Archive | May 2020

Weekend Update: A riot is the language of the unheard

“As my father explained during his lifetime, a riot is the language of the unheard.” —Martin Luther King III, @OfficialMLK3

Martin Luther King III
@OfficialMLK3

My typical Weekend Update post features stories that either didn’t make the cut for this week’s Friday Five, or that broke after I completed the Friday Five post, or update a news story/event that I have linked to and/or commented upon in an earlier post. Today I’m focused almost entirely one one story, which was one of yesterday’s “Stories of the Week” and deserves more than just being linked to.

Officer Kept Knee on George Floyd’s Neck for Nearly 3 Minutes After He Was Non-Responsive. Here’s what we know: a clerk at a store called police to report that a black man had tried to pay for his purchase with a counterfeit bill. Minneapolis police arrive, find the black man, George Floyd, sitting in his car in the parking lot. They pull him out, handcuff him, force him to the ground, and then one officer placed his knee and his full weight on Floyd’s neck. Floyds last words were, “I can’t breathe.” Many minutes later the officer in question finally lets up on the neck.

That’s murder. Sorry, not alleged, it’s straight-up murder.

The officer who killed Floyd was fired the next day, as were the other three officers on the scene. The other three were fired because after many previous cases of police brutality, the city had instituted a policy that officers who witness another officer using excess force but fail to intervene will be terminated.

But it took four days before prosecutors decided to charge the cop with murder. And I firmly believe the only reason that murder charges were filed at all was because of the protests that have been raging all week.

Arrest report for officer charged with George Floyd’s murder has a damning new piece of evidence. The additional detail is that there was a point, caught on video, where one of the other officers notes that Floyd had stopped struggling minutes ago, and maybe they should roll him onto his side. The killer cop doesn’t let up on the neck, but does feel for a pulse, and says clearly that he can’t find a pulse. And yet he still keeps his weight on Floyd’s neck for a few more minutes until the EMTs arrive.

When you can’t find a pulse, you can’t claim that you fear for your life.

Wife of Minneapolis cop who killed an unarmed black man is filing for divorce, report says. I just want to point out that multiple studies have found that at least 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence. Cops are 4 times as likely as typical people to abuse their significant other and/or children, and other statistics show that when it’s reported, a cop is half as likely to face prosecution for it. Can’t say whether this is a factor in her decision, but…

Protests are happening not just in Minneapolis, and are quickly labeled as riots, despite the fact that we have more than one confirmed case of white men clearly not aligned with protesters damaging buildings and such. In more than one of those cases, we have video of the protestors trying to stop the guy. Riot or resistance? The way the media frames the unrest in Minneapolis will shape the public’s view of protest – Research finds that protests about anti-black racism and indigenous people’s rights receives the least legitimizing coverage.

“Riots and looting are a legitimate and profound form of protest against a system that values goods and services over human life.”

Listen to Sponge Bob…

All of that said… peaceful protest is not all it’s cracked up to be. In the last few week, small bands of white people armed to the teeth stormed state capitals, governor’s mansions, and the like. Cops didn’t arrest anyone. Cops didn’t even show up in riot gear. Despite the clear threat the guns implied (along with more than one incident of the so-called protestors hanging in effigy one of their perceived opponents or another), far too many pundits and so-called news agencies called those peaceful protests. When the first protest march of George Floyd happened earlier this week, protestors (mostly black) showed up in street clothes and without weapons. Cops rolled out in full riot gear from the get-go. The violence was brought by the police, not the protestors.

Some people will try to say that I’m simply arguing about who hit first, but it is much more profound than that. At the top of this post I have a picture and link to a tweet from Martin Luthor King III, alluding to a comment his father once made. Here’s Dr. King’s original:

“I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. In the final analysis, the riot is the language of the unheard. What is it that America has failed to hear? In a sense, our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our winter’s delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these occurrences of riots and violence over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Other America”

Society as a whole hit first. Police like to say that they are here to protect and serve the public, but overwhelming they oppress and control the most vulnerable and marginalized. Oh, they’ll protect the property of white well-to-do people and will serve the interests of the ruling class, but that inherently means keeping everyone else in their place. All of that is important context from the next couple of headlines:

Protesters charge Brooklyn police precinct in day of demonstrations over police killing of black man in Minneapolis.

LMPD officer fires pepper balls at WAVE 3 News reporter, photographer during Louisville protest.

‘Reporting While Black’: Minnesota Police Arrest CNN Journalist During Live Broadcast.

Gunfire Erupts During Live Broadcast of Breonna Taylor Protest in Louisville.

‘Brutal and unacceptable’: Calls for arrest of NYPD cop who put woman in the ER during protests.

I’m not black. I am a pasty-white blue-eyed guy, and my usual approach to topics regarding racial injustice is to listen to members of those communities and when I can, amplify their voices. But I think it’s also important that I try to find ways to use my white privilege to help them do more than be heard. And I all white people in our society have a certain amount of privilege, regardless of our economic status or other factors. Following up on the George Floyd story reminded me of a very specific example of how that privilege plays out:

Many years ago, when I was in my late twenties, I had stopped at a fast food place to get some food. I handed to guy behind the counter a $10 bill from my wallet. He peered at it, rubbed it with his fingers, and did a few other things. After a moment he handed it back to me and asked if I had another bill. I asked if he thought it was counterfeit. He explained that his employer was requiring them to reject bills if they were suspicious or it would be taken out of their pay. I looked at the bill and said that I didn’t remember where I got it. Then I pulled out my wallet, looked through my bills and pulled out one of the 20s.

While he was looking that bill over, I folded the 10 and stuck it in a different pocket of the wallet. After a minute the guy says, “This is fine,” and handed me my change and my food. Sometime later I took the 10 to my bank, explained what happened, and asked if they could tell me whether it was a counterfeit. The bank teller only took a few moments to examine it. Then she explained that there had been a lot of recent counterfeit 20s in the area, and she figured a lot of businesses had gotten a bit over zealous explaining how to look for them. She also said she that 10-dollar bills weren’t very cost effective to counterfeit. “Let’s just go ahead and deposit this one in your account.”

That was the end of it. The guy at the fast food place didn’t call the cops on me. He didn’t leap to the conclusion that I was intentionally trying to pass the bill.

We don’t know for cure at this point whether the bill Floyd tried to pay with that night was a counterfeit. Even if it was, we have no way to know whether he knew it was counterfeit. It could have been a bad 20 he got from someone else who also didn’t know it was fake, because they’re gotten it from someone else, who had gotten it from someone else, et cetera.

But in Floyd’s case, the moment a clerk saw what he thought was a counterfeit bill, he made the decision to call the cops. And the cops assumed that the bill was counterfeit, that Floyd knew it was counterfeit, and that Floyd was trying to commit a crime. Even if all those things were true, the penalty for passing a single (usually charged as fraud or forgery, depending) is never death.

I also point out that initial official reports on the incident said that Floyd had tried to pass a forged check, which is a different crime. That might just a minor mistatement if in Minnesota the usual practice is to charge a person who intentionally tries to pay with a counterfeit bill with forgery. It might, however, also have been an intentional decision by someone in the department to make it sound like a more serious crime.

Sticker on the base of a light pole reads, “Stonewall wasn't about Marriage Equality, it was about police violence.”

The Stonewall Riots, usually cited as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, was a reaction to police brutality and harassment.

Finally, I’d like to point out that the event which kicked off the modern gay rights movement as series of riots. It started as a violent resistance to yet another police raid (including beatings) on a gay bar. There are conflicting stories about who threw the first brick or shot glass at a cop (that’s right, we can’t even agree whether the first projectile was a brick!), but all of the contenders were either black or lantinx street queens/trans women. Whatever that first projectile was, it was not thrown at some random window (as a certain film showed) and it wasn’t thrown by a clean cut white guy from the midwest. It was thrown at the cops by a queer person of color. And for good reason. I’ve many times repeated the fact that the very first Gay Pride was a riot. In this country we have an LGBTQ+ pride parade in late June because it is the anniversary of those riots. Eventually the movement got around to things like job discrimination and marriage equality, but before we could even broach those topics, we had to get laws, policies, and attitudes changed so that cops were not free to harass us, beat us, arrest us, and sometimes kill us merely because we were queer.

That’s what protests like the ones underway now for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other recent victims of police brutality.

Now I want to pivot to another story that I don’t want to get lost: Rev. Lou Sheldon, Who Founded ‘Traditional Values Coalition’ in 1980 to Warn Americans of ‘Gay Threat,’ Dead at 85. Sheldon was an evil, lying man who repeatedly tried to make the law even more anti-gay that it was when he founded the so-called Traditional Values Coalition. The Coalition was designated a hated group long ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center for use of “known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling.”

Sheldon was at the forefront of trying to have AIDS patients rounded up into concentration camps, among many other things. While most people will focus on the Traditional Values Coalition’s anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, it is important to note that the Coalition has long been opposed to immigration reform, and frequently repeats racist and anti-semitic dog whistles in their many, many press releases and calls to action.

Lou Sheldon is dead. Good.

Enough about him. Let’s close with a video.

Jimmy Kimmel on George Floyd, Riots in Minneapolis & Trump’s Violent Stupidity:

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Friday Five (racists gonna commit racism edition)

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We have reached the final Friday in May.

Most of the week has been a mix of drizzly evening, cool days, some sun breaks, slowly warming as the week went on. Then Thursday the weather decided to pretend it was summer. So it was sunny, too warm, and the darn pollen count was through the roof… and I had one of four remaining impossible deadlines of the week to try to get out while suffering a major sinus headache and other symptoms of a bad hay fever day.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories about the pandemic, five stories about the criminal pretending to be president, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and some things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Activist, Author and Playwright Larry Kramer Has Died at 84. Yes, normally these stories go in the In Memoriam section (and there are more about Larry Kramer there), but Kramer’s role in leading the fight against medical inactivity, societal indifference, and active government hostility to people dying of AIDS during the first two decades of the pandemic is indescribable.

‘We All Feel At Risk’: 100,000 People Dead From COVID-19 In The U.S..

Facebook Helps Push Right-Wing Extremism, And They Know It – “Facebook knows what it’s doing, intentionally continues to cause harm to increase engagement and profit, and will never fix these problems themselves.”.

George Floyd: Black man dies after US police pin him to ground – Four Minneapolis officers fired after the murder of George Floyd, who died after being pinned down by a white officer.

Amy Cooper dubbed ‘Central Park Karen’ fired from job after targeting Black man.

This Week in the Pandemic:

2.1 Million Jobless Claims Filed Last Week, Reaching Total Of Over 40M Amid Outbreak.

Two Weeks After Residents Flooded Bars, Wisconsin Sees Record Number of COVID-19 Cases, Deaths.

11,000 COVID Cases Linked To Three Meat Processors.

Every Coronavirus Symptom We Know: A Visual Guide.

Protester who hoisted Gov. Andy Beshear effigy fired from job at Neil Huffman Auto Group.

This Week in the Deplorable Thug Occupying the White House:

For Trump Supporters, The Cruelty Is The Point – Does anyone really still believe that his supporters merely put up with his rages nearly five years after Trump declared his candidacy?

The Psychopath in Chief – I spent hundreds of hours with Donald Trump to ghost-write ‘The Art of the Deal.’ I now see a deeper meaning behind his behavior.

Trump Pushes a Conspiracy Theory That Falsely Accuses a TV Host of Murder – On Twitter and at a news conference, the president said Joe Scarborough was responsible for the death of Lori Klausutis, who worked for him when he was a congressman. But Twitter refused her husband’s request to have the false tweets removed.

Donald Trump, the Most Unmanly President – Why don’t the president’s supporters hold him to their own standard of masculinity?

Fox News Nails Trump For Lying About Mail-in Ballots: ‘There’s Not Evidence Of Significant Fraud’ – A Fox News segment on Sunday refuted President Donald Trump’s claim that mail-in voting is a “scam” that gives an advantage to Democrats.

In Memoriam:

Larry Kramer, Pioneering AIDS Activist And Writer, Dies At 84.

Anthony Fauci reflects on death of Larry Kramer: ‘He was truly an icon’.

Larry Kramer Taught Me to Be Angry. I Still Am.

‘Larry Kramer Changed My Life.’ Ellen Barkin, Joel Grey, Anthony Rapp, and Others Recall a ‘Hero’ and Friend.

Larry Kramer Had the Courage to Act on His Fear – The AIDS activist, who has died at the age of eighty-four, had a vision both catastrophic and hopeful.

Richard Herd, ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Star Trek’ actor, dies at age 87.

Sally Rowley, Jewelry Maker and Freedom Rider, Dies at 88 – She fought for civil rights, learned to fly and sold her art on the streets of San Francisco. She died of the novel coronavirus.

Things I wrote:

The Missing History of Decoration Day.

Tuesday Tidbits 5/26/2020: Willing to kill…?

Videos!

Rep. Brian Sims Delivers Epic, Expletive-Laden Rant Accusing GOP of Covering Up Lawmaker’s COVID-19 Diagnosis – Brian Sims slam Republican colleagues over keeping their COVID-19 exposure secret:

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DISTRACTION! – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody:

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Building the Perfect Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder:

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Old Gays Look Back At Their Past Pets:

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Elmo’s Song feat. Lil Nas X | The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo:

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Tuesday Tidbits 5/26/2020: Willing to kill…?

I had a fairly busy weekend, so no time to do a Weekend Update post. So here are some news links to stories that either broke after I made this week’s Friday Five, or are further developments on stories previously commented upon, or didn’t make the cut for the Friday Five but I wanted to make some comments…

Mugshots of two of the men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, “Remember, they weren't arrested because cops saw the tapes. The were arrested because we saw the tapes.”

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The shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery: A timeline of a case that’s gripping the nation: it took over two months for the white men who killed him — Gregory McMichael, and his son, Travis McMichael — to be arrested.

Man who recorded the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery has been arrested, GBI says.

FBI investigating Ahmaud Arbery shooting as possible hate crime, lawyer says – Attorney for family of black jogger shot by white men says federal authorities are looking into prosecutors and police in case.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Was Ahmaud Arbery killed for ‘jogging while black’? The answer is an emphatic yes.

I’m not sure what else to say. That it took the leaked video of one the murderers’ co-conspirator being seen by the public to get a prosecutor to look at the case? Right. Anyone who thinks America is a post-racist society has their head stuck up something…

Not protestors, Domestic Terrorists - Vanilla ISIS.

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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear hanged in effigy as Second Amendment supporters protest coronavirus restrictions.

Husband Of Reopen NC Leader Says He’s ‘Willing To Kill’ To Stop ‘New World Order’. Also, insists he’s not a terrorist.

Threatening to kill people if they don’t do as you say—threatening to kill anyone you perceive has not doing as you say—is the very definition of terrorism. Y’all aren’t heroes. You’re not patriots. You’re certainly not Christian…

NC Coronavirus Hospitalizations At New High On Memorial Day – On the same day, a group demanding an end to pandemic restrictions planned protests throughout the state.

How many times do we have to say it: the restrictions aren’t what tanked the economy. It’s the fact that we’ve built the economy on a need for a lot of people to work themselves to the bone to keep things going, and that as soon as a significant fraction of the population cuts back on certain types of spending, everything collapses.

And saying, “People who are afraid of getting infected can just stay home. The rest of us want to be able to go to a restaurant or get our hair cut.” Just proves that you don’t think service industry workers are people. Because if there isn’t a shut down and there isn’t unemployment to cover them, then they have no choice but to risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones just so you can have your dang hot wings.

Conspiracy theorists, far-right extremists around the world seize on the pandemic- Civil rights advocates have warned for months that the coronavirus could aid recruiting for the most extreme white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

Child looking incredulous, “So, me wearing a bulletproof backpack to school with metal detectors, armed guards, and routine mass-shooter drills is 'the price of freedom'... but you wearing a mask in Walmart fo 10 minutes is 'tyranny'? ”

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CDC: Arkansas coronavirus outbreak linked to church services .

Georgia church closes two weeks after reopening as families come down with coronavirus.

More COVID-19 cases linked to California church services.

I can’t even…

In fairness, I want to point out that it isn’t just Americans who are capable of this level of stupidity: 107 COVID Cases Have Been Traced Back to One Church Service in Germany.

“Too many headlines begin with the phrases, 'Pastor Arrested...' 'Youth Pastor Charged with...', 'Pastor Pleads Guilty...'”

 
Youth pastor claims he was kidnapped by black men to avoid admitting why he was in a hotel room – After his wild claim made it to social media, local news investigated the racist tale and the now-unemployed pastor admitted the truth.

Former Abilene youth pastor wanted by U.S. Marshals arrested in Mexico.

Inola Pastor Arrested, Accused Of Sexually Assaulting 3 Young Girls.

This is an old, old topic I’ve written about many times. Human institutions of all kinds have a terrible habit of protecting people in power and enabling abusing behavior. But there is something particularly insidious about how that manifests in churches. Particularly in how often the pastor or other leader who has abused other people is embraced and offered forgiveness almost before they ask for it, and how their victims are treated as if they are the offenders. And this next story illustrates that:

One Youth Pastor After Another Sexually Abused Kids at This California Church. It’s in the news because civil lawsuits have been filed. But the killer detail is how in 1983, when a 13-year-old boy explained how the youth pastor had sexually assaulted him, it wasn’t just that the church leadership decided not to punish the youth pastor, but they contacted the police and reported the boy for making a false accusation! And the first reaction of the police was to grill the boy about his own sexual desires…

That’s the fucked up world many of us grew up in.

The Missing History of Decoration Day

Memorial day is not about the living

Today isn’t the day to say ‘Thank you for your service.’

Once again it’s Memorial Day, and once again I find myself having conflicting feelings. There is, of course, the part of me that gets irritated at how so many people treat every even slightly patriot holiday as another occurrence of Veteran’s Day. And that’s wrong for many reasons. If nothing else, if someone is a military veteran or still serving, this day can be extremely emotional day, because they may be thinking about people they knew who didn’t make it back

If you aren’t sure what to say today, NPR has some suggestions: Don’t Say ‘Thank You For Your Service’ This Monday.

The other set of feelings I get revolve around the revisionist history everyone publishes about the history of Memorial Day. Memorial Day didn’t become an official holiday until the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968. You’ll find scores of articles and web pages telling how the Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day (true), which was first celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868 (false). Decoration Day was celebrated in several parts of the country, mostly in the South, long before the Civil War.

Leading up to Decoration Day, volunteers from the community would cut the grass in the cemetery and pull up weeds and generally do maintenance. In modern times, city and county governments take care of cemeteries that are not maintained by a company or a religious organization, so we don’t think about things like the grass and weeds around grave. Then come Sunday was the day to bring flowers to put on the graves, have family reunions, and celebrate the lives of all of our deceased family members. My Grandmother observed that version faithfully her whole life. ‘Decoration Day’: The South Honors Its Dead.

“…on that day, everybody who’s connected to each other and to the people underground convene and have in effect a religious service in the cemetery.”
—Alan Jabbour, the author of the book Decoration Day in the Mountains

As I said, Grandma celebrated the old version her whole life, and she was literally in the process of placing a silk flower arrangement on the grave of Great-aunt Maude (and pulling up some crab grass that was obscuring the marker) when she died. So you may understand while I have strong feelings about the missing history of Decoration Day.

Anyway, for Grandma (originally posted on Memorial Day 2014):

Memorial, part 2

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears

Flowers for Grandma’s grave.

Grandma always called it by the older name, Decoration Day. As I’ve written before, the original holiday was celebrated in many states as a day to gather at the grave sites of your parents, grandparents, et cetera, to honor the memory of their lives. It was often a time of picnics and family reunions. At least as much a celebration of their lives as a time of mourning. The connection to military deaths didn’t happen until 1868, and particularly in the south, was often seen as a pro-Union, pro-war, anti-southern celebration.

I didn’t understand most of those nuances when I was a kid. The modern version of the holiday, celebrated on the last Monday in May, didn’t even exist until I was a fifth-grader, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect.

Grandma observed it faithfully. Every year, as May rolled around, she would begin calling distant relatives and old family friends. Grandma knew where just about every person descended from her own grandparents was buried, and she made certain that someone who lived nearby was putting flowers on the graves of those relatives by Memorial Day. She took care of all the family members buried within a couple hours drive of her home in southwest Washington.

She was putting flowers on the grave of my Great-aunt Maud (Grandma’s sister-in-law) on the Friday before Memorial Day, 2007 when she died. My step-grandfather said he was getting in position to take a picture of her beside the grave and the flowers (there are hundreds and hundreds of photos of Grandma beside graves with flowers on them in her photo albums) when she suddenly looked up, said, “I don’t feel good!” and pitched over.

One weekend she had blown out the candles on the cake celebrating her 84th birthday. The following Friday, while putting flowers on Great-aunt Maud’s grave, she died. And one week after that a bunch of us were standing at her graveside. It was just down to a few family members, and we were at that stage where you’re commenting on how pretty the flowers that so-and-so that no one had heard from in years were, when someone asked, “Isn’t grandpa’s grave nearby?”

Grandpa had died 23 years earlier, and was buried in one of a pair of plots he and Grandma had bought many years before. And after Grandma re-married, she and our step-grandfather had bought two more plots close by.

Anyway, as soon as someone asked that, my step-grandfather’s eyes bugged out, he went white as a sheet, and said, “Oh, no!” He was obviously very distressed as he hurried toward his car. Several of us followed, worried that he was having some sort of medical issue.

Nope. He and Grandma had been driving to various cemeteries all week long before her death, putting silk-bouquets that Grandma had made on each relative’s grave. Aunt Maud’s was meant to be the next-to-the-last stop on their journey. Grandpa’s silk flower bouquet was still in the trunk of the car. My step-grandfather was beside himself. He’d cried so much that week, you wouldn’t have thought he could cry any more, but there he was, apologizing to Grandma’s spirit for forgetting about the last batch of flowers, and not finishing her chore—for not getting flowers on Grandpa George’s grave by Memorial Day.

The next year, several of us had the realization that without Grandma around, none of us knew who to call to get flowers put on Great-grandma and Great-grandpa’s graves back in Colorado. None of us were sure in which Missouri town Great-great-aunt Pearl was buried, let alone who Grandma called every year to arrange for the flowers. Just as we weren’t certain whether Great-great-aunt Lou was buried in Kansas or was it Missouri? And so on, and so on. One of my cousins had to track down the incident report filed by the paramedics who responded to our step-grandfather’s 9-1-1 call just to find out which cemetery Great-aunt Maud was in.

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears

Flowers from us, Mom, and my Aunt Silly on Grandpa’s grave.

Mom and her sister have been putting flowers on Grandma’s and Grandpa’s graves since. Our step-grandfather passed away three years after Grandma, and he was buried beside her.

Some years before her death, Grandma had transferred the ownership of the plot next to Grandpa to Mom. So Mom’s going to be buried beside her dad. Mom mentions it whenever we visit the graves, and I don’t know if she realizes how much it chokes me up to think about it.

We had put the flowers in place. We had both taken pictures. Mom always worries that she won’t remember where Grandpa’s grave is (it’s seared in my head: two rows down from Grandma, four stones to the south). Michael helped Mom take a wide shot picture that has both Grandma’s and Grandpa’s spots in it.

I thought we were going to get away with both of us only getting a little teary-eyeed a few times, but as we were getting back into the car, Mom started crying. Which meant that I lost it.

Grandma’s been gone for more than 10 years, now. But every time we drive down to visit Mom, there is a moment on the drive when my mind is wandering, and I’ll wonder what Grandma will be doing when we get there. And then I remember I won’t be seeing her. It took me about a dozen years to stop having those lapses about Grandpa. I suspect it will be longer for Grandma. After all, she’s the one who taught me the importance of Those Who Matter


Flowers from Mom and I on Grandpa's grave this year.

Flowers from Mom and I on Grandpa’s grave this year.

And if you are one of those people offended if I don’t mention people who served our country in the armed forces on this day, please note that we also put flowers on my Grandpa’s grave. Grandpa served in WWII in Italy. He didn’t drive a tank, he drove the vehicle that towed tanks that couldn’t be repaired in the field, and one of the two medals he was awarded in the war was for doing a repair of a tank while under fire. After the war, he came back to the U.S., met Grandma (who was at that point working as a nurse and trying to support her two daughters), and eventually married Grandma and adopted my mom and my aunt. Many years later, he was the person who taught me how to rebuild a carburetor (among other things). He was a hero many times over. And this post is also dedicated to his memory.

Friday Five (don’t be like them edition)

“These three people said the Corona virus was bullshit. This three people all died from the Corona virus. Don't be like these people!”

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It’s Friday! Nearly the end of May. In the U.S., we’re on the brink of Memorial Day weekend… which snuck up on me because time feels like a fog.

It’s been drizzly and cool this week. Most of my flowers are wildly blooming, and there have been lots of bees flitting from flower to flower. I just wish work wasn’t so freakishly busy that I could take a few more breaks during the day to enjoy it. On the other hand, I’m really glad I still have a job. So…

Meanwhile, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about the pandemic, five stories about deplorable people, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and some things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Jane Roe Confesses Anti-Abortion Conversion ‘All an Act’ Paid for by the Christian Right.

Exclusive First Look at New Photograph of Blues Legend Robert Johnson.

This Alaskan man is making a 14-hour boat trip to Costco every week to supply his entire city with groceries amid the pandemic.

Scientists Might’ve Found the Most Dangerous Place in Earth’s History.

My faith instructs me to stand up for LGBTQ neighbors.

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

What happened to the gay sex scenes in ‘God’s Own Country’?!

SCOTUS, Incl. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, OK Trans Prisoner’s Surgery.

Johnson & Johnson pledges to pay repair costs for Pulse memorial defaced by white supremacists.

For gay triathlete, sport helped him get sober and saved his life.

The ‘gender critical’ feminist movement is a cult that grooms, controls and abuses, according to a lesbian who managed to escape. Uh, I thought we all already knew this?

This Week in the Pandemic:

‘Straight-Up Fire’ in His Veins: Teen Battles New Coronavirus Syndrome .

‘Clear, uniform, national’ coronavirus guidelines needed for U.S. air travel, Sen. Cantwell says .

The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate.

Unpacking The Mask Debate.

Catholic church in Houston closes again after 3 priests test positive for COVID-19.

This Week in Deplorables:

Inside Trump’s coronavirus meltdown – What went wrong in the president’s first real crisis — and what does it mean for the US?

US lockdown protests may have spread virus widely, cellphone data suggests.

McConnell admits he was lying when he said Obama administration failed to leave a pandemic playbook .

Haters Petition PBS To Cancel LGBT Pride Series: It’s An “Attack On Christianity And God’s Design For Sexuality”.

Arizona attorney general “actively pursuing” right-wing troll Jacob Wohl.

In Memoriam:

Annie Glenn, speech disorder advocate and wife of John Glenn, dies of coronavirus complications at 100.

White House Butler For 11 Presidents Dies Of COVID At Age 91.

Fred Willard, ‘Best in Show’ and ‘A Mighty Wind’ Actor, Dead at 86 – Prolific comic actor and master of mockumentaries starred in Modern Family and Everybody Loves Raymond alongside Waiting for Guffman and This Is Spinal Tap.

Ken Osmond, Eddie Haskell on ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ dies at 76.

Lynn Shelton, the Brightest Talent in the Seattle Filmmaking Universe, Has Died at 54.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 5/16/2020: This is not about freedom.

Tuesday Tidbits 5/19/2020: That’s not faith, that’s stupidity.

Adventures in feeding the birds and squirrels… and some blogging weirdness.

Videos!

Pioneering Gay Newsman Randy Price Chokes Up As He Signs Off After 38 Years:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Trump Says He’s Taking Hydroxychloroquine: A Closer Look:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

It’s Time to go BACK TO THE FUTURE! | Reunited Apart with Josh Gad:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

The Miracle Sudoku:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Amazing – Space Rocket built with 1 Million Matches Really Flies – Match Chain Reaction:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Adventures in feeding the birds and squirrels… and some blogging weirdness

Three years ago we moved from where we had been living in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle to this place just north of Seattle. While we had use of two flower beds and part of the yard at the old place, there hadn’t been a good spot to put up a bird feeder. Here, we don’t have a yard, but we have our “veranda” a deck 38’ long and 5’ wide, shaded by tall pine trees, and three stories above the ground. I supplemented out less-than a dozen flower pots with a bunch more pots and planters, so I have plenty of flowers… and I got a bird feeder to hang from the eave of the veranda.

I’ve been watching the birds ever since.

Before the current situation, I was only home during the daytime when I could see the birds three or four days out of most weeks. But since February I have been here every day. And the birds and squirrels have just gotten more interesting.

I no longer have just one bird feeder. I have the big seed feeder, a suet cage, a hummingbird feeder, and a squirrel feeder.

The squirrel feeder is attached at floor level, as it were, and is almost always stocked with dried pumpkin seeds (which are more nutritionally useful for squirrels than either birdseed or peanuts). The squirrel feeder has a hinged lid system that is supposed to thwart crows and jays and the like. So far I’ve never seen those birds at the feeder.

Part of the purpose of the separate squirrel feeder is to give the squirrels something easier to get to than the seed feeder, to keep them from spilling half the seed out of the feeder to get the few bits they are actually interested in. It mostly works.

I have gotten used to both the sounds of the many chickadees, juncos, sparrows, and the occasional finches at the feeder. The one or two crows that are too big for the feeder but like to forage on the deck under the feeder, and the sound of the lid of the squirrel feeder opening and closing.

There are at least three squirrels that regularly come to our deck. I know this because sometimes all three are here at the same time. The very fluffy tailed squirrels I can’t tell from each other. But one squirrel—the troublemaker I named Ivan back when he was terrorizing the Cooper’s Hawk that decided to hang out and eat the smaller birds for a month autumn before last—is easy to distinguish if you can see his tail, because it is the most bedraggled excuse for a squirrel tail you will ever see.

One morning earlier this week I was working, only passingly aware of the chirping of some birds outside and the irregular sound of the squirrel feeder lid going up and down. Suddenly, I heard some rapid and unfamiliar animal/bird sounds. I looked up in time to see the chickadees and juncos that had been at the feeder and under the deck fleeing. An millisecond later I saw one of the squirrels leap from the deck to a branch, followed by a crow that appeared to be trying to eat the squirrel!?

The crow was so closely chasing the squirrel that I couldn’t see the tail and identify whether it was Ivan or one of the others. Whichever squirrel it was, they fled into the pine needles up the branch. The crow swooped away, flying high in the sky, but then seconds later it dove back at the spot on the branch the squirrel had been at a moment before. It didn’t catch the squirrel, but swooped away and looped up to land on some branches above.

The squirrel is nowhere to be seen.

By this point I have set my work laptop aside and I’m standing at the window, trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

A few seconds later the squirrel’s head peeked out of dense cluster of sub-branches on another branch. Crow is still hopping between a few bare branches, head snapping back and forth as if scanning.

The squirrel remains motionless.

After a minute, the crow flies off. Squirrel doesn’t move for a bit, then pulls back and vanishes into the green. I shrug and go back to work.

About five minutes later I hear the tell-tale sound of the squirrel feeder lid—except much quieter than normal. So I stand up to look again. Ivan (I can clearly see his tail, now) is sitting by the feeder eating a pumpkin seed. When he finishes, he very slowly pushes the lid open, sticks his head in to get another seed, and then even more slowly pulls back, so the lid closes so gently that it makes a much softer sound than I’ve ever heard it.

I watch him repeat this careful, more quiet eating process for a minute, then I go back to work.

Later, I happen to look up and see Ivan the rail. I notice that when Ivan moves along the rail, he hobbles on three legs, holding is left forepaw up as if injured. He later makes a leap into the tree all right. I see him throughout the rest of the day poking about on the deck, sometimes using all four legs, but often limping.

I have no idea what was going on. The crow’s trajectory definitely started on the deck near the squirrel feeder, which is up against the wall. So the crow had to be walking around on the deck when whatever happened, happened.

So far since the incident, Ivan continues to open and closer the feeder very slowly, so clearly he’s trying to be quiet in hopes the crow won’t come back.


Edited to Add: So I went to check something else on my blog, and I saw the first draft of this post was what was showing, not the final with the meme… I had to restore a saved copy to get the post back. I reposted it… but a DIFFERENT draft was what was visible after that. So, I’m trying re-posted the whole thing as a new post, and if that works, will edit the other one…

Software is weird (or, I don’t know if I was the fumble fingers or if the backend was)

If you followed a link expecting a post about birds and squirrels: Click here.

I wrote a blog post based on some texts that I sent to friends describing a weird thing that happened outside my window. I re-wrote and expanded the text more than a bit, and added a silly meme. I scheduled it to post in the morning and went to bed. The next morning I went to check something else on my blog, and saw that the post had gone live… except it was just the unedited text from the text messages. No meme picture, no corrected typos, et cetera.

I had to restore a saved copy to get the post back. I reposted it… but a DIFFERENT draft was what was visible after that. So I copied the text and code from the restored draft and made a new post.

I’m going to try replacing the weird post with this text. Who knows what will actually appear to the web when I click update.

Tuesday Tidbits 5/19/2020: That’s not faith, that’s stupidity

“Then: Taking a knew during the anthem is an irresponsible way to protest! NOW: Gathering in groups during a pandemic is my god-given right!”

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Some days you really can’t do more than roll your eyes or yell “WTF!?” Just skim the headlines to see what I mean (you can also go read the articles for all the grim details

Rockingham North Carolina’s 16 COVID-19 cases connected to single church.

For Salem, Oregon congregation, a stunning concentration of COVID.

180 Exposed To Coronavirus During Mother’s Day Service At Defiant NorCal Church.

Texas church cancels masses following death of priest possibly from coronavirus – Five other members of the religious order also tested positive for COVID-19.

CDC: Arkansas fatal coronavirus outbreak linked to church services.

Catholic church in Houston closes again after 3 priests test positive for COVID-19.

Conservative Church Network Launches Plan to Defy California Social Distancing Orders.

Coronavirus Continues To Move Into Previously Insulated Red Counties In Battleground States.

I’ve been seeing people refer to rightwing dominionist so-called christians as a death cult, and I used to think that was a (very) slight exaggeration, but now I’m rethinking that.

Let’s shift gears a bit. The following headline and the opening of the article would appear to contradict one of the articles I linked to on Friday, but that actually don’t:

The Coronavirus Class War.

The problem is that the phrase “class war” is being used to mean very different things. The article I link to today shows that poor other working class people overwhelmingly support continuing shelter in place/stay home orders. While only a slightly smaller percentage of middle class people also support it. Opposition to quarantines comes not just from a very small minority, but almost entirely from the very well-to-do and the stinking rich.

Folks like the executives and highest-paid pundits at Fox News, for instance, while they all continue to work from home, are egging governors to “reopen” the economy, by which they mean, stop the unemployment payments and force people who aren’t well off enough to quarantine voluntarily to go out and work and expose themselves and their families to the pandemic.

The polls in the above article clearly indicate that it is the rich who want to reap the benefits of social distancing, while making the working poor shoulder most of the risk of the pandemic.

Friday’s headline, which claimed that was no evidence of a class war was using the class war phrase much differently. And, IMHO, poorly. They were using it not to refer to actual economic strata within society, but instead to refer to a mostly mythical division. Fox News and their ilk have been trying to portray the protestors as representing the working class, while saying the only people who want the quarantine orders to continue are leftwing elites. The article then quoted virtually identical findings as the one above: the overwhelming majority of the country favor the quarantine measures, and the lower income the people are, the more likely they are to support it.

By adopting the disingenuous definitions of class, they wind up writing a headline that says the opposite of what the article showed.

Because the so-called “left elite” isn’t an economic class. It mostly is a myth, because inherent in the way the phrase is usually used is the notion that no one in the working class support any liberal policies, at all.

Isn’t language fun?

Weekend Update 5/16/2020: This is not about freedom

“Does everyone grasp that 'reopen the economy' means keep poor people from collecting unemployment? And 'work sick or lose your job'? This in not about freedom.”

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Time for another post with stories that either didn’t make the cut for this week’s Friday Five, or that broke after I completed the Friday Five post, or update a news story/event that I have commented upon in an earlier post. And as usual, I’m going to have more to say about these things than the typical amount of commentary in the Friday Five.

Before we get into all of that, I just want to share that this morning after my usual coughing and sneezing (we’re in peak hay fever season, here) I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my husband had already started the ribs cooking for tonight’s dinner. He makes his own rub for pork ribs and slow cooks them. So when my sinuses temporarily clear, I was flooded with the most amazing scents! My husband is awesome!

All right, let’s jump in to the other stuff:

We saw this coming. Covidiot New York Barber Cutting Hair ‘illicitly’ During Lockdown Tests Positive For COVID . Now, I want to make it clear, I don’t think this is ‘just desserts’, and I’m not cheering the fact that this guy has gotten this disease which is far, far worse than the flu. (See the story I linked to yesterday of the body builder who spent 6 weeks on a ventilator if you don’t understand). There are multiple tragedies here: 1) the guy is an idiot, yes, but his idiocy has been caused, enabled, and cheered on by a bunch of people in the rightwing media and politics who are themselves taking the very precautions they are urging others to protest, 2) if he tested positive, that means a number of his customers during this time who came in for the illicit haircuts got infected while there.

And the idiot minority (egged on by slightly less idiotic people whose wealth and privilege allow them to avoid some of the danger) are making decisions based in part on not comprehending the slow incubation period. And that outcomes are still difficult to predict. COVID-19: Daily growth rate slowing in Nebraska, but deaths per day rising. And of course, Editorial: Wisconsin politicians, court failed to protect public good.

And those supposedly slowing growth rates, well, they’re mostly meaningless because we aren’t testing enough to know how much of the population in any area actually has it: Most US states fall short of recommended testing levels – Coronavirus outbreaks are testing public health networks and the resolve of planners to reopen from pandemic shutdowns.

“I'm still amazed that 'protect the unborn' turned into 'kill your grandparents' in a matter of 6 weeks because people wanted a haircut.”

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And I repeat, that this is not like the flu! It’s not just lungs: Covid-19 may damage the heart, brain, and kidneys. Damage your body likely never will recover from completely. And again, it isn’t just old people or people with pre-existing conditions (as if letting those people die isn’t super immoral on its own). COVID-19 inducing strokes in young people. COVID-19 can cause some young children to have a fatal inflammatory syndrome. And everyone who has it suffers at least some of the long-term permanent organ damage.

Meanwhile, some people aren’t just being idiots, they are being evil: Landlords Sexually Harassing Tenants And Renters Aid Coronavirus Pandemic – “He knows I don’t have a job. He knows I don’t have anywhere to go — he’s preying on me.”.

Okay, I think it’s time to change topics before I start foaming at the mouth.

Remember our old pal, the lying, hypocrital hate-monger, Jerry Falwell, Jr? Well, he’s been in the news a bit this week!

Jerry Falwell Jr’s Liberty University guts entire Philosophy department. Which is especially strange given how much of the University’s web page and other marketing materials hype that very department and the PhD program it offered. Of course, Liberty University’s purpose has never been education. When Falwell Senior was still alive, it’s goals were propaganda, brainwashing, and making a shit-ton of money for the Falwell family. Since Junior took over, the milking students and donors for as much money as he can divert into his real estate investments and to pay off sex partners has become the premiere goal, eclipsing all others (as we’ve linked to many, many times).

It’s the reason he insisted on re-opening the university while state and local officials were begging him not to. It’s the reason he has refused to refund tuition for students stuck elsewhere under quarantine orders, or afraid to come back due to health concerns, or who have actually gotten sick and so forth.

The philosophy department is being cut because even with that refusal to grant refunds (or perhaps because), enrollment is dropping off.

You may recall the last time I linked to a story about Falwell it was about his saying that two reporters were being prosecuted for trespassing after they reported about the students afraid to come back and so forth? Well… Falwell Loses Bid To Prosecute “Trespassing” Journalists – Two journalists accused of trespassing at LU won’t be prosecuted. The linked story skips some of the details. The warrants were issued by a campus security copy. It just so happens that (because back in the day the university was so economically important to the local area and Virginia tends to have very conservative public officials), that the county has treated the campus security force as if it was a city police department.

However, when they issue warrants, those warrants are supposed to be approved by a magistrate and the prosecutor’s office. When Falwell touted these warrants initially, he lied (and his lie was widely quotes as fact in many news stories) that the warrants had been issued by a magistrate. They had been submitted but not yet reviewed. The review has finally happened.

Turns out that standing on public sidewalks and taking pictures and talking to other people on public sidewalks and then leaving when asked to doesn’t constitute trespassing. Who’d’ve thunk?

Let’s move to a topic much less dire for a moment:

Local Sleuths Track Down Source of Mysterious Radio Songs. This story was written by someone whose work I am a fan of, and is published in one of my favorite news sources, but I have quite a quibble with the headline. Unless the word “sleuths” is being used sarcastically. The story is interesting, and it is cool that some people tried to turn it into some sort of secret message. But actual sleuths would know that the FCC has a publicly available web site where you can plug in a radio frequency and your location and find out who holds the license for the station in question and the physical location of its transmitter(s).

Still, the answer to the mysterious twenty-song playlist that kept repeating unchanged for who knows how long is amusing.

I usually try to end these with a funny video, but…

The following is a different take on a particular moment that happened this week and was covered in at least one video linked in yesterday’s Friday Five. Rachel raises an issue that lots and lots and lots of us have been thinking, but few in the media have been saying aloud:”

Something Appears To Be Wrong With Donald Trump | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Friday Five (truth decay edition)

It’s Friday! The third Friday in May!

We had record-breaking heat over the weekend, prompting my husband and I to order takeout from a restaurant far enough away that we would up spending more than an hour in the air-conditioned car. Then temps dropped on Monday and we’ve had some drizzling nearly every day this week and temperatures generally in a much more pleasant range.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about the pandemic, five stories about the war criminal pretending to be president, five stories about deplorable people, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and some things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

The World’s Last Blockbuster Remains Open, Pandemic and Netflix Be Damned – “I had a customer come in and she said, ‘I am so grateful that you reopened, because I couldn’t flip through Netflix one more time.'”.

Panicked over ‘murder hornets,’ people are killing native bees we desperately need.

Washington issues $4,000 cleaning bill to embattled Rep. Matt Shea for incident on Capitol steps.

Calvin and Hobbes makes sense of quarantine life, 25 years later .

The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months.

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

California Cop: I Was Fired for Being Gay, HIV-Positive.

Germany passes law banning ‘gay conversion therapy’ for minors.

#WOWExclusive: The REAL Story Behind the Rock Hudson/ Henry Willson Storyline in “Hollywood”.

Anti-LGBT+ hate group tries to remove judge because he wouldn’t let them repeatedly misgender trans kids in court.

Historic Places: The Black Cat.

This Week in the Pandemic:

Winter Party attendee who caught coronavirus posts shocking photo of virus’ effect on his body – When he attended the National LQBTQ Task Force’s Winter Party in Miami, he had no idea what the consequences would be.

How “truth decay” is harming America’s coronavirus recovery – Americans can’t agree on basic facts. It’s a big threat to coronavirus recovery.

A class war over social distancing? New data suggests otherwise.

US coronavirus death toll passes 80,000 as states move to phased reopening.

Trump blocks desperately needed national testing program, says tests make things “look bad” – “President Trump is prioritizing his efforts to create the illusion that the country is returning to normalcy over taking concrete steps that might make that actually happen safely”.

This Week in the Deplorable Thug Occupying the White House:

Howard Stern to Trump supporters: He hates you and so do I.

“We’re In Deep Shit”: Whistleblower Rick Bright Details Failure to Act on Mask Shortages.

As coronavirus roils the nation, Trump reverts to tactic of accusing foes of felonies.

Court Revives Emoluments Suit Against Trump Hotel.

Explaining coronavirus to Trump is like ‘bringing fruits to the volcano’: Administration official.

This Week in Deplorables:

Feds Thwart NYC Nazi Incels In Potential Terror Plot – Racist, anti-Semitic Queens man — who hinted he can’t get a date — busted in assault weapon buy, feds say.

Michigan Cultists Fight Each Other Over Noose Display – Fight erupts at Michigan Capitol protest over noose; police take ax.

Anti-Vax Nutbag Sued By Anti-Vax Nutbag For $95M – Anti-Vaxx Movement Civil War Has Erupted and It’s Just as Ridiculous as You’d Expect.

Pulse memorial mural at the LGBT+ Center Orlando vandalized with white supremacist stickers.

Bothsidesism Stalks The New York Times.

In Memoriam:

Little Richard, the ‘Architect of Rock,’ Dies @ 87.

One can’t merely say that Little Richard died a homophobe or renounced his queerness when his life as a queer entertainer made such a cultural impact.

Aimee Stephens, the woman who brought the first-ever trans rights case to the Supreme Court, has tragically died.

Jerry Stiller, ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Hairspray’ Actor and Comedian, Dies at 92.

Jerry Stiller’s comedy with Anne Meara deserves to be remembered just as much as Frank Costanza.

Roy Horn, of Siegfried & Roy, Has Died of COVID-19 at 75.

Stonewall riots historian, author David Carter dies at 67.

A Beloved Queer Activist Posted This Now-Viral Tweet Moments Before He Was Gunned Down in SF’s Mission District.

A Brooklyn Man Described As “Mr. Hooper From Sesame Street” Died From The Coronavirus – Dozens turned out for a candlelight procession to honor beloved actor and entrepreneur Lloyd Cornelius Porter.

Breakthrough in Scott Johnson Murder from 1988 – Arrest Made in 1988 Murder of Gay American Chased Off Sydney Cliff.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 5/9/2020: The Best of Cephalopods, the Worst of Cephalopods.

Confessions of a boy who wanted to be a diva, in spite of the bullying.

Videos!

The GOP ‘has turned Wisconsin into a failed state’:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Trump’s Rose Garden Hissy Fit, Plus The Dumbest Thing The President Has Ever Said:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Jimmy Kimmel’s Quarantine Monologue – Jimmy Responds to Pence & Trump:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

If You Accuse Your Predecessor Of Crime, You Darn Well Specify What That Crime Is | Deadline | MSNBC:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Jimmy Fallon, Brendon Urie & The Roots Remix “Under Pressure” (At-Home Instruments):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

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