisions that I would read about later in the news.
What I like to THINK I do, but in reality I point at a screen. A lot. Image from Wikipedia.
One of our biggest challenges was turnover. When you turnover what is happening in about 50% of the world, it’s a daunting task, and it’s easy to miss something. People before me had created turnover sheets that covered most things, but as the world got more complicated, it often fell short, especially for smaller countries. Most importantly, it was a paper sheet. Nobody outside our organization ever saw it.
I thought it was a weak spot, especially since many other organizations cued from us as to what was important in the world. So I persuaded my team to start writing our turnovers using Intelink’s blogging service. Intelink is a suite of sharing tools we have on our classified networks. The government buys a license for a tool, puts it on the network, and everyone can use it. The most well known is Intellipedia, which looks exactly like Wikipedia, except that you have to portion mark every paragraph with the proper classification. We also have WordPress for blogging, Pintrest (called IntelPin), Twitter (called Chirp) and a few others.
The beauty of Intelink is that the services are reliable and make it really easy to share and discover. If you tag your products on IntelPin or Intellipedia, suddenly others who are creating intelligence on the same issue can easily find them. Too many people have this idea that everyone in intelligence is on the same page and somehow has access to all the information about a topic, but in reality the landscape is divided among the 16 Intelligence Communities, and someone in the CIA could be working on the same thing as me and have no idea what I’ve done.
“This is how I build the daily brief,” said no person in Intelligence ever.
So we started the Pacific Fleet Intelligence Blog. It started as just my team, but soon it caught on to the other teams. They liked that we could hyperlink products, add images, and that you could easily pull up previous turnovers. It gave my boss and other organizations the ability to see what we were working on remotely. Soon my Intelligence Specialists were blogging like professionals.
Intelink came under fire in a recent article on Wired, which said it mostly failed and may have been manipulated by the outgoing Obama administration to spread disinformation about Russia’s influence in the 2016 election. Wired said that bureaucracy killed Intelink as a way to build a better National Intelligence Estimate, conjuring images of some creepy old guy in a suit holding folders of classified information yelling the spy equivalent of “Get off my lawn!” at some younger analyst. But as Hanlon’s Razor teaches us, the truth is probably much simpler.
The reality is that most older analysts don’t know how to share. They are very used to email. I managed a group inbox on the watchfloor, and it was constantly deluged with intelligence reports from all over the world. We would send out our brief, a 100 slide monstrosity, over email to customers. I started posting our brief on a document sharing site (called IntelDocs) and sending out a link. I swear, some people’s minds were completely blown that you could actually do that.
Yes, there are people like that in Intelligence.
When money is tight, the first thing to get cut in the military is training, and I think we’re seeing that now. We have a lot of older analysts that we should be training on how to effectively use these tools, but we don’t. They aren’t stupid, they simply need someone to show them how to use these tools. But it’s not just the older folks. My junior analysts are smart people, but they are third generation users of the internet. Most never built a website from scratch on Geocities like so many of us did back in the day. Their internet usage consists of Facebook, Snapchat, Google and Tindr. We simply assume that Millenials have these skills, an assumption that I see proven false on a daily basis.
I think the future is bright for Intelink. The Pacific Fleet Intelligence Blog continued after I left, a good sign that it wasn’t just my “good idea fairy.” They also extensively use SharePoint, something I had helped setup with our network people in the last two months of my time there. My boss, who had started his career building briefs on paper, was regularly surfing our sites and pulling information down by the time I left.
Change it would seem happens one person at a time, and even those in intelligence can learn to share.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, US Pacific Fleet, or any other government agency. And please note that I use the word “spies” liberally, “intelligence professional” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The Obama appointees at the State Department are unhappy.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray called Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday night to tell him he would be visiting the White House on Thursday. Normally foreign ministers stop by the State Department,
But Videgaray said the thrust of his mission meant he needed to speak directly to the White House. He and Tillerson agreed to meet in person in a couple of weeks, Videgaray said, part of an ongoing “dialogue” the two governments are holding to attempt to repair relations damaged by Trump’s bombastic campaign rhetoric against Mexico.
For Thursday’s meetings, however, Videgaray said he had to raise Mexican complaints about U.S. suggestions it would separate migrant children from their parents at the border as a way to discourage illegal crossings.
Tillerson obviously had no objections, since the next day Videgaray met
Call me a cynic, but if the Trump administration has close enough relations with Mexico’s Foreign Secretary that Videgaray can talk to them directly by simply calling Tillerson the night before, I consider that a good sign.
But if I had spent the last eight years in a comfortable sinecure at the State Department and was now spending my days ‘adrift and listless‘ hanging out at the cafeteria, I would not.
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War 1. Opposed by political leaders, the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.
The United Nations first celebrated International Women’s Day in 1975.
In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women’s March, we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system–while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression and political targeting. We believe in gender justice.
Loyal to its Communist roots, the website uses the appropriate font,
The organizers are calling for a one-day strike, by those who can afford it: Women who can afford it because they have enough funds they don’t need a day’s pay (or longer, as they may risk getting fired for missing work), or they are backed by a union whose leaders go for this one-day strike.
Fifteen-thousand public school children are being kept out of their classrooms in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday. They’re not sick. Their schools are not being renovated. Nothing is wrong with the schools at all. Rather, a group of teachers decided they’d rather engage in political protest than do their jobs, shutting down the entire school system and leaving working moms and dads scrambling to make arrangements.
“In the same spirit of love and liberation” calling for an identity-politics day strike, we cannot ignore the fact that
One of the women issuing the call was the virulently anti-Israel activist Angela Davis, former leader of the Communist Party USA and Black Panther.
SHREVEPORT – Bear with me, readers, for this week I’m bringing you a local problem but it is one that needs national attention in order for it to be rectified. Your help is needed.
Our local animal shelter is deplorable. The city of Shreveport has a population of just over 200,000 people, and we are the third largest city in the state of Louisiana, yet we can’t seem to figure out how to run a humane animal shelter. The problems at Caddo Parish Animal Services are epic and have been going on for years. Any attempt to solve the problem has only been a token one.
Consider the following:
July 2007: CPAS director fired for failing to properly perform his duties, for example: failing to do rabies tests on a racoon that had scratched a man, among other offenses.
October 2013: Karen Dent’s Golden Retriever escaped her backyard when a tree fell on a fence; CPAS picked up the dog. Dent called the shelter and was told she could claim her dog, but when she arrived the dog had been euthanized.
October 2013: A puppy was found in September in a Shreveport storage locker, abandoned and left to die. Literally at death’s door, he was rescued and taken to the emergency vet clinic and then transferred to Benton Animal Hospital. By October he was in foster care with a vet tech and making a nice recovery at which time CPAS comes to their home and seizes the emaciated, still very fragile dog, as evidence of the animal abandonment crime. “Braveheart” was heartlessly placed in a kennel at CPAS rather than allowed to stay in foster care under the attention of a vet tech. Massive public outcry resulted in animal cruelty charges against the owner of the storage locker. (Braveheart’s story has a happy ending.)
August 2014: Adoptions volunteer Reed Ebarb resigned his position at CPAS after director Everett Harris verbally attacked Ebarb and his attempts to move more dogs into rescue and off the euthanasia list. Ebarb was vigilant in compiling and reporting monthly euthanasia rates to the public which was often well over 70%.
March 2015: Two malnourished dogs, dubbed Lucky and T-Bone, were picked up by CPAS after a citizen complaint of neglect, found to be full of parasites, yet when PetSavers Rescue offered to take the dogs and vet them, director Everett Harris denied the request, igniting yet another firestorm of public outcry.
August 2015: Amanda Middleton was travelling through Shreveport, blew a tire, and her dog, Libby ran off and got lost. Libby was lost for two days before being found and taken to CPAS where a microchip was scanned and her family identified. A Humane Society volunteer had permission from the eight-months pregnant Middleton to retrieve the dog and meet Middleton halfway to return the pup, but director Everett Harris refused to release the dog to anyone but Middleton, despite written permission from Middleton to do so. Middleton drove all the way back to Shreveport from Houston to get her dog.
August 2015: CPAS director Everett Harris was placed on administrative leave, and then resigned, after posting an offensive photo on Facebook of dogs with a Star of David and Nazi symbols drawn on their heads and the caption “How to deal with the difficulties of life.” He said he meant to post the picture to a private account rather than the public CPAS page. Harris was on paid leave for several months, then terminated.
October 2016: Amber McMillan’s two dog were euthanized despite her multiple visits to CPAS searching for them. McMillan contends that her dogs were not in any of the stray hold kennels she was shown when she went to the shelter. She showed photos of her dogs to the employees at the shelter and filed paperwork. The dogs were killed nine days after intake.
November 2016: DeAnna Robinson adopted a large breed dog from CPAS; he weighed only 30 pounds when she brought him home. He was emaciated and could barely walk. He had been housed in a kennel at the shelter with five other dogs.
December 2016: A stray dog, “Ellie,” wanders into a man’s yard; the man brings his own dog outside and orders it to attack Ellie who subsequently dies from her injuries. The event is captured on video which creates a social media firestorm. CPAS fails to press charges, thereby sanctioning the inhumane attack.
December 2016: “Tini” was picked up by CPAS on December 30 after being hit by a car; her owners determined that Tini was at the shelter but they were not allowed to pick her up for four days, despite that fact that the dog had a broken jaw and other injuries and needed immediate medical care. Because of the New Year’s Eve holiday, Tini had to stay in the shelter rather than be reunited with her family.
January 2017: Big Fluffy Dog Rescue out of Nashville TN, came to CPAS to pull two dogs but left with 17, and later came back for more, because of the deplorable conditions in which they found the dogs in the CPAS shelter, which included inadequate medical care for broken bones, malnourished dogs, and overcrowded kennels. BFDR is urging public outcry against the abuses at the Caddo Parish shelter.
January 2017: A citizens meeting to discuss continued problems at CPAS is attended by two Caddo Parish Commissioners who cite lack of first-hand accounts as one reason why no change has been made at CPAS.
February 2017: CPAS kennel worker placed on leave, and then fired, for having sex with a dog. The act was filmed by another CPAS worker. Where this act actually took place has not been revealed; reports are that it was not at the shelter, but does it matter?
Obviously, the problems at the shelter are ongoing and it doesn’t seem to matter who the director is. Meanwhile, literally hundreds of dogs (and cats) are euthanized each month. The shelter’s euthanasia rate is right around 50 to 60% right now, down from previous years where there was a 77% or more euthanasia rate. This decline is due to the help of some tireless rescue groups and an improved willingness by the current director to work with rescues.
There are volunteer rescue groups that work to pull dogs from the shelter and take them to states “up north” where stricter spay/neuter laws have resulted in lower numbers of available pets. Our dogs have a much better chance at adoption there.
That being said, this shelter still needs major change. State inspections have taken place but they are announced at least ten days in advance which gives the shelter time to clean up their act. After the public meeting in January, two Caddo Commissioners toured the shelter, but again, it was announced.
The Parish Administrator, Dr. Woody Wilson, has control over this situation. He works for the Caddo Parish Commission, but his oversight of CPAS operates is completely independent. There is no system of checks and balances and Wilson has the final, and only, voice.
Granted, we have a huge problem here in unwanted animals; too many people in this area see animals as property and all too often refuse to get their animals spayed or neutered. The director’s job at the shelter is a huge one. But it’s clear to me that this director has lost the faith of the public by this most recent string of allegations, and something must be done.
For years, and years, we’ve been told by the Parish Administrator that they are revisiting and reviewing laws, policies, and procedures yet we are still battling this issue. The public outcry rises, we get lip service, public outcry dies down, and the cycle continues. When public outcry rises, we are dismissed as crazy animal people who get their information from social media. When citizens go to shelter board meetings to voice concern, they are quickly shut down if their experience is not first-hand.
It appears that the only thing that might work is a national outcry. This shelter administration needs to be completely rebooted. They all need to go. If qualified, they can be rehired; if not, more the better.
This shelter needs to be cleaned up, literally; all policies need to be examined, updated, revised. Dogs in stray/hold, for example, are kept in outdoor pens regardless of the weather. Too many dogs are crowded into pens thus creating feeding issues and fights. When Big Fluffy Dog Rescue pulled their thirty dogs, they wrote:
Caddo Parish Animal Shelter in Louisiana has been the subject of serious complaints for years. In January, Big Fluffy Dog Rescue took in more than 30 dogs from this shelter. Most of the dogs were emaciated, many had serious health issues and most had bite wounds consistent with fighting for resources. Big Fluffy Dog Rescue attempted without success to determine whether the cause of the animals’ suffering was the shelter itself or if the dogs came in to the shelter in that condition. Caddo Parish did not appropriately investigate the issue and the concerns of animal rescuers were largely swept under the carpet and derided by the local government as unfounded. Local media covered the story.
There is a veterinarian “on call” but not on site. Dogs with broken bones or other injuries languish. There is no feral cat or TNR program; there are no online records – everything is still done on paper. If a volunteer speaks out or complains about conditions or abuse, they are banned from the shelter. Quite often they choose to remain silent so they can continue to help the animals in the shelter. Any online presence is due to the work of volunteers. If you go to the shelter’s page and click on animals for adoption, you might find a few, but these are out of date and do not nearly reflect the number of available animals.
The issues are epic. But at the very least, the neglect, abuse, and miscommunication must be stopped. And sex with animals? Please. Is this the best we can do with vetting our employees (this woman was a paid employee – not a volunteer!).
To be clear, I’m not calling for the firing of current director Chuck Wilson; while he may not be perfect, many of the volunteers appreciate his efforts yet Wilson is hogtied by the current structure of oversight. The source of the problem lies in the fact that the control is all with the Parish Administrator Woody Wilson who has shown very little interest in making this shelter a safe and humane shelter for animals.
Please share this with any animal rights advocates or organizations you know that might be able to help the citizens of Caddo Parish clean up this shelter and turn this situation around. Ideally the shelter should be privatized or turned over to a competent, established rescue with a humanitarian mission. Please email or write letters, polite and respectful letters, to Parish Administrator Woody Wilson, and the Assistant Parish Administrator who is reportedly working Woody Wilson’s job while he is being investigated on a residency issue.
A national outcry is the only thing we haven’t tried. There are plenty of citizens here who want to make a difference; the problem is in the politics. We need help and you can contribute by helping to shine light on this issue.
“So you’ll be paying yourself to build a railroad with government subsidies.” Sen. Jordan Crane to Thomas “Doc” Durant.
“These are exciting times. You and I are opening the way for the greatest nation the world has ever seen.” Major Augustus Bendix to Cullen Bohannon.
“See him driving those golden nails
that hold together the silver bars
That one day’s gonna take us to the stars
cos he’s the man who built America.”
Horslips, from their song, The Man Who Built America.
“A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp. What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit.” President Donald J. Trump to Congress last week.
Last week I completed my latest binge-watching endeavor, Hell on Wheels, an AMC show that ran from 2011-2016 that is available on Netflix and on Amazon.
The building of the American transcontinental is the driving force of the plot of this series–the Union Pacific heading west from Omaha and the Central Pacific heading east from Sacramento.
The transcontinental railroad exemplified America at its best–getting the job done 16 years before Canada and 36 years before Russia. It also exemplified America at its worst. Racism and corruption–the Crédit Mobilier outrage was one of our nation’s worst political scandals and it forever tainted this monumental achievement.
The Civil War purged America of slavery, the nation was no longer “a house divided against itself,” but in 1865 the United States was in a way like an uncompleted jigsaw puzzle, the east and west coasts, the easy part, were settled but much of the middle–the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, still needed to be filled in.
Hell on Wheel’s main character is Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a former slaveholder and Confederate cavalry officer who travels to Nebraska Territory to hunt down Union soldiers who murdered his wife and son in Mississippi. Despite that ruthlessness–make that because of that ruthlessness–Union Pacific president Thomas “Doc” Durant (Colm Meaney) takes him under his wing, although their relationship is mostly turbulent throughout the run of the series.
Bohannon isn’t the only character scarred by the turmoil of mid-19th century America. Elam Ferguson (Common) and Psalms Jackson (Dohn Norwood) are freedmen who quickly learn that freedom from slavery doesn’t mean equality. The Reverend Nathaniel Cole (Tom Noonan) and his daughter Ruth (Kasha Kropinski), suffer from pangs of guilt remaining from Bleeding Kansas. The Rev. Cole’s most prominent convert to Christianity, Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears), is estranged from his father, a Cheyenne chief. The most compelling character on the show, Thor “The Swede” Gunderson (Christopher Heyerdahl), is a Norwegian immigrant and former Union army quartermaster–a man who says he is good with numbers, but after his barbaric incarceration at the notorious Andersonville prisoner of war camp, he ascertained that “I had to control people like I control numbers and I learned to practice a sort of immoral mathematics.”
The Swede is Hell On Wheels’ principal villain and if there is ever a Villains Hall Of Fame built, then he belongs as a charter member.
Another intriguing HoW character is Irish immigrant Mickey McGuinnes (Phil Burke), who like Durant, finds a way to make himself a success after starting with nothing. One of his workers is a tattooed former prostitute and a Jack Mormon, Eva (Robin McLeavy). She was captured by Indians after her family’s wagon train was waylaid.
The final season of Hell on Wheels brings in the storyline of the Central Pacific. Movie posters for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly boasted, “For three men the Civil War wasn’t hell. It was practice!” The Chinese laborers on the Central Pacific can be forgiven for having a similar dismissive view of our Civil War, which killed 600,000 Americans. Emotional scars from the Taiping Rebellion plague many of the Chinese characters. That conflict, which was actually a civil war between Imperial China and a man claiming to be the brother of Jesus Christ, probably killed 20-30 million people–after the famine deaths are added in. Some estimates bring the death total as high as 100 million. If that last figure is correct, then the Taiping Rebellion was the deadliest war ever.
Life is cheap in both the Union Pacific and Central Pacific camps–both are served by brothels, although opium is offered at the latter instead of whiskey.
Durant was a real person, although his portrayal in Hell on Wheels is largely fictional. Other historical figures appearing include Wyoming’s territorial governor John Campbell (Jack Weber), President Ulysses S. Grant (Victor Slezak), and Brigham Young (Gregg Henry). Eva’s character was based on an actual woman, as was the man in the show who survived a scalping. He carries his scalp in a bottle of alcohol–and offers paid listeners a recounting of his ordeal. The phrase “Hell on Wheels” is a real one in this context, it’s what the tent cities that followed the construction of the Union Pacific were called.
In the penultimate HoW episode, there is a prescient moment as black and Chinese workers rush to finish the road in 1869. Above them you see the moon. One hundred years later, yes, in 1969, “the greatest nation the world has ever seen” reached the moon. No country has repeated that feat or even attempted it.
Yes, American exceptionalism is real.
If you enjoy westerns, you’ll find Hell on Wheels worth your while. But if you are looking for romance–then look elsewhere. Mount is a fine actor but love encounters are not his long suit. And what was the point of his sex scene on top of a table with fused nitroglycerine on it?
As with most westerns, the cinematography is first-rate–with Alberta filling in capably for Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and California. It would be better if movies about America would be filmed here, but that’s another subject for another time.
It doesn’t fit with the narrative of the workshop, which was focused on economic inequality, maintaining biodiversity and proper use of the Earth’s resources.
Nothing actually written by the workshop seemed out of line with the Catholic Church. If someone would like to comment and prove otherwise, please be my guest, I will gladly post again admitting I missed something.
The media is using fake news to rip apart the Catholic Church from the inside. By misquoting Pope Francis, it makes traditional-thinking Catholics think he’s extremely liberal, and it reinforces their wrong belief that Vatican II should be completely rejected. For Catholics who grew up after the 1960s, the media’s portrayal makes it look like it’s OK to accept ideas that are actually heretical (and ideas they have been pushing for some time now). For those of us in the middle, who like tradition but also try to understand the spirit of the Catechism, we get marginalized by both sides, and the media simply tries to overwhelm us with volume to silence our voices.
It’s nasty. As a military planner, this is the sort of thing I would want to do to my adversaries. The media are using fake news to tear down the Catholic Church in a way that could cause almost all persons to turn away from teaching and towards what makes us comfortable. We would do well to reject it and focus on understanding our Catechism and why we believe what we believe.
The post represents the views of the author alone, and does not represent the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.
Mexico’s biggest cement maker said it would be willing to provide supplies for the US border wall proposed by President Donald Trump, ending months in which the company declined to comment on the potential project.
Cemex SAB would offer a price quote to any contractors looking to buy cement for the barrier, Chairman Rogelio Zambrano told Reforma newspaper. With plants on both sides of the border, Cemex would be well positioned to compete for building-materials contracts.
. . .
Cemex climbed 4.3 per cent to 17.74 pesos at 11:18am in Mexico City after advancing as much as 4.6 per cent for the biggest intraday gain in a month.
As of the writing of this post, Cemex is trading at US$9.o1, still going up.
While this may sound rather ironic or humorous depending on how you look at it, it illustrates private enterprise in the form of a multinational corporation responding to a business opportunity, which in turn creates value for its stockholders.
In other news, unless you’ve been in a sensory deprivation cell for the past couple of weeks, you must have heard the Democrats generically impugning any contact with Russians, but only if it’s by a Trump supporter.
The latest is the allegation that Jeff Sessions committed perjury. Andrew McCarthy, who has years of experience as a very successful prosecutor, finds the charge meritless.
He started by emphasizing results from his first month: More jobs, wealth creation, less governmental expenses, fewer regulations and greater energy self-sufficiency,
Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.
The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8th, a record.
We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government. We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.
We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials — and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.
We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.
We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.
He went on to outline his goals of tax reform, equal tariff treatment, merit-based immigration, infrastructure investment, repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
Public reaction to the speech last night was very positive.
SHREVEPORT – You could in no way describe me as a celebrity-worshiper or one who follows the Hollywood circuit, and there are a large number of modern celebs I could not identify. Still, 2016 was a rough year for celebrities and we lost many artists that cut close to the heart (David Bowie!).
And now, Bill Paxton.
Paxton may not be way up on your list like say, Carrie Fisher, but I loved his work. My husband literally hated the movie Twister, but I will always remember Paxton’s boyish grin, good ‘ol boy persona, and that shock of hair draped across his forehead as he prepared to chase another tornado across the Midwest. Or Titanic, when he coaxed Rose’s romantic story from her (“Tell us your story, Rose”) to solve the mystery of the drawing he’d found in the rusted, drowned iron safe. For several years the documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss, was in my classroom video rotation as we studied the story of the Titanic; the descent to the bottom of the ocean in the small submersible gave Paxton great unease and the kids were always fascinated when he threw up in the barf bag.
He was in a lot of mediocre movies, and some very good ones, and he played Morgan Earp in Tombstone, one of my favorite movies. He won awards for his work in the television series Big Love. He worked in film, television, and music for four decades.
Paxton was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas – a neighbor. According to Wikipedia, he was in the crowd the morning Kennedy emerged from his hotel in Dallas on the day he was assassinated.
Paxton died February 25, 2017 at sixty-one years of age following complications from heart surgery. The tributes began immediately. Paxton “was as genuine as they come. A true-life good guy. Curious, kind. Always reaching out,” said Anthony Breznican in Entertainment Weekly.
Paxton was reportedly an all-around good guy, generous and kind to his fans, and curious about life. This came across in every character he portrayed.
That scene in Twister, when he grabs the storm ravaged Helen Hunt in her white tank top, her blond locks perfectly mussed by tornadic winds, and says, “You gotta move on. Stop living in the past, and look what you got right in front of you,” well, how could she resist him? (She couldn’t).
In a world full of Kardashians and superficial, self-important people, Bill Paxton was a breath of fresh air. He will be missed.
Ann Richards, the last Democratic governor of Texas to date, is wrongly credited with a famous statement about George H.W. Bush, that he was “born on third base and thought he hit a triple.”
But you can say the same thing about former US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), the son of the famed civil rights leader; or if you dislike him, you may see the elder Jackson as a prominent shakedown practitioner who is in the racism business.
Last week the Chicago Tribune reported that Jackson, who served 22 months in prison for looting his campaign fund to purchase luxury goods and celebrity memorabilia, including items related to Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson, is collecting $138,000 in government benefits, including $100,000 in workers compensation for suffering from bipolar disorder and depression, which he is only entitled to if Junior’s job caused those ailments. And that is what his lawyer claims. The $100K is not taxable while the remainder of his government cache, whichcomes from Social Security disability payments, is taxable.
Jackson’s wife, Sandi, who was a participant in the scheme, also served a prison term–not concurrently with Junior–which allowed a parent to stay at home to care for their children. The former Chicago alderman–she served in that office while residing in Washington–was released from prison last October. She filed for divorce two months later. Presumably Sandi received the fur coats purchased from her husband’s campaign fund. It is from the couple’s divorce proceedings that Jesse Jr’s benefits largesse were discovered.
Jesse Jackson Sr’s Chicago-based Rainbow/Push operation provided the foot soldiers to place the younger Jackson in Congress in an open seat election in Illinois’ 2nd congressional district after Mel Reynolds resigned his office after being convicted for having sex with a minor and related charges. Reynolds’ predecessor was “Goofy Gus” Savage, a black racist and another sexual predator.
That makes three scumbags in a row in Illinois’ 2nd. So far Jackson’s successor, Robyn Kelley, a reliable vote for the Democratic caucus, hasn’t embarrassed the voters of Chicago’s South Side and southern suburbs.
The 2nd is a very safe gerrymandered Democratic district that was created to obscure the truth that the black population of Chicago is rapidly declining. Like everyone else, African-Americans don’t like crime, rotten services, and failing public schools. To keep his seat in Congress all Junior had to do was behave.
Craig Holman, of the watchdog group Public Citizen, called Jackson’s disability boon “breathtaking.”
“I can’t imagine in any way that his bipolar disorder would have been caused in any way by his congressional duties,” Holman told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s really troubling to see someone who goes to prison for corruption coming out of prison (and collecting that money).”
But Holman is not from Chicago so it’s easy to understand why Jackson’s hubris is unimaginable to him.
The Tribune’s estimable columnist John Kass remarked a few days ago, with Jackson partially in mind, “Forget everything your parents told you about crime. Crime does pay. Especially in Chicago.”
It pays in sickness and in health, before prison, and after prison.