The Lost Days of Bergamo

This essay is long but definitely worth your time. Jason Horowitz reports on the devastating early days of the COVID outbreak in Bergamo, Italy.

In certain ways, the U.S. finds itself in a similar situation this holiday season: Hospitals overflowing with nowhere near enough medical staff to treat patients, and with too many of those frontline workers getting the virus after working far too many hours.

Things here are worse now than at any point during the crisis, and it’s all due to the refusal of too many American public officials (mainly those on the Republican side of things, as well as their radical court appointees) to have the common sense to institute a multi-week lockdown and an accompanying mask mandate.

As a result, too many Americans are forced to show up for work, where masking and social distancing aren’t always possible or required. This dramatically increases the chances of getting the virus and passing it on to others.

Other Americans who can quarantine and who can follow social distancing and mask wearing protocols – but who don’t – have shown us their true colors during this pandemic, insisting that ignoring any preventative measures is their God-given right as an American, damn the consequences. ‘Fuck other people,’ they essentially say, ‘I’m not going to compromise my daily way of life or inconvenience myself in the least, even for a short period of time, in order to help my fellow Americans remain healthy’….proving themselves selfish beyond measure.

And so, because of this irresponsible (and, as I see it, un-American) behavior, I am stating right here, right now, I am not taking part in any holiday celebrations with anyone who refuses beforehand to follow basic COVID protocols: Wearing masks anytime they’re out of the home, a proper 2 week quarantine prior to holiday get-togethers, and, most importantly, restricting such get-togethers to less than 10 people (way less than 10, preferably).

I know it’s the holidays and we all want to spend them with family and friends and others we love so dearly. But if you really, truly love them, you’ll follow the protocol above. If not, then stay home and hope beyond hope that next year we’ll be back to some semblance of normal.

Because right now, the selfishness of others not to follow simple COVID protocols is literally killing thousands of moms, dads, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and grandparents per day.

And for what, other than their selfish need to not be inconvenienced?

I’ll wait for an answer.

Yes, Prosecute Trump

In yesterday’s New York Times, Andrew Weissmann, a senior prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s devious 2016 presidential campaign and its relationship to Russia, argued that the next Attorney General has a responsibility to investigate Donald Trump and, if necessary, prosecute him for any federal crimes identified.

Key quotes: “I do not come to this position lightly. We do not want to turn into an autocratic state, where law enforcement authorities are political weapons of the reigning party. But that is not sufficient reason to let Mr. Trump off the hook. Mr. Trump’s criminal exposure is clear.”

“Being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.”

Of course, we all know that Trump will make every attempt to pardon himself, including (in my opinion), if he is told he can’t self-pardon, resigning early in order to allow a “President Pence” to issue the pardon.

For his part, President-elect Joe Biden feels his administration should simply forget about Trump and let the states pick up the mantle of investigations (which aren’t effected by a presidential pardon).  His administration will have too much to focus on, he says, with the pandemic and its horrible destruction of our economy. 

I understand the argument, however I disagree with it whole-heartedly.  Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of our nation, far and away.  He overtakes the likes of Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding, and Richard Nixon by hundreds of proverbial wide miles.   

A brief list of Trump’s criminal activity includes (but is far from limited to):

Tax Fraud – The New York Times earlier this year reported multiple instances of tax crimes on the part of Trump and his business dealings, including passing money off to his children without reporting it, and criminal activity around listing multiple personal properties as investment properties. Moreover, his company deducted $747,622 in “consulting fees” for various hotel projects. Meanwhile, a consulting company co-owned by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, paid her exactly the same amount (!!).  And I am quite sure investigators would unearth multiple crimes related to the millions of dollars in consulting fees that were paid to unknown people.
Bank and Insurance Fraud – Reports are that Trump provided banks and insurance companies with false information about his financial situation in order to receive lower interest rates on loans and lower insurance premiums.
Campaign Finance Law Violations – The $130,000 hush payment to his porn-star mistress, Stormy Daniels, is just the iceberg of the crimes committed here. Investigators are keen to look into a $10 million loan Trump made to his campaign in the last days of the 2016 presidential campaign.  A loan he made after receiving what is likely an illegal payment of $21 million from business partners in Las Vegas – illegal if, as is likely, it was made for no legitimate purpose.
Bribery – As president, Trump has most likely violated bribery laws by keeping up his normal sleazy business dealings around the world.  And God only knows what sort of threats international leaders received if they even tried to stay at any DC hotel property that didn’t have the name Trump above the door (and likely charged highly inflated room rates at those Trump properties).
Obstruction of JusticeOne thousand former federal prosecutors stated that if Trump were not president, his conduct as described by the Mueller Report, would “result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.” 

Frankly, I would add Negligent Homicide to this list.  Trump’s horrid, irresponsible, and incompetent handling (or, really, lack thereof) of the COVID-19 crisis is, as I said in my endorsement of Joe Biden earlier this month, directly responsible for a tremendous majority of the 266,000 COVID-related deaths in the United States to date.

Finally, let’s not forget the Authoritarian bent of Trump’s presidency.  He has checked each of the ten markers for that dangerous, far-right political ideology:

Taking sides with a foreign power against domestic opposition.
Detention of journalists.
Loss of press access to the White House.
Made-up charges against those who disagree with the government.
Use of governmental power to target individual citizens for retribution.
Use of a terrorist or other incident to take away civil liberties.
Persecution of an ethnic or religious minority, either by the Administration or its supporters.
Removal of civil service employees for insufficient loyalty or membership in a suspect group.
Use of the Presidency to incite popular violence against individuals or organizations.
Defying the orders of courts, including the Supreme Court.

If federal or state investigations lead to criminal charges which in turn lead to prosecution, my belief is that so much would pour out about this man’s absolute desire to obtain and retain power for power’s sake, and that testimony from witnesses would overwhelming show his attempts to subvert the Constitution in efforts to impose a sort of dictatorial form of government on the United States. 

The list of probable crimes and the authoritarian checklist… no lawmakers of any political stripe, of any political office, should opt for reasons of political expediency to ignore Donald Trump in the name of turning the American page.  This is a dangerous man who almost destroyed the United States of America, and may still if we don’t completely kill the ideology by by cutting off the orange, spray-tanned head. 

Barack Obama made a huge mistake, in my opinion, for not letting his government prosecute George W. Bush administration officials for the war crimes they committed in Iraq.  The new Democratic administration needs to pay attention to Mr. Weissmann: “Being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.”

The precedent that would be set in not prosecuting Trump would green light this sort of behavior in future administrations; and before we know it, likely in our lifetimes, the “American experiment” of a constitutional democratic republic form of government will come to an end.  

National Popular Vote Update, 29 November, 11:00am, PT

There are still votes to be counted, largely mail-in ballots that need to have signature issues sorted out, as well as the last of the provisional ballots that require final investigation before determination is made that they’ll be counted. But the totals will change slightly, as well, due to the various ongoing recounts.  In Georgia, Trump picked up a handful of votes that hadn’t been counted the first time around; the same for Biden in Wisconsin.

The presidential, House, and Senate vote numbers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia need to be final and certified by Tuesday, 08 December 2020.  In the presidential contest, the official election takes place on Monday, 14 December 2020, when the 538 members of the Electoral College meet in the state capitals and cast their votes.  If each member votes as per their state’s dictate, Biden will receive 306 votes and Trump will receive 232.

The Electoral College votes, of course, make the national popular vote non-binding; however, in my opinion, those national numbers give us an indication as to the sort of mandate the winning candidate has been given by his or her fellow Americans.

The Democratic ticket has, to date, received well over six million more votes the Republican ticket:

Biden/Harris: 80,259,147 (51.1%)
Trump/Pence: 73,967,466 (47.1%)

While not a landslide by any stretch, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won a comfortable national victory in which a solid majority of Americans have rejected the toxic, dangerous, Authoritarian Republican incumbents – at least at the executive level; their choices in House and Senate races are a bit more perplexing.  More on that in a separate post.

Sunday Morning Disco

Once upon a time (in late 1978), I owned the 12-inch dance single played in the video below.  Pretty funky vinyl print; not sure what happened to it.

Sure, the song was (and is) overplayed, but it is a true classic disco single – superbly produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers.  To this day it remains the biggest selling single for the Atlantic Records label, with seven million copies sold to date (four million of those sold in 1978 and 1979).

Number one in the dance clubs this week in 1978…

“Le Freak” by Chic (#1, 1978)

Edwards and Rodgers were truly superb producers. “C’est Chic,” the album on which “Le Freak” appeared, is an excellent set of R&B and dance music. “I Want Your Love,” my favorite all time Chic record, was the follow up single. Produced, arranged, and engineered to perfection, it is a far superior record than “Le Freak” in my opinion. It was also a number one hit on the Disco/Dance Club chart (top ten overall).

“I Want Your Love” by Chic (#7, 1979)

Throwback Thursday

One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is to view the film “Home for the Holidays” either after dinner on the holiday, or the next day. The film serves as a sort of post-holiday elixir.

The opening credits of the film are accompanied by this fantastic take on the Santana classic. This version, for me, is way more preferred that the original.

“Evil Ways” by Rusted Root (1996)

What a Pathetic Little Piece of Human Schmegma

On this night, when Americans collectively give thanks, and are doing so THIS year, one of the most difficult in our nation’s history, the man who is president of the United States called a press conference to whine and moan and cry like a fucking baby, perpetuating baseless and dangerous conspiracy theories, berating reporters, and undermining democracy.

What a pathetic piece of bottom-feeding schmegma!

THIS is what a President sounds like…

The president-elect and future First Lady, earlier today:

“This year, our turkey will be smaller and the clatter of cooking a little quieter. There will be no family walks in the cold or playful bickering amongst the grandkids. Like millions of Americans, we are temporarily letting go of the traditions we can’t do safely.”

“It is not a small sacrifice. These moments with our loved ones — time that’s lost — can’t be returned. Yet, we know it’s the price of protecting each other and one we don’t pay alone. Isolated in our own dining rooms and kitchens, scattered from coast to coast, we are healing together.”

Stuffing Mix

An eclectic music mix that can serve as your Thanksgiving soundtrack, should you so choose. Set runs the gamut: From Ella Fitzgerald to Khruangbin, Tom Jones to Bob Mould, Nat King Cole to Elton John, plus new music from the Ghost Twins, Smokey Brights, and Jessica Winter. (Full track listing below the Spotify link.)

Click through, press play, and enjoy.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Thinking of You – Sister Sledge
Peg – Steely Dan
Love’s a Game – The Magic Numbers
Evil Ways – Rusted Root
She’s a Lady – Tom Jones
California Soul – Marlena Shaw
Lady Marmalade – LaBelle
People Everywhere (Still Alive) – Khruangbin
Save Me – Gotye
A Little Bit – The Ghost Twins
Hand Over My Heart – The Secret Sisters
Faraway Look – Yola
Something Got Me Started – Simply Red
Every Kinda People – Robert Palmer
Stoned – Lewis Taylor
Saint – Texas
When We Are Together – Texas
Squeeze Me – Kraak & Smaak
Wine Glass Woman – Mayer Hawthorne
History Repeating – The Propellerheads with Shirley Bassey
This Town – Frank Sinatra
Maybe Tomorrow – Stereophonics
I Love You but Damn – Smokey Brights
The Fox – Elton John
Emotional Love – John Mellencamp
Kiss and Tell – Bryan Ferry
Lose That Girl – Saint Entienne
Sad Music – Jessica Winter
When the Morning Comes – Daryl Hall and John Oates
Sugar Tongue – Indigo Girls
Sooner or Later – Fleetwood Mac
Don’t You Want Me – Stella Starlight Trio
Never Going Back Again – Fleetwood Mac
Jolene – Dolly Parton
Light of a Clear Blue Morning – Dolly Parton
Me and My Arrow – Harry Nilsson
Where Will I Be – Emmylou Harris
Share the Moon – Indigo Girls
The Power – Cher
I Saved the World Today – Eurythmics
I Love Paris – Ella Fitzgerald
Carla Etude/Fanfare/Chloe – Elton John
Sunspots – Bob Mould
Goodbye – Emmylou Harris
The Very Thought of You – Nat King Cole

Neil Gorsuch is an Asshole

The Supreme Court has ruled that the state of New York cannot enforce strict COVID restrictions on houses of worship.

Neil Gorsuch proves what a smug asshole he is in this ruling.
He and his merry band of Fascists say the health and welfare of the general public must be put at risk so the American deplorables can worship their little imaginary blonde Jesus in the sky.

Fuck them all.