Patterico's Pontifications


Not So Silent Night: Great Christmas Tunes

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:02 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Since I began guest blogging here at the kind invitation of our host lo those many years ago, I have always intended to write a post at Christmastime on my favorite Christmas music. Yet I have never quite figured out how to pull it off. I now own upwards of one hundred different Christmas albums and have Christmas songs by probably two hundred (or more) different artists, so a post of this sort runs the risk that I would drone on and on in my exasperating way. I’ve used this as an excuse for inaction, but this time around I’m just going to plunge in with some random reflections on the Yuletide tunes that I like. I encourage commenters to supply your own favorites.

Favorite Christmas Album that Perhaps No One Else Here Owns
Freddy Fender was a big deal in my hometown when I was a kid growing up. He regular came to play a concert at the Colorado State Fair, and both “Wasted Days and Wasted Night” and, especially, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” played constantly on AM radio when I was a boy. I was thus thrilled when I found his Christmas album on a CD printing about thirty years ago. His cheapskate producer, Huey Meaux, didn’t want to go to the expense of licensing popular Christmas tunes, so Freddy was stuck with the second and third tier of seasonal classics, songs like “Please Come Home for Christmas,” “Love Gets Better at Christmas,” and “Santa! Don’t Pass Me By.” But with the great Freddy Fender voice, even the most mediocre of tunes can sound sublime, as witnessed by this stellar rendition of the Lee Emerson-Mickey Moody written classic “I’ll Be on the Chimney (When Santa Comes Tonight).”

The Christmas Album That You Might Think Would Be Ridiculous But Is Actually Kind of Beautiful
Oh sure, we all know that Slim Whitman saved the Earth with his yodeling, but apart from that I didn’t have much interest in “Rose Marie” or “Indian Love Song.” But about three years ago I came across his Christmas album and bought it on a lark. Slim Whitman was a humble man of strong faith, and his singing on the album is heartfelt and touching. The link above is the entire album available on YouTube, but here is a direct link to my favorite song on the album, his rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Fun note: the late Pete Drake, whose pedal steel guitar work I so admired on All Things Must Pass plays on this album.

Christmas Album with the Best Album Cover
Gotta be Frank Sinatra’s Christmas Dreaming. This seems kind of provocative for 1957: her nightgown is perhaps a little too sheer, especially with her sitting so close to the window with that light shining through. Subsequent re-releases of the album on cassette tape and CD swapped this cover for a more conventional one, yet there is no denying the ring-a-ding-ding attitude in this beauty.


Christmas Album with the Best Album Cover (Runner-Up)
The King of Cool, Dean Martin, released A Winter Romance in November 1959, two years after his pal Frank gave us Christmas Dreams. The cover art is of Dino at a ski resort in a tight embrace with a comely redhead, while furtively making goo-goo-eyes with a very shapely blond.

Dean Martin Winter Romance

Best Version of a Religious Hymn
My favorite Christmas hymn is “O Holy Night,” a mid-nineteenth century French carol composed by Adolphe Adam and given English lyrics a few years later by Unitarian minister and music critic John Sullivan Dwight of Boston. Several great singers have come up with stellar versions of the song, including Jerry Vale, Al Green, the late great Charlie Pride, Mario Lanza, and others, but the best one I have heard is by the fantastic Lou Rawls, such a magnificent human being that he landed a recurring role on Baywatch Nights. Unlike Jerry Vale (whose version is the second best), Lou sings the song’s moving second verse which in this case makes all the difference.

Best Version of a Secular Christmas Song Which I Otherwise Don’t Really Like
I’ve never really warmed to “The Christmas Song,” hoary old classic though it may be. Part of it is that I just have never been able to appreciate Mel Torme, the song’s author, whose jazz/scat style just isn’t up my alley. And as far as the song itself goes, I don’t find it too interesting either melodically or lyrically. That said, the version of the song on the Temptations’ 1980 album Give Love on Christmas Day, one of the best Christmas albums around, is fantastic. The song is played at a faster tempo than typical versions, and the original bland backing is replaced by a funky rhythm perfect for Richard Street’s lead vocal and the backing harmonies, especially Melvin Franklin’s bass which knocks it out of the park on the third verse.

Best Novelty Christmas Song
I’m not big on “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” or “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” or a lot of those har-dee-har-har or cloying songs. But I do get a kick out of a song by comedy/lounge act Richard Cheese, who some years back wrote and recorded a clever ditty called “Christmas in Las Vegas.” I think I mostly like it because I conned my family into spending Christmas of 1992 at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, which actually turned out to be a whole lot of fun.

I’m going to call it a night here, and maybe come back to this topic next year (God willing). Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating, and Season’s Greetings to those who are not. Here’s wishing you a restful day tomorrow if you are off, and extending sincere thanks to those of you will be going in to work.


Why Yascha Mounk Is Losing Trust in the Institutions

Filed under: General — JVW @ 11:10 am

[guest post by JVW]

Yascha Mounk, the editor of the new online journal of opinion (he modestly refers to it as “a newsletter,” but I’m going to upgrade it) Persuasion, has a compelling piece in yesterday’s edition titled “Why I Am Losing Trust in the Institutions.” He covers the recent controversy regarding the CDC’s temporary determination to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations based upon occupational and racial considerations rather than age considerations, even though they acknowledged that this would likely cause thousands of senior citizens to die who otherwise might be spared. He does an excellent job in explaining how this decision was reached:

On November 23rd, Kathleen Dooling, a public health official at the CDC, gave a presentation to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which is tasked with developing the recommendation on who should first get access to the vaccine against Covid. In a stark departure from the course of action adopted in virtually every other developed democracy, Dooling recommended that 87 million essential workers—a very broad category including bankers and movie crews as well as teachers or supermarket cashiers—should get the vaccine before older Americans, even though the elderly are much more likely to die from the disease. The committee unanimously accepted the recommendations.

Dooling’s presentation laid out three different metrics for evaluating whether 87 million “essential workers” or Americans over the age of 65 should be next in line: feasibility, science, and ethics. According to the CDC’s own evaluation, considerations of feasibility give us reasons to prioritize older Americans. This makes sense. It is both difficult to determine who should count as an essential worker and to communicate to people who do fall into that category that they are eligible. A straightforward age cut-off makes it easier to decide who’s in and reach the target population. As a result, prioritizing the older than 65s leads by this metric.

Considerations of “science” also seemed to point in the same direction. As the presentation acknowledged, the likelihood of dying from Covid strongly depends on age. According to the CDC’s model, prioritizing essential workers over the elderly would therefore increase the overall number of deaths by between 0.5% and 6.5%. In other words, it would likely result in the preventable deaths of thousands of Americans.

And yet, the presentation concluded that science does not provide a reason to prioritize the elderly. For, as Kathleen Dooling wrote in one of the most jaw-dropping sentences I have ever seen in a document written by a public official, differences in expected consequences that could amount to thousands of additional deaths are “minimal.”

This allowed Dooling to focus on “ethical” principles in selecting the best course of action. Highlighting the most important consideration in red, Dooling emphasized that “racial and ethnic minority groups are underrepresented among adults > 65.” In other words, America’s elderly are too white to be considered a top priority for the distribution of the vaccine against Covid. It is on this basis that ACIP awarded three times as many points to prioritizing the more racially diverse group of essential workers, making the crucial difference in the overall determination. Astonishingly, the higher overall death toll that would have resulted from this course of action does not feature as an ethical reason to prioritize older Americans.

I have quoted quite liberally from Mr. Mounk’s piece, and rather than explicate the rest of his thoughts in this post, I simply urge everyone to click over to his piece and read it in full. But I will let slip that he affirms Andrew Sullivan’s observation of two years ago that “we all live on campus now,” and as the title of his piece indicates, Mr. Mounk declares that this social justice silliness is corroding his — and, I venture it is safe to say, so many others’ — trust in societal institutions that ought to be above this sort of fatuous grandstanding.

Meanwhile, the boss had a Twitter back-and-forth on this very same subject with lefty writer Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, who unsurprisingly is far more sanguine about prioritizing younger essential workers over elderly retirees for vaccination, partly of course because younger “essential” workers are indeed a more racially diverse cohort. Patterico made the same argument on Twitter that Yashca Mounk would later make in his piece: What about elderly minorities, especially the black community, who without the vaccine will presumably (at least according to what we have seen thus far) die at a higher rate than elderly whites? Set aside for a moment the obnoxious argument that social justice dictates that younger and more diverse age-groups have priority over older and whiter age-groups: How is social justice served by using the vaccine to theoretically save X young black lives as opposed to Y older black lives, especially if it turns out (as it very well might) that Y is greater than X? Obviously the right solution in the eyes of the rabid social justice mob would be to have all black and brown people move to the front of the line, but even the CDC realizes that is fraught with peril, both from a moral and a practical standpoint. Patterico’s entire Twitter exchange with Kevin Drum can be found here, but this is the major part when Drum addresses our host’s question:

It probably won’t shock any readers of this blog if I declare my belief that Patterico and Yascha Mounk have the better of the argument. As Mr. Mounk points out, if our institutions mindlessly adopt the fashionable intellectual pablum marketed under the banner of social justice then they shouldn’t expect the rest of us to hold them in any particular esteem.


Trump’s Pardon of Paul Manafort Is Appalling, and the Defenses of It Are False

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am

Paul Manafort earned tens of millions of dollars doing immoral and in many cases illegal things, and then hid the proceeds from the U.S. government. He ran a covert lobbying organization for murderous Ukraine dictator Viktor Yanukovych, and created paperwork to make it appear that the lobbyists’ client was a nongovernmental NGO, to evade FARA registration requirements and keep the operation secret. He did the bidding of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and worked on regime change and installing puppet governments in places like Montenegro, to serve the interests of Deripaska and Putin.

Manafort moved nearly $75 million through offshore accounts that he controlled, and lied to his tax preparer about their existence to avoid paying taxes on it — a fact revealed by emails documenting the lie. He laundered that money through some 32 LLCs created to make the money seem legitimate. He lied to the federal government about whether he still possessed documentation relating to his work for Ukraine — a fact revealed after a search warrant was served on his home — to avoid FARA registration.

That he has been pardoned is predictable, but it is still a disgrace.

I have seen two defenses raised by Trumpy liars on Twitter. Both are false.

One is that Manafort never would have been investigated but for his involvement with Donald Trump. We are told that all investigations into Manafort had been closed, and were reopened by the Special Counsel. This is false. Whoever is saying it is either ignorant or is lying to you. I know this because I read the book by Manafort’s chief prosecutor, Andrew Weissman: Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation (affiliate link). I spent my morning reading time today re-reading several relevant passages from the book, to confirm my memory that four separate investigations were already ongoing and had not been closed when the Special Counsel entered the picture. The investigations included FARA, money laundering, bank fraud, and tax fraud issues. A new prosecutor had recently been appointed on one of those investigations.

While it is true that those investigations were being handled incompetently in many cases and at an indefensibly slow pace, they were ongoing. Manafort’s involvement with Trump did not “reopen” those investigations. It just got a competent and speedy prosecutor in charge of them.

The second defense I have seen is that Manafort is an old man serving a long sentence for “process crimes.” Yes, Manafort lied to the feds and avoided FARA registration requirements, and I suppose those crimes can be fairly called “process crimes” (although I dislike the term). But if the term “process crimes” has been redefined to encompass massive tax evasion and money laundering of tens of millions of dollars, then it has lost all meaning. More likely, the people making this claim are just lying to you. They have sold their souls for the defense of every action Donald Trump takes, and whether their defenses are true or false is, to them, a minor matter of little importance.

Ultimately, Donald Trump is going to pardon everyone who refused to “rat” on him and allow convictions to stand only for cooperators like Michael Cohen and Rick Gates. This is what happens when you give the pardon power to a criminal. Some kind of constitutional reform has to happen, or the pardon power will come to be seen for all time as little more than another tool for presidents to remain above the law.

Absolutely disgraceful.

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