Emails to America: Italy In the Time of Coronavirus, Part VII

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Members of the Maryland Air National Guard 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron work with members of the Maryland Office of Preparedness and Response March 19, 2020, to prepare and load medical supplies and equipment at the Maryland Strategic National Stockpile location. All assets provided were prioritized for health care workers and hospitals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Schepers)

By The National GuardMaster Sgt. Christopher Schepers/175th WG – Maryland Air National Guard – Maryland National Guard, Public Domain,

This is a multi-part series showcasing early warnings to family and friends from an American expat in Italy. To read the series from the beginning, click here.

Editor’s Note: On this date, the United States has more than 300,000 coronavirus cases and more than 8,100 deaths. Dr. Deborah Birx tells Americans that the next two weeks will be crucial to flatten the curve and asks that everyone stay at home whenever possible. President Donald Trump further announces “there will be a lot of death.” Although he signed the Defense Production Act the night before, Trump has yet to fully invoke it, instead declaring that businesses will voluntarily begin production on key medical equipment. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine urges people in Ohio to wear cloth masks in public places. At least 155 crew members from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, whose captain was relieved of command after criticizing Pentagon leadership for their slow response to an outbreak on his ship, have tested positive.

April 4, 2020 – Reality is malleable, or not time for happy talk just yet

I was hoping that this time I could sit down and write you about the joys of staying at home. About finally finding a rhythm and rapport with my small family so that we can enjoy the newfound time we have together. About getting some home improvement work done (lucky there was still enough usable paint to freshen up the little back porch outside our kitchen door). About watching the numerous birds and wildlife that seem to be flourishing more in the absence of human activity outside the windows of the room where I write. And, of course, to tell you about the delicious meals my wife lovingly cooks for us everyday and the baking she and our daughter have taken to doing. Seems like this has become a trend all over Italy as now flour and bakers yeast are two items that are a bit harder to find at the store these days. Of course, this is our reality because we have a little money in the bank. I, for now, still have a job and all of us are well. I can only imagine the horror and fear of a situation such as this for a family that is living precariously. I can only imagine.

Now, to get to my point. In the country you’re living in, not only do many Americans have an incredibly short memory span but reality has become malleable.

“He accepted everything. The past was alterable. The past never had been altered.”

George Orwell, 1984

As you watch the video, if you don’t hit a firewall, check the dates.

Most of these Fox hosts went through a complete reversal of position regarding the coronavirus in anywhere from 7 to 10 days. Some of them in less than that. 

There’s more:

Yeah, they made me laugh too. But really there’s nothing funny about it. Like the fact that, as I write this, of the 1,140,327 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 278,568 of them are in the United States of America. According to Johns Hopkins University (a source I trust), more than 7,000 Americans have died from the disease.

And remember, those are only confirmed cases. From what I hear through my grapevine, many, many Americans are suffering from symptoms that could very well be much more than the common seasonal flu. If you adhere to the Boris Johnson and Swedish school of thought, maybe you’ll all build up herd immunity. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea! Just not sure how many grandparents might have to needlessly DIE!

Over the past two weeks, there has been a LOT of conjecture among the mass media about why exactly, even though the President signed the Defense Production Act, he has seemed very reticent to use it. The DPA is really pretty simple. The US government demands that certain industries produce things that are needed during an emergency – usually a war – and helps those companies to quickly build supply chains, pays them a determined price for the products/items, and distributes the materials in the places they are needed. This can all be done using the Pentagon and the US Army and/or FEMA. So it would make sense to use the DPA to produce things like the ventilators that many hospitals (such as in New York City) are already running out of and have the US Military deliver them directly where they are needed. 

There is another important aspect called the national stockpile, which contains most of the PPE (personal protective equipment) that so many US hospitals are DESPERATE for right now. Well, 17.8 tons of that PPE was sent to China on February 7. This can be confirmed by official US government communications. No one is quite sure why, other than it was “a testament to the generosity of the American people” but maybe, just maybe, a little foresight would have been in order.

Recently we learned from Governor Cuomo at one of his press conferences that instead of just receiving the goods directly from the national stockpile, the various states are having to all “bid on it” from various suppliers. Why in the world?

This information has been investigated by other sources.

Now let’s take a closer look at the role of one Jared Kushner. You know who that is, don’t you? The President’s son-in-law, de facto White House Chief of Staff, engineer of the President’s Middle East Peace Plan and a guy who says he was qualified for that role because he’s read 25 books on the subject. Follow closely now because at the last White House press conference a few very interesting things came to light.

First, we get this amazing declaration from Baby Face Kushner: “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.” Excuse me, dear boy, what’s in the national stockpile was paid for by the US taxpayers and is supposed to be used in the event of an emergency however the current administration sees fit, with proper Congressional oversight. But wait, it just gets better. When pressed by a sharp reporter on how the administration is actually working this. . .

This is Rear Admiral John Polowczyk, who now works with FEMA.

So just in case you don’t have Twitter I’m going to dictate what this guy said:

POLOWCZYK: This product that we’re moving is primarily commercial product that would enter the commercial system and be distributed through financial business transactions between hospitals and these distributors (looks up at the sky). . .

REPORTER: Just to clarify, that’s, that explains why states say they’re bidding like they’re on eBay, because the supplies are going to the private sector and then they have to go there to get the supplies?

POLOWCZYK: That’s, uh, that’s normally how things, uh, that’s normally how things work, right? So I’m not here to disrupt uh, uh, a, a supply chain, so look these six distributors, six, seven, they have six to seven hundred warehouses, they have trucks to go to the hospital door every day. (pauses) We’re bringing product in, they’re filling orders for hospitals, nursing homes, like normal. . . . So we put together this data element over the last, you know, what, 13 days, get the people in [here I’m asking what people? Those six or seven distributors?] look at the problem, build this. I am now seeing truth about what’s in the supply chain and I would say that, um, there’s been some abnormal behavior.

There’s been some abnormal behavior? No, excuse me. I’d like to ask, JUST WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE!?  

Look, it’s not rocket science. Why did they bring in all these “middle men” and have they just been handing things from the national stockpile to their corporate buddies? I know I’m starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist here but remember, there are precisely two things that motivate Donald J. Trump and his kleptocracy.

  1. Getting re-elected. (He got impeached over that, remember?)
  2. Putting taxpayers’ money into his and his family’s pockets! 

So yes, what I’m telling you is that they have sold (whether literally or figuratively) the national stockpile and the right to price gouge to the highest bidder and/or their best corporate buddies. Those companies all have names, by the way, so it might be interesting to look into which Republican members of congress and which members of the Trump administration hold stock in them while we’re at it. 

But you have no proof, I can hear you saying. I don’t need any. Just in case it hasn’t dawned on you yet, I (together with a lot of other interested folks) have been watching and studying their dirty little games since they stepped into power. 

From CREW – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:

And this is Orwellian: After Kushner’s comments, they changed the description on the web page of the national stockpile – not the first time this sort of thing has happened. 

Oh, and in the stimulus package, there just happens to be a major tax break for real estate investors. Jared’s family company could save a lot of money (and so could the Trumps).

And just in case that’s not enough for you:

And now there’s one more justification that I often hear coming from his supporters. Because, yes, you’re right, it does sound like I’m just another ranting liberal suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. And you may be asking, rightly so, how is it possible that they would be doing all this stuff right in plain sight of the American people? And during a national health crisis? I mean people are dying, right? And shouldn’t there be some oversight? Isn’t that the job of Congress? Don’t the Democrats have control of the House of Representatives?  

How could they get away with all this criminality?

Pretty simple. In the last 3 years you weren’t paying enough attention. And now it’s been normalized.

I will close with this quote from one of the few Americans who understands Donald J. Trump and what makes him tick. Her name is Sarah Kendzior, author, journalist and scholar of authoritarian states.

Congratulations, America. Welcome to your new normal.

Truly hoping that my country (yeah, it’s still America) can get through this crisis without having to experience all the same horror and death that we have experienced here in Italy, but I’m afraid it’s far too late. Oh yeah, and they say the Italian government is full of robbers, liars and cheaters. Up to a point.

Love and good health to you all.


These emails, written to friends and family in America over a roughly one-month period of time (from February 29–April 4, 2020) represent one of the most massive failures of American governance in the history of the United States. Italy was the first E.U. country to admit having community spread of the coronavirus, yet as of today, June 23, 2020, we have managed to keep our collective loss of life to just under 35,000 (still enormous) and our curve has progressively flattened. In my native U.S., however, the official death count is more than 120,000, and it is impossible to say if the curve will flatten or spike upwards again. It would have been different had President Donald Trump simply chosen to be a leader. 

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