Trump Environmental Protection Agency makes it easier to harm infants

The dramatic headline is designed to get your attention, so please forgive the theatrics. Yet, while the president distracts us with his chaotic, incompetent and untruthful actions and words about more headline issues, his misnamed Environmental Protection Agency has struck again.

Amanda Mills penned the following article on June 23, 2020 in the online publication “Nation of Change,” “Trump’s EPA rolls back regulation of chemical linked to brain damage in infants that can be found in drinking water.” I will include her entire brief article below.

“Last week, Trump’s EPA decided to roll back regulations of a chemical that causes brain damage in infants. This chemical, perchlorate, is found in rocket fuel and can also be found in public drinking water.

Environmental experts and Health professionals have been fighting this deregulation that was created during the Obama Administration.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler claims this move ‘fulfills President Trump’s promise to pare back burdensome ‘one-size-fits-all’ overregulation for the American people.’

According to Associated Press, perchlorate from runoff contaminates the drinking water of as many as 16 million Americans, the Obama administration said in 2011 when it announced the EPA would act to set maximum limits for perchlorate for the first time.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior strategic director for Health Erik D. Olson says this decision is ‘illegal, unscientific, and unconscionable. The Environmental Protection Agency is threatening the health of pregnant moms and young children with toxic chemicals in their drinking water at levels that literally can cause loss of IQ points. Is this what the Environmental Protection Agency has come to?’

According to Common Dreams, the NRDC plans to challenge the order in court, claiming the consent decree did not allow for deregulating the chemical.”

I truly wish I were making these things up and kids will not be harmed by the president, but as evidenced by previous EPA actions and his blatant lack of empathy for COVID-19 victims, this is not really a stretch. As conservative pundit David Brooks has said, the president “lacks a sense of decency or empathy.”

These roll back of environmental regulations have been deliberate efforts to make it easier for industry to not worry about pollution. Environmental protections cost money. Sadly, when industry has not been permitted to get away with harming people, animals and the environment, it becomes a major motion picture as “Dark Waters” was last year or “Erin Brockovich” years before.

And, the troubling part is people who live in more rural or town areas near these facilities are the ones who get screwed or killed. These hard working folks make up some of Trump’s voters. The ecologist and biologist Sandra Steingraber has testified in front of Congress and the European Union parliament. She is has authored several books, her first being “Living Downstream” and her second “Raising Elijah.” In these books, it shows how industry outguns and outspends local people harmed by their pollution. It takes a Herculean effort to fight this injustice, hence the heroic movies when it does happen.

One thing Steingraber points out is our pollution metrics tend to measure the impact of pollution on a 50 year old man. That is the wrong metric. Kids have developing brains and lungs, mouth breathe more than adults, put their hands in their mouths more frequently, play outside more and are lower to the ground. They are more susceptible than adults are to chemical pollution. Plus, pregnant women are caring for two lives (maybe more), so we need to be extra careful with them.

So, this is why the Trump EPA’s decision to permit easier pollution is so over-the-top callous. Please question this move. Make people stand up and explain why this is a good idea. As I have mentioned before, I knew of Trump’s negatives, but what I feared most is what Trump would do to our environment and climate change actions more than anything. This is just one more example.

A unifying person – a tribute to Carlos Santana, the person (a reprise)

The following was written and posted in 2014. The theme is so very relevant today as a much needed approach to emulate. Carlos Santana is known for his collaboration with singers and other performers.

I was watching an excellent documentary film on HBO about Carlos Santana, which included the lead up to and concert in his birth country of Mexico at the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The music is terrific, but the stories from Santana and his fellow performers, friends and family are enlightening and confirming. Santana received a Kennedy Center Honor from President Obama in December, 2013 for his life’s work and devotion to making great music and sharing it with us and his fellow performers.

As one of the best guitarists around, Santana has a gift of working well with other performers and using their talents to make beautiful music. In the documentary, he was described as a “unifying person” which may be one of the nicest compliments you could pay to someone. The story-teller said Santana had a gift for unifying diverse music and musical talents to make a unique and wonderful sound. Three quick stories, two from Santana and one from his wife Cindy Blackman, will provide great glimpses into Santana’s make-up.

Someone asked Santana how he was able to collaborate so well with other musicians in recordings and in performances. He said, “I just show up with a smile on my face and a willingness to work together with others.” If we could bottle that and give it to everyone to drink, what a difference that would make. A simple example of this was when Santana was talking to his fellow musicians about “not playing too loudly, so as not to drown out the voice of the singers.” I had heard him earlier describe that you have to provide some space for people to listen to the various subtleties of the music. To me, this is giving of himself to make the whole sound better.

The last example comes from his relatively new bride, Cindy Blackman, whom he married in 2010. She was describing how at the Kennedy Center Honors banquet, Santana went back to the kitchen to thank all of the chefs and wait staff for their help that night. He noted later in the documentary, many of us immigrants came to America and took jobs to have a chance to live in a great country. They work hard and we should acknowledge them.

I purposefully did not make this about his wonderful repertoire of songs. His music will live on. I was so moved by this quote of him being a “unifying person” I felt the need to share his example for us all. Muchas gracias, amigo.

A famous actor whose scenes were cut entirely

The other day I was watching the last half of the movie “The Big Chill” which is a favorite movie of many as well as me. The movie also has one of the best sound tracks as it features several Motown hits.

The cast is amazingly deep in recognizable names now, but they were just starting out then. As I recall, Lawrence Kasdan, the director, got everyone to hang out together before the movie filming to bond as friends. Since the movie is about old friends reuniting, he wanted them to have a basis to start from.

One of the later famous names never made the cut – Kevin Costner. Costner played the friend who committed suicide that caused the sad reunion. But, all of his scenes were cut except for his body being zipped up in a body bag at the start of the movie. Costner would go on to star and direct a number of movies rivaling that of any of the uncut stars of the movie – Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, William Hurt, Meg Tilly, Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, JoBeth Williams and Mary Kay Place.

That was the right call, as it added to the movie for his friends to remember him, celebrate his life and lament his passing. If we had seen him, some of that mystery would have been lost. We learned he turned down a great scholarship which gave him notoriety, but he lamented that decision later.

To me, William Hurt and Meg Tilly steal the movie. Tilly plays the younger girlfriend of Costner’s character. Her perspective adds to the movie as when she responds to a question if her boyfriend was happy and says “I don’t know that many happy people. How do they act?” Yet, each actor is allowed to shine and offer both comedy and drama.

Do you agree with the directors’ decisions to cut these scenes in the movie? What are some of your favorite parts of the movie? What other actors and actresses have been cut out of movies to your knowledge?

The Last Movie Star

Burt Reynolds starred in a movie late in his life called “The Last Movie Star” which is surprisingly poignant. Reynolds plays Vic Edwards, an aging movie star, who accepts a lifetime achievement award from a movie lover’s group in Nashville. But, he comes to the conclusion the first night, the group waa over-advertised and beneath his dignity. So, you won’t start out liking this man.

But, stay with it. Not trying to give away too much plot, he asks Lil, the sister of the group’s leader who serves as his driver, to detour from driving him to the airport and go to Knoxville, where we find out he is from. Suffice it to say, we learn a lot about him on this journey.

The movie uses actual footage of Reynolds earlier movies. He talks with his younger screen self as a means of sharing what is going on in his aging confusion and reflections on past decisions.

The movie was directed by Adam Rifkin and stars a largely young cast – Ariel Winter as Lil, Clark Duke as Doug, and Ellar Coltrane ss Shane. Chevy Chase plays his friend Sonny and Kathleen Nolan plays Claudia, his first wife.

If you have seen this movie, let me know what you think. If you have not seen it, avoid the temptation to give up on him. Also let me know what you think, once you have. The movie was rated as OK by the rating agencies, but 93% of Google users liked it.

Note, the movie was made in 2017 and released in early, 2018. Reynolds died in September, 2018.

Bombshell – Documentary of the actress (and scientist) Hedy Lamarr

Last fall, I wrote a brief post to introduce you to the fascinating story of Hedy Lamarr based on the novel “The only woman in the room.” While the book is a dramatization of her life as both an actress, and yes, scientist, PBS is airing a documentary called “Bombshell – The Hedy Lamarr Story.” Please click on the link below.

While Hollywood is so busy making movies about comic book heroes with supernatural abilities, it is ironic they have missed the fascinating story of a real hero right in their midst. I did not reveal the punch line in the first post, but even when I do, the book is worth the read.

Hedy Lamarr escaped Austria both as a Jew, but also from a controlling husband who supplied munitions to both the Nazis and Italians. She met Mussolini, who hit on her, and she believes she heard Hitler making her domineering husband quiver in the next room, as she listened through the wall.

As she came to America to become one of the most beautiful and iconic stars, she paid attention to what was going on in World War II. And, here is where it gets even more interesting. Her father taught her to investigate and understand science. She took apart a music box at age 5 and put it back together. She even briefly dated Howard Hughes, at one point, and he listened to her suggestions on making planes faster, as she showed him pictures of fast fish and birds as compared to his boxy design.

When she noticed that the German Uboats were unstoppable in the Atlantic easily avoiding the antiquated torpedoes of the US and UK, she invented a way for allied ships and subs to communicate with their torpedoes and alter the path. She used a frequency hopping approach and worked with an avant garde pianist composer named George Antheil, who had done cutting edge work on linking up music from multiple player pianos. A prominent scientist who saw promise introduced them to a physicist and the invention got a patent.

The Navy scoffed at the idea, in large part of her being a woman, an actress and borrowing an idea from player pianos and buried the patent. It was more than OK for her to raise money for War Bonds, which she was good at, but a woman inventor, who heard of such a thing? was their attitude. Unbeknownst to her, the Navy began using her patent in the 1950s (while it was still effective) to pilot drones and other systems. She was never told nor was she ever paid for its use. For some reason, she did not seem to mind not getting paid, but she did want the acknowledgment.

Yet, it gets more interesting. Lamarr and Antheil’s invention is now used in Wifi, GPS and Blue tooth technology. And, finally, she received late in life accolades when the story broke about who actually invented this technology. In fact, on the website of a scientist who developed its use in the Navy, he gives credit to her cutting edge invention made many years before in 1942.

Lamarr had become a recluse by the time she started getting the accolades, after she felt too many plastic surgeries greatly altered how she looked and she did not want to be remembered like thst. Her son spoke on her behalf in front of other inventors accepting their accolades.

The documentary uses a recorded audio interview with her as well as a few TV interviews to tell her story. Her son, daughter and granddaughter, as well as other historians, add a lot of background to the story. She was a complex woman and she described herself as a better artist than business person.

The documentary is worth the watch. Do pay attention to her words of wisdom at the end of the documentary. And, if you like the documentary, you will also enjoy the dramatization in the book. A link to my earlier post is below as well.

https://www.pbs.org/video/bombshell-the-hedy-lamarr-story-xxkyoj/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2019/10/17/the-only-woman-in-the-room-a-novel-about-the-amazing-true-story-of-hedy-lamarr/

Tuesday’s gone with the wind – a few wisps to consider

One of my favorite Lynyrd Skynrd’s songs is the ballad “Tuesday’s gone with the wind.” Using that as a theme for a potpourri of topics, let me toss of few of them into the breeze and see where they might blow.

– One of the more provocative movie lines was uttered by a very young Lauren Bacall to her future real husband Humphrey Bogart in “To have and have not.” She said “Steve, you know how to whistle don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.”

– Chicago is known as the “Windy City,” but that is not due to the cold wind that blows in from Lake Michigan. It is due to blowhard politicians. Right now, we have the windiest of people in the White House. If I could say one thing to him that might have a chance of being heard, it would be “Mr. president, if you can’t add any value, please stop talking.”

– Speaking of wind, former Arizona Senator John Kyl was caught in a lie by a reporter. His response, “It is your fault for mistaking my words as the truth.” Again, that is yet another reason not to believe a word the president says.

– Peter, Paul and Mary do justice to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the wind.” They sang it in on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King uttered his famous “I have a dream” speech. Dylan’s words echo with his important chorus as he searches for solutions to obvious pain and suffering. “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

– Speaking of that famous MLK speech. The marvelous gospel singer Mahalia Jackson is the reason he gave it that day. She had heard him give it before, but MLK had not planned to give that speech. Sensing early on that the words MLK began with were falling flat, she shouted from behind MLK to “tell them about the dream, Martin.” MLK then went off script to say his resounding words.

– Lincoln’s name speaks loudly these days for more than obvious reasons. The Emancipation Proclamation and constitutional amendment to free the slaves are well known. Yet, he is also remembered for putting enemies of his on his cabinet. Think about that. He wanted to keep them close, but he also wanted to hear from them on dissenting views. I think of that as we have a president who has filled and refilled his cabinet with people whose loyalty is more important than competency. To me, this is a key reason a group of Republicans who favor the defeat of Donald Trump have called themselves “The Lincoln Project.”

Invoking “Blowin’ in the wind” one more time. We have many challenges facing our country and planet. Yet, one of the answers is being advocated by The Lincoln Project. That answer blowin’ in the wind is the defeat of Donald Trump in November.

Different, not less

I spoke recently of a movie that caught my eye the other day which is well worth the watch – “Temple Grandin” starring Claire Danes as the title character with Julia Ormand, David Strathairn and Catherine O’Hara in key roles. It is a true story of Grandin who overcame her autism to get a Ph.D and become one of the foremost designers of cattle management systems. It is well worth the watch, but please pull out the Kleenex, especially when she first speaks up for autistic kids with her mother beside her.

A key moment in the movie is when her mother, played by Ormond is trying to find a high school that will help her daughter navigate a world with autism. To her credit, her mother defied those who said she needed to institutionalize her daughter back in the 1960s. A science teacher at the prospective school, played by Strathairn, hurried out to convince Ormond to stay as she was leaving with her daughter. He said, Temple is “different, not less.” Grandin had a brilliant mind, but understood better through visualization. She could see things we could not.

“Different, not less.” The line is so powerful, Grandin uses it later as she speaks to searching-for-answers parents of autistic kids. It reminds me of a similar line in a movie about a fictitious band from the 1960s, “Eddie and the Cruisers.” Michael Pare plays Eddie, the lead singer and driving force behind the band. He looks like a “cruiser,” but is well-read and intelligent. He drafts into the band an English major played by Tom Berenger, whom they call “Wordman” because of his profound lyrics.

During the movie as they are playing a college campus, Eddie tells Wordman these people are not like them. They are different. Wordman innocently replies, “they are no better than we are.” Eddie corrected him saying “I said different, not better.” Given the reference, this comment is the same as the above title and equally powerful.

We are different. It would be rather boring if we all thought, learned and said the same things. While we may be different, we are no better or worse than the next person. Grandin designed a system that is now used in over 50% of the cattle business, but she was laughed at because she was a woman and autistic. Her simple questions were pertinent, yet ignored. Her autism allowed her to see what the cattle sees and she factored that in her designs.

As for Eddie, we should always be careful with our first impressions. People dress differently, look differently, and act differently. Yet, Eddie was a deep thinker and knew literature. We are all different, but we have the same rights, responsibilities and need to be heard. My rights are no more important than yours and vice versa.

Both of these movies are worth the watch. They each will help us appreciate what others go through. Different, not less. And, not better either.

A few movies I stumbled onto

While HBO and Showtime are more into showing series in prime time, I catch most of my movies in the afternoon during these shelter-in-place days. Here are few I stumbled onto that kept my attention.

The Recruit with Al Pacino, Colin Ferrell and Bridget Monayhan – about a CIA trainer picking a recruit to help in ferreting out a mole in the CIA.

Seven Pounds with Will Smith, Rosario Dawson and Woody Harrelson – I had seen this before, but it is excellent. Smith’s character is donating parts of various organs (which tally seven pounds in weight, hence the title). The story is why and how.

Temple Grandin with Claire Danes, Julia Ormond and David Strathairn – This is a terrific movie about a true hero, Temple Grandin. Grandin is autistic, but earns a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree and helps reshape the livestock industry, treating cattle as humanely and efficaciously as possible. She also became an advocate for better understanding autistic people.

Mary Magdalene with Rooney Mara, Joacquin Phoenix and Chiwetel Ejiofor – this move drags on at times, but is of interest in telling Jesus’ story more from Mary Magdalene’s perspective. I find movies like this interesting, as they provide a new lens.

The Legend of Bagger Vance with Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron – this movie is little cheesy at times, but it has a great cast. It is about a former golfer who lost his swing and is being asked to take on Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen in a match.

The movies above have a little bit for everyone. In terms of unexpected enjoyment, “Temple Grandin” is very moving. You may need some tissue in a few parts. If your have not seen “Seven Pounds,” it is also excellent. What are some of the ones you have been watching?

Trumbo – a great movie about a dark time in America

Earlier in the week, I was watching the excellent movie called “Trumbo” about the black-listed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston and an excellent cast such as Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning and John Goodman to name a few. I missed it the first time around in 2015 when it was released.

The movie was written by John McNamara and Bruce Cook, on whose book the movie is based. It was directed by Jay Roach. Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten who were blacklisted early on for alleged communist activities. He spent time in jail for being in Contempt of Congress for refusing to name names. Trumbo would go on to ghost write two Oscar winning screenplays for “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One.” He would perpetuate an underground screenwriting group and eventually, Kirk Douglas and director Otto Preminger, would let him sign his name to the movies in 1960 with “Spartacus” and “Exodus.”

I was reminded of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which began in 1947 and was in exisentence until 1975, that started these investigations leading to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt efforts. It should be noted that 1975 is the year following Richard Nixon’s resignation. Nixon was a key ally of Sen. McCarthy. It should be noted Nixon kept an enemies list due to his paraonoia. Nixon did some good things, but he turned out to be a crook.

What is interesting is McCarthy’s attorney through this dark period was Roy Cohn. Cohn later became a mentor to a young real estate developer in New York named Donald J. Trump. Trump’s biographers wrote that Cohn told Trump to never apologize and sue everyone. Trump has followed these mandates for his entire career.

Bringing this full circle. Trump is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime, including Nixon. But, both me were influenced by Sen. McCarthy who led this dark period in American history who made up things to support his claims. It should be noted that both Nixon and Trump blame the press for not sufficiently kowtowing to them. As the Sec. of the Army asked famously of McCarthy, “have you no sense of decency, sir?” The same could be asked of the current US president.

So, we must protect America against those who wave the flag and tell people it does not stand for the things that it does.

The Best of Enemies

Yesterday, my wife and I watched a movie released last year called “The Best of Enemies.” It stars Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell in true story about the debate over integrating schools in Durham, NC in 1971. Henson stars as Ann Atwater, an outspoken (self-described) African-American community organizer, while Rockwell stars as C.P. Ellis, the Durham chapter president of the KKK. They are asked to chair a two-week group meeting called a charrette to flesh out possible resolutions to the African-American school being partially destroyed by fire with lingering toxic fumes.

The movie is excellent and reveals the tensions, scheming, learning and fighting that went on. It also permits a deeper dive into the lives of the people in the middle of this fight. Realizing the similarity of all of us, empathy begins to emerge.

I will try not to spoil the movie. It is based on the best selling book “The Best of Enemies: Race and redemption in the New South” by Osha Gray Davidson. The film was written and directed by Robin Bissell, with co-writing credits to Davidson. It also stars Babou Ceesay as Bill Riddick, a mediator who plays a huge role in bringing the people together. Key roles are played by Ann Heche, the wife of Ellis, Bruce McGill, a closet supporter of the KKK as a councilman, and John Gallagher, Jr., a former Vietnam veteran who plays a pivotal role.

The movie did not receive rave reviews, but that may be due to its closeness to reality painting obvious bias and hatred into the plot. It is inspiring, troubling, and believable. I was in the middle of the integration of schools and remember it well. My schools integrated in 1971 and, to be frank, it went off reasonably well. It did not do so well in other communities or may be other schools. Yet, I think this relates to the leaders behind the effort in each community and school.

Let me know what you think. Give it a look. Rockwell and Henson are terrific actors and bring their passion to each project. Rockwell, in particular, plays complicated characters quite well. Also, do you remember integration efforts in the early 1970s?