Nel's New Day

April 18, 2021

Sunday: Religious Numbers Drop, Court Gives Christianity Preference

On Sunday, fewer people than ever are going to a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious gathering. Pew Research reports that the share of religiously unaffiliated people in the U.S. has been growing across all demographic groups. The “nones”—those who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, or religion as “nothing in particular”—have become 23 percent of the population, almost 50 percent up from 2007 when 16 percent of people were “nones.” At the same time, the number of “Christians” have dropped from 78 percent to 71 percent.

More Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996) self-identify as “nones,” and the median age of unaffiliated adults is currently 36, down from 38 in 2007 and younger than the 46 years of media age of adults in the U.S. More in the older generations, however, are also becoming unaffiliated: 17 percent of Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are now unaffiliated, compared to 14 percent in 2007.

Of people raised as Christian or another faith, 18 percent now have no religious affiliation, compared to the roughly half of the 9 percent of U.S. adults raised without any affiliation now who identify with a religion, mostly Christianity. More men than women are “nones,” but education, race and ethnicity, and income make no difference. Nearly two-thirds of the seven percent of atheists and agnostics are men who are more educated and more White than the general population.

Two years ago, then-VP Mike Pence announced the nation’s religiosity “has remained remarkably consistent.” Yet a Gallup poll reinforced the Pew Research in its finding that only 47 percent belonged to a congregation in 2020, down from 70 percent in 2000. The percentage of people who think religion is important dropped to 48 percent with the number of people regularly attending worship services even lower.

While the general population becomes less religious, the Supreme Court, because of appointments by Deposed Dictator Trump (DDT) and confirmations by GOP senators, gives preference to Christians. Late Friday night, April 9, 2021, in a “shadow docket,” justices made a 5-4 decision in a case not on the docket and had no oral argument. The Tansom v. Newsom ruling determined that religious groups can gather in homes although other groups are still banned from this practice.

With no signature, the ruling changed the constitutional view of “religious liberty that now permits religious exemptions to situations not discriminating against religion. The court’s new rule, “most favored nation” permits any secular exemption to a law permitting a claim for a religious exemption. The decision stated required permission to gather for Bible study just as they would to get haircuts, food, or pedicures. Any time a government grants any exemption to a law for any reason, it has to grant the same exemption to religion—which in the U.S. typically means Christianity.

These conservative justices have gone far beyond the belief of Justice Antonin Scalia, formerly the most conservative judge of the modern era, when he said this type of ruling should be done “sparingly, and only in the most critical and exigent circumstances,” where “the legal rights at issue are indisputably clear.” The new ruling doesn’t fit these criteria because the high court gave a different meaning to the scope and applicability of the free exercise clause. With no explanation for the court’s decision, five justices are trying to bind lower courts to their personal opinion. The current Supreme Court has used its emergency injunctions seven times, all of them in COVID-19 cases. Before last November, the court had not done so for five years.

DDT used emergency relief from the high court 41 times, winning 28 of those appeals. In contrast, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama together went to the court for this relief only eight times in 16 years. Almost all DDT’s cases requested “stays” pending appeals against a lower court ruling, but the current support for a Christian group froze a government policy losing in the lower courts pending appeal. Scalia pointed out that an injunction “grants judicial intervention that has been withheld by lower courts,” unlike a stay, a short-term delay of a proceeding.

This injunction overrides the lower courts instead of the justices’ position from the past of “a court of review, not first view” as an “appellate tribunal.” The action reverses the function of the Supreme Court and exceeds the justices’ statutory authority to issue such relief—for the seventh time since October. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent, the majority relied only on “separate opinions and unreasoned orders” to make a new constitutional rule. Conservative justices “using procedural tools meant to help them control their docket to make significant substantive changes in the law, in defiance not only of their own standards for such relief, but of fundamental principles of judicial decision making,” wrote legal expert Stephen I. Vladeck.

Since the new term began last October, the court has used shadow dockets at least 20 times to make secret rulings with no arguments and no identification of how each justice ruled. The new justices, in control of making law over legislatures and lower courts, remove transparency from the process of law.

The recent ruling agrees with an earlier decision that religion should allow people to infect others with COVID-19 by opening church services in California while other public activities are closed. Last December, SCOTUS also put religion over public health by siding with religious groups in Colorado and New Jersey. At that time, the U.S. had almost 400,000 deaths from COVID-19 and 16.5 million infections.

Over five years ago, Jerry Falwell Jr, then president of Liberty University, endorsed DDT for president which gave him the evangelical vote in 2016. The past few years have not been good for Falwell. After a series of failed to gain traction, the photo of him and his wife’s pregnant assistant in an inappropriate pose on a boat was the tipping point. He lost his leadership position at the university but claimed a resurrection comeback on Good Friday with his belief the “community still embraces him.” Denied a contracted $10.5 million severance package, Falwell, worth over $100 million, told the media the dispute was resolved.

Good Friday passed, and Liberty is now suing Falwell for over $40 million in damages, alleging breach of contract and fiduciary duty. The lawsuit states Falwell withheld “scandalous and potentially damaging information from Liberty’s board of trustees, while negotiating a generous new contract for himself in 2019 under false pretenses,” according to journalist Ruth Graham. Some of the scandal included an on-going three-some among himself, his wife, and a former pool boy. (More details about Falwell’s scandals.) 

Employees have been ordered to not communicate with either Falwell or his wife Becki Falwell other than any concerns about their daughter, a student. The university also wants Falwell to return its electronic equipment with confidential information. Their oldest son, Trey Falwell was also forced from his vice-presidency at Liberty, while Jerry Falwell Jr’s brother Jonathan Falwell has taken a bigger role at the school.

Also gone from Liberty University is the name for its political “think tank,” Falkirk Center, named after Falwell and DDT’s former pet, Charlie Kirk. Over 400 Liberty students and recent graduates signed a petition to close down the group because the Center “is trying to undo Liberty’s mission.” They rejected the idea they are “people who were educated to become champions for Trump and Western Civilization in the ‘cultural battlefield.’” They also object to the “fellows” using the Center as a “gateway for … people who claim Christ’s name because it is convenient for their personal or political gain.” The Falkirk Center sank $50,000 into political ads for DDT and other GOP candidates before the election.

The Center did not renew Charlie Kirk as a fellow, and he plans to start his own group called Turning Point Faith. Falkirk is now Standing for Freedom Center but kept its political philosophy and some of its questionable “fellows,” such as conservative commentator Eric Metaxas who punched an unarmed anti-DDT protester in the back of his head last year and continues to spread conspiracy theories about voter fraud.  

Liberty’s direction is shown by two new fellows, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, both wannabe presidential candidates—Huckabee in the past and Pompeo in 2024. Pompeo, claiming he wants “religious freedom, created many federal groups promoting evangelical Christianity around the world including one educating officials that the Bible mandates them to support back right-wing social, economic, environmental, and criminal justice policies. When in Congress, Pompeo worked with anti-Muslim activists to promote Christian nationalism. Pope Francis denied an audience with Pompeo because of his use of “religious freedom” for political gain.

Pompeo’s background as Secretary of State illustrates his lack of ethics. The Inspector General reported Pompeo violated government federal ethics rules in using the agency’s resources by asking its employees to carry out personal tasks over 100 times, as did Pompeo’s wife, Susan. Pompeo said they were just things friends did for friends—like working all weekend “to envelope, address, and mail personal Christmas cards for the Pompeos” with no compensation.

Just a few reasons that the number of religiously unaffiliated grows every year.

 

April 1, 2021

April Fool – Not! True Stories from the Media on April 1

Today is an annual day to celebrate tricksters, often through the mass media, but this year’s media stories, as ridiculous as many of them may sound, are true. Here’s a sampling of the ridiculous, and accurate, occurrences—many of them involving Republicans.

First commissioned in 1997, the F-35 fighter jet, estimated at a cost of over $1 trillion for the program and not yet ready for prime time, has been a joke. One plane costs $135.8 million, but its problems include catching on fire, rolling during landings, pilot blackouts, software development disasters, premature part failures, and shortage of spare parts to keep the planes flying.

Why did Johnson & Johnson have to throw away COVID-19 doses for 15 million people? Workers in Emergent BioSolutions, a Baltimore manufacturing plant, accidentally mixed its ingredients from those for AstraZeneca. Biologically different, the two vaccines are not interchangeable. Production was delayed by an FDA investigation. FDA has already repeatedly cited Emergent for poorly trained employees, cracked vials, and mold in one facility. The mix-up was not discovered for days, but currently distributed and administrated J&J vaccines in the U.S. were not affected because they were produced in the Netherlands under federal regulator watch. Approved in February, J&J has a 66-percent efficacy fate but only 42.3 percent effective a month after vaccinations for people over 60 with comorbidities.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), already stripped of her committee assignments, entertained herself for a few weeks by putting forward multiple proposals to adjourn the House of Representatives. Members of both parties had to leave important meetings and other duties as they rushed to the chamber floor to vote against her motion. Now the QAnon follower introduced a bill to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s appointed chief medical adviser in a position not even requiring Senate confirmation. Greene’s Fire Fauci Act cuts Fauci’s salary to $0 until “a new NIAID Administrator is confirmed by the Senate.” Which isn’t required. Two days ago, Greene accused the president of Satanism by tweeting any “vaccine passport” is “Biden’s Mark of the Beast.”

Greene, who accuses Democrats of sex-trafficking, is vigorously defending Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in his investigation regarding alleged sex-trafficking of a 17-year-old and accuses the DOJ of a “witch hunt.” DDT’s AG Bill Barr began the investigation and deliberately avoided being seen in the same place with Gaetz, refusing to attend a meet-and-greet event with the House Judiciary Committee because Gaetz would be present.

Popular with multitudes of Republicans, Greene is the subject of a “RealDoll” patterned after her (left). Abyss Creations, which makes life-size “sex dolls” has sold out of the Greene model. The company’s marketing director Andrew Canard stated Abyss’ success comes from targeting evangelical MAGA fans with these female companion manikins, leading to the design of the Marjorie Taylor Greene Freedom Doll. [Visual – RealDoll Greene]

The entire Matt Gaetz story becomes more and more bizarre. According to reports, he bragged about his sexual exploits with a number of women and showed other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women who he had sex with, some images kept on his phone. The investigation is looking into his possible use of campaign funds to pay for the women’s travel and expenses.

Media has obtained receipts from Cash App and Apple Pay showing how Gaetz used cash apps to send money to women as well as paying them in cash from hotel ATMs.

Gaetz denies paying women for sex, asserting he is just generous, but some women claim he told them to say that money paid for sex was just for dating. During 2019 and 2020, Gaetz and Greenberg told women to meet with them, often at Florida hotels, and told them how much they would pay, according to text messages and interviews. The men met women through Seeking Arrangement, a site of over 20 worldwide members which is self-described as wealthy people finding attractive companions to treat them “with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances.”Before sex, some women and men, including Gaetz, would take ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug. Gaetz also asked the women to find others willing to have sex with him and his friends. Greenberg is not making any comment about the allocations.

Paying for hotels, meals, and other gifts is not illegal, but payments for sex is trafficking the women under “force, fraud or coercion.” Providing drugs in exchange for sex is classified as trafficking because feeding another person’s drug habit can be described as coercion. Giving anyone under the age of 18 anything of value for sex—even hotels or cigarettes—violates the federal child sex trafficking law and carries a ten-year minimum prison sentence. QAnon finally found real alleged sex-traffickers among the ich and famous, but they protect Gaetz and his friends.

The Government Accountability Office reported that Ivanka Trump’s women’s empowerment initiative failed to track funds and didn’t determine the definition of a woman-owned business. According to the GAO report:

“USAID has not developed a process to support compliance with statutory requirements to target MSME resources to activities that reach the very poor and to small and medium-sized enterprise resources to activities that reach enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women. We identified three key gaps that impair USAID’s ability to develop such a process. First, USAID has not identified the total funding subject to the targeting requirements. Second, although USAID has programs designed to help the very poor, it is unable to determine the amount of funding that reaches this group. Third, although USAID has MSME activities that benefit women, it has not defined enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women and does not collect data by enterprise size.”

During her years in the White House, Trump claimed she tracked spending and efficient use of funds, yet she didn’t know where the money was going or if the recipients were minority-owned.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) cannot escape a $5,000 fine for disobeying a House rule. After some House members tried to carry guns onto the House floor, representatives were required to go through a metal detector. Several GOP representatives refused to comply with security screening, and the House imposed fines for their noncompliance. The first offense is $5,000, and all subsequent offenses are $10,000. Gohmert contested the fine, saying he didn’t know he should use the metal director after going to the bathroom, but the House Ethics Committee upheld the charge. The Texas representative admitted that he refused to comply with a Capitol Police officer’s request to be screened.  

The death of Don Wright, sworn into the U.S. House a month after being sworn into the 117th Congress, left an opening from Texas. A congressional candidate and former DDT official who hopes to win Wright’s seat is campaigning against Chinese immigrants accusing then of not holding “themselves accountable” and causing the pandemic. The candidate? Sery Kim, a Korean-American woman who served in the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the Small Business Administration. She says she doesn’t feel discrimination for being Asian-American because “I blame China.”

An Arizona state representative, Mark Finchem, has started the process to run against the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. The Republican is known for leading the effort to overturn the state’s popular vote for President Joe Biden and invited DDT’s campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani for a Phoenix event with legislators to support him. Finchem was also invited to speak at a January 6 rally outside the U.S. Capitol to storm the building but claimed he knew nothing about breaching the building despite his tweeting photographs of it. Blaming the insurrection on leftists, he refused to give The Arizona Republic information about his travels to Washington, D.C. at that time. Rural Arizonans for Accountability began a recall effort against him because of his buy in to the “big lie” regarding how voter fraud “stole” the election from DDT. 

March 29, 2021

Whither the GOP Filibuster

For the first time in four years, more voters, 46 percent, believe the U.S. is on the right track than the opposite. The economy is heading in the right direction, according to the 42-percent plurality of voters, a 13-percent improvement since January. Approval of President Joe Biden is still at 61 percent, and the pandemic management approval is 71 percent, up three points since February, all according to the new Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll. In January, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) received a 56-percent approval for the economy, his only rating above 50 percent, but Biden now has an approval of 60 percent on the economy and the same percentage for administering the government, compared to DDT’s rating of 49 percent approval.

Conservatives also struggle with the current popularity of For the People Act, the voting bill passing the House and waiting for Senate attention. A policy adviser for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and research director for the Koch-run advocacy group Stand Together, Kyle McKenzie, discovered “people were very supportive” by learning a “very neutral description” of the bill. McKenzie stated:

“The most worrisome part . . . is that conservatives were actually as supportive as the general public was when they read the neutral description. There’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts.”

Even conservatives don’t want wealthy people buying elections through huge anonymous political donations. Unable to find persuasive arguments against voting rights, McKenzie told conservative activists the GOP senators need to use “under-the-dome” tactics to kill the bill. The bill could pass the Senate with a majority vote, but the current filibuster, enacted by any one senator sending in an email to protest a bill obstructs democracy by requiring 60 percent of the vote.

A simple Senate majority can change—even eliminate—the filibuster, but some Democrats are reluctant to agree. With Republicans determined to be intransigent enough to cause permanent gridlock for the 117th Congress, at least one senator, Angus King (I-ME), may be reversing his negative position toward a shift. In a WaPo op-ed, King wrote that he decided to support the filibuster because an opposing party could use it to erase important legislation as the Affordable Care Act. According to King:

“But this argument is sustainable only if the extraordinary power of the 60-vote threshold is used sparingly on major issues or is used in a good-faith effort to leverage concessions rather than to simply obstruct.”

King cited the voting rights protection to oppose the GOP “nakedly partisan voter-suppression legislation pending in many states” as a reason to fight the filibuster. He continued:

“If forced to choose between a Senate rule and democracy itself, I know where I will come down. As new Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) noted on the floor recently, ‘It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate, while refusing to protect minority rights in the society.’”

Biden now supports the “talking filibuster,” opposition to a bill lasts only as long as the filibustering senator stands on the chamber floor and talks, and said the 60-vote requirement for any bill is “being abused in a gigantic way.” One exception to the filibuster, he said, is for laws “elemental to the functioning of our democracy—like the basic right to vote.” The biggest holdout to changing the filibuster, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) might be willing to move to the talking filibuster.

The Senate has radically changed since Biden defended the filibuster as a new senator. Once rare, filibustering obstructionism is business as usual. The 44 cloture motions filed during the first two years of Biden’s senate career were relatively high for the time, but Republicans almost doubled in 1993-94 to kill Clinton’s agenda. In the 2007-2008 Democratic Congress, McConnell saw 139 filibusters filed, and the number topped 200 in 2013-2014 during President Obama’s second term. The 2019-2020 Congress saw 339 cloture motions in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) may have found a way around filibusters to fund Biden’s policy initiatives. The Senate allows budget reconciliation only once a year to permit a majority of senators to pass a bill, and the Democrats used the one time to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus relief law, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Passed in 1974, Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act, however, allows a simple majority to revisit and amend an already-passed budget resolution, such as ARPA. The parliamentarian will decide whether Section 304 permits more reconciliation bills tied to revenue, spending, and the public debt during Fiscal Year 2021, ending the end of September.

McConnell’s first response to doing away with the filibuster—which he did to get three far-right justices on the Supreme Court—was to threaten a “scorched earth” in the Senate, highly punitive actions to block every bill. Then he joined other senators such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Graham to play victim. Biden agreed with former President Obama about the filibuster being “a relic of the Jim Crow era”; and McConnell claimed the filibuster “has no racial history at all. None. There’s no dispute among historians about that.” Historians taught McConnell he was wrong.

Both the longest single-speaker filibuster and the longest multiple-speaker filibuster in U.S. history tried unsuccessfully to block two non-discrimination laws, the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964. The latter filibuster lasted 60 days before a bipartisan coalition stopped it. The 1957 law, the first federal civil rights legislation in almost 90 years, established a DOJ civil rights division and other measures to support the right to vote for Blacks. Virulent segregationist Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina Democrat until 1964, personally filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes, the longest speaking one by a single senator.

Other failures during the past century show the racist and bigoted use of the filibuster:

  • During the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction periods, senators filibustered against civil rights bills.  
  • Bills outlawing racist lynching, first introduced in 1922, didn’t pass until 2018, but the GOP House refused to take action.
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 survived a filibuster, but Jesse Helms’ (R-NC) brief filibuster destroyed an extension to strengthen its provisions after a Supreme Court decision required proof of discrimination by covered jurisdictions. Even that weaker provision of the Voting Rights Act disappeared in John Roberts’ court, the 2013 decision permitting rampant racist discrimination by laws sweeping across the U.S.

Newly-elected Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), elected before his state passed a draconian set of anti-voting laws hurting his 2022 re-election chances if not overturned, described nationwide anti-voting laws as “Jim Crow in new clothes.” In his first speech on the Senate floor, he said about the requirement for 60 percent of senators to pass any legislation, “No Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy.” He explained:

“I’m not here to spiral into the procedural argument over whether the filibuster in general has merits or has outlived its usefulness. I’m here to say that this issue is bigger than the filibuster. This issue, access to voting and preempting politicians’ efforts to restrict voting, is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a Senate rule, especially one historically used to restrict expansion of voting rights.

“It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society. We must find a way to pass voting rights whether we get rid of the filibuster or not.”

Warnock denounced the 253 voter suppression bills in 43 states introduced since January as “democracy in reverse” and attempts by Republican politicians to “cherrypick their voters.” Warnock declared, “This cannot stand.”

Other losses from the filibuster:

  • A bipartisan piece of popular legislation including gun background checks from Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) after the horrific Newtown massacre.
  • Government shutdowns resulting from huge omnibus bills with multiple “riders” designed to get around filibusters.
  • Bad legislation from the reconciliation process, created by Ronald Reagan in 1981, to use a simple majority for passage.  
  • GOP refusal to undertake any bills alleviating climate change.

Norm Ornstein, a Democratic at a conservative think tank, suggests ways to honor minority rights instead of using the filibuster “as a weapon of mass obstruction.”

“Instead of having 60 votes required to end debate, have 41 required to continue with 41 members… Make the minority have to debate the actual issue. No reading Green Eggs and Ham to waste time.  You’d have to talk about why you are blocking, say, a universal background check bill supported by 94% of Americans.

“…Return to that ‘present and voting’ standard.  So it matters how many Senators actually show up.  If 20 of them don’t show up, you only need 48 votes to end debate. Again, make the minority do the work…

“Reduce the threshold to end debate outright. You could reduce it down to 55 Senators. But you could also be more creative. Former Senator Tom Harken’s idea was to step down the threshold as you debate a bill. So start with a level of 60 votes for a couple of weeks. And then lower the bar to 57, and then 54, and then 51. So ultimately the majority is going to have the ability to act, but there’s plenty of time devoted to the minority.”

The Senate is already rigged for the minority: the 50 Republicans currently in the Senate represent 41 million fewer people than the 50 Democrats. The Senate has been marked for inaction for years. It’s time to legislation to more forward, to do more than Republicans putting highly conservative and frequently inexperienced judges on the federal bench. And it’s time for Republicans to constructively work for elections rather than employing a system to “cancel voters.”

March 17, 2021

GOP Votes Oppose Help for U.S. People

Wednesday, 172 House Republicans voted in favor of domestic violence and opposed a law’s renewal to protect women. The Violence against Women Act, originally passed in 1994 and periodically requiring reauthorization, faces increasing struggles as Republicans oppose funding to protect women from domestic abuse, sexual assault, and stalking. Objections this year came from ensuring accountability for non-tribal offenders on tribal lands and closure of the “boyfriend loophole,” barring stalkers from obtaining firearms. The bill includes housing vouchers to help survivors in federally-assisted housing to quickly relocate if necessary. Another provision permits people to obtain unemployment insurance if they must leave a job for their safety.

With COVID-19 forcing people to stay at home, domestic violence incidents have sharply risen within the past year, and organizations have offered more flexible texting services and housing assistance. One report shows an eight-percent rise in domestic violence, and another study shows an increase of injuries at emergency room patients from this violence.

The bill requires 60 Senate votes to pass because of the watered-down filibuster. Now, one person can announce a filibuster, and no action is taken until 60 percent of senators move it forward.  Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has already said that barring a stalker from owning a gun to menace a domestic partner with a gun is unconstitutional.

The lack of GOP support for women came the day after a young white man killed eight people in Georgia, six of them women of Asian descent. The reason, according to the killer, was an attempt to avoid “temptation” for his “sex addiction.” The killer was having “a bad day,” explained the officer, who has posted racist COVID messages on social media. He said that the alleged killer “was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope.” The young man was apprehended on his way to Florida to kill more women. He said he had frequented massage parlors and killed the people, seven of them women, for “vengeance.”

Organizations studying and tracking hate groups and violence described “male supremacy terrorism,” driven by aggrieved male entitlement and a desire to preserve traditional gender roles. Three years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism began tracking male supremacist ideology, and the Anti-Defamation League published a report called “When Women are the Enemy: The Intersection of Misogyny and White Supremacy.” According to the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, the ideology’s two core beliefs are that “men are entitled to sexual access to women” and that “feminists are a malevolent force controlling society at the expense of men.” Men have used these beliefs to justify mass shootings at yoga and fitness studios frequented by women, the slaughter of 10 people in Toronto in 2018, and the 2011 shooting deaths of 77 people in Norway by Anders Breivik, who viewed feminism as a significant threat.

As right-wingers, led by former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), used racist language to describe the global epidemic, Stop AAPI Hate reported 3,795 hate incidents including name-calling, shunning, and assault in the U.S. against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders during the past year. The number could be much higher because not all incidents are reported. Most were against women, in businesses, and on public sidewalks or streets, the report said. Other events included civil rights violations such as workplace discrimination or refusal of service and online harassment.

Last week, a 75-year-old defenseless Asian man was killed in Oakland’s (CA) Chinatown on his morning walk. A friend had warned him about the danger of being there because Asian people were being attacked. Carl Chan, the president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, said that seniors were afraid to walk on the streets because of hateful attacks after political statements about the “Chinese virus” or the “kung flu.”

The suspected Georgia killer, who has confessed, was an active member with his parents in the evangelical church Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton (GA). Brett Cottrell, the youth and missions pastor from 2008 to 2017, talked about the killer’s participation “in everything we did.” Crabapple is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and theologically conservative with mostly white members. The group is opposed to “critical race theory, “intersectionality, and the social justice movement in Baptist circles.

In another House bill, passing by 413-12, the 12 self-professed “law and order” Republicans voted against giving the Congressional Gold Medal to the Capitol Police for their bravery on January 6 when insurrectionists stormed the building. According to the bill, the three medals would be displayed at the Capitol Police headquarters, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, and the Smithsonian. Naysayers said they opposed the terrorist attack being called an insurrection. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) lobbied for a bill with no mention of January 6 or the Capitol attack. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) didn’t want the medal to be displayed at the Smithsonian. In February, the Senate voted to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman for putting himself in harm’s way to protect lawmakers and staff during the assault on Congress.

First, Republicans tried to block the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) by unanimously voting against it. Almost three-fourths of people approved of ARPA, including 59 percent of Republicans, so those voting no tried to take credit for it. Now both President Joe Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and their spouses, Dr. Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, are crossing the U.S. to talk about the benefits while the IRS has already sent out 90 million relief checks of $1,400 each. Republicans and the media criticize Biden for not spending enough time talking with the media, but he has historically talked to both small and large groups of people.  

Republicans hoped voters would turn against the law; now they are concerned Biden will move forward with more approval of his agenda. The real GOP concern is the 2022 election, a little more than a year away.

The RNC struggles with refuting ARPA after supporting deficit-spending such as massive cuts for the wealthy and businesses plus giving hundreds of billions of dollars to large businesses in a bill supposedly to save people from the economic pain of COVID-19. Earlier this year, they were overwhelmed by the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol and DDT’s impeachment for inciting violence.

People like ARPA because it benefits the middle class over wealthy people, helps with vaccinations, and supports the opening of schools. The GOP can only wish people will forget ARPA’s benefits before the election; Democrats are intent on that forgetfulness not happening. When Republicans try to take credit for ARPA benefits, Democrats say, “You voted against it.” Republicans are working on publicity about the immigrants at the southern border, but the issue has no connection to the relief bill.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin benefited Biden’s bill by stashing away “well over $1 trillion” at the end of DDT’s presidential term when he assumed the former White House would pass a sizeable relief bill. Almost 100 million people got their $1,400 checks within two days of ARPA’s signing instead of waiting two weeks as they did with DDT because he wanted his name on the check.

Even the House chaplain supported U.S. people in distress from DDT’s mismanagement of the pandemic. In a prayer, Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben asked God to forgive Republicans:

“For when called upon to respond to a once-in-a-century pandemic that has rocked our country, upended its economy and widened the chasm of partisan opinion, they have missed the opportunity to step above the fray and unite to attend to this national crisis…

“In failing to address the acrimony and divisions which have prevailed in this room, the servants you have called to lead this country have contributed to the spread of an even more insidious contagion of bitterness and spite.”

Her reference to the New Testament’s letter to the Colossians argued that “rather than employing the preventive measures of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” lawmakers have set that “armor” aside “in favor of argument, disparaging words and divisiveness.” In recalling the Gospel of Mark’s third chapter of “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” she said Congress stands “in need of healing and reconciliation.”

Kibben concluded:

“Merciful Lord, rebuild this House, that their labor will not be in vain.”

ARPA will stay in the news if Ohio GOP AG David Yost continues his lawsuit against the Biden administration. He claims the prohibition of this federal money to states and municipalities to offset new tax cuts is unconstitutional. Ohio receives $11.2 billion, but GOP Gov. Mike DeWine ordered $390 million in new spending cuts among state agencies. Leaders of 21 other red states wrote Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that the provision “would represent the greatest invasion of state sovereignty by Congress in the history of our Republic.” A White House official pointed out states aren’t blocked from tax cuts: they just need to replace the revenue without using stimulus funds.

Not all Republicans are stupid about ARPA money. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) told the state’s Gov. Ron DeSantis to refuse all the money to the state. DeSantis has already made plans for spending his $10 billion.

February 3, 2021

Bad News for ‘Party of Trump’–and DDT

One month into the new Congress and two weeks after the inauguration of President Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was finally stripped of his Senate Majority Leader title. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is finally the recognized leader, and committees are now led by Democrats instead of Republicans. Although the Senate was split 50-50 with Democratic Harris breaking a tie, McConnell has clung to the leadership, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has refused to schedule a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, appointed as the DOJ Attorney General. Graham lost the gavel, and Schumer now controls what legislation goes to the floor, when the legislation proceeds, and who chairs the committees. Each committee has an equal number of people from each side, but a tied measure can be considered for advancing to the floor. Chairs of the 21 committees are listed here.

In a secret vote, 145 House Republicans voted to keep Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) in the position of their Republican Conference Chair after she voted for DDT’s impeachment along with nine other GOP representatives. Sixty-one voted to remove her, and one voted “present.” Senate Minority Leader McConnell supported Cheney and called QAnon believer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) a “cancer” on the Republican party. Thursday, the House votes whether to strip Greene of her committee assignments because she promotes killing Democratic members of the House, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and follows the bigoted and insane conspiracy theories of QAnon members. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) refuses to take action about Greene although he said he condemned her violent and false statements.

The GOP shares bad news facing Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) since his “retirement” to Mar-a-Lago.

In the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, at least 30,000 GOP voters immediately changed their registrations to unaffiliated or a third party. Only 42 percent of Republicans want DDT to run for president in 2024, a 12 percent decrease from November after the election.

The day after Alejandro Mayorkas was sworn in as the DHS secretary, he declared domestic terrorism is “one of the greatest threats” to the United States. Earlier, acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske alerted the country to a “heightened threat environment” in the U.S. because of domestic terrorists (aka DDT’s supporters). Based on its intelligence, Canada called the Proud boys, playing a “pivotal role” in the Capitol attack, a terrorist entity because it poses an active security threat. The declaration could lead to seizing their financial assets, and their crimes could be treated as terrorist activity.

The DOJ may use the RICO Act, a federal law usually employed against organized crime, to charge members of far-right groups participating in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, adopted in 1979, fights crimes such as murder, kidnapping, bribery, and money laundering. Penalties include up to 20 years in prison and seizure of illegal assets from criminal activities. The law is used to convict leaders ordering others to commit crimes.  

A week before DDT’s impeachment trial in the Senate, he lost his legal team when five lawyers bailed on defending him, supposedly because he insisted on election fraud as his strategy. He also delays paying his employees. DDT’s former adviser Steve Bannon, pardoned for his fraud and theft indictment, wants DDT to defend himself at the trial. Late Sunday, DDT found legal replacements: David Schoen, Roger Stone’s defense in challenging his convictions (lost), and Bruce Castor, a former Pennsylvania DA who kept Bill Cosby from prosecution for sexual assault for a 11 years (lost). Picking DDT over his constituents, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) offered to resign from Congress to defend DDT in the impeachment trial, calling it “the greatest priority in my life.”

DDT pardoned Bannon for his part in stealing over $1 million from donations to building part of the wall on the southern border, but New York state is considering prosecution for the theft. Victims of the fraud live in the district covering Manhattan, giving jurisdiction to the DA, and the area provides the base for most major banking transactions. DDT can give pardons only for federal crimes, not state ones.

A new government report reveals DDT “failed to implement” any of its “27 different recommendations aimed at improving the response” to the coronavirus. The fifth Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis from the March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act lists such disasters as failures in testing strategies, medical supplies, vaccine distribution, worker protection, and fraud. The GAO plans to monitor these earlier recommendations as well as 13 additional requirements from the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act.

The government vaccination for COVID-19 has been a disaster—no planning and no funds before Biden was inaugurated. Beyond poor management, DDT’s officials repeatedly lobbied Congress last fall to deny vaccination funding to states despite warnings. Paul Mango, former deputy chief of staff for policy at HHS, accused states of using any funding to make up for their lack of tax revenue and said he was protecting taxpayers from wasteful government spending. In October when states had no vaccines, he said they should have used the $200 million for vaccinations.  At the same time, CDC Director Robert Redfield angered Mango by asking Congress for $6 billion to facilitate state vaccinations. Congress finally allocated $4.5 billion for states to vaccinate with funding not released until earlier in January 2021, but DDT’s administration also sent states far fewer vaccine doses than promised. The sickening details are here.

Another negative GAO report about DDT’s coronavirus management shows he spent $200 million, half the foreign coronavirus aid, to send 8,722 ventilators to other countries last year without any guidance. Honduras, with half as many cases as El Salvador, received three times the number of ventilators. No one seems to know where the ventilators were distributed within the countries. Health experts said basic health aid, such as oxygen or protective personal equipment (PPE), is far more useful for underprivileged countries than ventilators requiring expert maintenance and operation.

DDT left nothing to fight COVID-19 while an HHS agency misused millions of dollars in federal funds designated for vaccine development and other health support. An investigation into a whistleblower complaint, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) used this designated funding for removal of office furniture, news subscriptions, legal services, management, and other administrative expenses. ASPR’s misappropriating money for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority was called the “Bank of BARDA.”

DDT’s decision to move Bureau of Land Management staffers out West to Grand Junction (CO), benefitting the fossil fuel industry, caused 87 percent of them to resign or retire, causing serious loss of expertise and disruption of its operations. Remaining staffers have difficulty coordinating with other federal agencies including the Interior Department, centered in Washington, D.C.

The board of the Trump Plaza condominium, across from Mar-a-Lago, unanimously voted to drop the name “Trump” after he incited the violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Residents of the luxury condo, each of the 221 units selling between $1 million and $4 million, will pick a new name. Realtors are delighted with the change, having difficult with sales of properties with DDT’s name attached. Signs with DDT’s name had already been removed, but the legal name had remained Trump Plaza. Two-thirds of the residents must vote in favor of the change to make it legal. DDT had lost the development to its lenders in 1991.  

DDT’s time in the Oval Office has been bad for his real estate in New York City: ten luxury buildings, seven of them still with DDT’s name, have lost 17 percent of their value while the decline of square footage in Manhattan dropped only nine percent.

A New York state judge ordered DDT’s tax firm to give more documents to the state AG Letitia James by February 4 to continue her investigation into the Trump Organization, claiming the requested documents are not privileged

Financial disclosure documents released almost immediately after DDT left the White House show his businesses provided almost 40 percent less revenue in 2020 than the year before–$30 million less at the Miami Doral property and 60 percent down at his Scotland Turnberry property. The disaster may have grown after companies cut ties after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

 

COVID-19 infections and deaths in the U.S. have good and bad news. Hospitalization and daily new infections are down; today’s new cases are about half the recent average. Yet deaths are staying high—one short of 4,000 today at 28 percent of those in the world for a total of 461,930 only in the U.S.

January 10, 2021

Biden Keeps Appointing, Looks to Better Future

While Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) spent last week sowing violence and mayhem, President-elect Joe Biden continued his march to the inauguration with more appointments. The task has become more hopeful with a majority of the Senate, with future VP Kamala Harris to break a tie, for confirmations. Instead of current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocking Biden at every step, Minority Leader McConnell will be relegated to orchestrating individual challenges to Biden’s appointments.

In Biden’s introduction to his DOJ nominees, he delivered statements about DDT’s “inciting a mob” to attack the Capitol, calling it one of “the darkest days in the history of our nation” and “an unprecedented assault on our democracy.”

“We could see it coming. The past four years, we’ve had a president who has made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done. He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”

He also criticized the unequal treatment of white supremacists’ violence and protests about police killing Blacks.

“[I]f it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday … they would have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable, totally unacceptable.”

In nominating Garland, Biden said:

“More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice in this nation that’s been so badly damaged, and so many former leaders of that department in both parties have so testified and stated that.”

Garland said:

“The essence of the rule of law is that like cases are treated alike, that there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends, another for foes, one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless, one rule for the rich and another for the poor, or different rules depending upon one’s race or ethnicity.”

Department of Justice Appointments:  

  • U.S. Attorney General: Merrick Garland, District of Columbia appeals court judge, who gained fame when McConnell refused to acknowledge President Obama’s appointment of him to the supreme Court for almost a year. McConnell pretended a new president should select the nominee in an election year until he pushed through Amy Coney Barrett in a few weeks just days before the election.
  • Deputy Attorney General: Lisa Monaco, formerly President Obama’s homeland security adviser and involved in Biden’s transition.
  • Associate Attorney General: Vanita Gupta, former DOJ civil rights chief and now president of the leadership conference on civil and human right.
  • Assistant Attorney General to the Civil Rights Division: Kristen Clarke, president of the civil rights group, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and previously in charge of the civil rights bureau in the New York State Office of the Attorney General.

Other Biden appointments:

  • Commerce Department: Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island governor and former venture capitalist. With over 43,000 employees, this department provides an umbrella for the IRS, census (which won’t be finished by the time Biden takes over, and NOAA. Tariffs will be a major issue since DDT’s use of them for retaliation and damaging the economy before and during the pandemic. NOAA’s priority can be climate science research and forecasting, and the agency may lead the coordination of the congressionally-mandated Fifth National Climate Assessment about climate change’s effect on the U.S.  
  • Deputy Commerce Secretary: Don Graves, formerly with the Treasury Department with experience in managing small-business and community development financing issues.
  • Labor Department: Marty Walsh, Boston mayor and strong union supporter, who will need to lead with the biggest losses of jobs in modern times in the worst economy since the Great Depression. An important issue is workplace safety, administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which failed employees under DDT.
  • Deputy Secretary of State: Wendy Sherman, one of the architects of the Iran nuclear agreement that DDT dropped, who took the lead in working with the Jewish and pro-Israel communities.

Biden plans to revise and extend the White House National Security Council (NSC), adding senior positions on global health, democracy and human rights, and cyber and emerging technology. Russia, demoted by DDT to part of the council’s Directorate for European affairs, will again have a separate senior director. China will also have a bigger presence in security. A goal in the new administration is to break down barriers between national security and domestic policy, “especially on crosscutting issues” such as “COVID, climate, migration and even U.S.-China relations that have touched so many domestic equities,” according to a member of his team. Another is to stop the dysfunction of the team when DDT hired four and fired three national security advisers with a fourth one on the verge of resigning after DDT’s inciting mob violence at the Capitol on January 6. NSC appointments:

  • Deputy: Jon Finer, former chief of staff for Secretary of State John Kerry, who will join National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
  • Global Health Security and Biodefense: Elizabeth Cameron, biologist and biodefense expert who wrote President Obama’s “pandemic playbook.” Cameron’s position has been reinstated after DDT eliminated it.
  • The Middle East: Brett McGurk, formerly special envoy for the international coalition against the Islamic State, who quit in 2018 after DDT decided to withdraw troops from Syria. McGurk was also deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran under President Obama.  
  • South Asia: Surmona Guha, who focused in the same region for Kerry’s State Department policy-planning staff.
  • Europe: Amanda Sloat, also working with the same area for Kerry.
  • Russia and Central Asia: Andrea Kendall-Taylor, formerly a senior intelligence officer in the region.
  • The Western Hemisphere: Juan Gonzalez.
  • Technology: Tarun Chhabra, formerly director for strategic planning.
  • Climate and Energy: Melanie Nakagawa, formerly adviser to Kerry.
  • Legislative Affairs: Rebecca Brocato. 
  • Democracy and Human Rights: Shanthi Kalathil, formerly director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy.
  • Strategic Planning: Sasha Baker, national security adviser to planning to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and deputy policy director for her presidential campaign.
  • Partnerships and Global Engagement: Tanya Bradsher, chief of staff for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va) before she joined Biden’s transition team.

More of the almost two dozen appointments for the National Security Team are described here

Previous appointments are here. 

Biden critics have complained he is more for business interests than anyone else. The conservative Gallup surveys have tackled some of Biden’s policy changes to examine public approval. Details here.

“Raise taxes on companies.” Biden has discussed changing the GOP 2017 tax cut law, especially the one costing government trillions of dollars by reducing the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Both Gallup and Pew Research surveys show a greater negative perspective of the law than a positive one. The majority understands people know the law mostly benefits the wealthy and big business. Less than 20 percent of people have confidence in big business with an equally small number giving business executives a high honesty and ethics rating. Almost seven in ten people say corporations don’t pay enough in taxes.  

“Strengthen labor unions.” Unions build a stronger middle class, and the past half century has badly reduced the number of people who find them available since Ronald Reagan successfully started shrinking them. Only ten percent of people are in unions, bolstered by the 33 percent of people in the public sector belonging to them. Fifty years ago, one-third of the workers belonged to unions. Yet 65 percent of people approve of them, the highest rating since 1999. Only 39 percent, however, want unions to have more influence than they have now. People are also more likely to agree the reduction in union representation is mostly bad instead of mostly good for employees.

“Impose new regulations.” In an almost even split of opinion, 36 percent say government has too much regulation in business and industry, 27 percent too little, and 36 percent say about right. In addition, 56 percent believe the federal government has too much power, but 54 percent say government should solve the problems instead of individuals and business. And 60 percent think government does too little to protect the environment—i.e., too little regulation.

“Add a public option to Obamacare.” Over half the people like the Affordable Care Act, and 69 percent want a government health plan for all people to compete with private insurance plans. Yet only 53 percent want a “Medicare for All” plan. Negotiation with drug companies for lower prices has an 88 percent approval, 78 percent favors buying imported drugs from Canada, and 62 percent wants Medicare drug prices lowered to amounts paid in other countries.

At this point, the most popular thing Biden could do might be getting vaccines into people’s arms. In the past two days, over 7,000 people have died in the U.S. of COVID-19, and over 550,000 new cases have been added. The estimated total of 400,000 deaths by Biden’s inauguration—9 days from now—is almost guaranteed.

January 8, 2021

Democracy Holds—If People Keep Protecting It

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:04 PM
Tags: , , , ,

From Sean Wilentz in The Rolling Stone: how we got here and how we should proceed.

January 6th, 2021, marked the saddest day in the history of American democracy since April 12th, 1861, the day South Carolina secessionists fired on Fort Sumter and commenced the Civil War. Assassinations, military atrocities, enacting horrific laws, all are shameful and wrenching, and forever stain the nation’s history. But deliberate and violent attacks on the nation’s essential institutions of government, incited by elected leaders, are rarer, and they cut to the heart of our democracy as those other shocks do not. Looking back, only the attack on Sumter surpasses in severity the Trumpist sacking of the Capitol as a direct, calculated, and unashamed repudiation of the nation’s constitutional order.

Indeed, while hardly identical, 1861 and 2021 bear some unmistakable similarities. Both breaches resulted from the refusal of millions of Americans to accept the election of a new president: Abraham Lincoln then, Joe Biden now. In both instances, reactionary forces, charging the federal government with tyranny and claiming the mantle of the American Revolution, attacked that government with insurrectionary force. While it of course does not rank anywhere near declaring the Union dissolved, the Trumpists’ successful disruption of a solemn ritual of elective democracy displayed a fervid and portentous contempt for the democratic procedures and the rule of law — appallingly instigated, in this case, by a sitting president of the United States. The presence of Confederate flags inside the Trump mob at the Capitol alongside the faux-patriotic “Don’t Tread on Me” regalia signaled a more exact connection across the decades, from defending slavery to upholding Jim Crow and the Lost Cause, to Trump’s embrace of — and MAGA’s friendliness toward — today’s neo-Confederates. One of the leading extremist organizers of the demonstration that led to the assault was a Facebook page called Red-State Secession.

Some questions in the immediate aftermath intrude on calculating the event’s long-term political significance. Plainly, a massive security failure allowed the mob to pounce and surge for as long as it did, a failure made truly grievous by how much authorities knew in advance of what the Trump mob descending on Washington had in mind. The causes of those failures, especially in light of the massive law-enforcement presence during the anti-racism protests in D.C. last spring and summer, need investigation, and those responsible — including any officials in the administration who wanted to aid and abet the rioters — need to be held to account.

Likewise, there ought to be official inquiries over how the day’s mayhem was put together. Although it was obvious that self-starting right-wing social media agitators had played a huge role, it remains open to question how self-starting some of those agitators actually were and are. Somebody arranged and paid for staging the media spectacle at the Washington Monument where the event got started, a view of the White House in the backdrop. That similar outbursts occurred in Utah and Georgia suggests at least the possibility of more coordinated planning and support. If any persons in the Oval Office beside the president, or otherwise close to Trump and his family, were involved in any way, they need to be exposed and punished.

But so, too, there needs to be a larger historical and political reckoning. The attack on Fort Sumter is supposed to have started when a veteran pro-slavery Fire-Eater, Edmund Ruffin, pulled the lanyard on the cannon that fired the first shot — but Ruffin and the other armed traitors amassed in Charleston harbor were hardly the most culpable figures, let alone the only ones. A long history lay behind the outrage of 1861, generated by disloyal pro-slavery pronouncements dating back decades, above all in the speeches and writings of John C. Calhoun. There is, to a historian, deep irony to some of the photographs taken during the Trumpist assault, especially one of a member of the mob brandishing a Confederate battle flag beneath a forbidding portrait of Calhoun in the entrance area of the Senate. Look closely enough and you can imagine the portrait, in its grim-faced way, smiling at the proceedings.

Clearly, as many commentators observed the morning after, the attack on the Capitol was the culmination of Trump’s four years of misrule. But Trump on his own had always been just a deranged, manipulative mogul and reality-TV fraud. The celebrity-smitten news media that abetted his perverse, shock-jock mystique — from big-city tabloids to the supposedly liberal-minded cable networks that aired his every rally, every antic — bear some responsibility. So does the current generation of cynical hard-right political stars who thought they could batten on to Trump’s mythic populist base, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley above all — their mouths dripping with sedition dressed up in fake history just as surely as the rioters they now ritualistically condemn.

But the attack on our democracy that culminated in the attack on the Capitol actually began many decades ago, at least as early as the mid-1960s, when so-called movement conservatives rallied first by William F. Buckley Jr., and then by a host of fake policy institutes and right-wing publicity organs, modernized the sputtering plutocratic reaction to the New Deal, merged it with the unvanquished white segregationist South, and, eventually, aggrieved right-wing evangelicals, forging what became known as the Ronald Reagan coalition. With the formerly ascendant Eastern moderate wing of the Republican Party either marginalized or forced to submit, the stage was set for the long-term radicalization of the GOP, hastened when Pat Buchanan attempted — and Newt Gingrich — succeeded in filling the vacuum on the right after Reagan left office.

Thence began a process of radicalization on the right which saw, at the fringes, a proliferation of right-wing militia groups and would-be instigators of race war that included Timothy McVeigh and his terrorist accomplices who blew up the Alfred Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168, including 19 children. Undeterred by the mayhem and death, successive cohorts of cynical Republican leaders thought that they could stoke what had begun as the Reagan base with ever-more radical culture-war rhetoric. By the time Barack Obama was president, what had long since ceased to be the Party of Lincoln had morphed into what the centrist political scientists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, amid the Tea Party insurgency, called an “insurgent outlier” in our politics.

In the wake of Obama’s re-election in 2012, Republican leaders began reassessing their situation and proposed a redirection, in which they would mute the hard-right posturing — but what had become the core of the Republican electorate, frustrated by decades of empty promises about uprooting godless liberalism, was in no mood for the new-found responsibility of politicians they came to regard as Republican in Name Only (RINO). Enter Trump, who not only commandeered the inflamed base but enlarged it to include men and women unreachable by pollsters, angry minds who had given up on politics completely. With the connivance of supplicating Republicans caught off-guard by his ascendancy, pre-eminently Cruz and Lindsey Graham, Trump then molded a truly dangerous force, one that beheld Trump not simply as their president but as their George Washington (or maybe their Jefferson Davis), the father of their country. Unable to bully his way out of his defeat in November, a desperate Trump had nothing left to do but to unleash that force on the Capitol.

As discouraging, even horrifying, as this culmination has been, there are strong reasons to regard all that has happened since November 3rd not as the shaming of American democracy, but as its triumph and vindication. Election Day did bring an extraordinary display of democratic power, the largest numerical turnout in our history, despite a devastating pandemic, conducted responsibly and virtually without incident. Those who, in the wake of the assault on the Capitol, have described our country as a banana republic need to remind themselves of that display — a display so powerful that it caused Trump, his backup coup plans failing, to describe the election as a rigged disgrace, his ultimate act of psychological and political projection.

The vindication continued in the courts, which many leftists and liberals — myself included, I must confess — were convinced would collaborate in Trump stealing the election, shades of Bush v. Gore in 2000. In every instance, state and federal, in front of conservative as well as liberal judges, Trump attorneys’ cockamamie complaints met not simply with dismissal but with uncommon judicial derision. When the Supreme Court, complete with the three Trump justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, closed the door on a last-minute bid to overturn the election, followed three days later by the Electoral College fulfilling its duty, the vindication was near complete; with the admirable resistance by Georgia Republican election officials in the waning days of the process, it ended.

Rather than a defeat of democracy, the shameful, seditious, failed insurrection at the Capitol marked a desperate and doomed effort to break a system that held. Still, all of that said, we need also to remember how near a miss it was. More important, we need to remember that the system did not hold on its own or because of some providential dispensation but because uncounted numbers of Americans, from a few well-known jurists to masses of anonymous election workers, on all sides of the political spectrum, upheld the rule of democratic law. And as we look beyond these events to what comes next, it is essential to recognize that the threat, though scotched, has not been killed, and that nothing is accomplished without vigilant accountability.

Even before the mob descended, Washington was gripped by debates on how the new administration ought to handle the numerous glaring and grievous crimes of the outgoing one. There has been a good deal of talk about healing the soul of the nation, about reaching across the lines of division to combat the vicious polarization of the Trump years by promoting reconciliation. Rather than further provoke discord and disorder, better simply to let Trump fade away in ignominy while appealing to the better angels of our nature, including the better angels of the many millions of MAGA supporters.

The impulse is understandable but the danger is incalculable, as the attack on the Capitol made crystal clear. For one thing, Trump, even in his derangement, has shown he has no intention of fading away, and it would be unwise to bet that he won’t find some means to sustain himself as a kind of president-in-exile. Far more important, though, is the matter of accountability, the sanctity of the Constitution, and the nature of the enemy within that we saw scaling the walls and invading the halls of the House and Senate.

Beginning with the outrageous multiple obstructions of justice outlined in the Mueller Report, Trump as president engaged in crimes against the nation, overt and covert, beyond anything dared by any previous president of the United States, Richard M. Nixon included. His directing of the mob to march on the Capitol to help disrupt the final certification of his defeat was the clearest conceivable attack on the Constitution that any elected official could undertake. Those crimes would only be compounded if, as has been widely rumored, the president attempts to engineer a plainly unconstitutional self-pardon for all of his offenses.

To permit these crimes and others to go unprosecuted would amount to a kind of complicity in them. There can be no healing of the nation’s soul if the Constitution is left mocked and damaged, for in the final analysis, the Constitution is the nation. There comes a time when generosity and appeals to reconciliation turn into the kind of appeasement that invites further aggression. The attack on the Capitol, whipped up and then celebrated by the president, has dramatized as powerfully as is imaginable that the time for appeasement is over.

Among the many stories that got buried amid the mayhem was President-elect Biden’s announcement that he plans to appoint Judge Merrick Garland as his Attorney General. That appointment is a signal of where the incoming president stands regarding the prosecution of Trump and his accomplices. Garland is, of course, remembered as the person Obama named to the Supreme Court only to be throttled by the supremely cynical then-Majority Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell. He is also regarded as a judicial centrist, which may suggest that he would be less than zealous in pursuit of ex-President Trump, lest doing so would further inflame our politics. Less well-remembered is that Judge Garland, then a top official at the Justice Department, oversaw the successful prosecution of Timothy McVeigh in 1996 and 1997.

More than virtually any other high official in public service, Attorney General-designate Garland is closely acquainted with the poison that has built up in our body politic over the past 50 years, the poison that made Trump’s presidency possible and which Trump has come to command — the poison that was on display when the Capitol temporarily fell prey to the mob. If Trump is left unprosecuted, let alone unpunished, for his crimes — not for his bad behavior or his boorishness or even his demagoguery, but for his multiple violations of federal law — that poison, too, will remain unchecked, ripe for exploitation by future would-be Trumps. The failure after the Civil War to hold the secessionists fully accountable for their treason helped pave the way for the overthrow of Reconstruction and the installation of Jim Crow. Just as the harrowing scenes at the Capitol are a distant historical reminder of Fort Sumter, so they affirm the extent of the damage Trump and his confederates have done to our country. That damage demands their prosecution.

January 1, 2021

The End of 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 12:44 AM
Tags: , , ,

The end of the year traditionally requires reminiscing about the good old days. At the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the atmosphere is much less rosy. In keeping with tradition, a few memories, needless to say almost entirely consumed by the specter of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT):  [visual Sunrise]

The horrific pandemic, despite the high number of cases and deaths in the U.S. because of DDT’s refusal to manage the tragedy, brought out the good in many people: healthcare workers sacrificed their lives to protect people, people volunteered to participate in dangerous research for vaccines, and tens of millions of people complied with guidelines of mask-wearing and social distancing to protect others.

Some Republicans fought DDT’s overturning the legal election, even state officials.

The 81+ million people who voted for a Democratic president and vice-president may have saved democracy in the biggest turnout for U.S. history that defeated the worst president of the United States.

The United States has a double first in Kamala Harris’ election to vice president: the first Black person and the first woman.

Protesters persecuted and vilified by the man pretending to be the leader of the free world didn’t stop; many of them went out every day since the police murder of George Floyd to educate people with signs and chants.

The Supreme Court decided people cannot be fired for being LGBTQ, enshrining the ruling into law.

Lawmakers signed a multi-trillion law designed to help people out of jobs and impoverished by COVID-19.

The Federal Reserve stopped the economy from collapsing.

The NASA headquarters is named for Mary Jackson, the agency’s first Black woman engineer.

The last state flag eliminated the Confederate flag when Mississippi replaced the symbol with a magnolia.

Congress voted to rename ten military bases honoring Confederate generals.

Carbon dioxide emissions waned, partly because of the recession but also because of dropping prices for renewable energy sources like solar and wind which will get a financial boost from the new stimulus relief bill.

Appointments to the administration by the incoming leadership demonstrates the greatest diversity every seen in the United States.

Harvey Weinstein was convicted Feb. 24 of raping an aspiring actress and sexually abusing a TV and film production assistant.

And a vaccine for COVID-19 slowly rolled out with hope for the future in the management of a competent administration.

Stop reading here if you want to keep looking at cheery news. Otherwise, on the flip side, Republicans continued their pattern of enabling DDT’s bad behavior throughout the year beginning with blocking impeachment proceedings, denying witness, and lying. It made no difference because they had always planned to vote against conviction. In the election, 74+ million people voted against democracy, many of them continuing their seditious path by fighting—sometimes with violence—to overturn the election of the U.S. people.

The current occupant in the Oval Office repealed the renaming of the military bases; he wants to honor Confederate officers. The same occupant abdicated his responsibilities in fighting the coronavirus, first hiding its seriousness and then promoting fake cures and blocking ways to stop it to keep his political popularity. New appointments may not be confirmed because of the hatred of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for anything not Republican. DDT’s religious liberty regulations still discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The fragile economy hurts almost half the people in the U.S. who have lost income since March with disproportionate hits on minorities, those making under $50,000, and people without a college degree.

  • The U.S. now has fewer jobs than in November 2015 and fewer private sector jobs.
  • Unemployment has dropped only because a huge number of people gave up looking for work.
  • In September, the percentage of civilians over 16 in the workforce was lower than at any time since summer of 1976.
  • In the last year, all states except one experienced a decline in leisure and hospitality areas with almost half of it disappearing in Hawaii.
  • In the U.S., almost 1 in 6 restaurants—110,000 businesses—closed, some of them permanently; the average closed restaurant had been open for 16 years.  
  • Almost 8 million Americans were forced into poverty since March, contrary to the trend of falling poverty rates in past years; almost one-fourth of people with a high-school education or less live below the poverty line.
  • Over 27 million people report they sometimes or frequently didn’t have enough to eat during the past week.
  • Almost one-fourth of renters haven’t paid rent this month, the lowest rate all year.
  • Violent crime is the highest in 25 years in both large and small cities.
  • The year is likely the warmest year on record.
  • The Caribbean and southern United States experienced the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record; 30 named storms beat the former record of 28 in 2005.
  • Firefighters were faced with one of the worst wildfire seasons in recorded history with over 10.2 million burned acres and almost four percent of California land. Fires burned 27 million acres in Australia.

Meanwhile, DDT:  [visual pardon]

  • Threatened martial law, both during the protests and in his attempts to overturn the U.S. election.
  • Pardoned war criminals and people committing treasonous acts.
  • Vetoed a bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act after unilaterally pulling troops out of bases throughout the Middle East, with no plan and leaving allies defenseless.
  • Threatened to pull troops out of Germany.
  • Delayed the stimulus relief bill, putting people into jeopardy at Christmas after claiming how sacred the holiday is to him.
  • Based every COVID-19 decision on the stock market until he made no decisions about the virus.
  • Never endorsed wearing masks and went out of his way to prove that he was above putting one on, politicizing the health recommendation and killing people.
  • Kept over half the available doses of the vaccine, leaving half the 40 million people he promised vaccines without vaccinations.
  • Amplified white supremacy and domestic terrorism in the U.S. while prosecuting far fewer cases.
  • Supported conspiracy theories of Q-Anonymous. 
  • Gave unconditional support to Israel, giving them carte blanche to murder Palestinians.
  • Killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike on January 3, 2020, increasing the possibility of war with Iran before he leaves the White House on January 20, 2021.
  • Continued his war on the media, further destroying any faith in the Fourth Estate.
  • Sabotages the transition to a new administration by putting in new political appointments who block information for President-elect Joe Biden and installing his loyalists in positions where they will infiltrate every part of the new administration.
  • Mishandled the COVID-19 so badly that the U.S. has the largest number of cases per capita of any large country, behind only Andorra, Montenegro, Luxembourg, San Marino, and Czechia.

On the last day of 2020: coronavirus cases in U.S. for the past year – 20,445,654 infections (228,413 on December 31) and 354,215 deaths (3,438 on December 31).

In a huge tragedy for U.S. human rights, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18, 2020. DDT’s replacement is Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative pro-lifer and member of a small religious cult.

The year 2020 had 13 moons. The “Cold Moon” on December 29, 2020, bid farewell to the worst year that most people in the U.S. remember. Last year had two supermoons, those appearing larger because its orbit is closer to the Earth), and a blue moon, the second one in a month which appears every three years. Halloween won’t have another Blue Moon until 2039. The year 2020 was also marked by the once-in-a-lifetime comet Neowise and the proximity of Jupiter and Saturn to imitate the Christmas Star for the first time in almost 800 years. The first meteor shower of 2021 is on Friday, January 1, running six hours into Saturday morning. Maybe you’ll be somewhere with a clear sky! And maybe 2021 will bring better lives for people.

December 29, 2020

Dave Barry’s Year in Review 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 12:33 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Pieces from humor columnist Dave Barry’s long piece about the long year of 2020. Illustrations by Gel Jamlang. (The full version is here.): 

We’re trying to think of something nice to say about 2020. Okay, here goes: Nobody got killed by the murder hornets. As far as we know. That’s pretty much it.

In the past, writing these annual reviews, we have said harsh things about previous years. We owe those years an apology. Compared to 2020, all previous years, even the Disco Era, were the golden age of human existence. This was a year of nonstop awfulness, a year when we kept saying it couldn’t possibly get worse, and it always did. This was a year in which our only moments of genuine, unadulterated happiness were when we were able to buy toilet paper.

We sincerely don’t want to relive this year. But our job is to review it. If you would prefer to skip this exercise in masochism, we completely understand. If, however, you wish, for some sick reason, to re-experience 2020, now is the time to put on your face mask, douse your entire body with hand sanitizer and then — to be safe — don a hazmat suit, as we look back at the unrelenting insanity of this hideous year, starting with …

JANUARY:  … which begins with all of Washington, as well as parts of Virginia and Maryland, gripped by the gripping historic drama of the impeachment of Donald Trump. Remember that? How gripped we were?

To set the stage: Back in mid-December, the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment…  Eventually, however, the articles arrive at the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch “The Undertaker” McConnell promises that the impeachment issue will receive full and fair consideration. He is of course joking, but this is not obvious, because even when Mitch is in a jovial mood he looks like a man passing a kidney stone the size of the Hope Diamond.

Meanwhile in other political news, all eyes are on Iowa as it prepares for the caucuses, which are closely scrutinized because they are the first opportunity for a tiny group of unrepresentative voters to engage in an incomprehensible and deeply flawed process by which they anoint presidential candidates who traditionally go on to fail. This year, in an effort to modernize the caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party has upgraded from its old-fashioned manual reporting procedures to a modern, state-of-the-art “app” based on the same software used in the Boeing 737 Max airliner.

In international news, the big story is a U.S. targeted drone strike, ordered by Trump, which kills Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani… Iran responds — this is a good indicator of what kind of year it will be — by shooting down a Ukrainian airliner.

Elsewhere abroad, Chinese news media report that a man in a city named “Wuhan” died of a mysterious virus. This is not considered a big deal in the United States, since it has nothing to do with either impeachment or the Iowa caucuses.

A much bigger international story concerns Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who announce via Instagram that they are sick and tired of being part of the British royal family and want to just be regular normal everyday hard-working folks making millions of dollars solely because one of them was born into, and the other one married into, the British royal family.

In sports, Major League Baseball is rocked by scandal…  All players involved in the scheme will continue to play baseball in exchange for enormous amounts of money.

Speaking of scandal, in …

FEBRUARY: … Washington and its suburbs remain gripped by the U.S. Senate’s historic impeachment trial of President Trump, with Democratic prosecutors arguing that Trump illegally pressured Ukrainian leaders to benefit himself politically, while the Republican defense team, employing an alibi strategy, claims that Trump was playing golf at the time. Under the watchful eye of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is kept from nodding off by a law clerk armed with a pellet gun, everyone, in accordance with Senate rules, repeats everything 127 times, after which the Republican majority, to the surprise of anyone who has the IQ of sponge cake, acquits the Republican president…

Trump delivers the State of the Union address, an awkward affair that begins with Speaker Pelosi refusing to use the traditional “high privilege and distinct honor” introduction; then Trump refusing to shake Pelosi’s hand; then Pelosi tearing up her copy of Trump’s speech; then Trump hocking a loogie onto Pelosi’s suede pumps. Okay, the loogie part did not happen. As far as we know…

In Iowa, Democratic presidential candidates realize they have wasted an entire year trudging around Iowa eating fried objects on sticks and pretending to care about Iowans. Things go more smoothly for the Democrats in the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses, with Bernie Sanders emerging as the clear front-runner, which only seems to make him angrier. A new challenger emerges in the form of charisma-impaired billionaire Mike “Mike” Bloomberg…

The No. 1 concern of the American public, based on the amount of passionate debate it generates on the Internet, is the burning issue of whether it is, or is not, okay to recline your airplane seat. Remember? Those were good times… And then, unfortunately, comes …  

MARPRIL: … which starts off calmly enough, as the Democratic Party, desperate to find an alternative to 132-year-old White guy Bernie Sanders, settles on 132-year-old White guy Joe Biden…

We begin to see reports that this coronavirus thing might be worse than we have been led to believe, although at first the authorities still seem to be saying that it’s basically the flu and there is no reason to panic, but all of a sudden there seems to be no hand sanitizer for sale anywhere, which makes some sense although there is also no toilet paper, as if people are planning to be pooping for weeks on end (ha), and then we learn that Tom Hanks — Tom Hanks! — has the virus, and now they’re saying it’s a lot worse than the flu and we need to wash our hands and not touch our faces and maintain a social distance of six feet and use an abundance of caution to flatten the curve (whatever “the curve” is), but they’re also saying we don’t need face masks no scratch that now they’re saying we DO need face masks but nobody HAS any face masks … [Etc.]

MAY: … and we are, as a nation, exhausted. We are literally sick and tired of the pandemic… We disagree about everything — when to reopen the economy, whether to wear masks, whether to go to the beach, whether it’s okay to say “China” — everything. Each side believes that it is motivated purely by reason, facts and compassion, and that the other side is evil and stupid and sincerely wants people to die… On the other hand, there is starting to be more toilet paper.

President Trump continues to provide leadership during the crisis by repeatedly pointing out that he knows an incredible amount about viruses — more than most medical doctors! — and is frankly doing a terrific job…

In scandal news, the Justice Department moves to drop all charges against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. Outraged Democrats claim this is a travesty of justice; outraged Republicans claim it is proof that the “deep state” tried to stage a coup…

Here we should at least mention the arrival of the Asian “murder hornets.” In any other year they would have been a huge story… But in 2020 there is simply too much competition…

In sports, Major League Baseball tries to come up with a plan to salvage the 2020 season, a task that becomes more urgent each day… The National Football League is also trying to adapt to the pandemic, exploring the possibility of a season with no fans, no coaches and no players.

Toward the end of the month the economy is starting to open up, the virus numbers in many places seem to be improving and people are starting to venture out of their homes… And then …

WHAM, 2020 strikes again, this time in Minneapolis, where the horrendous killing of George Floyd at the hands of police ignites a protest movement that quickly spreads across the nation, sometimes mutating into violence… As we enter … 

JUNE: … the protest movement grows in size and passion with frankly not a whole lot of social distancing… President Trump, angered by reports that at one point he retreated to an underground bunker, states that in fact he was merely inspecting the bunker, this being a responsibility explicitly assigned to the president by the Constitution…The president courageously goes outside (after the protesters have been cleared away) and personally walks several hundred feet to historic St. John’s Church, where he holds up a Bible…

Meanwhile covid-19 cases are rising alarmingly, especially in the South… Trump … holds a rally in Tulsa, where, addressing an issue of concern to all Americans, he explains in detail that the ramp he had to walk down at the U.S. Military Academy graduation ceremony was slippery and steep. The president gets a big hand from the crowd when, displaying leadership, he drinks from a water glass with one hand…

In …

JULY: … covid-19 cases continue to rise sharply in some Southern states… President Trump commutes the federal prison sentence of his longtime friend and political operative Roger Stone. The White House states that imprisoning the 67-year-old Stone would be inhumane because he has a medical condition that requires him “to roam free at night seeking fresh human blood.” …

Kanye West announces that he is running for president, representing the Birthday Party. In any other year this would seem ridiculous, but in 2020 a lot of people are like, “Why not?”

On the diplomatic front, the Trump administration announces that, after tense high-level negotiations, it has reached a peace agreement under which U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Portland, Ore., where for many weeks protesters have been seeking social justice via a combination of peaceful demonstrations and arson.

In …

AUGUST: … President Trump escalates his attacks on TikTok, a Chinese-owned social media app that threatens our national security by causing millions of Americans to learn stupid dances while Chinese people are making useful products to sell to Americans…

Trump brokers a historic Middle East peace agreement, which, along with the estimated 45 previous historic Middle East peace agreements, brings the Middle East one step closer to potentially being on the verge of reaching the brink of what could someday become a steppingstone to lasting peace, although you should not hold your breath…

California, as it traditionally does at this time of year, bursts into flames…

In politics, controversy swirls around the U.S. Postal Service, which until now most Americans have viewed as a non-sinister agency whose function, as authorized by the Constitution, is to faithfully, rain or shine, deliver vast quantities of bulk mail to us so we can discard it unread…

Steve Bannon, a former influential Trump aide with the uncanny ability to always look like he just woke up in a dumpster, is arrested by — this cannot be a coincidence — agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Bannon is charged with fraud in connection with a GoFundMe project called We Build the Wall, which is supposedly raising money for Trump’s largely imaginary wall between the United States and Mexico, although according to prosecutors a better name for the project would be We Basically Keep the Money.

Trump pardons Susan B. Anthony, calling her, in impromptu remarks delivered as aides hustle reporters away, “a terrific person who I look forward to inviting to the White House.”

Because of the pandemic, both parties hold their conventions virtually, which means that instead of endless hours of repetitious blather, the TV broadcasts consist of endless hours of repetitious blather but without the entertaining visuals of delegates in stupid hats. The Democrats adopt a sweeping platform filled with bold policy initiatives that nobody will ever look at again. The Republican platform consists of, quote, “whatever was in the president’s most recent tweet.”

Speaking of principles, in …  

SEPTEMBER: … the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg triggers a classic display of Washington-style ethical consistency as both political parties, addressing the issue of when the vacancy should be filled, passionately embrace positions diametrically opposite the ones they passionately embraced in 2016. Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat, arguing that she is “perfectly qualified” for the high court because she is “a woman, but not like super hot.” Critics allege that Barrett belongs to a dangerous religious cult that subjugates women by forcing them to become Supreme Court justices. Everyone prepares for a cordial and informative confirmation process.

The New York Times … reveals that an analysis of Trump’s tax records shows that pretty much his only major success, as a businessman, has been playing the part of a successful businessman on a TV show.

The biggest political event of the month is the much-anticipated Trump-Biden debate, a lively affair featuring a frank and open exchange of sentence fragments highlighted by a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful attempt on the part of moderator Chris Wallace to silence the president with a Taser…

The pandemic continues to dominate the news in …

OCTOBER: … when the White House announces that President Trump is infected with the coronavirus, as are the first lady, White House staffers and others who have been near the president at events where many people did not wear masks or observe social distancing. This seems to suggest, crazy as it sounds, that the virus — who could possibly have known this? — is an infectious disease that you can catch from other people…

The president begins a course of treatment at Walter Reed that includes an antibody cocktail, anantiviral drug, a steroid and — this really happened — a motorcade ride around the hospital. Trump’s doctors describe the motorcade as “a totally standard medical treatment that is not insanely irresponsible at all.” Meanwhile the virus continues to spread through the White House, eventually infecting everyone in the executive branch above the rank of custodian…

The president recovers quickly and announces that covid-19 is frankly no big deal for anybody who has a large team of doctors, 24/7 access to a world-class medical facility and a helicopter. Then, having learned an important lesson from his experience, the president resumes holding massive rallies where many people do not wear masks.

The Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court after she successfully completes the traditional Judiciary Committee hazing ritual, in which she must answer questions for three consecutive days without saying anything.

Vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris square off in a debate, and the only thing anybody remembers about it 10 minutes later is that a fly landed on Pence’s head.

With October finally over, a divided, weary nation trudges into the crucial month of …

NOVEMBER: … when, at last, it’s Election Day. Millions of voters lurch to the polls, unless they already voted, in which case they remain on the sofa… Several days pass without a clear winner as the various states count ballots via their individual methods under our quirky, zany electoral college system. Florida, which has totally screwed up in previous elections, surprises everybody by reporting the vote count almost immediately, thanks to an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis to “just go ahead and reuse the results from 2016, since we counted those already.” …

In reality Trump claims that he won the election BY A LOT, but it is being stolen from him via a vast, sophisticated, malignant and purely hypothetical vote-fraud scheme. To combat this fraud, the president forms a crack legal team headed by former sane person Rudy “Rudy Three i’s” Giuliani, who … will hold a news conference at “Four Seasons, Philadelphia.” … The event takes place in the parking lot of a company called Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which is across the street from a cremation center and down the block from Fantasy Island Adult Bookstore. We are not making this up. Nobody could make this up.

And then, at last, the finish line of this wretched year looms ahead as we stagger into … 

DECEMBER: … while the president continues to insist that he was reelected [and] members of his staff quietly prepare for the transition by updating their résumés and conducting a search for the briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes…

President Trump, faced with soaring coronavirus cases and a congressional stalemate over a desperately needed relief package, devotes his energies, as chief executive, to tweeting approximately once per hour that the election was RIGGED. The Trump legal team, alleging that there was a massive organized conspiracy to commit vote fraud, files multiple lawsuits but achieves basically the same legal outcome as Hamilton Burger, the stupendously ineffective district attorney on the “Perry Mason” TV show, who went to court week after week for many seasons and almost never won a case, WHICH ONLY PROVES HOW MASSIVE AND ORGANIZED THIS CONSPIRACY IS.

Finally, after 12 nightmarish months, 2020 draws to a close, and …

… and here we must interrupt our narrative to let you, the reader, in on a little secret: Because of magazine deadlines, we have to turn in our Year in Review in mid-December, before the year is actually over. Normally this doesn’t matter, because the holiday season tends to be a slow news time.

But this is no normal year, and we’re nervous. We worry that something major, by which we mean bad, will happen after our deadline — something involving the presidential election, or the virus, or some awful thing we cannot even imagine… Our point is, we don’t know what else will happen this year, including when it will end. We’re just hoping that it eventually does, and that next year is nothing like it. In that spirit, we’ll close with the wish we always offer at the end of our annual review, although this time it’s more of a prayer:

Happy new year.

[Note: As you know, 2020 was a VERY long year!]

December 14, 2020

Followups for Earlier Stories

Yesterday AG Bill Barr said he might leave the job; now he’s gone by December 23. He supposedly resigned after what DDT called “a very nice meeting,” but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has considered firing him since Barr wouldn’t file lawsuits to put DDT back into the Oval Office, declared no widespread election fraud, and didn’t announce the investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter before the election. The effusive resignation letter has the earmarks of DDT’s writing. DDT tweeted Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, “an outstanding person,” becomes acting AG for the last 28 days of his term. 

A recent Barr effort to act as DDT’s personal lawyer instead of leading an independent agency was trying to drop the case against Michael Flynn who pled guilty to lying twice to the FBI. DDT pardoned Flynn, requiring a federal judge to dismiss Flynn’s prosecution. The judge said he would not have dropped the case and was bothered by the government’s “dubious” rationales and aspects of its “ever-evolving justifications” ignoring applicable law. He called DDT’s pardon “a political decision, not a legal one.”

DDT fired three of four top officials in the agency to block cybersecurity, and Russians hacked another three agencies. The Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, and the National Institutes of Health on Monday have joined the Treasury and Commerce departments attacked by Russian cyber espionage.

DDT hasn’t fired VA Secretary Robert Wilkie although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and leading veterans’ groups call for his resignation because he tried to smear a congressional aide assaulted at a VA hospital. Pelosi stated:

“The VA Inspector General report makes clear that Secretary Wilkie engaged in an extremely disturbing cover-up campaign of sexual assault against a veteran. He has lost the trust and confidence to serve, and he must immediately resign.”

American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford also called for acting deputy secretary Pamela Powers and top public affairs officials James Hutton and Curt Cashour to step down after the IG reported the three of them knew about Wilkie’s discrediting the veteran. Even the Koch’s Concerned Veterans of America criticized the four leaders of the VA. In the past, Wilkie tried to keep Nazi swastikas at federal veterans’ cemeteries and defended the use of Confederate symbols. The DOJ has taken no action against Wilkie.

The official Electoral College votes declared Joe Biden president-elect Monday, but unofficial electors met in swing states with Biden majorities—Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin—to vote for DDT if federal courts invalidate Biden’s electoral votes. Election-law expert Rick Hasen wrote:

“These electors have neither been certified by state executives nor purportedly appointed by state legislators. They don’t have legal authority and so this does not affect the counting of Electoral College votes.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) warned his GOP colleagues not to challenge the electoral vote results at the January 6 congressional meeting to formally approve Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as U.S. president and vice president. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI), who did not run for re-election in 2020, announced his departure from the GOP to protest the Republicans support DDT’s attempts to overturn his loss because of its “third-world nation” approach. Michigan state House GOP leaders stripped GOP state Rep. Gary Eisen from his committee assignments until December 31 after he threatened violence to challenge the electoral college process. Threats required Michigan electors to complete their business in a closed Capitol building.  

Arizona Republicans created fake documents to claim the state’s 11 votes for DDT, notarized them, and then sent them to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Called “AZ Protect the Vote,” the group stated the documents were from the “sovereign citizens of the Great State of Arizona.” Three of the state’s four U.S. representatives were part of the 126 seditious House members who supported the overturn of Biden’s election in the Supreme Court.

By a 4-3 vote, Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected DDT’s lawsuit to invalidate about 220,000 ballots in the Democratic Milwaukee and Dane counties. In the court’s fourth rejection of the case within ten days, a “conservative swing” judge joined three progressive judges for the majority in each case.

When the media announced DDT planned to provide White House staff with the new vaccine—maybe because no one there wears a mask or practices social distancing—he backed off, possibly from embarrassment about taking the vaccine from high-risk healthcare workers. His new order left the door open for his staff to receive the vaccine by saying they would receive it if “specifically necessary.” DDT is holding at least 20 Christmas parties.

Crede Bailey, director of the White House security office, was hospitalized with COVID-19 for three months. His right foot and lower leg were amputated as well as the big toe on his left foot. A GoFundMe appeal has raised almost $50,000 to help cover his “staggering medical bills” from hospitalization, upcoming rehab, and necessary home remodeling for his disability.

DDT still threatens to veto the national Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) but has taken no action. With no explanation, he sent this tweet on Sunday on his way to play golf:

“THE BIGGEST WINNER OF OUR NEW DEFENSE BILL IS CHINA! I WILL VETO!”

The handful of GOP senators voting against the NDAA highlights are those aspiring to be president in 2024 if DDT ever moves out of the way: Sens. Josh Hawley (MO), Tom Cotton (AR), Ted Cruz (TX), and Rand Paul (KY). Issues addressed in the NCAA include the law protecting internet companies which was not overturned and removing Confederate names from military bases which is part of the NCAA. Republicans need to appeal to white supremacists for votes even without DDT. Paul and Cruz also opposed the provision restricting DDT’s ability to pull troops from any area without congressional approval.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis originally said he knew nothing about the raid on the home of Rebekah Jones, criticized for flimsy evidence about the accusation of her hacking into a state computer network. Last Friday during a mental health meeting, DeSantis had a tantrum and said he knew about the raid, again indicating it was retribution for her website with accurate data about COVID-19. DeSantis tries to hide the huge numbers of infections and deaths to open up his state and consistently conceals data about the virus spreading in nursing homes, prisons, hospitals and public schools. He pushes the theory about most infected patients being younger, healthier, and asymptomatic while ignoring statistics on the large number of patients in hospital beds and ICUs.

Two Florida newspapers are suing DeSantis for withholding weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports which urge the state to impose stricter coronavirus restrictions because of the surge in infections. Some states publish the weekly reports online. DeSantis claimed vaccines will end the problem, but the report stated the general public won’t have vaccinations until “late spring.” The vaccine requires two doses, but DeSantis suggested one per person might be enough. 

In the last 36 days before Biden’s inauguration, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien is using taxpayer money to take his wife on a European “vacation,” heading to Paris as head of a U.S. delegation to the 60th anniversary of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Convention. The trip includes a private tour of the closed Louvre from coronavirus restrictions before going to the Mediterranean and European capitals. The couple will be guided by government employees living there. Because of the virus, people in the U.S. can’t typically travel to any European countries, and residents in Paris must stay home except for grocery shopping and work. Most of the meeting’s participants are attending virtually.

A few Republican pundits are apologizing for not realizing the danger of DDT and his followers. Kathleen Parker, a Florida columnist, gave a mea culpa for claiming after the 2016 election “that we’d survive as a nation no matter who won.” She reversed her opinion by writing that the pandemic shows that “we now know that he is that bad a human being and that lousy a leader. We’ve come not to expect just worse from him but the worst.” Parker adds:

“Trump’s call to overthrow the 2020 election … has exposed the underbelly of the GOP. There’s nothing some Republicans won’t do to hold on to power, even at the expense of the country’s dwindling chances to unite in common cause… Worst of all, people whose minds have been warped by lies, conspiracy theories and disinformation would rather risk death and/or harm to others and themselves than wear a mask for a few more weeks. For Pete’s sake, people: What is wrong with you?”

She concludes: “I apologize.”

The Orlando Sentinel writes “we had no idea” when it endorsed Rep. Michael Waltz, one of the 126 seditious House members trying to overturn a legal vote for president. The newspaper pointed out it didn’t think about asking whether Waltz would support the disenfranchisement “of tens of millions of Americans in four states in order to overturn a presidential election and hand it to the person who lost, Donald Trump.” The piece concluded, “The only thing I know for sure is that he doesn’t deserve to represent the United States.”

More Republicans need to grasp this concept.

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