Monday, June 1, 2020

230

230?
Yes. Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which Trump is trying to nullify by executive fiat.  It's the part of the law that shields Internet platforms from lawsuits against what their users post.  Like Trump.  It also allows platforms to moderate content and delete or flag whatever they feel violates their own standards.  So when Twitter dared to fact-check one of his tweets, he threatened to shut down social media - which, perversely, would deny him his strongest communication tool.  Then when he advocated violence to combat the violence of the Gorge Floyd riots, Twitter branded it as incendiary speech. The White House responded by saying that he didn't mean what he said, though he clearly said what he meant - he wants to shoot those who loot.  Especially if they're on Fifth Avenue.
Trump can't close down Twitter (which might be a good thing) or close down Facebook (which, given that I connected with a lot of the top models of the 1980s through Facebook, would definitely be a bad thing), but the mere fact that he wants to suppress free speech is chilling.  Not that it's anything new, of course; he's been wanting to do that since January 20, 2017.  
Interestingly, Joe Biden agrees with Trump that Section 230 should be repealed to make social media platforms more responsible for a lot of the misinformation posted on their domains.  You'd agree with Trump, too, if you, like Biden, had progressives who literally hate you spreading since-debunked stories about your aggressive womanizing.  But if social media platforms start policing content in order to avoid lawsuits, it will make them less free for their users.  Sure, libelous comments and false stories can be removed more easily, but what about other circumstances?  If Volkswagen of America, for example, had a problem with me pestering the company on social media to get it to bring the base eighth-generation Golf to the U.S. and decided it was a form of harassment, would Facebook or Twitter, without Section 230, block my posts on that subject to avoid a lawsuit from Volkswagen of America?
I say, let people post what they want, but make sure that people can tell the difference between legitimate news and conspiracy theories, and allow the social media platforms to maintain their standards as they have been doing.  Misinformation will still get out, of course, but social media users should be educated to separate the wheat from the chaff.  I do so, and so I ignore any posts linking Hillary Clinton with a child-prostitution ring.  Also, I ignore anything Trump tweets.
As I said, Trump can't close social media, so don't pay attention to his rants about that.  Pay attention instead to his decision to pull the United States out of the World Health Organization in the middle of a pandemic that has affected this country more than any other.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Battleground Bungle

Poor Donald Trump.  He's long had the ability to travel to election-battleground states that Joe Biden has lacked, but he doesn't seem to get any mileage out of the visits to such states that he's made this month.
In the first full week of May, Trump toured a factory in Arizona making N95 masks to fight OVID-19 while not wearing a mask himself.  As he toured the factory, Guns N' Roses' 1991 cover of Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live and Let Die," the theme song for the James Bond movie of the same name, blared on the loudspeaker.
Biden is ahead of Trump by seven percentage points in Arizona in one poll.
A week later, at a protective-equipment warehouse in Pennsylvania, Trump - again, unmasked - said that testing, a tactic to fight the virus that theoretically could reduce the need for masks, is "overrated."
Biden is ahead of Trump by nine percentage points in Pennsylvania in one poll.
Last week, in Michigan - you already know about this - Trump praised Henry Ford's bloodlines, ignoring the anti-Semitic history of the founder of the car company now run by his great-grandson, the same company now getting rid of fuel-efficient cars in America to push more pickup trucks an monster wagons - after getting into a fight with the state's governor and secretary of state, both women, over mail-in voting.
Biden is ahead of Trump by six percentage points in Michigan in one poll.
This past Wednesday, Trump traveled to Florida to witness the historic launch pf the SpaceX rocket ship to send astronauts to the International Space Station.  The launch was called off due to bad weather.  The SpaceX launch was achieved successfully yesterday, and Trump did attend, but getting it right the second time isn't the same thing as getting it right the first time.  Also, Trump used the occasion of the launch to lash out at "anarchists" in the civil-rights protests of the past week.
Biden is ahead of Trump by five percentage points in Florida in one poll.
Oh, this ever-changing world in which we live in . . .. :-D

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Rock Bottom

So many black men have died at the hands of the police that I can't comment on it anymore than to say it's wrong and it shouldn't happen, because I can't find anything more eloquent and verbose to offer than that.  But the Minneapolis case of George Floyd - which sparked a riot that led to fires in Minneapolis - requires me to comment here.  When are the police going to get it?  You dehumanize black men, you dehumanize Americans . . . and America.   
And this is all happening in the backdrop of the United States having passed the number of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths.  We've sunk to a new all-time low. 
And what is the guy in the White House Donald J. Trump, doing?  Stoking the embers of resentment, calling the demonstrators "thugs" (the arsonists were outsiders having little to do with the protests) and demanding that they be shot, hoping to tilt Minnesota into the Republican column this fall with his divisive "law and order" rhetoric,", which Nixon used in 1968, a year after the Newark riot.  (New Jersey would go Republican in a presidential election six consecutive times beginning in 1968.)
And something else happened in Minneapolis that must have warmed Trump's heart - a CNN reporter was arrested while covering the riot.  (He has since been released.)
Joe Biden is expected to address the Minnesota Democratic convention tomorrow. This could be a, if not the, defining moment of hi presidential campaign  He will have the opportunity to call for calm, reach out to black voters in a meaningful way, and show more empathy and maturity than Trump all at once - if he balances his comments right - more vividly than in his most recent TV interviews.
However, he can forget about choosing Amy Klobuchar as his running mate.  It turns out that Officer Derick Chauvin, the fired policeman in the center of the Floyd killing, had had numerous complaints against him in the early 2000s, when Klobuchar was Hennepin County attorney (Hennepin County includes Minneapolis).  Klobuchar failed to prosecute Chauvin in another incident where he shot a suspect to death.  Her vice presidential hopes just burned to the ground with those buildings.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Music Video Of the Week - May 29, 2020

"ABC" by the Jackson 5  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Biden Map

With Delaware's governor set to lift the COVID-19-based stay-at-home order this coming Monday (June 1), Joe Biden may finally be a free man, with the ability to make the public campaign appearances he so obviously loves and gets energy from.  But the Biden campaign is still focused on expanding its digital operations, where Trump currently holds an advantage.  Biden is not only looking to hold on to key "battleground" states Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and take back the blue firewall states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin but also attempt to make inroads in other states Trump won more comfortably than the blue firewall states and also in states where Hillary Clinton had no chance at all - but she went for them anyway.  Biden's electoral battleground map below should explain it.
All of the states in color are states where Biden is ahead or competitive in the polls.  The dark blue states are the states the Democrats won in 2016 - barely, in some cases, as in Minnesota - that Biden hopes to hold onto.  The light blue states are states unsuccessfully targeted by the Democrats in 2016 that Biden hopes to fight more vigorously in.  The lavender states are solidly Republican states where Trump is slipping and where Biden has the outside chance Hillary Clinton thought she had, based on current polling.  Arizona, which is becoming more bipartisan, is no surprise, and Florida isn't either.  But look at Texas, will ya?  Trump is actually beating Biden by only a few points there, which means that Trump is vulnerable in the Lone Star State. And even though it's not targeted on his map, he's only a couple of points behind Trump in Republican Utah - Utah, the Mormon homeland, perhaps the most socially conservative theocracy west of Iran.  Now that's news. 
The diagonal-line states of Maine and Nebraska are targeted for their awarding of only two electoral votes on a statewide winner-take-all basis, the other electoral votes awarded based on who carries which U.S. House district.  Trump will likely win Nebraska's two electors representing the state, of course, but with three House districts each choosing one elector, Biden can possibly pick off one elector in the Democratic-friendly Omaha-based district, as Barack Obama did in 2008.  And I have a feeling that Biden's looking to sweep Maine.
I got this map in an e-mail from the Biden campaign asking for donations.  I'm not giving away campaign secrets here; the Trump campaign is obviously looking at the same map and the same polls.  And I'm sure the Trump campaign recognizes what Biden has to do as much as the Biden campaign folks themselves.
"Every organizer we're able to put to work in these critical battleground states translates to more votes for Joe Biden on Election Day," the Biden campaign explained in its e-mail.  "And we're working on developing innovative ways for organizers to reach out to voters safely, allowing us to champion social distancing standards as long as we need to while not sacrificing any of the groundwork we need to do.  We’re not taking a single vote for granted, so we've got to make sure every voter in every state on this map hears directly from someone on our campaign about Joe's plans for our country."
Biden has his work cut out for him despite his consistent leads in the polls over the past couple of months.  He may have survived Burisma and his son Hunter's involvement in that, and he may have even survived the Tara Reade story (though far too many people seem to believe Reade, including the increasingly insufferable congresswomen known as the Squad), but now he has to deal with doubts among black voters, and Bernie bros still won't give him any quarter (or quarters - 97 percent of Sanders supporters have failed to donate money to the Biden campaign).  However, Biden's overall strategy and his increasingly liberal policy positions (made possible by a pandemic) show that he is taking this campaign far more seriously than one might think.     

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Block The Vote - 2020 Edition

The Republican National Committee and other Republican groups are suing the state of California for attempting to expand mail-in voting for the November elections this year.  If Donald Trump weren't pushing the idea that mail-in voting - which he's taken advantage of in the past - is a bad thing, this suit would be utterly ridiculous.  But its utterly serious.
The courts are likely to side with California for expanding voting by mail, since several other states use it already, and Trump won't be able to stop any state from going forward with such plans.  Thanks to his efforts to make voting by mail look susceptible to voter fraud - despite the fact that the charge itself is a fraud - none of that matters.  If he gets enough people to suspect voting by mail as illegitimate, then he could successfully claim that the election was rigged should he lose to Joe Biden in the fall based on more mail-in ballots thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.  And spreading the idea that mail-in voting is fundamentally flawed might discourage some people from voting by mail or, because of the pandemic, voting altogether.  He wants to get people to doubt the process and get people to believe that the process only works if he manages to get re-elected.
This isn't utterly serious, it's utterly dangerous.  Mail-in-voting activists have felt under siege and de-legitimatized by Trump's antics and his efforts to discredit the electoral system.  Now is not the time for them to knuckle under.  Mail-in balloting may not have the same solemnity as showing up to vote in person, but it's an important part of expanding the franchise.  Hopefully, voting by mail can be upheld in the near future.  Assuming, of course, that the United States Postal Service is around by November.   

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Who Was That Masked Man?

It's Joe Biden, appearing at a Memorial Day ceremony in Delaware and following recommendations to wear a "face covering" to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
He practices what Trump's advisors preach, even though he probably wouldn't have to wear one outside where social-distracting opportunities abound  But as a presidential candidate, he probably had a Secret Service detail that couldn't stay six feet apart from him.
One the one hand, those how serious Biden would be as President in fighting COVID-19.
On the other hand, the Trump campaign will probably use this picture against him.  Not to illustrate what a weenie he is, but how dangerous a Biden Presidency would be.
Let's just say that wearing a black mask with sunglasses and looking like a member of the James Gang (the Western outlaw gang, not the seventies power trio fronted by Joe Walsh) wasn't the best possible optic . . .  

Monday, May 25, 2020

Twenty Years of Golfin'

It was twenty years ago today, May 25, 2000, that i took delivery of my first new car, a 2000 Volkswagen Golf, fourth generation.  I got it in indigo blue, as seen below.
Since then, I have gotten a second Golf - a 2012 model, sixth generation.  Still in good shape after more than eight years.
Strictly speaking, anything I write about the Volkswagen Golf should be on my Golf blog. even if that blog is specifically about the eighth-generation model, but this time it's personal.  I have an emotional connection to the Golf, just like most people around the world have.  It's practical, efficient, and fun, and it performs and handles ever than most compact cars and as well as some sports cars.  It's a car that fits my independent spirit, and I find pleasure in driving a Golf even when in heavy traffic or making mundane trips to the store.  I obviously enjoy taking it on road trips, as it makes the journey as entertaining as the destination.  During this pandemic, I make fewer trips than I normally do, and I savor any chance to drive it, even if it's just to go across town to mail something at the post office.  I felt a connection to my maternal grandfather, who loved cars and loved to drive, the day I got my first Golf.  It was thirty years to the day after he died.
The Golf is an everyman's car, and an everyman's car that delivers the  sophisticated ride and engineering usually associated with more expensive cars.  As Scott Keogh, the current CEO of Volkswagen of America, says,  Volkswagen has "always been the people's brand, which means it's accessible. It's available. It's approachable. And the fact that you could get great technology and great quality at this great approachable people's price. That's the core of Volkswagen."
And yet, mouthed piety aside, Volkswagen of America has apparently decided not to offer the base version of the eighth-generation Golf (below) for sale in the United States.
Despite the popularity of SUVs and the general disregard for hatchbacks in this country, Volkswagen loyalists have remained committed to the Golf for years, even if the causal customers Volkswagen of America has been chasing for so long have not.  It is true that VW sold only five thousand units of the ougoing seventh-generation Golf in 2019, but sales of the car have always bounced back strongly when a new generation of the model is introduced.  It appeals to the core of VW customers - the same VW customers like myself, the die-hard loyalists have kept VW in business in the U.S. at times when it was tottering on the edge of irrelevance, or even leaving the U.S. market together.  We still appreciate the practicality and the fun of Volkswagen's universal hatchback, even if other Americans don't.
My devotion to the Golf is strong and ongoing, after two decades of owning two of them.  So I regard Volkswagen's decision to sell only the more prohibitively expensive GTI and R performance variants of the Mark 8 Golf in this country as a slap in the face, especially when Volkswagen of America is pushing more crossovers and sport utility vehicles to pander to mass American tastes while leaving us core VW customers with even fewer choices of the sorts of European-style cars we want.  Not just with the loss of the base Golf, but also with the inability to buy he Golf-sized ID.3 electric hatchback.  This is all unacceptable.  This is not the Volkswagen of America that existed two decades ago, when I bought my first new car, my first liquid-cooled VW and my first Golf.  Volkswagen of America's turn to mass American taste violates the spirit of the brand, as Jamie Kitman explains so brilliantly in this article from the September 2019 issue of Automobile magazine.
I will remain a Volkswagen customer.  I will take my car to my dealer for service and replace mechanical and cosmetic parts when necessary to keep my car in tip-top shape.  But until I can buy a base Golf again, I will not buy a new Volkswagen now or in the future.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Heaven Help Us

Donald Trump has decreed that all houses of worship are essential places and that they should all open immediately in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic - and he vows to override any governor who keeps restrictions on houses of worship even though he doesn't have authority.
Even though Trump's ruling applies to all faiths, he is doing this to whip up support from white evangelical churches, whose parishioners would rather back a hedonist like Trump than back a party - the Democrats - who are tolerant of people of other faiths or people who, worse still, subscribe to no faith at all.  The interests of  Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and mainline Protestants like Trump himself don't concern him here.   But Joe Biden, I believe, can get around and possibly even neutralize this issue by re-affirming his own commitment to religious freedom and showing respect for those who practice a faith.  And he's got some ground on which to stand.
In 2007, then-Senator Biden appeared on Bill Maher's show to explain why the Democrats have lost their way with faith-based voters.  He cited his own mother, who regularly went to church and prayed for a brother of hers who ended up missing in action while fighting in the war.  When he told a fellow Democrat about this, the other Democrat said, "Isn't that quaint?"  Biden, a Catholic, said that this unnamed Democrat was trivializing the faith of Biden's mother and the tradition of faith in families like Biden's, and that the Democrats ought to respect the faiths of the voters.  (He wanted to punch the guy who thought Biden's mother's prayer tradition for her brother was "quaint.")  So Biden knows a thing or two about the importance of faith.  He should agree that honoring the right of people to worship in a pandemic is necessary and essential, but he should also urge churches, synagogues, mosques and temples to take the necessary precautions so that parishioners can worship in their houses of God (or gods) so that no one gets sick practicing their faith.  He should also remind voters that it's okay to pray at home while they're at it.
A guy who has been a practicing Catholic all his life should have some more legitimacy on this issue than an amoral person like Trump, who probably can't even remember his denomination.  (For the record, Trump was baptized Presbyterian.)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Michigan Rag

With floods ravaging the central area of Michigan's Lower Peninsula - centered around the Midland, the headquarters of Dow Chemical - Trump has tried to use federal funding to deal with the flood damage, caused mainly by failing dams, to get Governor Gretchen Whitmer to stop distributing applications for mail-in ballots.  He confused the applications with actual ballots, saying that what Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, below, was doing was illegal (it's not) and threatening to withhold funding to help with the Midland disaster if Benson persisted.
Benson fired back, explaining that what she did was perfectly legal and perfectly bipartisan.  "In November of 2018," she told MSNBC's Chris Hayes, "citizens voted overwhelmingly to give themselves this right to vote by mail. It was supported by citizens on both sides of the political spectrum, and it's something citizens on both sides of the political spectrum have done."  Indeed; other states, such was Republican-dominated West Virginia, have pursued voting by mail.  Trump himself votes by mail.  But he is trying to deny voters in Democratic states, and in swing states like Michigan, the opportunity to do so in a presidential election where Trump is behind in the polls but in which Democrats are reluctant to vote in person in the middle of an interminable pandemic.
Trump clearly has Michigan in his sights, as he visited the state this past week and toured a Ford factory making ventilators to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.  He reportedly did not violate the policy requiring to wear a mask at first, but only wore it briefly.  Later - unmasked - Trump, who has long since bene unmasked for the rotten leader he is, praised the Ford Motor Company for its contributions to American economy and praised company founder Henry Ford for his good bloodlines.  Henry Ford was a vicious anti-Semite who believed there was a Jewish conspiracy aiming to take over America and the world.
So who won this round?  Apparently, Michigan's mostly female Democratic leadership.  This past Thursday, Trump approved Governor Whitmer's request for federal aid to deal with the flooding in Midland this past Thursday despite his threats to cut off aid.  The Federal Emergency Management Association is now authorized to direct all equipment and resources necessary to handle the flooding, with emergency protective measures to be provided at 75 percent federal funding.  And the ballot applications got sent out.
Meanwhile, as Ford continues to make ventilators in the Ypsilanti, Michigan plant that Trump visited, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused two Ford factories - one of which was making Ford F-150 pickup trucks - to temporarily shut down when workers tested positive for the disease.  Sort of appropriate karma for a car company that, while no longer promoting anti-Semitism, now promotes the purchase of gas-guzzling pickups and truck-based monster wagons.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Music Video Of the Week - May 22, 2020

"Ready Teddy" by Little Richard  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the Global Climate)

Two weeks before the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season's official start, a tropical disturbance off Florida mutated into Tropical Storm Arthur.
While Arthur itself (above) has not been a major threat to anyone - it mostly brought a lot of rain and some wind to the North Carolina coast before going out to sea - the fact that it formed as a pre-season system is an unfortunate harbinger of what's to come.  Weather forecasters are predicting a very active Atlantic hurricane season for 2020, more than a few major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher), making some landfall storms more a probability than a possibility. And let me bring up again the almanacs' prediction for the American Northeast to be under the greatest threat for a hurricane this fall.
Am I worried about a storm that will knock my power out?  Not now, but not for reasons you might think.  I'm not worried about a storm knocking out my electricity because our power actually went off twice in the past week in perfectly good weather.  :-O Both outages were momentary, but both denied us, once again, the ability to have at least one year, calendar year or otherwise, without an electrical outage.  (Our previous outage before this month was in July 2019.)  So, we still haven't had an outage-free year in over a decade, and we likely never will.  A big tropical system for the Northeast blackout out my town would just be par for the course for me by now. 
I look forward to an endless future of this, largely because I look forward to an endless future of more frequent and more severe storms as a result of a warming planet and rising ocean temperatures that no pandemic-induced lockdown is going to reverse.  All thanks to climate change.  So check your flashlight batteries.  This is only the beginning.   

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

'Let It Be' - The Release

May 1970 marked the final rituals of Beatlemania with the release of the group's last project.  On May 8, the album Let It Be was released in the United Kingdom, with its release in the United States coming ten days after.  The British edition came with a book of pictures of the January 1969 sessions from photographer Ethan Russell, "The Beatles Get Back," which was deleted in November 1970; in the U.S., fans only got an inner sleeve with a sampling of Russell's photos. In between the album's U.K. and U.S. release dates, "The Long and Winding Road" was issued as a single in America on May 11, followed by the homonyously titled documentary movie receiving its world premiere on May 13 in . . . New York, a clear indicator of how important the U.S. had become to the group's success.   The film would have its British premiere in London a week after.
And as far as America was concerned, the dying embers of the Beatles couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.  May 1970 was also the month of the Kent State massacre in Ohio, which was followed shortly thereafter by the "hard hat riot" of Manhattan construction workers beating up anti-war demonstrators.  A new decade had arrived, and it had driven a stake in the heart of peace and love.  And Let It Be provided little comfort. 
The documentary movie, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, was not a huge box-office success.  It's an interesting film, showing the Beatles going through the creative process and performing their songs live, and there are moments of genuine inspiration from their low-key performances of their lighter numbers to their flat-out rocking show on the Apple rooftop, as well as John Lennon and Yoko Ono waltzing together.  But there are also moments of sluggish playing, dull conversations, and the occasional argument, as Paul McCartney lecturing a frustrated George Harrison on how to play a solo as Ringo Starr looks on.  The movie is also rather grainy, having been enlarged from 16-millimeter to 35-millimeter film so it could be shown in theaters, rather than on television as originally planned (it became the third movie the Beatles owed United Artists).  It's also rather short, somewhat mercifully so - though 82 minutes in length, fans found the movie to seem longer, and not in a good way.  It was hard for anyone to imagine how Lindsay-Hogg had filmed a month's worth of Beatles rehearsals and recording sessions, yet this was the best footage he could come up with.  In fact, it wasn't, as I will explain here . . . but Lindsay-Hogg's choice of material to lay out the narrative for the Get Back/Let It Be project didn't do anyone any favors.
The bad feeling the Beatles couldn't hide (oh, no) was evident in one scene where Paul, with his back to the camera, tells John how the Beatles have to overcome their nervousness over performing as a live unit again in order to shake off the discontent they've been feeling.  John listens politely but he obviously isn't buying Paul's diagnosis of the situation or the cure for the ennui the group is experiencing.
The Let It Be LP was a success - after all, it was a Beatles record - but reactions to it devolved into controversy. 
The liner notes on the back cover were almost self-parody: "This is a new-phase BEATLES album . . . essential to the content of the film, LET IT BE was that they performed live for many of the tracks; in comes the warmth and freshness of a live performance; as reproduced for disc by Phil Spector."
In fact, fans found little warmth or freshness to be had, and many listeners believed that Spector's remixes - I'm just talking about the remixes of the songs he didn't overdub - were the sonic equivalent of warmed-over leftovers.  And they were especially peeved about the Spector's overdubs.  The pop press was especially disdainful, with Rolling Stone's John Mendelson praising the Beatles' music but declaring that Spector had managed to "turn several of the rough gems on the best Beatle album in ages into costume jewelry."  Time magazine punningly dubbed it "the specter of the Beatles," while over in merrie olde England,  Alan Smith of New Musical Express called it "a cardboard tombstone" and a "sad and tatty end to a musical fusion which wiped clean and drew again the face of pop music."  Other verdicts included "the black album" and "the wrong goodbye."
The Beatles' inner circle included its own detractors.  George Martin was mortified when he heard Spector's work, and Glyn Johns, denied the opportunity to have one of his two albums made from the Get Back/Let It Be tapes commercially released, was especially vicious in his assessment (pouring "nothing but scorn and vitriol" on the record, as Beatles author Mark Lewisohn noted).  But Paul McCartney continued to spit the most out of the tent.  Not just about "The Long and Winding Road" and Spector's overall "wall of sound approach," but about the whole package, calling the liner notes "blatant hype" and complaining about photographer Ethan Russell's monograph book for inflating the British LP's retail price by 33 percent.  (He might very well have been bothered by the fact that the book was a limited-edition gimmick to make the fans in Britain buy it before it got deleted.  If you wanted it, you could go and get it, but you had to hurry because it was going to go fast.)  But Spector's overall production techniques remained his biggest issue.
I've already reviewed Let It Be on this blog, so I won't repeat my assessment here.  (Just go to this link to read my original review.)  But I have to confess something; for all of the flaws with Spector's approach, he made a more presentable album than Glyn Johns did.  I have Johns' first attempt at making an album from the Get Back/Let It Be tapes as a bootleg - indeed, that record has circulated as a bootleg for as long as it has existed - and it's rather ragged, sounding somewhat exhausted.  I have to agree with Mark Lewisohn that, had either of Johns' two Get Back albums been issued, most of the critics might have reacted with greater hostility.  (Mendelson, who in fact had heard one of the Glyn Johns compilations before Spector's came out, would have been an exception.)
Spector doesn't get off the hook entirely.  It should be stressed again and again that he should have least made the album consistent and not tried to juxtapose the rough edges of Let It Be (the false starts and all that) with high-gloss touches.  But on balance, he did a decent job with it. And John Lennon certainly agreed.  "He worked like a pig on it," Lennon later said.  "I mean, he'd always wanted to work with the Beatles, and he was given the sh----est load of badly recorded sh-- and with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something out of it." Though, Lennon darned Spector with faint praise: "It wasn't fantastic, but when I heard it, I didn’t puke."
But Paul McCartney would continue to be indisposed by the mere thought of the album, and when he met Michael Lindsay-Hogg by chance on an airline flight in the early 2000s, they discussed reworking the Let It Be movie for a new home-video release and putting out a new companion LP for it.  Although the movie was not re-released,  Paul successfully got Abbey Road technicians Paul Hicks, Guy Massey, and Allan Rouse to concoct what many Beatles fans consider to be the definitive audio document of the Get Back/Let It Be sessions: 2003's Let It Be . . . Naked, which I reviewed in August 2015.  It was the intimate studio record Paul had always wanted, and even Ringo had to admit it was better than what Spector had come up with.  (Though, in all fairness, twenty-first-century technology that no one could have envisioned in 1970 was most likely what made Let It Be . . . Naked possible in the first place.)  
As for the movie . . . not only is it being restored for release for its fiftieth anniversary, but there will be a new movie culled from more than 55 hours of unreleased film and audio from the January 1969 sessions, to be called Get Back, from New Zealandic director Peter Jackson.  It will show the Beatles in a different light than the original Let It Be movie; instead of showing them breaking up, it will show the more lighthearted, laid-back moments of the Get Back/Let It Be sessions where they enjoyed themselves and got along as well as they did in the early days of Beatlemania.  I can't wait to see it. :-) 
On May 20, 1970, fifty years ago today (and, like today, a Wednesday), the Let It Be movie had its British premiere in London.  Thrice before, Beatles fans had gathered for a London premiere of a Beatles movie to catch a glimpse of the fabulous foursome themselves, and this night was no different.  What was different was that none of the Beatles showed up for this premiere.   It seems appropriate that George Harrison and Phil Spector (above), who oversaw the end of the Beatles era in an EMI Abbey Road control room two months earlier, would enter Abbey Road that same day to oversee the beginning of a new era - by beginning work on George's first studio album since the official breakup of the Beatles.
All things must pass away. 
The end.

*
"I didn't leave the Beatles.  The Beatles have left the Beatles - but no one wants to be the one to say the party's over." - Paul McCartney

(Below: A clip of the Beatles with Billy Preston performing the Long And Winding Road," the Beatles' last American number-one single.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Wild Man of Rock and Roll

Little Richard, who died earlier this month at 87, may not have been the king of rock and roll (though Leon Russell once suggested that he was the queen), but he made rock and roll possible with his wild, forceful, energetic take on the blues.  
Elvis Presley himself wouldn't have put himself above Little Richard, who more or less created the template of rock and roll with his inspired shouting and wailing, his revolutionary piano playing, and, of course, his wardrobe.  He had great hair long before the Beatles did.  And his exuberant hits - "Tutti Frutti," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Lucille," and "The Girl Can't Help It" - remain among the most important in all of rock and roll.  His songs could be as bawdy as his stage act - "Long Tall Sally," in case you didn't notice, was about a boy's uncle cheating on Aunt Mary.  You hear his influence in not just covers of his songs, like the Beatles' own cover of "Long Tall Sally," but in original Beatles tunes like "Birthday" and the singing styles of Paul McCartney, Elton John (an obvious spiritual descendant of Little Richard,) Prince, and Roger Chapman. 
He gave his all in his long career, but he didn't get all of the rewards he was entitled too, largely because he was black, and also because most rock and rollers of the fifties never got much   As Little Richard himself once said, "You ain't never give me nothin'!" I just hope that he finally got paid.  RIP. :-( 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Justin and Jesse - Part Two

As of Saturday, May 16, both Justin Amash and Jesse Ventura have announced that they will not mount third-party candidacies for President.  Amash ruled out such a run on Saturday; Ventura ruled it out a week or so earlier.
Their decisions leave the Libertarian Party, whose nomination Amash was hoping to seek, and the Green Party ,whose nomination Ventura was looking at going for, with no obvious presidential candidates that have the appealing quirkiness of a Gary Johnson or the media savvy of a Jill Stein, and certainly no candidates with the celebrity status of Amash or Ventura.   Both men must have also seen how the minor-party vote - which totaled 6 percent in 2016 - is expected to be much smaller in 2020 because Republicans are sticking with Trump and Democrats are sticking with Joe Biden. Democratic-leading voters especially don't want to vote for a third-party presidential nominee and help Trump.  And surveys showed that both Amash and Ventura would have taken more votes from Biden than from Trump.
Joe Biden can breathe a little more easily now, but he still has some challenging days ahead. And, I would add, so does Trump.    

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Brain Warp

Trump is trying to act like John F. Kennedy, a President with better skills and better hair.  Trump is launching Operation Warp Speed, an effort to have a COVID-19 vaccine ready by the end of the year or early 2021.  He's tapped Moncef Slaoui (below), former CEO of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, to head the effort.
A least one expert on developing vaccines says that it would be difficult to pull off when most vaccines take more than a year and agreed with Dr. Anthony Fauci that the 8-to-9-month timeline set forward is extremely difficult.  The expert's name?  Moncef Slaoui.
"Frankly, 12-18 months is already a very aggressive timeline," Slaoui admitted in an interview with the New York Times.  
Meanwhile, Trump is pushing for the country to reopen, saying that it's either a choice of reopening or staying closed.  Democrats such as Andrew Cuomo and journalists such as Chris Cuomo and, I'm sure, more Democrats and journalists not named Cuomo (including a guy you might have heard of, Joe Biden), are saying that its not whether to reopen, but how to reopen.  But Trump doesn't want to frame it like that, saying that anyone who advocates testing and tracing is getting in the way of reopening.  This may be how Trump ultimately gets re-elected, in which case we might as well just make like cannibals with indisposition and throw up our hands.  Because I don't think Slaoui is going to be able to pull off a vaccine in nine months or less.
I want to be wrong, but I know I'm not.
Also, I think no one is going to fall for Trump's insistence that reopening doesn't require testing and other preventive measures, or his insistence that America is back  vaccine or not - despite the rapidly growing unemployment rate.  I may be wrong, but I hope I'm not.  

Saturday, May 16, 2020

2004 Redux?

He is a U.S. Senator with a record of accomplishment, and when he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination, his party rallies around him to defeat an intensely disliked Republican President who got in without winning the popular vote and bungled his reaction to a national crisis.  Unfortunately, but the Democratic presidential nominee's awkwardness and paper trail of controversial Senate votes hamper him, as do rumors about his past.  Although early polls show him in a strong position against the incumbent President, many fear that he will still lose in November.
No, he isn't Joe Biden; I'm talking about John Kerry in 2004.  But the resemblance between the two is striking.  Biden, like Kerry, seeks to defeat an incumbent Republican President who has all of the advantages of incumbency and an ability to influence the voters that no challenger can match.  And the fear of another outcome like 2004 - Kerry lost - is justified.  George Walker Bush made the argument that you don't change leaders in the middle of a war, and Donald Trump is trying to position himself as a steady leader in the middle of a pandemic . . . while ignoring scientific and medical guidelines.  Polls show that, though Biden has an overall edge over Trump, Trump is solidly beating - yes, beating - Biden on the economy despite its free-fall in the past nine weeks.  Trump knows this, which is why he's pushing the insane, inane idea that the economy will regain a good deal of its mojo by autumn if we reopen immediately - science be damned! This would suggest that enough people in swing states can be taken in to give Trump the necessary swing states to give him the necessary 270 votes  in the Electoral College.
Biden backers have every reason to be worried - especially when people who should be in his column (*cough cough*, Bernie bros, *cough cough*) aren't ready to support him yet and maybe won't be ready at all . . . and he also has to deal with campaigning with only one resource to him - virtual outreach - that is also his greatest weakness.  But there are differences between 2004 and 2020.  The economy was going relatively smoothly in 2004, and Kerry was a less a known quantity than Biden, hence the "Swift Boat" charges against him stuck to him more firmly than sex-assault allegations against Biden have.  Trump can talk up the economy all he wants, but whether states reopen sooner or whether they reopen later, the growth he projects will likely not happen and the economy is likely to  get worse between now and November and erode his standing.  His campaign merrily pledges to destroy Biden, but Biden sees what's coming and is slowly but diligently preparing for that inevitability.  (If he could only get his Internet connections to work flawlessly.)   Biden beats Trump in polling on who would handle the pandemic better; this pandemic could be going on for years, at least until 2023.  And if more states open up, it could give Biden the opportunity to have public events that allow him to engage in retail politics - with previously screened and tested groups of voters, of course - which is is biggest strength.
I am not saying Biden will win in November.  After all, despite the reality of a worsening economy, Trump's effort at exploiting his better polling numbers on the issue over Biden might just work.  I am only saying that the circumstances facing Biden are different from the circumstances failing Kerry in 2004, and they allow more room for Biden to gain an edge on Election Day.  One thing is for certain - even if Trump wins, he will not win a majority of the popular vote.  The election of 2004 is one of only two instances in which the Republican presidential candidate won a popular majority since Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election landslide; the other instance was the election of 1988.
Both of the winners, for the record, were named George Bush.  And unlike Trump, both Bushes took national-security crises seriously.  (The younger Bush started the initiative to have the United States plan for dealing with . . . a pandemic.)

Friday, May 15, 2020

Music Video Of the Week - May 15, 2020

Stevie Wonder - "The Beat-Club" Performance  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.) 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

More Mask Paranoia

In New Jersey, since April 8, we've had to wear masks in public places where social distancing isn't always possible due to COVID-19, which means that I have to go into a supermarket looking like a bank robber or a ninja warrior.  State and county parks reopened in New Jersey on May 2, with masks required, given that social distancing may not be possible there either.  I've made it a point to stay away from supermarkets and hardware stores as much as humanly possible.  And if I have to wear a mask to use a county park (Essex County is the only county in New Jersey without a state park), then I would rather go walking and cycling elsewhere.  
So what's my problem with wearing a face mask (what other kinds of masks are there?) or, as it's euphemistically called, a face covering (because the very word "mask" sounds nasty and scary)?  Not only am I uncomfortable wearing a mask in any circumstance, I am uncomfortable being in a place where everyone else is wearing one.  Being cut up isn't the only reason I have a fear of operating rooms.  I don't even like to go to Halloween parties.  I always get nervous around mimes more because of their whiteface than their silence.  I'm frustrated by faces I can't see.  Especially if they're women's faces.   I'd certainly be nervous standing next to a fully made-up geisha girl.  And though I know many models, I would not want them to invite me to a fashion show staged by designer Martin Margiela, who started having his models wearing masks on the runway long before COVID-19 came along.
You think that's hip?  I'm freaking out.
Perhaps this is why this commercial is one of my favorite TV ads of all time.



And it sure did make me want to run away and join the circus.
Ironically, this COVID crisis made me unmask the psychological hangup I just revealed.  And I think I am a better person for revealing it rather than bottling it up inside.
I can only sigh . . ..  I just hope we can get this damn virus behind us soon.  And then, like the young woman in the video below, we can all unmask for good . . .



. . . no matter how painfully long it may take. :-O

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Hoax Hoax

The scariest thing about COVID-19 is not necessarily the disease itself. The scariest thing is the number of people who don't believe that the disease is for real.
The Internet is swarming  with conspiracy theorists saying that the disease is just a media-generated story designed to put people under control of the government  Which is ridiculous, because the head of the U.S. government, Donald Trump, helped start conspiracy theories this past winter by saying it was a hoax, with a little help from his friends, Fox & Friends.  The big social media platforms have had to tamp down on misinformation about the disease, and doctors who try to snuff out the "hoax" propaganda are in danger of getting snuffed out themselves - they've received death threats.
And the hoax theories aren't confined to those who don't believe COVID-19 exists.  Those who acknowledge its existence blame the expansion of 5G Wi-Fi reception for spreading it. 
Those who don't believe the disease is real, though, or those who believe it will go away soon, are dangerous because they might be asymptomatic carriers of the virus and will continue to go out and spread it like jelly on toast.  Raspberry jelly.  Look forward to COVID deniers and conspiracy theorists to continue giving us the raspberry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Nothing Bright About It

Do you remember Rick Bright? Of course you don't, because the media has been more focused on Tara Reade.  Dr. Bright is the fellow who had been heading the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is charged with helping to find a vaccine to stop COVID-19, until Trump removed him from his position after Dr. Bright said that the administration wasn't doing enough to stop the spread of the virus.  On May 5, Dr. Bright officially filed a whstleblower complain, and, because there's apparently nothing Trump can do to stop him from doing so, a committee of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has called him to testify this Thursday (May 14). The likeliest reason for his dismissal from BARDA was his objection to Trump's promotion of hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19, which turned out to be a a not-so-bright (pun sort of intended) idea.
Dr. Bright, a virologist, still works for the government, having been assigned to the National Institutes of Health to help with developing diagnostic testing.  Which is sort of weird, as Dr. Bright had been complaining about the lack of available testing.  Trump has dismissed him as a "disgruntled" employee.
"I am not disgruntled," Bright told CBS News anchor Norah O'Donnell. "I am frustrated at a lack of leadership. I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a head start on developing lifesaving tools for Americans. I'm frustrated at our inability to be heard as scientists. Those things frustrate me."
Dr, Bright, who was pushing for more personal protective equipment as far back as January, added that his reassignment was perplexing, given his expertise at vaccines. "To take me out of our organization focused on drugs and vaccines and diagnostics in the middle of a pandemic, of the worst public health crisis that our country's faced in a century," he said to O'Donnell, "and decapitate the BARDA organization. To move me over to a very small focused project of any scale, of any level importance is not responsible. Didn't make sense."
Unless you remember that the guy in the White House is a psychopath.
O'Donnell's interview with Dr. Bright airs on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, May 17.  Don't miss it.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Stupidity Is Contagious

COVID-19 has become like an annoying pop star whose songs always make you cringe when you hear them; you avoid it as much as you can and hope it goes away but you know you're going to have to deal with it for a long time.
In that spirit, The Centers for Disease Control recently completed a series of guidelines for how individuals and businesses should adapt to COVID-19, especially when it comes to reopening stores and offices.  I say "completed" because the White House has refused to issue them, calling them too excessive and intrusive, even though the guidelines (which still got out, albeit unofficially) could give Trump what he wants - an improving economy by November.
Meanwhile, the White House has been ignoring the very recommendations the COVID-19 task force has been advocating for the past nine weeks - except for testing, which has been going regularly in the West Wing even as Trump says it's not necessary (and he also thinks we won't need a vaccine either).  Then Trump's valet tested positive for the virus, then Mike Pence's press secretary Katie Miller (wife of xenophobic Trump adviser Stephen Miller) also tested positive, and now the CDC's own director, Dr. Robert Redfield, may have been exposed to the virus and is, therefore, self-quarantining. 
And so this guy.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 crisis and has been giving the soundest, most professional advice in how to deal with it, has been following his own advice, but thanks to numerous White House staffers who aren't following it (lest they get Trump upset), he's now having to quarantine himself to ensure that he doesn't possibly give the virus to anyone else. Though blocked from testifying before a committee of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, he is still going to testify by virtual hookup before the Republican-dominated Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  (Its chair, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, will be leading the committee from home - he too is under self-quarantine after being exposed to a staffer with COVID-19.)  Though outnumbered, Democrats in the committee will still be able to ask Dr. Fauci relevant questions.  Such as, "What the hell is going on?"
The plot is beginning to unravel, but if the American people buy all of Trump's bunk that the economy will recover and that he's the best person suited to handle our way through the virus and its aftermath, this country is finished. There won't even be an aftermath.  Trusting Trump to guide us to the other side of this pandemic is like having the confidence to cross the Pacific in a plastic laundry basket.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Weather Blues

You see this?
This is a picture of State Route 28 in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.  This picture was taken not in January of February but yesterday - May 9, 2020.   It only shows how much the weather is out of whack thanks to the irregular jet stream, which was no doubt altered by climate change.
This has been a very depressing spring even leaving aside COVID-19 and the events I was looking forward to all getting cancelled or postponed as a result.   Not only was there more social activity this past winter, the weather was better?  It was practically snowless and we had mostly tranquil days.  Now after an excessively wet April, there's snow.  In May.  It even snowed in flurries where I am, and after a very chilly rain - the type of weather more associated with March.
Oh yeah, just because air pollution has been dramatically cut by the lockdowns, that doesn't mean climate change is lessening.  Climate change is still on track to radically alter our weather patterns for the worse in the years and decades to come. I heard somewhere that if we went to stop emitting carbon in the air and get our climate back to normal, we have to remain on lockdown for thirty years.
And, given that Trump is seeing up the COVID-19 response, that might actually happen. 
And a chilly spring doesn't mean a temperate summer.  Not only is it still expected to be hot this summer - and the heat won't kill the COVID virus - the hurricane season is expected to be busier than normal, and the almanacs' predictions still stand . . . the Northeast could get hit by a major storm this fall.
And if I may add one last thing . . .

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is Not My Friend

It's an old Arab proverb used to justify alliances with people you shouldn't join forces with: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
I fell victim to that proverb in 2016.
The millions of people who supported Bernie Sanders and the dozens of us who supported Martin O'Malley did not obviously agree on the same candidate in the 2016 presidential campaign.  We also didn't agree on the same things all of the time - in fact, given O'Malley's pragmatism and Sanders' radicalism, we sometimes couldn't agree on what to do about something about an issue even while agreeing that something had to be done about it.  But because we had a common adversary in Hillary Clinton, we stood together against her.
When O'Malley was eliminated from the 2016 presidential primaries, however, I didn't follow the lead of other O'Malley supporters who decided to go all in for Hillary because they thought she was the safer choice.  To me, Hillary was still the enemy.  I walked backward into the Sanders camp and without much enthusiasm, but I was seriously thinking of voting for him in the 2016 New Jersey primary until it became apparent that it was ridiculous to register as a Democrat to vote for an independent in the Democratic presidential primary - especially when Hillary was all but guaranteed the nomination by the time the New Jersey primary was held.  I sat out the primary and supported no one.  When Hillary became the presumptive nominee, I did what the Bernie bros did - I backed the Greens' Jill Stein for President and called for the Greens or a new party to replace the Democrats.  I made good on my promise to vote to Dr. Stein to get back at Hillary Clinton, her enabler Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and everyone else who tied a symbolic rock to Martin O'Malley's ankle so as to avenge my candidate.  Hey, so what, it wasn't like Trump was going to win, right?
But Trump did win, though Hillary carried my state of New Jersey, and here's where we are now.  The progressive movement is a joke.  Progressives did nothing to build a new party around their values in the past three years; they only caused more trouble for the Democrats.  Sanders ran for President as a Democrat again despite the fact that he is not a party member.  Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are gone, and Democratic National Committee Tom Perez let the presidential primaries go on without a finger on the scale . . . and Joe Biden emerged as the presumptive nominee after a fairly fought and difficult contest - a contest which Biden almost sank to oblivion in.  And there's a pandemic going on.
At this point, Bernie bros have shown their true colors.  Having taken a verbal flamethrower to not just Biden but to all of the Democratic presidential candidates  not named Bernard by their mothers, they've since taken to ridiculing Biden for his stutter, mocking him as being a daffy old creep, and now pushing a sexual-assault charge that has more holes than Swiss cheese.  They've conveniently ignored his liberal record as a U.S. Senator and the context of some of his more controversial Senate votes and tried to smear him as an unfit candidate, calling on him to step aside so the runner-up can take his place.  Guess who the runner-up is.
Never mind that Sanders has endorsed Biden, trusts him, and is urging his supporters to vote for him rather than go third party in November because of the need to defeat Trump.  Good luck with that, Bernie.
I'm not voting Green in 2020 even if Biden is projected to win 90 percent of the vote in New Jersey and doesn't need me.  Because I am not with the Bernie bros this time.  Bernie bros, the enemies of my enemy in 2016, are no friends of mine.  I have come to understand that they have no interest in compromising, cooperation, or any other activity a political system admittedly in need of reform requires in order to achieve the big-picture goal of getting your side to win the White House. Bernie bros refuse to accept their candidate's loss and work with the Democrats to get Trump out.  They want everything their way - no compromise, no concessions, no give and take - at a time when it is politically unfeasible.  They have no tolerance for anyone who disagrees with them and they are willing to destroy the Democrats for not being pure enough on the issues at the risk of helping Trump.  They're a bunch of mean-spirited spoiled brats. They're a cult.  They're, as I like to say, the Islamic State of political fandom.  And I'm sick to death of having to deal with them.  In 2016, at the Democratic convention, Sarah Silverman said they were being ridiculous over their refusal to support anyone other than Sanders.  Now they're just being petulant.
And they would have treated Martin O'Malley with the same displeasure, distrust, and hatred they've shown to Biden had O'Malley ever become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in either 2016 or 2020.  They would have played up the charge that he had a love child with a black TV newswoman, a charge ten times less credulous than the charges against Biden.  They would have bashed his criminal justice record as mayor of Baltimore.  And I know this because, it turns out, they considered O'Malley a joke in 2016 as much as Hillary Clinton supporters did.  Both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns were united in their disrespect for O'Malley, which only clinches for me the following conclusion.  The enemy of the enemy is not your friend. The enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.
Hillary Clinton may have been an adversary to me, but Hillary is no longer a concern.  Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton.  Joe Biden is not my enemy.  He is my candidate.  Go with Joe.  

Friday, May 8, 2020

Music Video Of the Week - May 8, 2020

"The Long And Winding Road" by the Beatles (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Tara! Tara! Tara!

I have to address the Tara Reade story, because everyone else is addressing it - even the PBS NewsHour, which still - still - hasn't done a story about the possible collapse of the Postal Service.
The accusation from Reade that Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 when he was a U.S. Senator and she was a Senate staffer first surfaced in late March, soon after Biden took the lead in delegate votes necessary for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Because there was no proof beyond er word and a couple of corroborations, the mainstream news media ignored the story.  It has gotten more traction of late as more people have backed up Reade and as "evidence" in the form of a recording of Reade's mother calling in on Larry King's old CNN talk show to express concern about Tara having difficulties with an unnamed senator (nothing about sexual assault, no mention of Biden by name) has surfaced. Investigations in to the story led to the current brouhaha over the accusations, which Biden denied vehemently in a courteous manner toward Reade in an inquisition from MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, who sounded like a disappointed mom questioning her child in a corner about a broken vase.
I'm sorry, but I'm not buying Reade's accusation.  The reasons for my stance are many, but among them are the fact that this story was promoted by supporters of Bernie Sanders, first appearing in the so-called progressive media while Sanders was still an active presidential candidate.  Another reason is the fact that Reade has changed her story  In the spring of  2019, she was one of seven women who said that Biden inappropriately hugged, kissed, or in Reade's case, touched them, which I talked about back then; Biden admitted to the transgressions and apologized by explaining that he never meant any offense to anyone.  The sexual-assault charge was only added much later.  She said she complained about the act to three supervisors and Senate personnel, then to two supervisors and Senate personnel with a report on file, and then to only one supervisors and Senate personnel with no filed report available. She's even changed her reason for leaving her Senate job, one time saying she was fired and another time staying she left voluntarily, i.e., quit.
Biden, who apparently isn't worried, asked the Senate to look in the National Archives to look for the Reade complaint to see what she exactly said, if the report does indeed exist, but progressive activists - who literally hate Biden - are demanding that he release this files at the University of Delaware, even though Biden has convincingly insisted that any personnel files would be in the National Archives and none of them would be in his University of Delaware files.  (And since the Secretary of the Senate has since refused to release any such report, the pressure on Biden to release his University of Delaware records may only grow.)  I can count all of the Sanders supporters who are satisfied with Biden's explanations on zero fingers; even before this story took hold in the mainstream media, Biden's detractors in the progressive movement have been seizing on any of his personality tics, such as his stutter and his avuncular image, to try to paint him as a menace to society.  Now they're going after his sense of decency by insinuating and by pushing these allegations that he has none.
The crux of this story is that Biden himself, along with other Democrats have once said that women need to be believed when they come forward with stories of sexual misconduct, or at least heard.  Biden has tried to remain consistent that by saying that Reade has a right to come forward with this accusation and that it should be taken seriously but that it should be vetted like any other accusation, and other Democrats have said the same.  Not good enough, Sanders supporters say; either you always assume a woman is telling the truth or you don't  If you don't, you're a hypocrite.  And, on cue, Republicans have seized on this charge of hypocrisy, saying that Democrats wouldn't give Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, when he was nominated for the Court, the same benefit of the doubt that they're giving Biden, while top Republican leaders - even Trump - are suggesting that the accusations against Biden have more credibility than the accusations against Kavanaugh. Thanks a lot, Bernie bros - you've just given the Republicans a weapon to attack Biden with.  It's like you think Biden will drop put and step aside for Sanders.  Oh, wait - that's right . . . you do!  Never mind that Sanders supports Biden now.  You'd rather be a purist than oust Trump.
I'm having flashbacks to 33 years ago this week in 1987, when far less serious womanizing charges against Gary Hart forced him out of the 1988 presidential campaign (that week ended on Saturday, May 9, just like this week does!)  and even back to Joe Biden's own 1988 presidential campaign, when proof of college plagiarism ended his bid for the White House.  (To underscore how far less serious that transgression was than what Biden is being accused of now, Presidents - especially Ronald Reagan, who was President in 1987 - usually don't write their own speeches.  Not even, for the most part, their inaugural addresses.  Yet we attribute famous speech quotes to John F. Kennedy, not his speechwriter Theodore Sorensen.)   But the biggest flashback to the 1988 election campaign that I'm having is to when Al Gore first used Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis in a Democratic debate, only for the elder George Bush to successfully use it against Dukakis in the 1988 general election, which allowed the younger George Bush to assume the Presidency in a campaign in 2000 against . . . Al Gore.
There is good news - so far, all indications are that not too many people take these accusations seriously.  I certainly don't.  As for polls, a Monmouth University poll shows that about a third of respondents believe Biden, a third of them believe Reade - with even 32 percent of those who believe Reade still planning to vote for Biden - and anther third don't have a clue one way or the other.  But unless something explosive happens, I'm not going to comment on this again.
And if Biden does drop out . . . let's bring back Al Gore.  After all, he's younger than Biden, he's even younger than Trump, he served in Vietnam, and he has a great environmental record.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The China Syndrome

I'm going to do something I rarely do - agree with Donald Trump.  I think this is only the third time I've agreed with him, the first time being when he said that Hillary Clinton was crooked and the second time being when he said that new government buildings should be designed to look like Greek temples, like they used to be.  This time, I agree with him on China - it's responsible for the COVID-19 virus and should be held accountable.
Now why would I say something like that?  Because the virus originated in China, the Chinese assured us it was under control with all of the public-relations bluster associated with Soviet attempts to downplay the Chernobyl accident, and the unsanitary practices of the so-called "wet markets" in China allowed the virus to make the jump from animals to humans.
This also puts me in agreement with Bill Maher, who, on his HBO show last month, explained how most viruses and diseases are named for the places the originated in, and that the wet markets where exotic animals like bats are sold for human consumption were a breeding ground for a deadly virus, just as they had been for previous coronaviruses that got out.  I also agree with Maher, by the way, that it's only appropriate for such unorthodox dietary habits to be called into question.
To respond to the inevitable complaint that terminology such as "Chinese virus" is racist, it is not racist to say that it is a Chinese virus because it was discovered in China any more than it is to call rubella the German measles because it was discovered by German doctors.  China is responsible for this virus because the Communist government there, which is known for cracking down on anything that threatens the "stability" of its one-party rule, should have been able to contain the virus before it got out of not only mainland China but out of Hubei Province.  Heck, I'm beginning to wonder how different things might have been if the Republic of China government on Taiwan hadn't been driven off the mainland back in 1949 and were still running the country, and how we would have all been better off - because, I would like to point out, the Taiwanese government has been doing a great job in containing the virus on that island.
Having said all of that, though, I would like to stress that it is not proper or permissible to blame Americans of Chinese origin for the virus and make racist threats against them.  But I would also like to especially stress this: Donald Trump may be right to blame the virus on China, but China's culpability does not exonerate Trump from the numerous boneheaded mistakes he made that allowed the United States to become the most COVID-19-infected country on the planet.
Below is Bill Maher's commentary on the issues from April 10, 2020.
 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Remdesivir

Remdesivir.  You've heard about it.  The drug that can fight coronavirus.  Yes, it sounds like a breakthrough.  But it's a breakthrough in the sense that the Beatles' second album was a breakthrough.  It's a positive step, but it's not the climax.  It's not a Sgt. Pepper-style moment; that would be the vaccine, which probably won't happen until some time next year (though it could happen earlier - well see). 
So what does Remdesivir do?  It lowers the mortality rate among COVID-19 patients - from 11 percent to 8 percent - and it also helps patients leave the hospital sooner after eleven days rather than fifteen.  Those numbers are encouraging but they could be better.  That's why Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that this is only a first step.  But it shows that there is a drug that works to some extent against this damn virus, and it could lead to effective therapeutics on the way to a vaccine.
Oh yeah, whatever progress we make between now and November, Trump should get no credit for it.  His asinine "leadership" is what got us off to a rocky start from far behind in the first place. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Kent State - Fifty Years

The only good thing you could say about the two major Americans wars of this century, the Iraq War  and the Afghanistan War, was that while you may have been be called unpatriotic for being against them, at least you won't get massacred for it. That's exactly what happened to four students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, fifty years ago today - Monday, May 4, 1970.
A massive protest on the Kent State campus had begun three days earlier after President Nixon widened the war in Vietnam by bombing Cambodia in an attempt to go after Viet Cong guerillas taking refuge over the border. In an attempt to maintain order in Kent, Ohio governor James Rhodes - who detested the antiwar demonstrators - sent the state militia onto the campus on May 2. University officials attempted to ban the protest set for the following Monday, but two thousand demonstrators showed up anyway. The militia tried to control the crowd with tear gas, which led to a riot. In short order, shots were fired at the demonstrators, and four students were killed with twelve wounded.  I wrote on this blog a more detailed account a decade ago of what happened on that spring day in 1970, and I only bring it up again today because, first of all, a fifty-year anniversary is a major milestone, and secondly, we now have someone in the White House who has a problem with public dissent and would go farther than Nixon or Rhodes ever would have gone in order to stamp it out.
I was only four years old when the Kent State massacre took place, but it always infuriated me that anyone even would even attempt to curtail the right of free speech with weapons in the United States of America.  And in the aftermath of Kent State,  the exercise of the right to protest fell by the wayside for a long time when it became apparent that speaking out could get yourself killed. :-(

Once again, remember today the fourth of May.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Justin and Jesse

It's been said that the most violent storms start as flaps of butterfly's swings. here to two such wing flaps that could produce a tempest on Election Day, exactly six months from today.
Justin Amash (above) is a congressman from Michigan and a former Republican Party member who famously broke with his onetime Republican colleagues by calling for Trump's impeachment.  He has now formed an explanatory committee to run for the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party ticket, offering himself as a small-government conservative who would appeal to voters turned off by Donald Trump and Joe Biden and offering a voice to the many voters who feel left out.  Although he would like to reach out to center-right voters turned off by Trump, he might appeal to those considering support for Biden, which would make Uncle Joe's bid for the Presidency - especially his efforts to win Michigan - troublesome.
And there's this guy, whom you might remember from the nineties!
Former Minnesota governor and pro-wrestling icon Jesse Ventura, the only member of Ross Perot's old centrist Reform Party ever elected to anything, is "testing the waters" for a run for the Green Party's presidential nomination.  Ventura gets that party's nod, he could be an even bigger spoiler for Biden than Amash.  Ventura is popular with young working-class men who follow Bernie Sanders - and like Trump, he provides entertainment value and charisma that an old-school type like Biden couldn't hope to offer up.  Given that Biden needs the sort of voters Ventura would appeal to, that could spell danger for the Democrats and delight for Trump.  Biden has enough problems to worry about - some of which I'll get to later - and a Ventura candidacy on the Green Party ticket wouldn't help.
To be fair, even if the Greens nominate their own current front-runner - Howard G. Hawkins - they could be a problem for Biden.  Hawkins, a Green Party co-founder and a respected trade unionist, could run a strong, serious campaign against Biden not unlike the one Jill Stein ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016.  He could, like Dr. Stein, get enough people to buy into a moment and think they could be part of a budding, growing movement.  Well, take it from someone who voted for Dr. Stein in 2016 and even went to one of her campaign rallies (remember campaign rallies?  they were the thing before COVID-19) - that's not going to happen.  I voted for Dr Stein in the hope that it wold help the Greens get five percent of the vote and thus qualify for federal matching funds this year, but not only did the Greens fail to reach the five-percent threshold, they haven't done a thing to build up their "movement" since.  Progressive purists are the biggest waste of people's time.  In all the time that Trump has been President, the Greens could have made more than a token effort to expand their party, and they could have made some progress (no pun intended, but it's an appropriate pun nonetheless) in down-ballot offices.  And if Bernie Sanders supporters were disappointed with the Democratic Party to the point of disgust, they should have called a convention and founded a new party. No.  So-called progressives don't want to do any of that.  They just want to cause trouble for the Democrats and annoy the hell out of everyone else.
Truth be told, if I may return to Justin Amash for a moment, there's a precedent for the Libertarian Party to wreck the Democrats' chances simply because of all the moderates who cold have voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 but voted for Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson instead.  On MSNBC, shortly after the 2016 election, Chris Matthews (remember him?) even showed evidence in raw numbers that it was not Dr Stein but Johnson who took away enough centrist votes from Hillary to deprive her of victories in key states.  
The bottom line: Candidates like Amash and Ventura are electoral candy.  Voting for them is a waste of time.  A better use of time is to work to make elections more free and fair in the future.  Going third party before then won't make things better. It could make things even worse.
 Look, I get it.  Joe Biden is not the best presidential candidate the Democrats could have put up against Trump.  The best candidate either didn't win the nomination or didn't run for it.  But I'm comfortable with him, much more than I could ever have been with Hillary, and I believe he will be a fine President - and we need to back him to get rid of Trump.  And to those progressives who are still steamed because Biden is the nominee . . . if you vote for Biden, you likely won't get everything you want.  But if you go third party or stay home on Election Day and let Trump win . . .