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Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss

This is the third and latest short film that I’ve either written or co-written with Juan Carlos Hernandez for his production company, Popcorn Sky Productions. It’s a comedy about a politically-divided family in New York City during the Trump era.

As Denise Longrie says in her review:

This amusing and enjoyable short depicts the fireworks that erupt when the Ronderos’ son Jerry (Anthony James Hernandez) comes home from college for a visit. Mom Veronica (“Ronnie”), played by Adria K. Woomer-Hernandez, lays down the law to her husband Guillermo (Juan Carlos Hernandez): no talking, not even whispering, about politics.

Although Juan was gracious enough to give me the sole writing credit for Ronnie, the truth is that much of the finished film was based on on-the-spot rewrites by the cast and crew in New York. I was asked to go to the Big Apple to be on hand, but I couldn’t afford the cost of an airline ticket plus a long extended stay at a hotel. So even though I was consulted, Juan, Adria, and Anthony had to rework the story and script to make Ronnie work well as a comedy with some serious commentary about the divisiveness in Trump-era America.

The film is 22 minutes long, but it’s a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. I think it’s both hilarious and relevant.

If you have not watched it yet, here it is, in all its YouTube glory.

Old Gamers Never Die: Altering History in ‘Strategic Command WWII: World at War’ is Fun, Challenging

Main menu page of Strategic Command WWII: World at War. (C) 2018 Fury Software and Slitherine Games

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s mid-afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Friday, January 15, 2021. Right now it’s a mild early winter day; the temperature is 75˚F (24˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the west-southwest at 15 MPH (15 KM/H) and humidity at 50%, the feels-like factor is 75˚F (24˚C). The forecast for the rest of the afternoon calls for a temperature of 72˚F (22˚C) and scattered rain showers. Tonight, rain showers might be around, and the low is expected to reach 50˚F (10˚C).

Although I have been checking the headlines about the after-effects of last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters and Donald Trump’s pending trial in the Senate, I decided to take a mental health break and play a long session of Strategic Command WWII: World at War instead of focusing exclusively on politics. I like keeping informed, but sometimes I can get stressed out by the current President’s shenanigans and his supporters’ steadfast devotion to him. So I gave my brain a vacation of sorts and played a game that ended up like something out of a Harry Turtledove alternate history novel.

Since I am still not confident about playing through Strategic Command WWII: World at War’s version of the entire war (from the historical start-date of September 1, 1939 to the game’s default end-date in early 1947), I had been playing the scenario 1944 Triumph and Tragedy, which spans the last years of World War II starting on June 6, 1944 and, if the Allies don’t win by the historical V-J Day of September 2, 1945, ends in early 1947.

I chose 1944 Triumph and Tragedy because it is the only scenario in the game where the Allies have the opening move in the turn-based grand strategy game created by Fury Software of Canada and published by Slitherine Games two years ago. And because World at War (WAW) involves commanding the armed forces of entire coalitions (either the German-led Axis or the Allies led by the U.S., the British Empire, and the Soviet Union), I often play as the Soviets and let the games AI play the other Allies for me.

Why the Soviets, you ask?

Well, it’s certainly not because I am a Communist or a huge fan of the Russians. My reasons for playing as the USSR are more practical. See, while the Anglo-American Allies are fighting a global war – World War II, after all, was actually a series of interconnected wars waged in Western Europe, Eastern and Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Asia-Pacific Theater – the Russians’ main mission is to move west, liberate its territory from Germany, storm into Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, then invade the German homeland from the east. This is far simpler than the other Allies’ war objectives; even in WAW, which is not as detailed or complicated as Gary Grigsby’s War in the West, fighting as the Americans or British involves moving armies, navies, and air forces across the map all over the planet on land, air, and sea. There are so many theaters that the Western Allies have to focus that it’s difficult to play WAW against the AI – even on the easiest level – and controlling the U.S., Britain (and Commonwealth nations), and the Soviet Union manually.

Of course, as in the actual war, after Germany and her minor allies are defeated, I always move the Red Army east to fight against Japan and end the game with a decisive Allied victory.

I’m not a novice at WWII strategy games, mind you, but it’s been so long since I had the luxury of having time to game regularly that It’s easier for me to play as the Soviets. Although WAW does not depict the warring powers’ armed forces exactly – the scale of the geography is somewhat like a cross between Axis & Allies and War in the West, with some of the graphic conventions of the former and a few of the more complicated in-game mechanics of the latter – the designers stuck to the historical realities and made Russia a continental power which emphasizes large land armies and tactical aviation but only has a modest navy.

Another reason why it’s easier to play the 1944 Triumph and Tragedy scenario as the Russians is that I only have to focus on the Eastern Front. As in the real war, Moscow has a non-aggression pact with Japan in WAW, which means that as the Soviets, I only have to deal with Nazi Germany and her minor allies, which include Finland, Romania, Hungary, and various Balkan countries that were part of Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia.

I started the game of 1944 Triumph and Tragedy on Monday afternoon and played it, on and off, until noon today. And although I’m not going to bore you with a detailed play-by-play account of my version of the Allied victory over the Axis, I will give you a few details of how this session of WAW went.

First, the war lasted well into 1946. The Soviet Union did not advance westward as fast as it did in the real summer of 1944; the Continuation War – as Finland refers to its fight against the Red Army – became a stalemate because I focused almost exclusively  on Germany and did not assign enough of my newly-produced forces to the Finnish front. As a result, after the Germans surrendered in the spring of 1946, instead of sending my forces east to get ready to help the Americans end the war with Japan, I had to divert many units to the Northern front.

Oh, and in this version of history, the Americans captured Berlin, not the Soviets.

Because WAW lets human players control nations nominally set for AI control – so long as they are your allies – I was able to change the shape of the Pacific War by carrying out U.S. amphibious landings in China and Formosa (present-day Taiwan). Of course, by then the AI-controlled U.S. had already invaded Okinawa and Iwo Jima, and it dropped three A-bombs on the Home Islands (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Osaka) not long after my Soviet Union finally entered the Pacific War.

I didn’t take notes while I was playing, so I am not sure how long Japan held out in 1946 before the game told me that the Tokyo Garrison had surrendered and that I had won a Decisive Victory for the Allies. I do remember thinking that it was late in the year – the weather was icy and snowy in some parts of the China-Manchuria-Korea war zone – and that this session of WAW might probably last until 1947.  I believe that as soon as Shanghai fell to the American Marine division I had landed in East China several turns earlier, it triggered WAW’s victory conditions and automatically ended World War II.

A screenshot from a session of WAW I played back in 2019.

In any case, I had some fun today, and I didn’t have to think about Trump, his devoted loyalists, and how fragile our democracy is in early 2021, at least for a few hours.

Well, that’s all the news I have for you today. I don’t know what I’ll be writing about tomorrow; if I can, I’ll try to write a review or something light along those lines Until next time, stay safe, stay sane, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

All of the images in this article are screenshots from game sessions I played on Strategic Command WWII: World at War. All of the game design, graphics, and indicia are (C) 2018 by Fury Software, Slitherine Games, and Matrix Games.

After the Assault on the Capitol: Trump Impeached AGAIN…But Will There Be a Senate Trial?

Image Credit: Pixabay

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s midafternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Thursday, January 14, 2021. Right now the temperature is 66˚F (19˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind becalmed and humidity at 49%, the feels-like temperature is 66˚F (19˚C), which is slightly higher than the original forecast high of 63˚F (17˚C). Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 47˚F (8˚C).

Well, yesterday the House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach President Donald J. Trump on a single charge  – incitement of insurrection – in a rare bipartisan response to last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump’s supporters, which was caused by several months of false claims that the 2020 Presidential election was “rigged” and “stolen” in favor of President-elect Joe Biden.  This is the first time in U.S. history that one President is impeached twice in less than one year’s time…and in one term, at that.

In contrast to Trump’s first impeachment, this time around the vote was a bipartisan effort; 10 Republican representatives joined Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democratic majority in the lower house of the Legislative Branch. All 222 Democrats voted to impeach – not surprising, considering that the attack on the Capitol was carried out by insurrectionists who targeted anyone who certified the Electoral College results of the election – including every Democrat in Congress, Vice President Mike Pence – for refusing to decertify the election on his own like Trump wanted – and the Republican members who joined their Democratic colleagues.

Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay 

The next step, of course, is a trial in the Senate. The House – and Speaker Pelosi – wanted a speedy trial while Trump is in office, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will not recall the Senate for a special session. He prefers to hold a Senate trial after Trump leaves office on January 20; the twice-impeached Trump can still be tried even if he is no longer President, and even if the Senate does not convict him of the charge of incitement, there can still be a vote to ban Trump from ever holding an elected office again.

Why is McConnell not interested in trying Trump in the Senate while he’s still President?

Two words: political expedience.

As Time magazine’s Philip Elliott writes in GOP Leaders Seem to Want a Trump Divorce. But They Can’t Bring Themselves to Sign the Papers, both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and McConnell find many of Trump’s utterances and even actions as President galling, but he has proved useful in furthering their conservative agenda, including tax cuts for the wealthy, eliminating regulations that protect the environment, and allowing McConnell to shape the country’s judiciary in accordance with the right’s wishes.

Per Elliott:

McCarthy has been stewing over Trump’s cheering of the failed insurrection that put members of Congress at mortal risk and cost a police officer his life at the Capitol, but he still fell into the same quandary facing most Republicans. A political animal who has an effortless way of making anyone he is courting feel seen, McCarthy was never going to be much of a roadblock for Trump. After all, McCarthy landed the top job in large part because of Trump. When McCarthy tried for it in 2015, he came up short. In 2018, when House Speaker Paul Ryan decided it was time to exit, McCarthy’s second bid to top the GOP ladder proved successful. If the price was to sort through bags of Starburst candies to weed out the orange- and lemon-flavored snacks for Trump, so be it. (That happened.)

McConnell was never one to suck-up to Trump, but he excused the theatrics. Trump gave McConnell a large berth when it came to legislating and McConnell used the slack to pack the federal courts for a generation. McConnell’s calculations and Trump’s instincts found a way to co-exist, even if they never really fed off each other.

Image by gfk DSGN from Pixabay 

Whether Trump is tried in the Senate after his term is over is an unknown at this time. The previous three impeachments of Presidents – Andrew Johnson in 1867, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Trump in 2020 – all took place while the accused were still in the White House. So if the Senate does try Trump a second time – and now with a more cooperative McConnell – it will be what is called a “late impeachment.” This has been done a few times in American history, and no state constitution forbids the procedure.

As they say on TV, stay tuned!

Source: https://time.com/5929833/gop-leaders-trump-impeachment/

After the Assault on the Capitol: Impeachment Debate Begins in U.S. House of Representatives

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Presently, the temperature is 55˚F (13˚C) under cloudy skies. With the wind blowing from the west-northwest at 5 MPH (8 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 55˚F (13˚C). Today, the forecast calls for rain and a high of 61˚F (16˚C). Tonight, we can expect scattered showers and a low of 50˚F (10˚C).

“We know that the President of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House

Well, here I am, and in the background I have my smart television playing the House of Representatives’ debate on whether President Donald Trump should be impeached for inciting insurrection in the wake of last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called for the President’s removal from office, calling him a “clear and present danger” to America’s democratic traditions and the rule of law.

“We know that the President of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Predictably, most of the speeches from Republicans that I’ve heard – I’ve missed a few – boil down to:

  • “Democrats want to waste time on impeaching a President one week before his term ends.”
  • “How can Democrats say that President Trump incited violence when they said nothing about the violent left when BLM and Antifa were looting and burning cities?”
  • “My Democratic colleagues say they want unity and healing, but this impeachment will only cause more division and more anger.”

Here are some of the actual speeches by Trump supporters in Congress:

Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks against impeaching President Trump. Photo Credit: Yahoo Video

“For months our cities burned and the left said nothing — or they cheered it. Some have said the president lit the flame? They lit actual flames — actual fires. And we tried to put them out.” – Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

“If we had prosecuted BLM and antifa rioters across the country with the same determination these last six months, this incident may not have happened at all.” –  Tom McClintock (R-CA)

For months our cities burned and the left said nothing — or they cheered it. Some have said the president lit the flame? They lit actual flames — actual fires. And we tried to put them out

Matt Gaetz (R-FL)

However, not every GOP member of the House is opposed to impeaching the President. Six Republican Representatives, including Liz Cheney (R-WY), said they support their Democratic colleagues because they believe that President Trump committed impeachable offenses.

Here’s what Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) had to say on the House floor:

“A vote against this impeachment is a vote to validate the unacceptable violence we witnessed in our nation’s capital. It is also a vote to condone President Trump’s inaction. He did not strongly condemn the attack, nor did he call in reinforcements when our officers were overwhelmed. Our country needed a leader, and President Trump failed to fulfill his oath of office.”

Meanwhile, the President today issued a statement in which he urged Americans to avoid engaging in violent acts, perhaps as a result of reports that many far-right groups are planning more attacks to prevent the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

As read on the House floor by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), this is what the President wrote:

“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers. Thank You,” 

Book Review: ‘The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005’

Photo Credit: Taschen Books. (C) 2020 Taschen Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Movies are an illusion. Cinema is the art of the moving image; the moving image isn’t more truthful than are cave paintings, or hieroglyphics, or the Sistine Chapel. What the artist finds is the truth behind the “truth.” Art portrays the aspirations of the society in which it is made.- George Lucas, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005

On December 13, 2020[1], Taschen Books released the U.S. edition of film historian Paul Duncan’s The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005, the second book in a duology about how the first six films of what is now called the Skywalker Saga were made. (The first volume, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes IV-VI, 1977-1983, covers the making of the Original Trilogy.) Massive in both scope (it spans a 22-year period) and size (it is a large “coffee table” format tome that weighs 15.21 lbs.), it was made with the full collaboration of George Lucas and many of the key personnel who created the Prequel Trilogy at Lucasfilm Ltd.

Photo Credit: Taschen Books. (C) 2020 Taschen Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Co-written by Duncan, Colin Odell, and Michelle Le Blanc, this book picks up the story of the fabled franchise set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” after the release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983. It is divided into five major sections, including:

  • Foreword by George Lucas, which was derived from a 1999 essay about filmmaking, digital technology, and how (and why) he planned to marry the two to create Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and the other two films of the Prequel Trilogy.
  • The Special Editions, by Paul Duncan
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace, by Paul Duncan, Colin Odell, and Michelle Le Blanc
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones, by Paul Duncan, Colin Odell, and Michelle Le Blanc
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, by Paul Duncan, Colin Odell, and Michelle Le Blanc

The Appendices of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 include an index, an extensive bibliography, image credits, and an acknowledgments section.

Publisher’s Blurb:

My copy (#6790) was probably printed and bound not long after the one seen in this Taschen promo photo. Photo Credit: Taschen Books. (C) 2020 Taschen Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Famous First Edition: First printing of 10,000 numbered copies

From the moment Star Wars burst onto the screen in 1977, audiences have been in equal parts fascinated and appalled by the half-man/half-machine hybrid Darth Vader. In 1999, creator George Lucas began the story of how Anakin Skywalker grew up to train as a Jedi under Obi-Wan Kenobi, found love with the Queen of Naboo, Padmé Amidala, before turning to the dark side of his nature and becoming more machine than man.

After driving the development of nascent digital technology, George Lucas perceived how he could create new creatures and new worlds on a grander scale than ever before. He created the first digital blockbuster and met fierce resistance when he pushed for widespread digital cameras, sets, characters, and projection – all of which are now used throughout the industry. He essentially popularized the modern way of making movies.

Made with the full cooperation of George Lucas and Lucasfilm, this second volume covers the making of the prequel trilogy ― Episode I The Phantom Menace, Episode II Attack of the Clones, and Episode III Revenge of the Sith ― and features exclusive interviews with Lucas and his collaborators. The book is profusely illustrated with script pages, production documents, concept art, storyboards, on-set photography, stills, and posters.

Photo Credit: Taschen Books. (C) 2020 Taschen Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

The Book

Printed and manufactured in Italy for Taschen, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is a large-format (it measures 19.09 x 2.87 x 13.39 inches) “coffee table” book. It weighs 15.21 pounds and is made from top quality materials, including a red clothbound hardcover with the book title done in what looks to be gold leaf. It has 600 pages, but not all of them comprise the main narrative of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005.

I’ve never been that interested in computers. I’m interested in making movies and creating images and in doing it the easiest way possible. – George Lucas, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005

Although The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is a “making-of” book about the Star Wars saga, it differs from Dale Pollock’s Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas or the various behind the scenes volumes by J.W. Rinzler in that it’s an oral history rather than a straight up narrative. There’s even a note that explains that the book consists of quotes from interviews with many individuals, including Lucas, Special Edition/Prequel Trilogy producer Rick McCallum, designers Doug Chiang, Ian McCaig, Warren Fu, Erik Tiemens, and Derek Thompson, composer John Williams, and production designer Gavin Boucquet, just to name a few,

 “Darth Vader is black, so I went with pure white — in Chinese culture, white means death.”  – Warren Fu, on the design of General Grievous for Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005

My Take

The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is, at $200, the most expensive book in my library. It’s also the biggest and heaviest single-volume work that I own, and because it is a limited First Edition (my copy is # 6970), reading it is more of a challenge than the 40th Anniversary edition of Duncan’s The Star Wars Archives: Episodes IV-VI, 1977-1983  which is a downsized but unabridged version of the 2018 book about the Original Trilogy.

My two volumes of The Star Wars Archives, (Photo by the author)

When I say “that reading (The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005) is more of a challenge,” I don’t mean that the text is too difficult to grasp (Amazon says that the suggested age group for reading this is 9 and up, so you don’t need a master’s degree in film and arts to read it). Like I said, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is essentially an oral history, which means it’s made up of excerpts from interviews with the people who made the films.   

As such, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is like reading the transcript of a Star Wars film’s audio commentary track, one that delves deeply into how – and why – George Lucas decided to use digital technology to create the Special Edition of the original Star Wars Trilogy, the creative challenges involved in creating The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, and interesting revelations about the cast’s contributions to the saga, including Natalie Portman’s insistence that her character should be as assertive and action-oriented as Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia in the Original Trilogy.

Of course, if you are the sort of Star Wars grognard that watches the films while listening to the audio commentary tracks, some of the “reveals” in The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 are old news for you.

For instance, when Duncan interviews Ahmed Best about his character, Jar Jar Binks, and his work on Attack of the Clones, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 tells us that a June 2000 draft of the script was titled “Jar Jar’s Great Adventure.” This was done to misdirect the press, which was looking for any leaked information about the second film in the Prequel Trilogy. In the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Attack of the Clones, someone -Dough Chiang, I think – mentions inthe audio commentary track that “Jar Jar’s Great Adventure” was the working title for the film.

What the audio commentary glosses over, though, is that – in Best’s view – the gag  was essentially Lucas giving a, “middle finger to the whole ‘everyone hates Jar Jar’ thing.”

Photo Credit: Taschen Books. (C) 2020 Taschen Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Content-wise, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is a Star Wars geek’s dream come true, since it tells the story of how Lucas and the men and women at Lucasfilm – and there were hundreds of people in San Francisco and Skywalker Ranch who worked at the company – brought the story of Anakin Skywalker’s tragic fall from grace from concept to screen.

Fans, of course, are still divided over the question of whether Lucas succeeded in his quest to tell the story of how one of cinema’s iconic villains came to be. Many fans – mostly those who had grown up with the Original Trilogy in the 1970s and early 1980s  – weren’t thrilled by the prequels when they hit theaters at the turn of the century. Others – mainly those who were kids in 1999, 2002, and 2005, were more receptive.

Still, as The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 points out, Lucas did change the movie industry by introducing the tools and methods of digital filmmaking, which many in Hollywood resisted at first but now are used by many studios in movies from every genre. And even though Lucas eventually retired from making “blockbuster films” – and sold Lucasfilm and its prized Star Wars and Indiana Jones intellectual properties to The Walt Disney Company – in part due to fan criticism of his Prequel Trilogy, the franchise he created has grown and expanded, with five feature films and several television series set in his galaxy far, far away produced, and countless more screen adventures in the works by Disney-owned Lucasfilm.

Overall, I recommend The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005. Right now it’s still available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from Taschen Books.  Just keep in mind that this edition is expensive and quite heavy!   


[1] A British edition was published on November 8.

After the Assault on the Capitol: Trump Faces Second Impeachment Even As Supporters Engage in ‘Whataboutism’

Well, if he won’t resign, he has to be impeached!

Hello, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida, where the temperature is 72˚F (22˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 53% and the wind blowing from the south-southeast at 11 MPH (18 KM/H), the feels-like factor is 72˚F (22˚C). Today’s forecast: Partly sunny skies and a high of 74˚F (23˚C). Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 60˚F (15˚C).

Illustration by @Denny_Ow

Well, the situation in the United States of America – a misnomer if I ever heard one – is not a good one. Today I woke up to see that two GOP Senators (Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) asked President Donald J. Trump to resign in the wake of last Wednesday’s assault of the U.S. Capitol building, but to no avail. Also, Vice President Mike Pence has not asked the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office on the grounds that the current President is unstable and unfit to perform the duties of his elected post.

This, of course, means that the House of Representatives now has to impeach the President for high crimes and misdemeanors, in this case, for incitement of insurrection against the government in order to reverse the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

From the Articles of Impeachment that will likely be put forward by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):

ARTICLE II

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States—and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed—Donald John Trump has abused the powers of the Presidency to incite violence and orchestrate an attempted coup against our country.

To be clear, I – and many other Americans from both parties – would have preferred that President Trump resigned, but the Inciter of Chief won’t do that. Pence is waffling on invoking the 25th Amendment, so what remains of Trump’s Cabinet – Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos have resigned – is not going to remove him.

So, impeachment it is, I guess.

Meanwhile….

Trump supporters are having a difficult time coping with the possibility that Trump will be impeached a second time.

Take Barbara D, who posted this comment on a story about one of the men who broke into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday:

First of all, a mob of Trump supporters did NOT STORM THE CAPITOL. Those were all YOUR antifa and blm friends who did that under the guidance of the demorats, and assistance of the capitol police who were ordered to do that by those same damn demorats.

Linda K contributed this incoherent comment:

[T]hat has been the dem for months double standards you people have disrespected our government and flah g for months they did not burn the flag like your rioters did , they did not burn the buildings like yours did . they did not fire guns into the crowd like yours did so who is the violent ones and besides they did not steal anything like yours did . a lap top stolen is bs . the contents would be all over the media by now . people r not stupid you know

Matt K also shifted the blame to “BLM and Antifa” in a classic case of “whataboutism”:

Meanwhile for months, democrats on the hill fomented riots and murder with BLM and Antifa but no one said a thing lol

Trumpism is not just a conservative political movement. It is mainly that, of course, but it is also a dangerous socio-cultural cult of personality, similar to those found in Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, and North Korea’s Kim dynasty. And the fact that his followers excuse all of his misdeeds by engaging in “whataboutism” and spreading conspiracy theories makes Trumpism a cult that poses a clear and present danger to America’s democracy and the rule of law.

After the Assault on the Capitol: How Trump Supporters See Trump and the Capitol Breach

In the wake of Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC by a mob of Trump supporters seeking to overthrow the results of the November 2020 election, I’ve tried to get a lock on how the Make America Great Again crowd is reacting to this latest act of domestic terrorism by right-wing fans of the embattled 45th President of the United States.

Although I can only report on what I have seen on Facebook and Twitter, most Trump supporters tend to do one of three things on social media:

  1. They suddenly stop posting anything politically themed, especially if it’s about the 2020 election or the Capitol breach on January 6
  2. They say “I condemn the violence and don’t condone what happened on Wednesday, but what about the riots by BLM and Antifa this summer? Why don’t Dems talk about that?”
  3. They go full-bore on denial and deflection, saying “Trump supporters did not do this! The Capitol was trashed by BLM and Antifa to make our GREAT President look bad.”

Predictably, this is the “party line” being fed to Trump supporters by right-wing media. In Conservative Land, the message is, “We did not do this. We are the party of ‘Law and Order.’ It was the violent left that breached the Capitol to make us look bad! We are patriots!”

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

“But it was BLM!”

Here’s a sampling of what Trump supporters are saying on Facebook about the Capitol breach that left four insurrectionists and one Capitol Police officer dead:

L.B.E. writes: “The Dems have been provoking an active insurrection to overthrow Trump for the last four years.”

R.L. writes: “Democrats are evil.”

J.K. writes: At what point in any time ever did the president say ” take over the capitol “I mean, if tell tell you it’s cold outside and you and set the world on fire because you don’t like the cold .. how would that be my fault ?

V.S. writes: “Desperate lying rats will do anything to make them in control! Wake up America and let turn the tables on Pelosi Harris and the ugly demonrats!”

And here is a Desiderata-like mini-essay shared on Facebook by a Trump loyalist months before the election that shows the wide gulf of perceived realities between the President’s ardent followers and the rest of America:

Image Credit: Pixabay

I still love my democrat friends and family we simply see things differently… that’s what makes this great AMERICA work… we can all still get along.
You see Trump’s arrogance, I see Trump’s confidence.
🇺🇸You see Trump’s nationalism, I see Trump’s patriotism.
You hear Trump’s unsophisticated words, I hear Trump’s honesty.
You see Trump’s racism, I see Trump’s words being misconstrued and twisted by the media daily to fit their narrative.
You see Trump as a Republican, I see Trump as a Patriot.
You see Trump as a dictator, I see Trump as a leader.
You see Trump as an Authoritarian, I see Trump as the only one willing to fight for our freedoms.
You see Trump as childish, I see Trump as a fighter, unwilling to cave in to the lies.
You see Trump as an unpolished politician, I see Trump as a breath of fresh air.
You think Trump hates immigrants, I know Trump is married to an immigrant.
You see Trump putting an end to immigration in America, I see Trump welcoming immigrants to America LEGALLY.
You see Trump’s cages at the border, I see Obama’s cages at the border.
You see Trump with a struggling economy, I see Trump with an amazing economy until the Democrats shut it down.
You see the violence in the streets and call it “Trump’s America”, I see the violence in the streets of Democratic run cities who are refusing Trump’s help and call it “Liberal America.”
You want someone more Presidential,
I’m happy we have someone who finally doesn’t just talk the talk but actually walks the walk.
You and I, We see things very differently.
TRUMP 2020

We do indeed. We do indeed.

After the Assault on the Capitol: Aftermath

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Saturday, January 9, 2021. As I write this, the temperature is 55˚F (13˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 54% and the wind blowing from the west-northwest at 10 MPH (15 KM/H), the feels-like factor is 55˚F (13˚C). The rest of the afternoon will see partly sunny skies; tonight, the forecast for tonight calls for partly cloudy skies and a low of 36˚F (2˚C). A frost alert has been issued for this part of the state.

With less than 11 days before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in as the new President and Vice President of the United States, the Republican Party is in turmoil after Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters who sought to stop Congressional certification of the Electoral College results. And as some prominent GOP politicians, including Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), attempt to distance themselves from President Donald J. Trump in the wake of an act of domestic terror that left five people dead and hundreds injured, it looks like the Republican Party is going to split into pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions.

Already, conservatives are turning on each other with a viciousness I have never seen in my 37 years as a voter in the state of Florida. Trump supporters – who have labeled themselves as “patriots” – have aimed their vitriol at any Republican who has broken ranks with the man so many Trumpistas hail as the “best President ever.

Consider what happened to Lindsey Graham at Reagan International Airport yesterday.

Per AOL.com News (and HuffPost):

Supporters of President Donald Trump harassed Sen. Lindsey Graham at the Washington, D.C., airport on Friday after the former Trump loyalist broke with the president for inciting a mob attack on Congress.

The South Carolina Republican was looking at his phone when a group of people noticed his presence and tried to engage with him.

He ignored them and started to walk away, escorted by police, according to GreenvilleOnline.com.

Lisa Murkowski, a Republican and senior Senator from Alaska, was the first upper house member of the GOP to support the possible second impeachment of the embattled President. According to the New York Times, Murkowski is wiling to cross party lines to try Trump on charges of inciting armed insurrection.

Per the Times:

As Saturday dawned on a White House in turmoil, with President Trump unable to communicate on Twitter and other platforms, momentum for impeaching him a second time was rapidly growing among rank-and-file Democrats and some Republicans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday threatened to impeach Mr. Trump unless he resigned “immediately” for inciting the mob attack on the Capitol this week, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the first Republican senator to follow her lead.

“I want him out,” Ms. Murkowski told The Anchorage Daily News. “He has caused enough damage.”

Representative Ted Lieu, Democrat of California, announced on Saturday that the articles of impeachment drafted by him and other House Democrats had drawn 180 co-sponsors.

Whether or not a fast-track impeachment by the House of Representatives and a trial in the Senate happens is not certain as I write this; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) prefers that the President resign or is removed by his Cabinet under the 25th Amendment. And even if the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could be swayed to go along with the impeachment option, it is likely to happen after Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President on January 20.

Whatever happens in the aftermath of the Capitol breach on Wednesday, Trump’s final days as President will surely be interesting.

Sources:

https://www.aol.com/news/angry-trump-supporters-harass-lindsey-224540232.html

Book Talk: ‘The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005’….Look at the Size of that Book!

I’d hate to drop that copy of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 on my foot! It weighs 15.1 pounds and came in a box so big that at first I didn’t know it contained copy #6790! (Photo by the author)

Hi again, Dear Reader. It’s now late afternoon and heading into early evening here in New Hometown, Florida. Currently, it’s 63˚F (17˚C) under cloudy skies. With the wind blowing from the west-northwest at 13 MPH (21 KM/H) and humidity at 63%, the feels-like temperature is 63˚F (17˚C). The light that attempting to stream through my closed drapes is dimmer than usual, so I’m guessing the cloud cover is 100%.

Well, to change topics from the final days of the Trump Administration, I’m happy to report that I received my copy of Paul Duncan’s The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005, the second book in a duology by Taschen Books.

The first book of the duology, also published in December 2020. (C) 2020 Taschen Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Published just a few weeks ago, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is a huge “coffee table” format book that measures 19.09 x 2.87 x 13.39 inches and weighs a whopping 15.1 pounds. It has an expensive looking red cloth cover with the title done in what looks to be gold leaf, and its size (and weight) mean that it’s also a top quality volume.

Here is how the publisher describes The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005:

From the moment Star Wars burst onto the screen in 1977, audiences have been in equal parts fascinated and appalled by the half-man/half-machine hybrid Darth Vader. In 1999, creator George Lucas began the story of how Anakin Skywalker grew up to train as a Jedi under Obi-Wan Kenobi, found love with the Queen of Naboo, Padmé Amidala, before turning to the dark side of his nature and becoming more machine than man.

After driving the development of nascent digital technology, George Lucas perceived how he could create new creatures and new worlds on a grander scale than ever before. He created the first digital blockbuster and met fierce resistance when he pushed for widespread digital cameras, sets, characters, and projection – all of which are now used throughout the industry. He essentially popularized the modern way of making movies.

Made with the full cooperation of George Lucas and Lucasfilm, this second volume covers the making of the prequel trilogy ― Episode I The Phantom Menance, Episode II Attack of the Clones, and Episode III Revenge of the Sith ― and features exclusive interviews with Lucas and his collaborators. The book is profusely illustrated with script pages, production documents, concept art, storyboards, on-set photography, stills, and posters.

The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is the most expensive book I own. It’s part of a $200-per-book limited first edition – my copy is #6790 out of a 10,000 book run – and a fine but pricey collector’s item.

I will, of course, read it; it’s silly to buy a book like The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 and not read it. But since it needs to be handled with great care and is so big that you can’t just take it anyplace to browse through its 600 pages, it’ll be a while before I can review it for you.

The 40th Anniversary book about the Original Trilogy: $25. The huge book (15.1 lbs.!) about the Prequels? $200 from Teschen Books. (Photo by the author.)

I took a few photos of my two volumes of The Star Wars Archives together; as you can see, the book that covers the Original Trilogy is dwarfed – considerably – by The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005. As Wedge Antilles says about the first Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, “Look at the size of that thing!”  

After the Assault on the Capitol: Trump ‘Concedes,’ But He Still Has Blood on His Hands

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Friday, January 8, 2021. Right now the temperature is 63˚F (17˚C) under cloudy skies. With humidity at 77% and the wind blowing from the west at 8 MPH (13 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 63˚F (17˚C). Today’s forecast: partly sunny skies and a high of 67˚F (20˚C). Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 46˚F (8˚C).

The past few days have been unlike any other in the history of American presidential transitions since 1861. On Wednesday afternoon, after being egged on by President Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, and Rudy Guilliani – just to name a few speakers at the MAGA “Stop the Steal” (or whatever Trumpistas are calling it) rally – thousands of armed and violent supporters breached the U.S. Capitol – something that has not happened since the British burned parts of Washington, DC during the War of 1812.

This was not a peaceful demonstration gone wrong. The participants were already primed to go berserk and to participate in an act of seditious insurrection if the U.S. Congress certified the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Many of the Make America Great Again/Keep America Great movement were armed and dressed as if they were going to war rather than to peaceably assemble to support their lame duck President. All they needed, beyond the words of the Trumps and Guilliani, was a spark to set off the keg of gunpowder they brought to Washington with them.

That spark, apparently, was Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to overturn the 2020 election results. The President, who for 64 days had claimed that he, and not Joe Biden, had won the election had asked Pence to do this, even though the Vice President has no unilateral authority to overturn the election results.

Keep in mind that Trump had addressed the crowd for an hour before Congress started to tally the Electoral College votes. At one point in his speech, the President said this:

“Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

Per NPR’s timeline of events:

1:11 p.m. President Trump’s speech to supporters on the Ellipse outside the White House ends. During the roughly hourlong speech, Trump urges his followers to march to the Capitol and says at one point, “You will never take back our country with weakness.” Trump says he will be there with them but never joins the crowd.

1:13 p.m. Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar files the first objection to state Electoral College certification, from his home state. Democrat Joe Biden won the state by 10,457 votes. The objection needs to be joined by a U.S. senator, which it is. The objection could then be debated for up to two hours. Republican House members and senators threaten to do this for up to half a dozen states. The tactic amounts to not more than a delay, however, as the end result will be President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being declared the winners — again.

2:07 p.m. The mob of Trump supporters breach the steps on the east side of the Capitol.

2:16 p.m. The first scenes of the rioters inside the building.

This act of sedition did not go well for Trump or his followers. Vice President Pence – for once, anyway – did the right thing and refused to go along with the President’s demands. And by breaching the Capitol and trying to intimidate the Congress into undoing the 2020 Presidential election, the self-described “patriots” not only showed that they don’t believe in the Constitution, representative democracy, or a multi-party system, but they also caused five deaths.

Per a story on KRON in San Francisco, here are the names of the dead – four Trump supporters who should be labeled “domestic terrorists” and one law enforcement officer:

  • Ashli Babbitt, 35, of San Diego, CA. Trump supporter
  • Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, GA, Trump supporter
  •  Kevin Greeson, 55, of Athens, AL, Trump supporter
  • Benjamin Phillips, 50, of Ringtown, PA, Trump supporter

U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died of injuries he received while responding to the breach at the Capitol. According to a story by KRON-TV in San Francisco, “The death of Officer Sicknick will be investigated by Washington D.C. Metro Police’s Homicide branch, the USCP and other federal agencies.”

As I have said in previous posts about the events of January 6, this wasn’t a patriotic act gone wrong. It was an act of sedition, armed insurrection, and domestic terrorism. And I think that Trump’s last minute “change of heart” last night – he tweeted a lukewarm concession speech that was both unenthusiastic and pathetically hypocritical – was less of a recognition that he had caused the events to unfold the way that they did and more of a “cover-his-ass” move. After all, he could be held liable for the five deaths on the grounds that he instigated a MAGA riot.

Sources:

Timeline: How One Of The Darkest Days In American History Unfolded

These are the 5 people, including officer, who died in the U.S. Capitol riots

US Capitol Police officer dies from injuries in riot, federal homicide investigation opened

After the Assault on the Capitol: SecTrans Chao, Other Officials Quit in Wake of MAGA Rioters’ Attack on Congress

Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation, announced her resignation in the wake of yesterday’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. (Official Department of Transportation photo)

(A Trump nomination) “would be an utter, complete and total disaster. If you’re a xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot, you’re going to have a hard time being president of the United States, and you’re going to do irreparable damage to the party.” – Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), December 2015

One day after an armed mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters breached – for the first time since the War of 1812 – the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, some members of the embattled Administration – including one Cabinet member – have tendered their resignations to express their distaste for the 45th President.

Today, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that she is stepping down from her post effective January 11.

In a message to Department of Transportation staff that she also shared on Twitter, Chao, one of the GOP’s most influential and wealthy women (with a net worth of $24 million), said that yesterday’s attempt by the President’s supporters to reverse the election had troubled her.

Image Credit: Twitter

“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

Chao, who had previously served as President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor, is thus the highest-ranking member of the outgoing Trump Administration to resign since yesterday. Also departing are:

Stephanie Grisham (Official White House photo)
  • First Lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham
  • Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews
  • Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger
  • Special U.S. Envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney

According to Reuters, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien briefly considered leaving, but now “has no plans to quit.”

Per Reuters: “Further departures are especially likely at the NSC, one of the officials said. It coordinates U.S. foreign policy among federal agencies and maintains close contacts with foreign governments, so the loss of key staff could raise questions about national security as the new administration takes over.”

Sources:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-resignations/u-s-transport-chief-foreign-policy-advisers-among-resignations-after-capitol-violence-idUSKBN29C0C9?fbclid=IwAR0sdSxEWSF7Onb7MhBiFmDgEpty6U0HLb4yvE3WVkXbKHxR4iIlM7Nj38c

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/07/mick-mulvaney-resigns-from-trump-administration-expects-others-to-follow.html